The U.S. Role In the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

An Israeli attack on a U.N. school in Beit Lahiya with US-provided white phosphorus munitions on January 17, 2009. Such attacks constitute war crimes under international law. (Photo: Muhammad al-Baba)
An Israeli attack on a U.N. school in Beit Lahiya with US-provided white phosphorus munitions on January 17, 2009. Such attacks constitute war crimes under international law. (Photo: Muhammad al-Baba)

The following is the transcript of an interview I did with Jeremy R. Hammond, founding editor of Foreign Policy Journal, on his forthcoming book about the US role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

What led you to write this book and is it a follow-up to your book The Rejection of Palestinian Self-Determination?

It’s funny you should ask! The new book will be the final result of a process that began in earnest during Israel’s ’08-’09 military assault on Gaza, dubbed “Operation Cast Lead”. That event prompted me to want to write a book about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but I knew I couldn’t write about contemporary events such as that without also providing historical background as context. So I had a grand ambition to provide an overview of the conflict going back to its roots and up through the present day. That idea proved overly ambitious for me at the time, but it did result in The Rejection of Palestinian Self-Determination.

I continued to keep in mind the book I’d wanted to do on Operation Cast Lead and the U.S.-led so-called “peace process”, however. What prompted me to begin this project in earnest again was President Obama’s May 2011 speech in which he referred to the “1967 lines” as the starting point for negotiations, and the media’s inane response to it as representing some kind of dramatic “shift” in U.S. policy. It was no such thing, as I explain in the forthcoming book.

So it is in some ways a follow-up to my other book, which focuses more on the contemporary history of the conflict while jumping back to provide crucial historical context as necessary to properly understand events. For example, to understand the so-called “peace process”, one needs to understand the roots of the conflict and how Israel came into existence through the ethnic cleansing of three-quarters of a million Arabs from Palestine. A look back at the June 1967 war and its aftermath is necessary to understand events today, and so on.

With regards to the US’ initial support for Israel, what factors led to the US to go this route and how does the reality of the situation deviate, if at all, from the mainstream narrative?

The U.S. supported Israel from its birth. The Truman administration recognized the newly declared state of Israel on May 14, 1948 literally minutes after this unilateral declaration was made. What we think of today in terms of U.S. support, however—which includes massive military and financial aid (over $3 billion annually) as well as diplomatic support in terms of protecting Israel (such as through the use of the U.S. veto in the U.N. Security Council) from being held accountable for its violations of international law—really began in earnest following the 1967 war, when Israel demonstrated its worth as a regional partner by defeating the combined armies of the neighboring Arab states in just six days, following its surprise attack on Egypt that started the war on June 5.

The mainstream media makes no secret of this U.S. support for Israel, but it at the same time attempts to maintain the narrative of the U.S. as an “honest broker”. This is a farce. The entire U.S.-led so-called “peace process” is the process by which the U.S. and Israel block implementation of the two-state solution based on the requirements of international law, including U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 following the ’67 war, which called on Israel to withdraw from the territories it then occupied and has continued to occupy ever since in keeping with the principle that the acquisition of territory by force is inadmissible. There is an international consensus favoring the two-state solution. The Palestinians accept it, but it is rejected by Israel and the U.S., which both speak of support for a “two-state solution”. But the “solution” the U.S. and Israel push for is not at all the same thing as the two-state solution. On the contrary, the framework for the “peace process” is one that rejects any application of international law in resolving the conflict.

How did the American public feel about supporting Israel?

The American public by and large consents to the U.S. policy of supporting Israel, which in reality means supporting Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people and defending its violations of international law. There are many reasons for this. A lot of it has to do with the role of the media in misleading the public about the nature of the conflict and manufacturing consent for U.S. policy. A lot of it also has to do with the sense among many Christians that they must support Israel no matter what. A lot of it has to do with anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry. And so on.

When did groups like AIPAC spring up and begin to lobby Congress? Did they face any domestic resistance?

