Washington Absurdity, Arab Helplessness

Washington’s quest for a ceasefire in Gaza while wholeheartedly supporting and arming Israel’s onslaught against Palestinian civilians reflects the frightening extent of bankrupt Arab diplomacy and the true nature of the US government siding with Israel.

The bizarre role of the United States government in current events in Israel and Palestine has reached such a peak this week that someone in the realm of the absurd should create a prize for this and offer the inaugural one to John Kerry during his stay in Cairo today. Washington’s quest for a ceasefire in Gaza while wholeheartedly supporting and arming Israel’s onslaught against Palestinian civilians reflects the frightening extent of bankrupt Arab diplomacy and exercise of sovereign power as much as it reflects the true nature of American government siding with Israel.

Here is the unreal situation as it played out this week: The American president and secretary of state repeatedly supported Israel’s right to defend itself, the U.S. Senate voted 100-0 to support Israel’s actions and ask for a dissolution of the Palestinian national unity government, John Kerry flew to Cairo to help negotiate a ceasefire while stating that he views Israeli actions in Gaza as legitimate and appropriate, and said that a ceasefire is not enough but should also start to address the “underlying issues.”

The massive contradiction between the wholehearted, virtually universal official American support for the Israeli savagery in Gaza, on the one hand, and the American attempt to mediate a ceasefire, on the other, is rationally incomprehensible and untenable — but it is also a reality that we must live with for some reason that ordinary Arabs and men and women of logic and goodwill around the world cannot understand. This is because the American behavior is beyond comprehension. It is from the realm of the absurd.

Two fundamental problems in the American position mirror the much wider and older problem of how colonized Palestinians and their diplomatically neutered Arab cousins for decades have been unable to counter the brutal use of American and Israeli military power that indiscriminately attacks mostly helpless civilians in places like Gaza and Iraq. The first is that the two principal institutions of power and foreign policy in the United States — the presidency and the Congress — have both proven again and again that they support Israel’s rightwing military excesses absolutely, without exceptions.

We should not be surprised. American leaders and presidential candidates repeatedly affirm that, “there is no daylight between the U.S. and Israel.” We see that in action this week.

The second problem is that Kerry’s desire now to start addressing the “underlying issues” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is impossible to take seriously. Kerry personally just spent a year of intense diplomacy trying to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, and failed. If he was not addressing some of the underlying issues then, what was he doing? If he was addressing them, then he and his team must be incompetent or dishonest as mediators.

Also, the United States government has been virtually the only mediator among Israelis and Palestinians for the past two decades, and has failed. The reasons for these serial failures will become clearer with time, as historians do their work and clarify this. My sense is that a central reason for the failure has been and continues to be the inability of the U.S. government to function as a truly impartial mediator or facilitator, given its intense bias towards the Israeli position, as we see in action this month in Gaza.

So there is zero credibility in Kerry’s remarks now that all parties must start discussing the underlying issues in this conflict. This is more problematic because it now seems clearer than ever that one of the underlying issues here is the long history of intense pro-Israeli bias in the U.S. government, which helps rightwing Zionists perpetuate their colonial policies against Palestine. So perhaps the best thing for John Kerry to do is mediate between his own Congress and President, on the one hand, and the Israeli government, on the other, to seek a modicum of sovereignty and autonomy for Washington in designing its policies towards the Israel-Palestine conflict.

None of this is new, but the shocking manner in which the absolute Zionist chokehold on American lawmakers has reasserted itself this month during the Gaza assault forces us once again to ponder the reasons for this and what can be done about it. Hamas and Hizbollah have offered one option, which is armed resistance. Most Arab state leaders have opted for acquiescence in the face of the Zionist-American furies we see raining bombs on penned-in Palestinian civilians.

There must be a better way, and individuals and institutions across the Arab world and abroad must urgently start exploring the options available, including using the institutions of the international rule of law. Our criticisms of the United States and Israel are also criticisms of our own inadequacies, and we are the ones who must take that sad reality in hand and do something about it.

Rami G. Khouri is Editor-at-large of The Daily Star, and Director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, in Beirut, Lebanon. On Twitter: @ramikhouri.

Copyright © 2014 Rami G. Khouri—distributed by Agence Global