Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Confidence or Con?

A BBC News report quotes Secretary of State John Kerry on the current round of efforts towards peace in the Middle East as follows:
We have six months ahead of us on the timetable we have set for ourselves and I am confident we have the ability to make progress.
Does Kerry really mean this, or is this just another example of obligatory jawboning. To Kerry's credit, the BBC report also included the following sentence:
Mr Kerry reaffirmed Washington's rejection of Israeli settlement activity as "illegitimate".
I would guess that, in this case, Kerry meant what he said. However, I have to wonder if it will have any effect. It may certainly help in getting the Palestinians to trust him as an "honest broker," which would be a significant improvement over the conditions that I last examined at the end of 2010. The problem is that it is next to impossible to believe that anyone with any power of substance in Israel will take that comment with anything other than a grain of kosher salt.

As "outside observers" we need to recognize that the Executive Branch of our government has little (if any) influence over what happens in Israel. Any influence that does exist at a governmental level derives all of its substance from the American Israel Public Affair Committee (AIPAC). While AIPAC is ostensibly a lobbying organization, we may assume that it can choose to apply its generous budget to objectives other than buying off members of Congress. Indeed, in the spirit of Charlie Wilson, AIPAC could conceivable finance operations in Israel that run contrary to any positions taken by any elected representative of our government.

Meanwhile, public opinion is rallied around the proposition that Israel must be supported because it is the only "real" democracy in the Middle East. (Note the scare quotes.)  Those who continue to embrace this proposition would do well to read Chris Hedges' recent column on Truthdig, a book review of Max Blumenthal's Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel released under the headline "Imploding the Myth of Israel." The bottom line is that what we know about Israel comes entirely from a well-financed propaganda effort and is nothing more than toxic Kool-Aid. Some might even argue that 9/11 was the first serious symptom of its toxicity, but the consciousness industry had thus far been successful in keeping those voices inaudible. Whether or not Hedges' voice suffers the same fate will be up to those of us still willing to read with an open mind.

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