Blame Bin Laden, not Israel

Are American soldiers dying because those damned Israelis won’t make peace with the Palestinians?

“The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel,” General Petraeus said in a report to the Senate committee last week. Today, Secretary of Defense Gates backed Petraeus, telling reporters that “lack of progress toward Middle East peace clearly is an issue that is exploited by our adversaries in the region.”

The comments from Petraeus have ignited the expected firestorm, with pro-Israel supporters (notably the Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman) criticizing the general, and Israel-bashers like Mondoweiss rubbing their hands in glee (not to mention the usual assortment of anti-Semitic bottom-feeders oozing out of the Internet). Now Petraeus is saying that his comments were taken out of context. He told an audience in New Hampshire today that there are a whole bunch of extremist organizations, some of which by the way deny Israel’s right to exist. There’s a country that has a nuclear program who denies that the Holocaust took place….So we have all the factors in there, but this is just one, and it was pulled out of this 56-page document, which was not what I read to the Senate at all.”

I think Petraeus was quoted out of context by the Israel-bashers. The general is one of our sharpest, and if the chief of Central Command can’t fix those little spats in Afghanistan and Iraq, you think he really wants to dive into the West Bank?

This fracas is almost a tempest in a teapot, except for what it portends for the blame game in Afghanistan and Iraq. There are already dark murmurings that the Jews Israel somehow conned the U.S. into Iraq (as if Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld needed much conning to go to war). Now some will try to say that the road to making friends with the Muslim world runs through Jerusalem and Ramallah.

The best way to judge the validity of an argument is whether it explains reality. If Al Qaeda is fueled by Israeli settlements, then one would expect Bin Laden to attack Israel. He hasn’t. If the Palestinian cause was dear to the hearts of their Arab brothers, then one would expect them to be welcomed with open arms. Instead they are denied citizenship and confined to refugee camps. And which better explains the rise of Iranian influence: the existence of Israel, or the destruction of a strong Iraq that blocked Iranian expansion?

Peace between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab world would be good for everyone concerned, including the United States. But it will not fix the debacles in Afghanistan and Iraq. Linking these conflicts is tempting because it offers a convenient scapegoat. It’s not American diplomatic and blunders that created this mess. It’s those intransigent Israelis. An argument that is wrong, counterproductive and ultimately futile.

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14 Responses to Blame Bin Laden, not Israel

  1. Mr. Peck,

    You are not speaking to Gen. Petraeus’ point, you are speaking past it. He is addressing long term issues while you are addressing short term. You are quite correct, the short term issues of the bungled wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and not related to the current struggles of the Palestinians and Israelis. The short term solutions of getting US troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan are likewise unrelated to the situation in the West Bank.

    Having said, Gen. Petraeus was speaking about the long term issues of the US presence in south west Asia and in this matter, you are quite mistaken. First, the people of south west Asia, whether Arab or not, or Muslim or not, view their region as oppressed and exploited by “The West” with the US in the lead. They see Israel as political and military proxy for the US and the West. If tomorrow al Qaeda were magically wiped out completely, from top to bottom with all of the allied networks, within a few years some new organization would rise to takes it place. We know this because al Qaeda only rose to prominence because of the political vacuum left by others. In the 1950’s and ’60’s nationalist movements arose to address desires of the peoples in the region. People like Nasir in Egypt, Mossadeq in Iran, and so forth sought to address the imbalances between western benefits and SW Asian needs but they were crushed. Later more left-wing organizations aligned with the Soviet Union had some currency (e.g. the PFLP) but they too came to naught. This was all preceded by the anti-colonial struggles against first the Turks and then the British and French. So for close to a century the peoples of this region have had simmering resentments that have brought forth one organization after another. Al Qaeda is but the most recent. Its feudal and reactionary ideology thrives in no small part because their predecessors had adopted modernity as their model. Al Qaeda says to the people of the region, “Look where modernity got them”. The plight of the Palestinians, from whom al Qaeda gets almost no support, is one of the principle recruiting tools of al Qaeda.

