“Many Americans have come to vaguely understand ‘occupation’ as a situation in which Israel administers the territory until the Palestinians have grown up enough to run it for themselves.”
After supporting Israel’s war on the Palestinians for the better part of four decades, most Americans are still unable to place the issue in anything resembling its proper context. A recent Gallup poll found us inclined to blame the victims and ready to view Israel’s occupation as yet another front in the “global war on terror”. In one example, fifty-seven percent of respondents told Gallup that the US should not give any financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority at all, regardless of its stance toward Israel. 
Gallup’s results should be gratifying to the Israeli government and its long train of propagandists. Immediately following the September 11 attacks, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and others in the Israeli leadership suggested that 9/11 might teach Americans something about the Israeli experience and strengthen the bond between the two nations in their mutual war on terrorism. Four and a half years later, Americans are lumping Hamas together with Al-Qaeda. Mission accomplished.
Most Americans would find it difficult to believe a historically realistic explanation of the war’s true context. The persistent decontextualization of reported events has been one of the methods used to mislead public perception. Without the fundamental understanding that Israel is waging an illegal war of occupation and conquest in the Palestinian territories, the resistance can be portrayed as the root of the problem, the obstacle that prevents Palestinians from achieving their independent state.
To further this illusion, it is helpful to focus news coverage on Israel and Israeli victims, and studiously neglect the far more numerous Palestinian victims of Israel’s war in the occupied territories. Studies of leading US newspapers (and my personal experience) confirm that this is indeed the situation. 
As a consequence, many Americans have come to vaguely understand “occupation” as a situation in which Israel administers the territory until the Palestinians have grown up enough to run it for themselves. These citizens may not have noticed when Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld referred to Palestine as the “disputed territories”, because it squared perfectly with the dominant message that the Israelis and the Palestinians have competing rights to the same land.
International law, the proper context for objective analysis of such issues, can destroy these myths on contact. That’s why Americans working to end the occupation have long tried to restore international law to its rightful place in this debate. Unfortunately, this mission has not been accomplished.
Worse, the very idea of international law is losing favor in America, where powerful politicians of both parties enjoy portraying The Hague and the UN as little more than meddling NGOs. Will citizens who have learned to avoid the terms “illegal occupation” and “war crimes” in relation to our current adventure in Iraq be interested in the legal status of Israel’s comparatively puny illegal occupation?
How did we get here? Through all the shifts and changes in US foreign policy over the past thirty-five years, one issue has stood out from the rest for its persistent power to undermine our government’s respect for international law. From the outset, our solitary support for Israel and its blatantly illegal war of acquisition required a consistent and willful disregard for the most basic tenets of the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions.
To date we have vetoed thirty-nine UN Security Council resolutions in order to protect Israel’s agenda and impunity.  We cast some of these vetoes to prevent the Security Council from enforcing prior resolutions that we didn’t veto. At last count, Israel remained in violation of over thirty-six Security Council resolutions, more than twice as many violations as the next worst offenders. 
Israel’s membership of the UN is itself a violation. When it sought admission in 1949, Israel was required to pledge its respect for the rights of Palestinian refugees under the UN Charter and the Fourth Geneva Convention. Almost immediately following its admission, Israel reneged on this pledge and enacted laws barring the return of Palestinian citizens to their homes and properties, a violation of basic human rights that continues to this day.
By UN standards, Israel is the world’s most chronic offender. Somehow that dubious reputation has not prevented the US Congress from embracing Israel with four decades of consistently overwhelming support, a singular phenomenon in modern US foreign policy that we will discuss later in more detail.
Everywhere we look, the numbers indicate that the US-Israeli alliance is a record-setting relationship. So we should not be surprised to find that it has exerted an unusually strong influence on the course of our international relations, even on our government itself. Unfortunately, it is a relationship based on a cavalier disregard for international law and an intimate complicity in decades of bitter war crimes.
The die seems to have been cast from the beginning. What other ally has gained our trust by deliberately attacking our own armed forces, as Israel did against the USS Liberty in 1967? The ensuing Washington cover-up made it clear that, in this “alliance”, our self-respect was on the chopping block. Once our self-respect was gone, legality and morality went out the window. 
