A time will come when the foundations sustaining every brutal regime suddenly start to crumble.
Few notice when the cracks first appear. But then they grow larger and suddenly everything starts to seem possible. This is the way it was with the fall of the Berlin Wall, and with it, the Soviet Empire. And for a brief historical moment it seemed to be the case with the Arab Spring.
Now, as the coalition sustaining American support for Israel for almost three generations crumbles before our eyes, we would do well to ask ourselves if we stand on the precipice of another such moment.
The activist organizer, Peter Cohen, recently suggested that the crack in Jewish-American opinion is the shot that will blow up the Death Star. Israel has long been dependent on bi-partisan support, and much of this has been Jewish, but American Jews are increasingly divided on Israel. And liberals in general are fast turning against the Jewish state.
Now things that seemed beyond contemplation just a few weeks ago are being spoken about openly by members of an American Presidential administration. The American nuclear deal with Iran may bring a fundamental geo-political realignment in the Middle East—and with it, the America-Israel alliance might be downgraded. The ground is now shifting under our feet as new vistas open on the horizon.
When American issues become partisan, taking a stance for your own side in the liberal-conservative divide becomes a matter of identity.
Liberals and conservatives throw everything they’ve got at each other, mobilizing television and radio networks, activist organizations, pundits and lobbies. The fact that the American political system is largely plutocratic and controlled by the wealthy may actually make the fighting more intense.
The payoff of all this criticism does not lie so much in the passage of legislation, which usually requires compromise, but rather the self-definition of American culture. American political fights are largely about who we are as a people and these sorts of fights can be intensely moral.
It is a serious infringement of national sovereignty when a foreign leader speaks before the legislature of a major power in order to undermine the foreign policy agenda of its President.
But it is a far more serious offense when the foreign leader has just conducted espionage against the President and passed confidential state information to the Republican opposition, as the Obama administration now alleges. If they are right, then this is a scandal that may not go away. If Republican leaders complicit in this coordinated attack cannot be tried for treason, their patriotism can definitely be drawn into question.
Meanwhile, the Netanyahu administration, whose leadership of Israel was just reconfirmed, can expect a backlash from American liberals. Now the Obama administration is talking about recognizing a Palestinian state through a once controversial U.N. resolution. They have just made Israel’s secret nuclear program public, which has never yet been declared. And they are saying any moves to annex portions of the West Bank might undermine the America-Israel alliance.
What might be next?
Since expressing criticism of Israel has come at a heavy price for American politicians and members of the media for generations, Americans know little if anything about Israel’s repeated abuses of international law and the Palestinian people.
Few know that a third of the land on which Israel’s settlements are built was stolen from private Palestinian deed holders or that since the occupation began Israel has destroyed over a million West Bank olive trees.
Few know that Israel steals 80-90% of West Bank groundwater and makes building new wells virtually illegal.
Few know Israel arrests Palestinian children in the night and tries to coerce them into becoming informants or that, according to U.N. figures, they killed 245 Gazan civilians for every Israeli civilian killed in the last war.
When the fighting on this issue starts up, Americans are in for a shock.
Regimes can fall unexpectedly when a state’s debt becomes so great it can no longer afford to maintain its imperial domain, as Americans are fast realizing in regards to much of the American empire; when demographic changes bring about new political alignments, as is currently occurring within Israel; when a generation of leaders that once controlled everything dies off, as is happening with many of the key leaders in America’s Israel lobby; when ideologies become outworn, as is happening with Zionism for American Jews.
These sorts of changes are like the shifts in deep oceanic currents. We do no know what has hit us until we find ourselves far off course.
And they are all transforming America’s relationship to Israel. How is it nobody ever seems to expect the inquisition?
There is a massive geopolitical realignment happening in the Middle East and Israel is panicking. The nuclear deal with Iran is a part of this realignment, as is the implosion of Syria and the banding together of Iraqi Shia, who are supported by Iran. But America’s geopolitical shift toward East and Southeast Asia is also important.
Both the George W. Bush and the Obama administrations have been attempting a “pivot toward Asia,” a massive geopolitical shift in attention that seeks to contain a rising China. But this shift is being prevented by Israel, which continually draws the U.S. into the Middle East.
Meanwhile, the crack in bi-partisan support for Israel is so unusually powerful because Israel is so shockingly awful, such a cesspool of abuses, that when Democrats want to beat Republicans over the head with dead Palestinian babies, there will be no shortage.
When they want to put Republicans in a box, they will have a constant string of facts and metaphors with which to keep them occupied. And American’s jaws will drop over what they learn.
If this process continues, longtime critics of the occupation can expect to find themselves out of work as more mainstream groups take over their job of criticizing Israel. Then, all of a sudden, it will be time to advocate for a better future.
It is time we set our minds to this task.
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Author: Theo Horesh
Editor: Emma Ruffin
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