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was founded in 1963. I doubt there was much resistance to its formation, but the history of the lobby isn’t something I’ve done much research into. I don’t focus on AIPAC much in my book, mainly because I consider its influence to be relatively unimportant. A lot of people think that this lobby actually drives U.S. foreign policy, but this is a mistaken view. I would posit that if AIPAC ceased to exist tomorrow, U.S. policy would continue as it has. It has some influence in the Congress, but it is not as though U.S. Congresspersons wouldn’t express their support for Israel if it didn’t exist. U.S. policy is determined by U.S. policymakers in terms of their own beliefs and perceptions and American “interests” as they narrowly define them, not by the Israel lobby.

Why does the US continue to support Israel when they have spied on and even gone so far as stealing nuclear information from the US, lobbyists aside?

This kind of behavior from Israel is tolerated by the U.S. because it is considered by policymakers to be a valuable strategic partner in the region. One can disagree with this and argue that Israel is in fact a strategic liability. I would agree. But the fact remains that in the minds of U.S. policymakers, Israel is a strategic partner. U.S. and Israeli “interests”, again as narrowly defined by government officials, don’t always align, but they very often do, such as with the goal to overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq or to get Iran to surrender its right to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes under the nuclear non-proliferation agreement (NPT). Even vague talk about Israel in any kind of negative light produces a horrible backlash for any politician. The Obama administration, for example, has come under fire simply for suggesting that Israel should stop its illegal construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank. During his reelection campaign, he was accused by Mitt Romney of “throwing Israel under the bus” for such, even though the level of support Israel has received under the current administration has been unprecedented—the Obama administration vetoed an uncontroversial U.N. Security Council Resolution condemning Israel for this ongoing illegal activity, for example. And as I said, the American people themselves largely hold favorable views towards Israel. Romney was appealing not only to Jewish Americans but conservative Christians with his ridiculous substanceless criticisms of Obama. There was plenty Romney could have criticized Obama for on matters of substance, but he didn’t because Romney holds the same pro-Israeli views as Obama.

Why is the US actively against a Palestinian state in practice when such a state wouldn’t be a threat to the security of Israel?

This is an excellent question that doesn’t have just one answer. I’ve already touched on some of the reasons. This kind of support for Israel from the U.S. government, including helping to block implementation of the two-state solution, is institutionalized. Imagine a new administration coming into office and declaring that it was going to abandon the “peace process” that has been going on since the Madrid conference in 1991. It’s unthinkable. No candidate who held such a sensible view of the conflict as to recognize how this process is the very mechanism by which the two-state solution has been blocked could ever get elected.

The purpose of my book is to help change that by exposing the true nature of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians, of the U.S.’s policy towards the conflict, and of the role of the media in manufacturing consent for this policy. For any progress to be made towards peace, U.S. support for Israeli violations of international law must cease. And for that to happen, it must become politically infeasible for it to continue. I want to contribute to making that necessary paradigm shift happen with this book. The U.S. government isn’t going to solve the conflict. We need to step up and take actions to make a just peace possible.

How and why have the American public’s perception of Israel change over the years, if any perception change has occurred at all? Positively or negatively?

I think the Palestinians have attracted increased sympathies from Americans in recent years. Despite the enormous amount of pro-Israel propaganda, for example, regarding Operation Cast Lead, many people saw through it and couldn’t reconcile Israel’s claim of “self-defense” with the civilian Gazan death toll and wanton destruction of civilian infrastructure. Then there was Israel’s murderous attack on the Freedom Flotilla, killing nine peace activists aboard the Mavi Marmara. There is a growing boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement calling for corporate responsibility, e.g., holding accountable businesses that profit from products made in the illegally-constructed settlements in Palestinian territory. Israel has become increasingly isolated in the international community. The E.U. fairly recently issued a new policy guideline, for example, that will require any Israeli company seeking to do business with European entities to declare that it has no connection to the illegal settlements. The tide is turning, slowly but surely. I hope my book will help further these positive developments towards accountability under international law, the pursuit of justice for the Palestinians, and the realization of peace for both sides.