Of course, the United States was deeply acquainted with war crimes and illegal aggression long before it met Israel. The insidious impact of the Israeli alliance lay in its ability to take our government’s support for criminality out of the Cold War shadows of special forces and intelligence and transform it into a public campaign. But even that was not enough. Eventually the campaign would be promoted as an unassailable truth that only an anti-Semite would question.
Once we had hitched our star to one of the world’s worst outlaws, where did we think we were headed? It can be argued that our support for Israel’s illegal occupation was the strongest single factor propelling the United States to its current degenerate status, the torture master of the world.
The first modern neo-conservatives appeared on the Washington scene about the time the Kissinger Doctrine was kicking the Israeli alliance into high gear. The neo-cons, and the money they represented, were involved in founding the new conservative think tanks of the Seventies. They helped foment the Reagan Revolution to take down Jimmy Carter’s insufficiently pro-Israel administration. With some help from Israel, they were involved in a disastrous round of bloody wars in Central America, and the Iran-Contra and BCCI scandals.
Neo-conservative ideology draws on a philosophical school that even Machiavelli would have found hard to swallow. In essence, it encourages leaders to act as free agents, unafraid to deceive the people while actually pursuing the natural course of events, in which things are destroyed, acquired, and exploited, at a geostrategic and monetary profit. Neo-conservatism is also fundamentally committed to supporting Israel and its Zionist ideals. 
This profile naturally allied neo-conservatives with AIPAC (American-Israel Political Action Committee), Washington’s most powerful foreign/American lobby and reportedly the only one that isn’t required to register as a foreign agent. By acclimation, AIPAC is the dominant force controlling the Middle East policies of the US Congress and determining the outcome of virtually any legislation concerning Israel and its “interests”. Through Congress, AIPAC has repeatedly constrained or overturned policies and initiatives of the executive branch that contradicted its agenda.
AIPAC is an umbrella organization, a facilitator and co-ordinator of scores of pro-Israel organizations across America. Historically, AIPAC has not shied away from using the forces and methods necessary to silence Congressional debate about America’s support for Israel.
As a result, it has racked up decades of legislative landslides to lavishly fund Israel’s war and declare the resounding support of the US Congress for its violations of international law. The increasingly lopsided “votes” for Israel in the House of Representatives now routinely exceed 95%, a fact that should give anyone pause.
AIPAC routinely destroys the careers of politicians who dare to cross its ideological path. Commenting on a recent AIPAC-driven proposal that would ban all contact between the US government and Hamas, Leonard Fein wrote in Forward:
“To be fair, not all those who support such bills do so out of fear. Some do it out of love, be it a love of Israel or a love of posturing. But fear predominates, and the proximate source of that fear is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which typically chooses to be the enforcer of precisely that kind of crude pro-Israelism.” 
Indeed, a poll taken before the Palestinian election indicated that half the Israeli public would accept negotiations with Hamas.  Once again, AIPAC was pushing Congress to take a position well to the right of the Israeli people, but in lockstep with their government, in which a party founded by Ariel Sharon is considered “moderate”.
AIPAC and the neo-conservatives represent a division of labor between the legislative and executive branches. Under the Bush administration, the neo-cons have matched AIPAC’s long-standing dominance of Congress with their own control of a “unitary executive”. Together they are overwhelming the Constitutional and democratic defenses of an already severely compromised United States government.
Meanwhile, the original objective is being achieved. Palestine is disappearing, in a maze of choking walls, fences, checkpoints, “permanent” internal crossings, and continually expanding Jewish colonies and the Jews-only roads that serve them. Palestine is being erased, like the more than ten thousand homes demolished by Israeli forces.  It is being stripped bare by the loss of hundreds of thousands of olive trees to gangs of Jewish settlers and their assistants in the Israeli army, Border Police, and tree nursery industry. Whenever and wherever possible, Palestine is being made uninhabitable – for Arabs.
The largest single theft of Palestinian land since 1948 is right around the corner, as the Israeli army prepares the Jordan Valley for unilateral annexation. In a campaign that began last November, the Israeli army has now banned all Palestinian travel between the Jordan Valley and the rest of the West Bank. Thousands of Palestinians in both areas have lost access to their jobs, lands, and families. Even the citizens of Jericho are forbidden to travel in the adjacent northern Valley, further isolating the city and undermining the foundations of the West Bank’s agriculture and economy. 
B’tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, remarked: “Israel’s permit regime in the valley, together with statements of senior officials, give the impression that the motive underlying Israel’s policy is not based on military-security needs, but is political: the de facto annexation of the Jordan Valley.” 
