Monday, June 17, 2013

What Can The U.S. Do To Win The Hearts And Minds Of The Near East?

For starters, the United States could stop showing the international community, especially the regional players in the Near East, such blind bias towards Israel regardless of human rights violations and terrible treatment to Arabs in the region. This type of blatant bias comes in several forms stemming from incredibly lopsided amounts of annual foreign aid (economic and military), the consistent usage of the U.S. UN veto in the UN Security Council against any (and all) resolutions that condemn Israel or reflects Israel in a negative light, the boycotting of world leaders that are critical of Israel during annual UN General Assembly conferences, and the brutish advancement and enforcement of economic sanctions against any nation-states in the region that might challenge the regional Israeli hegemon.

This political bias, guised behind empty political promises of supporting, and at times brokering, an elusive peace process in the Middle East which can bring prosperity, colors the United States in a negative hypocritical manner. Let’s take a look at some significant quotes from previous U.S. administrations that display this hypocritical bias. Please keep in mind that I could expand this exercise all the way up to President Obama, illustrating a growing hypocrisy (and control mechanism by Israel), but in order to avoid too lengthy of a forum I will concentration on three administrations from 1960 through Nixon’s resignation.

John F. Kennedy August 26, 1960:

“First, I propose that the new President reaffirm our sincere friendship for all the peoples of the Middle East, whatever their religion or race or politics. Second, I propose that we make it crystal clear that the United States means what it said in the tripartite declaration of 1950 that we will act promptly and decisively against any nation in the Middle East which attacks its neighbor. I propose that we make clear to both Israel and the Arab States our guarantee that we will act with whatever force and speed are necessary to halt any aggression by any nation. Third, I propose that all the authority and prestige of the White House be used to call into conference the leaders of Israel and the Arab States to consider privately their common problems, assuring them that we support in full their aspirations for peace, unity, independence, and a better life and that we are prepared to back up this moral support with economic and technical assistance. The offer would be made with equal frankness to both sides; and all the world would be watching the response of each side. I sincerely believe that an American presidential initiative for peace, honestly intended and resolutely pursued, would not be lightly rejected by either side. And I promise to waste no time in taking this initiative.” [1].

The speech appears to be fair and unbiased, but upon election to the U.S. presidency, the Kennedy administration “decided to enter the Middle East arms race by providing military aid to Israel”[2].

The geographic position of Israel and the balance of power created by the Cold War may have justified, to some extent on a political level, an arms build-up in Israel (as a proponent of global capitalism) to check Soviet communist influence in the region, but at the same time….the threatening Soviet menace which began heavy increases in American welfare to Israel, in the form of foreign aid, resembles the current radical Islamic menace that falsely justifies providing Israel with over 3 billion dollars in annual military-economic foreign aid. Create an enemy or enhance the stature of an enemy, and create justification.

Lyndon Johnson:

“The quest for stable peace in the Middle East goes on in many capitals tonight. America fully supports the unanimous resolution of the U.N. Security Council which points the way. There must be a settlement of the armed hostility that exists in that region of the world today. It is a threat not only to Israel and to all the Arab States, but it is a threat to every one of us and to the entire world as well” - January 14, 1969 State of the Union Address [3]

Kennedy’s predecessor, President Johnson, decided not to run for re-election, but had already committed that the United States “would furnish Israel with Phantom jets along with the grant of Skyhawk aircraft promised in October 1967, thus giving Israel clear air superiority in the area. The presidential election campaign, in which both candidates declared full support for Israel” [4].

Richard Nixon:

“In the Middle East, 100 million people in the Arab countries, many of whom have considered us their enemies for nearly 20 years, now look on us as their friends. We must continue to build on that friendship so that peace can settle at last over the Middle East and so that the cradle of civilization will not become its grave” – Nixon resignation speech August 8, 1974 [5]

This humanitarian rhetoric sounds good, but during the Nixon administration “the influx of new American weapons to Israel ensured its qualitative advantage over its Arab neighbors, meaning that Israel could reject Arab overtures it did not consider totally acceptable [6].

Conclusion:

The short answer is that for the United States to earn the respect of the Middle East and the surrounding region, the hypocrisy and political lip service on the international stage and the bias toward Israel must end. These three examples are lightweight in substance compared to the levels of hypocrisy during the 1980s, 1990s and the first decade of the millennium. The United States is constantly placed in a disdainful light when Israel, a loose cannon funded by billions of dollars annually by the United States for over 50 years, commits acts of aggression against the Palestinian people and neighboring nation-states which border human rights violations and outright apartheid-like instigations.

[1] Kennedy, John F. Speech to the Zionist of America Convention, August 26, 1960: New York. Accessed on June 17, 2013 from http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=74217

[2] Smith, Charles D. Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History with Documents, 7th ed. (New York, NY: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010), 276.

[3] Johnson, Lyndon B. Presidential State of the Union Address, January 14, 1969. Accessed on June 17, 2013 from http://www2.hn.psu.edu/faculty/jmanis/poldocs/uspressu/SUaddressLBJohnson.pdf

[4] Smith, Charles D. Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History with Documents, 7th ed. (New York, NY: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010), 306.

[5] Nixon, Richard. Presidential Resignation Speech, August 8, 1974 Accessed on June 17, 2013 from http://usa.usembassy.de/etexts/speeches/rhetoric/rmnresig.htm

[6] Smith, Charles D. Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History with Documents, 7th ed. (New York, NY: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010), 318.

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