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Devon Douglas-Bowers

Devon Douglas-Bowers is a 23 year old independent writer and researcher. He holds a BA in Political Science and is the Politics/Government Department Chair of the Hampton Institute

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  • tayformusa

    The United States has been on the shoulder of Israel at the expense of the Palestinian people the Earth leading Arabic peoples consider to America a look of hatred and dislike all these years since founding of Israel to the United States can not repair this relationship but to now full support even in the Security Council, stands with her position supports all Israel policies towards the Palestinian people and the peoples of the region

  • Mike Thompson

    Zionism demanded a Jewish homeland based solely on a questionable ambiguity that the Kingdom of Israel existed some 3,000 years ago. That it did is not disputed, nor can it be doubted that the monotheist Hebrew religion proved popular, attracting converts from far beyond the Middle East.

    Christianity and Islam provided subsequent Prophets and over the centuries , the religious choices of the people of the Levant resulted in a religious homogeny and a fairly tolerant attitude by the intrinsic population who, in the main, just wanted to get by.

    Britain was actively complicit with Zionist designs, creating a situation hugely advantageous to European settlers who effectively took over the military and administrative positions vacated when the British Mandate expired; No effective administrative positions were given to Palestinians who were forbidden to hold arms under British rule.

    Both the British and the US were in no doubt that any Arab military resistance would be futile, so the process of turning the clock back to the days of David and Solomon commenced, and has continued, wiping out some 3,000 years of natural evolution of the will of the people of the region.

    While the US dominated with financial and military strength, the wishes of the intrinsic people could be ignored and supportive US opinion strengthened by presenting Israel as a metaphorical David against the might of a metaphorical Goliath.

    The stark reality is; the overwhelming majority of the intrinsic population of the Levant still regards Israel as The Catastrophe. In the demographic sense Israel will always be the David, simply because the overwhelming will of Middle Eastern opinion is anti Israel, if Israel is to survive it is the opinions of the majority that will need to be appeased.

    US public opinion has rarely objected to the US allowing
    Israel to have her way. That said, the world is rapidly changing, with China as the emerging dominant power. We have seen an almost complete reversal of US attitudes to Iran, who could doubt that is because it is how China want`s it to be?

    Israel is clearly of emotional importance to the US, but no real strategic importance. As for China, Israel has no importance at all, emotional, strategic or even for raw materials, quite unlike the importance Iran has for China, and it seems Iran clearly conforms to the majority Middle East opinion with regard to Israel.

    • Javed Mir

      A cold and brilliant analysis of the current situation. As such Palestinians should also be given due place in their homeland before the positions change so drastically that USA becomes helpless.

    • Eric11210

      Complete and utter nonsense. The truth is that JEWS were forbidden to hold arms under British rule while the Arabs had the Arab Legion, the best trained and best equipped army in the area at their disposal.

      • Mike Thompson

        The Arab Legion, Eric, was in 1947, the Jordan Army with a total strength of 6,000, of which 4,500 were front line troops. In 1947 the British officers leading the Arab Legion, were ordered by Britain to return to Amman, this they did then returned to the front line to lead their soldiers.

        British MP`s demanded the death penalty for those British soldiers for disobeying orders from the British Government, that did`nt happen of course, but Britain demanded they leave Jordan and refused to allow any further British involvement in organising Jordan`s defence.

        Post WW1, Britain had dismantled a 600 years old Turkish system of government, jailing or exiling the administers throughout the M.E.

        In Palestine, the civil service which was 100% staffed by Palestinians, was by 1947, 94% staffed by European Zionist immigrants.

        Britain Trained Hagana in the use of heavy weapons including tanks, with Hagana members accompanying British patrols and took part in armed exchanges with Palestinian resistors.

        By 1944, Britain had officially recognised Hagana as a “Jewish Defence Force”. Britain had also created a military police force which consisted of 20,000 armed European Zionist Immigrants, including a young Moshe Dyan.

        No intrinsic Palestinians were recruited into the “Police Force”, instead said some 200 Palestinians were hanged and many thousands were jailed for holding unlicenced arms.

        By 1947, Palestinians had been completely disenfranchised by Britain, with European Zionist Immigrants in control of all aspects of Palestinian administration, from sewage to taxation.

