Yves here. Given the givens, I trust readers will not overreact to the Godwin’s Law violation in the headline. Israel’s conduct in Gaza is well into genocide terrain. And many commentators have pointed out that a recent Time piece on Zelensky was awfully evocative of a Furherbunker.
By Rob Urie, author of Zen Economics, artist, and musician who publishes The Journal of Belligerent Pontification on Substack
‘In Palestine, the Mandate (for Palestine) required Britain to put into effect the Balfour Declaration’s “national home for the Jewish people” alongside the Palestinian Arabs, who composed the vast majority of the local population…’ Mandate for Palestine, Wikipedia.
The role of the US in the creation and ongoing support of Israel makes it uniquely culpable for Israel’s actions. When the Western powers first considered the creation of a Jewish state in what was then Palestine (1916 or thereabouts), the problem of inserting a new nation atop an existing land and people was understood to be problematic. Following WWII, with much of the West in ruins and the US perceiving itself to be the ruler of the world, the US moved forward with the creation of Israel atop Palestine.
What then is the US interest in Israel? Writer Caitlin Johnstone found a brief video of a much younger Joe Biden claiming that ‘if Israel did not exist, the US would have to invent it to support US interests in the Middle East.’ The US interest in the Middle East has always been to control the distribution of oil and gas. Israel is strategically located on the Eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, between the sea and the major oil and gas producers of the Middle East. Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon are as well. But these nations are controlled by not-white, not-European, not-settlers.
Graph: since 1948, the year that Israel was ‘founded’ on land already occupied by Palestinians, Israel has been the largest recipient of US foreign aid. The persistence of this aid makes the US uniquely responsible for Israel’s actions vis-à-vis the Palestinians. Given the extensive history of US imperialism, that Israel has received the most US aid isn’t because it was the first nation to begin receiving it. It is because the US sees Israel as an outpost for white, European, and US interests in the oil and gas rich Middle East. Source: usafacts.org.
US strategic ambitions in the Middle East have been deemed by recent American administrations to outweigh the regional political instability created by Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. However, given the rapidly diminishing status of the US in world affairs due to its decrepit, incapable, and stunningly uninformed political leadership, the geostrategic costs of maintaining Israel in its current configuration appear to be rising exponentially. But don’t count on anyone in Washington figuring this out.
As US Secretary of Defense Austin states below, Israel would n’existe pas (would not exist) without US military backing and financial assistance, so why not 1) force an end to Israeli control of Palestine through a two-state solution while 2) keeping the strategic outpost that Israel represents in a politically viable form? From a US strategic perspective, who cares what the Israelis think of this? The US has overthrown a minimum of sixty-four independent, sovereign, nations since 1948. Again, Israel would not exist without support from the US.
Graph: in 2022, Israelis lived almost ten years longer than the Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories. This strongly suggests that the Israeli – Palestinian relationship is one of class, akin to the impact of racial difference in the US. This would fit one storyline if Israel were self-sustaining, but quite another given its client relationship with the US. Additionally, the ten-year difference in life expectancy is almost exactly the difference found between whites and Blacks in the US. Source: healthpolicy-watch.news.
The people of Israel were about to toss Benjamin Netanyahu, the current Prime Minister, into prison for corruption before the events of Oct. 7th saved him. The geostrategic benefit of prosecuting Netanyahu would be that he and the Likud Party represent the exterminationist Zionist impulse. They don’t want a two-state solution because they want Palestinian land for Israel. Why the US isn’t quoting Billy Bob Thornton to the Israelis— ‘wish in one hand, shit in the other, and see which hand fills up first,’ represents a failure of American leadership.
I’m not being flippant here. If Netanyahu and Likud continue to run Israel, the US will quickly be dragged into a regional war. It may be too late to prevent this already. So, the geostrategic interest of the US more likely than not depends on forcing a resolution of the problem of Palestine before the wider Middle East is lit on fire. If Israel proceeds on its current path without ousting Netanyahu and marginalizing Likud, Israel should be freed (from US support) to suffer the consequences. Otherwise, the US is complicit in Israel’s crimes.
As recent protests in the US against the US-Israeli genocide in Gaza suggest, US foreign policy is suddenly being questioned again after seven years of near total domestic capitulation to the warfare state via the Russiagate fraud. Although the protesters appear to understand that the Biden administration is complicit in the genocide because of US support for Israel, no such understanding has been evident with respect to the US-led slaughter in Ukraine. In both cases, one’s choice of historical starting point determines culpability for launching these conflicts.
Question: how can Israel claim a right of self-defense against a land that it occupies (Palestine)? This is like Nazis claiming a right of self-defense against the people they put into concentration camps. In history, there were ‘unprovoked’ rebellions in Nazi concentration camps that were quickly and viciously put down. But the doctrine governing the Nazis was ‘might makes right,’ and not (classical) liberal twaddle about a right of self-defense. Conversely, what of the Palestinian right of self-determination? How plausible is it that an occupied people have self-determination?
The immediate impediment to clearly conceiving what is motivating rebellion against Israeli rule inside Palestine is the question of the relevant starting point. Is it 1948, or October 7, 2023? The answer is 1948, when Israel was inserted atop the existing Palestinian population. When the idea to do so was first considered, the fear that it would create an unstable apartheid regime in a politically unsettled (de-settled) region was at least given lip service. The decision by the US to move forward without first resolving the question of Palestine lies at the heart of most of what has followed.
