Why Americans don’t understand Palestine

Scott McConnell writes: If a man from Mars descended to observe Israel’s attack on the Gaza strip, he would have seen one group of humans trapped in a densely populated area, largely defenseless while a modern air force destroyed their buildings at will. He might have learned that the people in Gaza had been essentially enclosed for several years in a sort of ghetto, deprived by the Israeli navy of access to the fish in their sea, generally unable to travel or to trade with the outside world, barred by Israeli forces from much of their arable land, all the while surveyed continuously from the sky by a foe which could assassinate their leaders at will and often did.

This Martian also might learn that the residents of Gaza — most of them descendants of refugees who had fled or been driven from Israel in 1948 — had been under Israeli occupation for 46 years, and intensified closure for six, a policy described by Israeli officials as “economic warfare” and privately by American diplomats as intended to keep Gaza “functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis.” He might note that Gaza’s water supply is failing, as Israel blocks the entry of materials that could be used to repair and upgrade its sewage and water-treatment infrastructure. That ten percent of its children suffer from malnutrition and that cancer and birth defects are on the rise. That the fighting had started after a long standing truce had broken down after a series of tit-for-tat incidents, followed by the Israeli assassination of an Hamas leader, and the typical Hamas response of firing inaccurate rockets, which do Israel little damage.

But our man from Mars is certainly not an American. And while empathy for the underdog is said to be an American trait, this is not true if the underdog is Palestinian.

Among the chief milestones of Washington’s reaction to Israel’s military campaign were: President Obama stated from Bangkok that America supported Israel’s right “to defend itself” and “no country on earth would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens” while national-security aide Benjamin Rhodes added “the reason there is a conflict in Gaza is because of the rocket fire that’s been launched at Israeli civilians indiscriminately for many months now.” Congress took time off from partisan wrangling about the fiscal cliff to pass unanimously two resolutions, in the Senate and House, expressing its “unwavering commitment to the security of the State of Israel” and backing its “inherent right to protect its citizens against acts of terrorism.” Its members could further inform themselves by attending a closed briefing by Israel’s ambassador Michael Oren on November 28, the only figure invited by the House Foreign Affairs Committee to testify.

As the fighting continued, Walter Russell Mead, a prominent political scientist, conveyed impatience with the just-war tradition seemed to inhibit Israeli air attacks, which by then had killed and wounded scores of people. Mead asserted that Americans would back an Israeli response of “unlimited ferocity.” [Continue reading…]

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One thought on “Why Americans don’t understand Palestine

  1. BillVZ

    This is a fine, well written informative article. It is much appreciated. I have read and re read it several times. The reference to the actions of the legislative body of the U.S.i.e-expressing its “unwavering commitment to the security of the State of Israel” and backing its “inherent right to protect its citizens against acts of terrorism along- with the ‘failure of major journalistic organs to provide Americans information to understand the conflict’ make it pretty much certain the American public will most willingly remain in the bliss of ignorance.

    After all, the both Israel and the U.S. share a history of being pilgrims in a new land – and both are
    – imperial, capitalist powers.
    – militarists and believe that the use of military force (including invasion and permanent occupation) is justified to achieve their strategic aims.
    – fueled by religious fundamentalism- God’s Chosen People and Americans Manifest Destiny to lead the world.

    The bottom line is that neither America nor Israel has any intention of ever allowing the creation a sovereign, separate Palestinian state. As if, that at this point still really matters.

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