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.

CODEPINK activist disrupts Kerry nomination hearing, demands end to military aid to Israel

Guards remove Code Pink intern Lachelle Roddy from the Kerry hearing in a screen grab from CNN Photograph: CNN

[UPDATE below: Lachelle Roddy comments on her reasons for speaking out during Senate Foreign Relations hearing.]

CODEPINK intern and college student Lachelle Roddy disrupted Senator John Kerry’s nomination hearing for Secretary of State today. [VIDEO below] From the gallery of the Senate chamber, Roddy voiced her objection to U.S. military aid to Israel:

We’re killing thousands of people in the Middle East who are not a threat to us. When is it going to be enough? When are enough people going to be killed? I’m tired of my friends in the Middle East not knowing if they’re going to live to see the next day!

CODEPINK is an activist group which opposes U.S. military aggression abroad, including military aid to Israel, which it believes is being used to oppress Palestinians.

Video of Roddy disrupting the hearing:

Update:

Roddy commented on her reasons for speaking out during the Senate hearing, which she says was a spontaneous outburst and not a planned action:

I stood in the back listening as they continued to reference how big of a threat the Middle East is to America and how America needs to be a global leader, as if we are not already occupying enough countries. I had had enough when they mentioned economic sanctions on Iran. I could not stay silent any longer, and decided to speak up.

Activist Lachelle Roddy, left, participates in CODEPINK Flash Mob at Union Station on January 19, 2013.

The effect of U.S. foreign policy on the lives of her friends from the Middle East also motivated her:

I live in a global village in Roanoke while in school [at Hollins University], and there are many women there from the Middle East including Afghanistan and Palestine. They never know whether their families will be alive the next day because of U.S. drones as well as U.S. funding of Israeli war crimes.

It’s very difficult for them to go to school here when they have so much hardship back at home because of our nation’s foreign policy, especially when they can not speak up out of fear of being labeled a terrorist.

Roddy was charged with unlawful conduct and interrupting Congress.

Update:

In response to Roddy’s outburst, Senator John Kerry retained his composure and recalled his activism following his military service in Vietnam:

When I first came to Washington and testified, I obviously was testifying as part of the group of people who came here to have their voices heard. And that is, above all, what this place is about. So I respect, I think, the woman who was voicing her concerns about that part of the world, and maybe one of you have traveled there. Some of you were there recently. Senator McCain, you were just there, you were in a refugee camp, and I know you heard this kind of thing. People measure what we do.

Social media revolutionaries in the Mideast

Social media is the sine qua non of Occupy in Western countries. And it’s also being used throughout the world in oppressed societies, most notably during the Arab Spring of 2011. Then and today, just what is the impact of the new Internet technologies in Mideast revolts?

Social Capital Blog gives us some background:

The “Arab Spring” in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere in the Mid-East heavily relied on the Internet, social media and technologies like Twitter, TwitPic, Facebook and YouTube in the early stages to accelerate social protest. There are even allegations that the CIA was blindsided about the Egypt uprising by failing to follow developments on Twitter.

There is less evidence that social media played a strong a role in places like Yemen (where Internet penetration is low) or Libya (where the government controlled Internet means of distribution and cracked down more effectively).

In Syria, where the “Arab Fall” is still underway and the fighting has intensified and spread to Damascus’ suburbs, the role of social media has also been more limited, out of fear that the government is monitoring online behavior and because the government learned from Egypt and Tunisia and cracked down heavily on social media.

This hasn’t prevented the Syrian opposition’s facility with new media:

The protest movement has also been adept at using social media – Facebook hosts pages like Syria Monitor, Syrian Letters, and Twitter Users for Syria help spread information and firsthand testimony. The twitter hashtags #Syria and #Assad also serve as clearinghouses, linking to Facebook pages and blogs like the Revolting Syrian.

In an interview with We Act Radio in Washington, DC, AJ Kurabi said that so many educated kids are using Twitter and Facebook, but he noted its limitations. With technologies like livestream the atrocities of Bashar al-Assad are exposed,”but he keeps on getting away with it,” he said.

Blogging has been another outlet for individuals in repressive countries, often providing textured viewpoints unavailable by other means. Chapati Mystery is a blog by Dr. Manan Ahmed in Pakistan:

I believe that there is an ethical way in which we have to engage with the world we live in, and as ethics includes a commitment to seeking truth and explanation of various fundamental issues, we have to fulfill that responsibility whether I was a grad student, whether I had a tenure or not, that would not stop me from being an ethical citizen.

Occupy AIPAC

Occupy protestors outside the DC Convention Center hold sign saying, “NO WAR ON IRAN” as President Obama speaks to the AIPAC Policy Conference.

Why Occupy AIPAC? Read more at The Nation and Huffington Post.

More pics at The Visible Occupation.

(Image by @johnzangas)

Occupy, Occupation

Christopher Dickey, Middle East editor at the Daily Beast, talks about occupation, occupiers, and being occupied:

“Military occupation is like an addiction–once it starts, it’s very hard to stop. [The attitude of military occupiers is] ‘Aren’t you glad we liberated you?’ But no one is going to thank occupiers.”

“Sometimes the tables can be turned and those with guns and money find themselves up against people who are determined to take back their space, peacefully but relentlessly.”