The Israelization of American policy
- The Israelization of American policy
By Marwan Bishara
The International Herald Tribune
27 June 2003
PARIS For the past few months I have watched with bewilderment as
America has adopted Israel's mistaken strategy in the Middle East.
Will America take as long as Israel to realize that starting a war
is nothing like finishing it, and that military occupation does not
bring about peace or security?
Two pictures in the International Herald Tribune on the same day,
June 16, spoke volumes. One showed an Israeli soldier in Hebron
pointing his automatic rifle at civilians with their hands in the
air, and another of an American soldier doing exactly the same thing
in Falluja, Iraq. If there were no captions, you couldn't tell one
photograph from the other.
America, like Israel, is getting increasingly bogged down by an
open-ended military occupation, as attacks on its troops continue
almost daily in Iraq. The situation has been aggravated by America's
break-up of state institutions such as the army, rendering millions
of Iraqis unemployed.
Powerful but vulnerable, America and Israel seem to bring out the
worst in each other. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, Washington has
internalized Israel's claustrophobic view of a world full of hatred
and terrorism. Its post-Cold War optimism has given way to vengeful
President George W. Bush is walking down Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon's path as he uses the dramatic events of the past two years
to whip up a new theological patriotism to strengthen his governing
base and confront those - mostly Muslims - who "hate us for what we
Neither Israel nor America is bothering to ask why the Palestinians
and Muslims of the Middle East are carrying out suicide attacks,
something not previously seen in Islam or Palestine for the last 14
centuries. Have Israeli military occupation and American military
domination transformed Middle East killing fields into fertile
ground for hatred and conflict that has taken on a religious fervor?
Instead of extracting the source of tension, Washington has added
another occupation to the Israeli occupation. Like pyromaniac
firemen, U.S. officials are implementing Sharon's war philosophy of
putting out fire with fire.
Israelizing America's war on terrorism means globalizing Sharon's
warfare: unprovoked military invasions, covert operations, armed
interventions, disproportionate retaliations, extra-judicial
assassinations and other measures long considered war crimes and
crimes against humanity.
These measures have also proved ineffective. Israel has grown less
secure despite its continuous use of force to resolve political
Today, America risks internalizing the way it fights and those it
fights against. As one of Israel's leading military historians,
Martin van Creveld, puts it, if you fight the weak for too long, you
become weak yourself. Unfortunately, instead of learning from
Israel's strategic mistakes, Bush is advising the Palestinians to
learn from the lesson of Iraq.
If America continues to Israelize its foreign policy, it will
globalize the kind of conflict found in Palestine, with grave
consequences not only abroad, but also at home in America.
Israel's experience shows that fear-based national fervor curtails
the democratic process, depicting rationalization as justification
and tolerance as immoral. Two-thirds more Americans support
political assassination today than two decades ago and an increasing
number support torture.
Just as there is a diplomatic alternative to Israel's failed
policies in Palestine - based on international legality and
sustained development, rather than the imbalance of power and
exploitation - a better alternative must be found to America's
unilateral and muscular foreign policy.
Attaining national security in a transnational world means accepting
and respecting interdependence. Once security is understood as a
universal right, interdependence becomes a sign of wisdom, not
If America must draw on another tradition, why not look to the long
history of Jewish tolerance and survival, - or to America's own
constitutional tradition? It is time to dust off those great
documents sitting on the White House shelves.
The writer, who teaches international relations at the American
University of Paris, is author of "Palestine/Israel: Peace or
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