        You may or may not be aware that Britain left Palestine 24 hours in advance of the announced date. The last of the British sailed from Haifa, where £millions of heavy military equipment was left undamaged, including the parts to assemble 3 Spitfire fighter aircraft.

        The British Army would have automatically destroyed any military equipment they were forced to leave, that did not happen in Haifa, nor did they scuttle 3 RAF gunboats.

        There was a UN arms embargo in force at the time.

        You will be aware that Zionist military forces attacked Haifa and secured the British military stockpile, and caused 750,000 Palestinians to flee before them.

        Both the British Army and the newly formed CIA were totally convinced that any Arab resistance would be futile, as it turned out to be the case.

        It did allow the myth of “poor defenceless Israel” to take hold, but the reality was that Zionist Israel had overwhelming military superiority as early as 1944, and that military superiority has grown yearly, with unconditional US support.

        A good example of Perfidious Britain and crafty Zionists, eh Eric!

        • Eric11210

          Again with the wild eyed accusations without a scintilla of evidence. The British imposed a blockade and refused to allow the Jews any access to weapons. They had to be smuggled in. The nascent state of Israel had no air force but was bombed within minutes of declaring herself independent by the Egyptian air force. The Arab Legion, by 1948 under full control of the Jordanians invaded and occupied Judea and Samaria. They also took half of Jerusalem, including the Old City, from which they expelled every last Jew.

          Once again, regarding the lie of 750,000 people being exiled, as Dr. Morris points out quite clearly, they started the war and by and large, they left because they had started the war. Simple. Facts. Not wild eyed accusations like you offer up.

          As for your ridiculous lie about the CIA’s assessment, anyone caring to look it up can see the actual report, where they state clearly that they expect the ARAB forces to be superior: bookS.GooglE.Com/books?id=uoiGAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA151&lpg=PA151&dq=As+the+war+of+attrition+develops,+however,+the+Jewish+economy+(severely+strained+by+mobilization)+will+break+down;+furthermore,+the+Jews+will+be+unable&source=bl&ots=1vCSWj2Su2&sig=9pzIOZvu7zlRUrbnQf0bDj1VAcw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiOxeK5lJ7OAhVFuRQKHe-ZB1oQ6AEIMDAD#v=onepage&q=As%20the%20war%20of%20attrition%20develops%2C%20however%2C%20the%20Jewish%20economy%20(severely%20strained%20by%20mobilization)%20will%20break%20down%3B%20furthermore%2C%20the%20Jews%20will%20be%20unable&f=false

          • Mike Thompson

            You clearly are relying on the Hasbara archives for your information, Eric and you clearly are unaware that the Hasbara propaganda has long been discredited.

            Even the false outrage you express with claims of lies perpetrated by the ignorant, are also long ago methods that are discredited today.

            The focus of the Zionist Israeli Foreign Office Hasbara Propaganda service, has since 1948, targeted the USA, which by that time had replaced Britain`s importance.

            The USA provides unconditional financial, military and diplomatic support for Zionist Israel, which had allowed Zionist Israel to literally “Get away with Murder”.

            Zionist Israel is in violation of 77 United Nations resolutions. a record number by miles.

            The USA has vetoed a further 38 Security Council resolutions, another record by miles, and threatened to use the veto on numerous occasions to prevent resolutions critical Zionist Israel being debated.

            USA unconditional support of Zionist Israel is vital for the continuation of Zionist Israel` Genocidal Apartheid, Only by “brainwashing” people such as yourself, can Zionist Israel continue as it does.

            Three Years ago, when I made my comments, Iran was at risk of being attacked by Zionist Israel, with the support of the USA, China was not in the Iranian picture at that time.

            Not so today, Eric! Today China`s efforts have resulted in the removal of 17 years of Zionist Israeli inspired sanctions aimed at Iran, today China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany have renewed diplomatic and trading links with Iran.

            Only Zionist Israel and the USA continue to express outrage at this new development, while Japan and India are also forging Iranian links.