The Jordan Valley is reportedly the “breadbasket of Palestine”, the best open farmland in the West Bank. The Israeli army has maintained a steady presence there since the end of the misnamed “Six Day War” in 1967, when Israel began its current and final seizure of Palestinian land. Successive Israeli governments have asserted Israel’s “right” to the Jordan Valley, which it considers a critical strategic asset.
If it is a strategic asset, it is not for defensive purposes. Security strategists prefer hostile borders to be as short as possible, yet the annexation of the Jordan Valley would dramatically lengthen Israel’s already exaggerated “security border” with the Palestinians.
Indeed, Israel would then completely encircle the remaining Palestinian areas of the West Bank, as if it were a white blood cell engulfing an unwanted microbe. Perhaps that is the essence of the “strategic asset”. 
Ariel Sharon frequently vowed to annex the Valley. Over three years ago, Israel began mapping the eastern line of its “security fence” so that it would slice the eastern quarter of the West Bank and put it into Israel’s hands. Recently, interim Prime Minister Olmert and Defense Minister Mofaz have been arguing that in any “final” agreement the Palestinians will be required to forfeit the Jordan Valley. The justification: Israel’s security requires it.
Some observers thought that Israel’s theft of the Jordan Valley would occur at the end of this year, when the “Eastern Fence” is expected to be complete.  They had forgotten that the area must first be “cleansed” of its native inhabitants. Otherwise, the “fence” would make them unwelcome (i.e. non-Jewish) residents of a newly expanded “Israel”.
The army’s new permit regime is clearly designed to make it extremely difficult for Palestinians to continue living in the Jordan Valley. Certainly Israel has other options “on the table”. One way or another, the ethnic cleansing will continue and Palestinians will be forced to choose between emigration and destitution, or worse.
As Israel pretends to wait for the Palestinians to accept “reality”, it is rapidly winning its war of conquest in the West Bank. And it is pressing its advantage at every turn. The daily ferocity of Israeli military and police operations in occupied Palestine has returned to Intifada levels, far out of proportion to anything the Palestinian resistance is or has been doing.
Conveniently, the American public sees, reads, and hears virtually nothing about any of this; very few Israelis are getting hurt. Under cover of the US-sponsored “perfect storm” of Middle East violence now seething in Iraq, Israel’s interminable war has become even smaller potatoes in America, an off-the-screen nuisance that can be abstracted to a single convenient (and absurdly inconvenient) question: Are we dealing with terrorists or not?
The US occupation of Iraq may or may not be going according to plan, but the horror that America has visited upon that land has certainly been a strategic and public relations bonanza for the government of Israel. It is worth noting that these “benefits” for Israel continue undiminished as long as Iraq remains mired in chaos.
Iraqis are saying that their country is being destroyed. Just like Palestine. Three years into this war, the argument that it was launched primarily for Israeli interests has certainly gained strength.
This theory gathers many threads. One is the Iraq war plan (to be executed by a nation other than Israel) written in 1996 for Benjamin Netanyahu, then prime minister of Israel. The document was prepared by neo-cons who were later prominent in the Bush war administration. 
Another thread was the reported special access of Israelis, primarily from Likud offices, to Under Secretary for Defense Douglas Feith’s Office of Special Plans, the prime “intelligence” factory for neo-con war propaganda. 
That recalls another example of the AIPAC/neo-con nexus at work in our government today: the Israeli-AIPAC espionage ring that FBI agents found operating in Feith’s offices. The Pentagon’s chief Iran analyst, Larry Franklin, was caught passing top secret planning documents about Iran to an Israeli diplomat and two top executives of AIPAC.
The investigation was a courageous effort by the FBI, and it may have encouraged Feith’s departure, but it doesn’t seem to have put a dent in AIPAC’s hegemony in Congress, where “treason” is a highly relative term.
Currently the US, under very strong “encouragement” from Israel, is pushing western governments to stop Iran’s nuclear development. By implication, they are working to maintain Israel’s status as the sole nuclear threat in the Middle East. Recently, Bush made the connection clear in a backhanded way. He declared: “Israel is a solid ally of the U.S., we will rise to Israel’s defense if need be.” Will Israel rise to our defense? 