    Gen. Petraeus is merely saying that a long term resolution to the Palestinian issue would go a long way to reducing popular resentment toward the US as Israel’s protector.

    • Michael Peck says:

      How do we know that resentment of the U.S. is fueled by the Palestinian issue? If that were genuinely the case, you would see hordes of young Moroccans and Sudanese and Saudis trying to slip into Gaza instead of Iraq. I think the Muslim world resents America not because we support Israel, but because we’re so much like Israel. America and Israel are both dynamic, advanced societies that make the Muslim world feel bad because they’re stuck in the 11th Century. You cannot appease someone whose resentment is rooted in their inferiority complex.

      I have no problem with the point that General Petraeus made, which is that resolving the Palestinian issue would help. I do have a problem with those who distort his words to mean that the road to victory in Afghanistan runs through Jerusalem.

      • Mr. Peck,

        You asked:”How do we know that resentment of the U.S. is fueled by the Palestinian issue?”

        I did not say that. What I said was that the people of south-west Asia resent Western domination of their region. They believe that western interests are pumping their region dry of oil while leaving them with nothing. I *did say* that Israel is merely the most visible and obtrusive symbol of this domination. Israel is, as I said, seen as the US’s political and military proxy in the region. This is a view held by Muslims and non-Muslims, Arabs and non-Arabs. Read a newspaper or watch a news show from the area, or just talk to an Iranian, or Iraqi, or Syrian, or Turk, whether they are Shia, Sunni, Druze, Christian, or Zorastorian, they will tell you same thing. Now not everyone will word it exactly the same way I did but it is not some mystery that the West in general and the US in particular are widely resented as foreign exploiters and that Israel is their agent “on the ground”.

        Their resentment is not based upon technological or societal envy but economic and political domination and exploitation. Oil has been flowing out the region to the West for decades and aside from a few pro-western kings, who has benefited there?

      • Michael Peck says:

        For people who resent being exploited economically by the evil West, the Muslim states – or at least the oil-producing ones – get a great deal of money for doing nothing more than letting others pump black liquid out of the ground. Saudi Arabia has made a fortune off of U.S. drivers, but illiteracy there is still 20 percent. And when the Muslim world does get a revolution, as in Iran, they end up with an oil-rich theocracy that can’t even produce enough gasoline for its own gas pumps.
        America has meddled in the Arab world, but most of their problems are of their own making, and the solution lies with them. Pressuring Israel won’t change that.

      • Mr. Peck,

        As a post script, T.E. Lawrence and Prince Faysal wrote a letter in 1917 opposing the creation of a Jewish Homeland in Palestine. They predicted that if this were to occur, it would result in 100 years of civil war between the Zionists and the rest of south-west Asia. We are fast approaching the date that will prove them correct.

      • Michael Peck says:

        Sorry, but Lawrence of Arabia was a British officer whose specialty was getting Arabs to kill Turks to save the British Empire. Not exactly surprised that he and Prince Faisal didn’t support the creation of Israel.

      • memyself says:

        Political groups and parties in the Arab world continue to use Israel as a rallying point. But when I hear two opposing Arab groups refer to the other as Zionist agents, I know not to take them seriously. Plus if the Arabs truly sympathized with the Palestinians, wouldn’t they honor their mutli-million dollar pledges of aid? Would they not continue to treat their own Palestinian population as third-class citizens, provided they grant them citizenship?

        The majority of the violence in the Mid-East today is Arab against Arab, Muslim against Muslim, in any one of the uncountable national, tribal, family and personal conflicts spread throughout the area. None of these conflicts involve Israel, yet the Arabs continue to use Israel as an excuse. These people have been fighting for centuries, even before there was an Israel. If Israel and the PA made peace tomorrow, or if there was no Israel, the fighting would continue. The Arabs would just have to find another excuse.

  2. libtree09 says:

    Why is every criticism of Israel, every comment batted down as anti-Semitic? I have spoken to Jews who are clearly anti-Muslim…any Muslim and speak of them as dirty backward savages. The comment that being nearly entirely pro-Israel, of selling them high tech weapons, like jets and the bomb and giving them billions in aid might make Muslim nations feel we are not on their side. We are fighting two wars against Muslims and our opinions and ideas in the area should not be so blatantly pushed aside. We earned a bit more respect at the very least.