            It`s the way of the world, Eric, The USA is not as dominant as it once way, still very strong of course, but China is becoming stronger, and China has 1,500 years old trading links with Iran.

            Hasbara can fool some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but Hasbara cannot fool all the people all of the time.

            That said, the people on the Middle East have never ever been fooled by the Hasbara nonsensical perversions of Historical events in Palestine, and it`s the people of the Middle East that Zionist Israel is affecting.

            And Eric, no amount of Hasbara lying will make them change their minds, it`s Zionist Israel than needs to make itself acceptable to the intrinsic M.E. population, if not there will be tears..

      • Yet they amassed a military force that was used to ethnically cleanse Palestine of 700,000 Arabs in order to establish their “Jewish state”.

        • Eric11210

          Once again with that tired lie. They were not ethnically cleansed. As Dr. Morris points out, they largely left on their own as a result of a war they themselves started. Those who were forced out were from villages that were hostile and who tried to kill Jews.

          • As Morris points out, they fled out of fear of further massacres like at Deir Yassin or were expelled, and they were never allowed to return.

            That is ethnic cleansing.

            You want more context? Okay, here’s context for the quote I provided:

            “Ben-Gurion was right. If he had not done what he did, a state would not have come into being. That has to be clear. It is impossible to evade it. Without uprooting of the Palestinians, a Jewish state would not have arisen here…. There is no justification for acts of rape. There is no justification for acts of massacre. Those are war crimes. But in certain conditions, expulsion is not a war crime. I don’t think that the expulsions of 1948 were war crimes. You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs. You have to dirty your hands…. There are circumstances in history that justify ethnic cleansing…. That was the situation. That is what Zionism faced. A Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them. There was no choice but to expel that population…. But I do not identify with Ben-Gurion. I think he made a serious historical mistake in 1948. Even though he understood the demographic issue and the need to establish a Jewish state without a large Arab minority, he got cold feet during the war. In the end, he faltered.” Ben-Gurion’s error, Morris expounded, was in expelling too few Arabs: “If he was already engaged in expulsion, maybe he should have done a complete job…. If the end of the story turns out to be a gloomy one for the Jews, it will be because Ben-Gurion did not complete the transfer in 1948. Because he left a large and volatile demographic reserve in the West Bank and Gaza and within Israel itself…. The non-completion of the transfer was a mistake.”

          • Eric11210

            Once again with the desperate lies. Unbelievable. Or rather, predictable from a sick liar such as yourself. From the very article you quote from: “but on the other hand it also proves that many of those who left the villages did so with the encouragement of the Palestinian leadership itself.”

          • Javed Mir

            How can you declare historical facts as desperate lies. When human life becomes miserable then the natives either surrender like Red Indians or they flee from their land or they take arms for their freedom. Palestinians have not surrendered – they were made to flee and still living like refugees in the surrounding countries and some have since been fighting for their freedom.

          • Eric11210

            He deliberately misquoted Dr. Morris. The fact is that Dr. Morris documented that a majority of the Arabs left on their own. He cherry picked part of the article where he says it was good that they left and tried to to users it to lie about what Dr. Morris wrote.

          • He deliberately misquoted Dr. Morris.

            I quoted Morris verbatim, and you know it.

            Banned for trolling (just as you were banned from http://www.jeremyrhammond.com for violating the terms of use of the comments, there, as well).

          • You are calling Benny Morris a liar and picking and choosing which statements of his you wish to regard as truthful?

  • Paul

    Mr. Douglas-Bowers seems to have a one-sided understanding of the issues, much like a lot of others who portend to understand what happens there. Both sides are at fault, and by not acknowledging this, he makes his entire argument null and void.

    • Paul, to focus on the US role in supporting Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians is not to suggest that there are not also Palestinian crimes against Israelis. However, it should also be emphasized that Israel’s crimes occur on an incomparably greater scale.