Back in Ukraine, in 2014 the US used CIA cutouts and self-described Ukrainian fascists to overthrow the elected government of Ukraine in order to install a government beholden to US interests. The US then spent the next eight years building a proxy army there to attack Russia with. The Russians were drawn into Ukraine following genocidal attacks against Russian-speaking Ukrainians that were politically impossible for the Russian leadership to ignore. Why these facts weren’t compelling to American protesters two years ago, when it would have mattered, is a mystery.
In his recent Congressional testimony, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin offered (starts 2:48) that the nominally sovereign states of Israel and Ukraine are wholly dependent on US military support for their continued existence. Blue Dog Democrat Joe Manchin asked Austin, given the depletion of US munitions in Ukraine, where the ability of the US to sustain itself militarily stands should the need arise? Austin’s non-answer was that the US plans to be ready should the need arise, with emphasis placed on the future-tense.
Graph: the US far and away has the largest military expenditures in the world, with mostly death and destruction to show for it. The purpose of US Senator Joe Manchin’s questions for Secretary Austin was to assure that the US can defend itself, if need be, when the real question is: what in the hell happened to all of that money? One place to look is in the 35-room mansions that now fill suburban Washington, DC. Otherwise, the scale of these expenditures ties much of military strife in the world directly back to Washington. Source: statista.com.
Several issues of concern emerge from Austin’s testimony. The first is that the pretense that Ukraine and Israel are sovereign nations, in the sense of being self-sustaining militarily, was called into question. What this in turn implies is what much of the rest of the world has long known— that the US is substantively responsible for the lost war in Ukraine and the genocide currently unfolding in Gaza. The US goaded the Russians into Ukraine, refused serial agreements between Ukraine and Russia to end the conflict, and in the process, destroyed Ukraine.
With respect to the US-Israeli genocide in Gaza, readers will recall that US President Joe Biden flew to Israel following the Hamas attacks of October 7th to restate his unequivocal support for whatever response the Israelis deemed appropriate. Biden’s comments would have had one meaning if the US hadn’t supported the creation of Israel on land occupied by the Palestinians, and another given the history of Israeli genocide against the Palestinian people. This brieffrom the Center on Constitutional Rights provides the history of the Israeli genocide against the Palestinians.
In a recent interview, retired US Colonel Douglas MacGregor recounted US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s recent visit to Turkey, in which Blinken was barely acknowledged by the Turkish government before departing Turkey without a commitment of support for US actions in the region. For younger readers, had a US Secretary of State travelled to Turkey twenty years ago, s/he would have been greeted with a degree of respect notably lacking in Blinken’s visit. Implied in the snub is precisely how far the US has fallen in terms of international esteem.
While international esteem and seven dollars might buy one a cup of coffee, also implied is that the US is no longer feared for its skill at mass, wanton, destruction, and gratuitous, pointless, slaughters. In the interview, MacGregor did an excellent job articulating the US – Israeli logic of genocide without internalizing it. This ability to understand the other side’s perspective—called ‘empathy,’ is crucial to settling disputes. I have no idea if MacGregor has negotiating skills, but my bet is that he wouldn’t get rolled every time he opens its mouth like the Biden administration currently is.
The implications of the Turkish snub are troubling for the US. In a warning that former US President George W. Bush should have heeded before launching his catastrophic war against Iraq, when ‘the world’ perceived that the US has great military strength, the risk was that by deploying it, this notion of power gets disproved. Joe Biden and the American foreign policy establishment arrogantly dismissed the Russian military’s ability to crush the proxy force it created in Ukraine, making is appear delusional and stupid now that Russia has prevailed.
In almost two years of attrition warfare, the Russians managed to keep the number of civilian deaths in Ukraine to 10,000. With upwards of 400,000 Ukrainian soldiers killed, the Russians are conspicuously engaged in a targeted state-vs-state battle. In the month since the Hamas attacks of October 7th, the Israelis have killed 10,569 civilians, and possibly a few hundred Hamas soldiers. What the Israelis are doing in Gaza isn’t warfare, it is the extermination of a civilian population. This fits the exterminationist impulse of the Zionist-Right in Israel. If the Biden administration believes that what Israel is doing in Gaza is in any way constructive, the world has a problem.
The US is now reportedly telling (substantially destroyed) Ukraine that it is time to negotiate with Russia. This is 10,000 Ukrainian civilian deaths, 400,000 Ukrainian military deaths, and at least two negotiated settlements between Ukraine and Russia that were put on ice by the Americans, too late. The same adult infants who ‘managed’ this fiasco from the American side are now in charge of US-Israel policy. The only possible worse scenario would have been to have Hillary Clinton— the butcher of Libya, in the White House.
The idea that this is all going to work out because ‘fortress America’ misses that the US is rapidly, and deservedly, becoming a pariah state. Adult infant Blinken is now passing warm gas about a ‘two-state solution’ while Israel exterminates one of the two states he claims to be endorsing. And why would Israel care what Blinken has to say? Joe Biden just assured the Israelis that they can exterminate the entire Middle East and he ‘has their back.’ What a farce. And don’t forget those nuclear weapons.