    But if I follow your argument we should then go back to Bush’s attitude which was Israel can do no wrong and that got us to an invasion in Lebanon where areas that had nothing to do with Hamas were devastated. It also got Hamas elected to power in Palestine which lead to the hardening of positions in Israel. If Bibi thinks we should not interfere he should just come out and say so, if he thinks we have no stake in whatever they might do, like say bomb Iran, he should say so. The last eight years have elevated the conflict between us and Muslims…we need Islamic friends and right now I do not think Israel gives a shit for our problems. And that is upsetting.

    • Michael Peck says:

      This has nothing to do with the U.S.-Israeli relationship. This is more of an attempt by some desperate people (and Petraeus isn’t one of them) to find any excuse to attack Israel. So now they’re going to try to claim that the Afghan and Iraq insurgencies are fueled by American support of Israel, even though most Taliban couldn’t find Israel (probably not America, either) on a map.

      Gen. Petraeus’ comment was not anti-Semitic (and Abraham Foxman went way over the top by suggesting as such). But I don’t think sacrificing Israel is going to gain us any friends among the Arabs. Just the opposite. It will be perceived as weakness.

  3. layla says:

    Actually, a more important point made by Petraeus during this briefing was missed.

    On Tehran’s ties to al Qaeda, Gen. Petraeus said the group “continues to use Iran as a key facilitation hub, where facilitators connect al Qaedas senior leadership to regional affiliates.”

    this is military-speak for “Iran is helping al-Qaeda attack Americans.”

    American soldiers are dying because of Iran. Yet the current administration treats Iran with kid gloves, while publicly blasting Israel for a non-event, building apartments in Jerusalem. It was never promised to, nor understood by, the Obama administration that building would be frozen in Jerusalem. This poor diplomacy on both fronts further puts us at risk.

  4. layla says:

    For those who wish to know how Petraeus really briefed this, go to the link below. He never said American lives were put at risk by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He says quite clearly that Mark Perry’s blog got it wrong. As Mark Twain said, a lie can travel half way round the world…

  5. libtree09 says:

    I never said Iraq had anything to do with Israel but that Israel needs to understand what we are trying to do there. As far as Iran, their leadership wants the US of Israel to attack them so the more moderate population that is pro western can be put down permanently. And who are the desperate people in the united states who are anti Israel? Neo Nazi’s? Is the press printing anti-Israel rants? They are the most powerful lobby in Congress, they get everything they want and need. We have wasted our time and energy trying to solve the puzzle there and frankly I for one am sick of it…the government is so fragile with all its coalitions one doesn’t know their position from one year to another. I just hope they don’t do anything stupid to endanger our position in the region. We’ve been stupid enough on our own we don’t need any more help.

  6. memyself says:

    There are still idiots out there trying to get us to believe that the Jews and Israel are behind the war in Iraq? We now know that then PM Sharon did tell Bush not to invade. Sharon saw that the war would open the door to Iranian expansion. This has been repeatedly confirmed by various sources, including then State Department official Lawrence Wilkerson who was actually in the room at the time. Unfortunately, most Jewish organizations stayed quiet about the war (so not to offend the Bush administration), even as it threatened both Israeli and US security by drawing attention away from al-Qaeda and destroying Iran’s enemies. Anti-Semites were quick to call this silence a show of support. Well, hopefully those groups have learned their lesson about being silent.

  7. abpnwl says:

    Michael Peck You obviously have a very limited knowledge of the Middle East and this conflict. Concern for Palestinians is considerable in the Muslim world just like support for Israel is the U.S. BUT the number one issue is JERUSALEM!! It has the third holiest sight in Islam. It is sacred to all three Abrahamic religions. When that becomes an issue it incites hatred against the U.S. and Israel through the Muslim world that is not limited to radicals! That part of Israel Palestine and the protection of Holy sights for Jews, Christians and Muslims is a major issue.

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