Unconditional love: US support of Israel likely to continue with Kerry at helm

John Kerry’s nomination hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (January 24, 2013)

Nominee for Secretary of State John Kerry didn’t address US-Israeli foreign policy in today’s hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but if he follows in Clinton’s footsteps, he will implement an Obama policy that essentially gives Israel everything it wants and more.

In November, Rep Gerry Connolly (D-Va) called “U.S.-Israeli relations…at an all-time high”:

President Obama has provided every penny and more in foreign assistance requested by Israel. Moreover, the president has agreed to sell Israel our most advanced jet fighter, the F-35. And unlike the previous administration, President Obama has authorized the sale of advanced “bunker buster” weapons to Israel that are now part of its arsenal.
 
Bottom line, in the words of Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the U.S.-Israel relationship is as strong as it’s ever been….
 
But we cannot be fooled. The president’s actions prove that he has Israel’s back. When the Palestinians threatened to obtain statehood at the United Nations Security Council, President Obama pledged a veto. When the notoriously biased Goldstone Report attacked Israel’s self defense efforts in Gaza, President Obama fought against it. When Israeli diplomats’ lives were threatened in their Cairo Embassy, President Obama intervened to save them. And when forest fires ravaged northern Israel, President Obama committed US assistance to extinguish them.

(At face value, Connolly’s article on Congressional blog The Hill would seemingly indict Obama’s Israeli policy. Instead, it’s a full-throated defense against critics who accuse him of being anti-Israel.)

 

The US view that Israel is a strategic asset in the Middle East plus the rabid pro-Israel lobby underlies the remarkable level of American support for Israel over the years. Glenn Greenwald contends that “Israeli aggression is possible only due to the unstinting financial, military and diplomatic support of the US.” And Middle East expert William Quandt negatively assesses Obama’s achievements in the region, based as it is on a continuation of past policy, saying, “There is no evidence of a fundamental rethinking by the president; his Middle East policy is the product of his view of America and the world.”

Kerry is expected to pass the nomination hearings with flying colors with little opposition from Republicans, even if they gave him a hard time on a few issues today, such as the attack on the Benghazi consulate. (Yesterday, current Secretary of State Hilary Clinton put Republicans in their place when they tried to rake her over the coals for the attack, which led to the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens.)

Ultra-right pro-Israel media predictably whine that Senator Kerry is no friend of Israel. But there is little indication that Kerry would change the course of US policy regarding Israel. During the DNC convention, he defended President Obama’s Israel cred, portraying him and Netanyahu as best of buddies. Unconditional support of Israel, no matter how destructive to Palestinians and the stability of the region, will continue.

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The Gaza Kitchen: A stronghold against despair

The most recent trauma suffered by Palestinians in Gaza was November’s eight-day war, which resulted in a truce with Israel (so far) and recognition of Palestinian statehood by the United Nations. The eruption of conflict leads Westerners to wonder once again, who are the 1.7 million people jammed into Gaza, and what are their lives like?

A cookbook fills in some blanks for us. The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey gives us a window into “that most tortured little strip of land” through food and cooking, which co-author Laila El-Haddad calls “the essence of the everyday.”

Beyond all the discourses, the positions and the polemics, there is the kitchen… hundreds of thousands of women every day find ways to sustain their families and friends in body and spirit.  They make the kitchen a stronghold against despair, and there craft necessity into pleasure and dignity.

The Gaza Kitchen is not only a cookbook. A lot of other things happen in the kitchen as well as cooking: conversations, the re-telling of family histories, and the daily drama of surviving and creating spaces for pleasure in an embattled place. In this book, women and men from throughout Gaza tell their stories as they relate to cooking, farming, and the food economy: personal stories, family stories, and descriptions of the broader social and economic system in which they live.

The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey by Laila El-Haddad and Maggie Schmitt is available from Just World Books for $29.