      • Eric11210

        As you did on your own propaganda blog, you make wild eyed accusations without proof. As I said there before you blocked me in a desperate attempt to prevent actual discourse, your so called ‘proof’ doesn’t exist. I clicked your links and found that they went to a 404 error on the UN website. Now you once again engage in specious claims and provide no proof of such. As for Pappe, he is not an Israeli historian. He is a professor in the UK who has been caught lying repeatedly about basic facts and as such, he is hardly a reliable source. Regarding Dr. Morris, you and your ilk constantly lie about what he said: irishtimeS.Com/opinion/letters/israel-and-the-palestinians-1.896017

        • What were you looking for on the UN website? This map showing that Arabs owned more land than Jews in every single district in Palestine perhaps?

          http://www.jeremyrhammond.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/palestine-land-ownership-unscop.jpg

          If you wish to contend that Ilan Pappe is wrong about any point on which I’ve cited him, you are welcome to present a case. I would merely note that you haven’t.

          As for Benny Morris, I’ve quoted him verbatim.

          A Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them.

          Benny Morris’s words, not mine.

          • Eric11210

            I quoted Dr. Morris verbatim as well, with a link to him. And your map, which I am familiar with, proves my point, in the largest part of the country, the Ber Sheva district, virtually all the land was state land.

          • I took Benny Morris’s statement that to create the “Jewish state” it was necessary to ethnically cleanse 700,000 Arabs in order to create the “out of context”? The context was the ethnic cleansing. Morris’s view is that it was justified. In fact, his criticism of Ben-Gurion is that he didn’t do a thorough enough job of cleansing Palestine of Arabs.

            Please note the rules for participating in the comments: “If you disagree with an article or other commenters, you are welcome to express your contrary view, but please support your position with an argument (i.e., point out where you think there are any errors of fact or logic). Comments consisting of mere dismissals or that otherwise do not substantively address others’ points may be deleted. You are welcome to share links to sources containing information relevant to the article topic in order to support your arguments, but not to make your argument for you.”

            http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/about/terms-of-use/

            So, once again, if you wish to contend that Ilan Pappe is wrong about any point on which I’ve cited him, you are welcome to present a case. I would merely note that you haven’t.

          • Eric11210

            He states categorically that the majority of them were NOT ethnically cleansed. In fact, he does not use that term. That’s your term. He states clearly that the majority left on their own. As for Pappe, I quoted Dr. Morris who shows that Pappe has been caught lying repeatedly.

          • “Ben-Gurion was right. If he had not done what he did, a state would not have come into being. That has to be clear. It is impossible to evade it. Without uprooting of the Palestinians, a Jewish state would not have arisen here…. There is no justification for acts of rape. There is no justification for acts of massacre. Those are war crimes. But in certain conditions, expulsion is not a war crime. I don’t think that the expulsions of 1948 were war crimes. You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs. You have to dirty your hands…. There are circumstances in history that justify ethnic cleansing…. That was the situation. That is what Zionism faced. A Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them. There was no choice but to expel that population…. But I do not identify with Ben-Gurion. I think he made a serious historical mistake in 1948. Even though he understood the demographic issue and the need to establish a Jewish state without a large Arab minority, he got cold feet during the war. In the end, he faltered.”

            Ben-Gurion’s error, Morris expounded, was in expelling too few Arabs: “If he was already engaged in expulsion, maybe he should have done a complete job…. If the end of the story turns out to be a gloomy one for the Jews, it will be because Ben-Gurion did not complete the transfer in 1948. Because he left a large and volatile demographic reserve in the West Bank and Gaza and within Israel itself…. The non-completion of the transfer was a mistake.”

            Calling it euphemisms like “transfer” doesn’t belie what it was: ethnic cleansing.

          • Javed Mir

            Well written.

          • Eric11210

            Once again with the desperate lies. Unbelievable. Or rather, predictable
            from a sick liar such as yourself. From the very article you quote
            from: “but on the other hand it also proves that many of those who left
            the villages did so with the encouragement of the Palestinian leadership
            itself.” Unlike you, I provide links to my sources. You simply cherry pick pieces of something and hope that people are too stupid to find the source themselves.

          • You are calling Benny Morris a liar? The only one cherry picking which statements of Morris’s to believe as truthful here is you.