Retrospectively, Israel may be recognized as the avant garde of an essentially bi-national political movement committed to an ideology of hegemony and acquisition through destruction. Such forces use the rhetoric of democracy to describe chaos and destruction. They employ the parlance of market economics to promote profiteering, corruption, and theft. They speak of national unity when they seek civil war, of justice when they want execution, of leaving when they are determined to stay.
It is hard to see how the American people will be able to move from ignorance of the basic facts of Israel’s occupation to understanding the profound impact of the US-Israeli alliance on the ideology and integrity of our own government. Yet it is doubtful that we will be able to shake off the neo-cons without also ending AIPAC’s assault on the People’s House.
Seen in its full context, the fate of Palestine is a matter of grave importance to all Americans. If the Palestinians can achieve some measure of peace, justice, and self-determination, Israel’s hold will be broken, and America’s prospects for achieving the same goals will be significantly improved.
On the other hand, if the Israel-US axis is allowed to maintain its present course and speed, the viability of the Palestinian nation will soon be exterminated. If it comes to that, America will also have succumbed, to another government that pursues freedom through incarceration, information through torture, democracy through bribery, security through war, and wealth through destruction – our own.
1. ‘U.S. Gallup Poll: Expectations of Middle East Peace Drop Following Hamas Victory’, Palestine Media Center/Gallup News Service, 2/14/2006.
2. ‘Off the Charts: Report on ABC, CBS, and NBC’s Israel/Palestine Coverage, September 29, 2000 – September 28, 2001, January 1, 2004 – December 31, 2004′, If Americans Knew.
3. ‘Off the Charts: Report on New York Times Israel/Palestine Coverage , Sep. 29, 2000 – Sep. 28, 2001, Jan. 1, 2004 – Dec. 31, 2004′, If Americans Knew.
4. Edward Said, in Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel & The Palestinians (Cambridge, Massachusetts: South End Press).
5. Donald Neff , ‘An Updated List of Vetoes Cast by the United States to Shield Israel from Criticism by the U.N. Security Council’, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, May/June 2005.
6. Stephen Zunes, ‘UN Resolutions being violated by countries other than Iraq’, Foreign Policy in Focus, 10/2/2002 (Note: Professor Zunes conservatively omits UNSCR 242 and 338 from his list of 32 violations. Israel has also come into violation of UNSCR 1539, 1544, and 1578 since 2002).
7. Sarah Weir, ‘Commission of Inquiry reveals US-Israeli cover-up of U.S.S. Liberty attack’, Electronic Intifada, 10/25/2003.
8. Jim Lobe, ‘Neocons dance a Strauss waltz’, Asia Times, 5/9/2003.
9. Leonard Fein, ‘THE HOUR: More Pro-Israel Than Israel’, Forward, 3/3/2006.
10. ‘Poll: 50% of Israelis back Hamas talks’, YNetNews, 12/21/2005.
11. Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.
12. ‘The Eastern Wall: Closing the circle of our ghettoization’, StopTheWall.org, 11/28/2005.
13. ‘Israel Squeezing Palestinians out of Jordan Valley’, Palestine Media Center, 12/31/2005.
14. ‘B’Tselem research shows that Israel has effectively annexed the Jordan Valley’, B’tselem, 2/13/2006.
15. Chris McGreal, ‘Israel unveils plan to encircle Palestinian state’, The Guardian, 2/8/2006.
16. ‘Kaplinksy: Only 35 percent of separation fence is complete’, Ha’aretz, 12/7/2005.
17. Adib Farha, ‘Taking apart a significant pro-Israeli policy document’, Daily Star, 12/11/2003.
18. Kathleen and Bill Christison, ‘The Bush Neocons and Israel: Dual Loyalties’, CounterPunch, 9/6/2004.
19. Jim Lobe, ‘Insider fires a broadside at Rumsfeld’s office’, Asia Times, 8/7/2003.
20. Jim Lobe, ‘Pro-Likud network walks through Washington’s corridors of power’, Daily Star, 8/8/2003.
21. ‘Bush vows to defend Israel if attacked by Iran’, Ha’aretz, 2/2/2006.
James Brooks serves as webmaster for Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel, www.vtjp.org, where readers can read his research into Israel's development and use of chemical weapons. Mr. Brooks' articles on the Middle East have been published by ZNet, CounterPunch, Common Dreams, Palestine Chronicle, Electronic Intifada, and other periodicals. He can be contacted at email@example.com.