Stephen Zunes : Israel and Palestine
Last month’s decision by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, backed by an overwhelming majority of her Democratic colleagues, to go on record in support of Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip does not give much hope that the expanded Democratic majority will be much more sensitive to human rights than we have seen after years of Republican rule….
Obama’s appointment of George Mitchell as special Middle East envoy may signal a step in the right direction regarding U.S. policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But there remain questions as to whether Mitchell is up to the task and whether the Obama administration is willing to put some muscle into the process….
In a direct challenge to the credibility of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Red Cross and other reputable humanitarian organizations, an overwhelming bipartisan majority in both houses of Congress has gone on record supporting President George W. Bush’s position that the Israeli armed forces bear no responsibility for the large and growing numbers of civilian casualties from their assault on the Gaza Strip.
The Democratic leadership’s strident support for the ongoing Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip underscores how the Democrats suffer from the same illusions as the outgoing Republican administration: that placing an Arab territory under debilitating sanctions that punish the population as a whole, bombarding heavily populated civilian areas — resulting in widespread casualties among innocent people — and invading and occupying territories with a long history of resistance to outsiders will somehow lead to greater moderation from those afflicted….
No one in the mainstream media or government is willing to acknowledge America’s sordid role interfering in Palestinian politics.
The smear campaign by John McCain, Sarah Palin and their supporters reached a new low this past week with their attacks on Democratic nominee Barack Obama for his former ties with Palestinian American scholar Rashid Khalidi. This is just one of a series of desperate guilt-by-association tactics by the Republicans to make the staunchly pro-Israel Obama appear to be anti-Israel and may be designed less to harm the Democratic nominee’s chances of election as to limit politically his options for addressing urgent matters of Israeli-Palestinian peace upon becoming president….
In many respects, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has played right into the hands of cynics who have long doubted his promises to create a new and more progressive role for the United States in the world. The very morning after the last primaries, in which he finally received a sufficient number of pledged delegates to secure the Democratic presidential nomination and no longer needed to win over voters from the progressive base of his own party, Obama — in a Clinton-style effort at triangulation — gave a major policy speech before the national convention of the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Embracing policies which largely backed those of the more hawkish voices concerned with Middle Eastern affairs, he received a standing ovation for his efforts….
President George W. Bush has been using somewhat stronger language than he has uttered previously about the Israeli-Palestinian situation and has made some optimistic predictions of a peace agreement within a year. Nevertheless, there is little reason to hope that the president is any more serious about or is any more likely to be successful in bringing about a negotiated settlement to the conflict….
The strong showings by Senator Barack Obama of Illinois in the early contests for the Democratic presidential nomination don’t just mark a repudiation of the Bush administration’s Iraq policy and “war on terrorism.” They also indicate a rejection of the Democratic Party establishment, much of which supported the invasion of Iraq and other tragic elements of the administration’s foreign policy…
It has been 21 months since John Mearsheimer and Steve Walt published their article “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” in The London Review of Books and four months since their publication of a book by the same name. Their main arguments are that unconditional U.S. support for the Israeli government has harmed U.S. interests in the Middle East and that American organizations allied with the Israeli government have been the primary influence regarding the orientation of U.S. Middle East policy. As a political scientist and international relations scholar specializing in the United States role in the Middle East, I certainly had no disagreements with their first contention. I took strong exception to their second, however.