Why Does America Have A “Special Relationship” With Israel?
Is it because of the oil? No, Israel doesn’t have any. Is it because they’re a major trading partner? No, not unless you count the military goods they buy from America, some of it with American tax dollars. Does America need it as a base because one of Israel’s neighbors declared, or committed an act of, war against the United States? No. Is it a good way to stay close to the oil? Yes, but it’s not the only way, or even the best way. So, what is the basis for the “special relationship?”
The most common reason, by far, that Israel’s neighbors give to explain their anger with America, is America’s support of Israel and the Israeli state’s aggression against the indigenous population. So, America must support Israel because it helps to protect America from the people that are upset at it for supporting Israel?
Palestine, over the past century or so, was a British colony, a UN protectorate, and now America’s “special friend.” What does that mean, and why? The recognition of a country, as America recognized Israel in 1948, doesn’t automatically imply a special relationship; otherwise there would be “special relationships” with ever country America recognizes. Does America share any unique history with the nation of Israel, different than what it shares with any other nation, even an ally, prior to their 1948 recognition of the state? No. Was Israel part of the political genesis of America, as was Britain? No (this question does not imply that such a shared history automatically presumes unconditional support or a “special relationship”). Was America part of the birth of Israel before recognizing them in 1948? No, certainly not while the British were hanging onto the last remnants of their empire.
American involvement in Israel, and the recognition of Israel, served two main purposes; a means to counter soviet popularity in the region and support from a strong and vocal lobby for Harry Truman during a very difficult campaign. While the current Republican party still strives to use Israel as a means to garner support from the religious right, the threat of soviet expansion in the area has long been put to rest.
Is it religion? For many, the relationship cannot be defined without referring to Judeo-Christian theology. Is this really what it’s all about? Is it some sort of vestige from the crusades, trying to keep a foothold against the Saracens? Has America become a Christian theocracy with it’s foreign policy bound to Biblical doctrine unsupported by archeology and historiography, and absent of political pragmatism and fiscal conservatism? Other than substantial private investment and capitol holdings in America, it seems that the “special relationship” with Israel costs America both financially as well as politically, and the nature of the American national interest that is being served is somewhat ambiguous. Is the billions of dollars in aid and military support, and the regional instability, all to maintain a non-Islamic enclave?
Somehow Israel has become embedded in domestic politics. Other than as a very powerful lobby with connections to the pinnacle of the financial sector, unconditional support of Israel has become a ‘value’, a ‘principle’ of the religious and socially conservative right-wing, synonymous with, or intrinsically connected to, their patriotism, as if it was enshrined in the pre-fourteenth amendment constitution. For many others across the political spectrum it is similar; without perhaps the end-times, religious fundamentalist, Armageddon, messianic, irrational hyperbole… but, it is still an ‘understood.’ It has become an ‘assumed’, something that has been repeated so often – “Israel is our valued friend and ally”- that it exists in the national dialogue without anyone even thinking, let alone daring, to question it.
If one does question why America has a “special relationship” – just the question mind you – with Israel, or they disagree with Israeli national policy, or foreign policy, they run the very real risk of immediately being accused of Antisemitism; something that happens even though you talk about the government policies, and not the people themselves, their culture, or their religion. Criticism of Israel, not Judaism or the Jewish people, Israel, has become a non dit; verboten, kinjite, especially during a political campaign, which in America seems to always be the case.
National and foreign policy cannot be shielded from scrutiny by charges of racism, ethnocentrism, and religious bigotry. This is disingenuous. Criticism of Israel, Israeli policy, or the Israeli government, does not equate to a criticism of all Israeli people, any Jewish people, or the Jewish religion. However, using the Jewish holy text, or any holy text for that matter, as the basis for geopolitical claims is problematic. This is not Antisemitism. If a holy text cannot be proven, and contains data proven to be inaccurate, how can it be used as the basis, the proof, for a claim? This goes for any holy text, not only Judaism’s.
Israeli’s have a right to live in peace. They have a right to live without oppression, or tyranny, or threats of violence. They have the right to responsible government. They have a right to their security, safe from the threat of being thrown out of their homes, and off the land. They have a right to work and provide for themselves and their families. They have a right to all the rights outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But, so do the Arabs.
Israel has been conducting itself without any concern for cooperation or diplomacy. Emboldened by the unconditional support received from America, Israel has conducted a brutal campaign against the indigenous people of Palestine. Human rights organizations unanimously condemn what is described as genocide, apartheid, an illegal occupation, and crimes against humanity. The resulting resentment and hatred cannot be used as justification for the atrocities, they must be addressed and reconciled in a just, equitable, and peaceful manner.
A fragile balance of power has been maintained through the institution and support of dictatorial and tyrannical regimes in the region. The revolutions throughout north Africa and the middle east are changing those dynamics. There are new realities that Israel, and America, must face. Democratic governments throughout the region will not be purchased as easily as the dictatorships they replace. They will not turn a blind eye. Democratic Arab countries will no longer abide Israeli aggression and expansionism. A free and informed voting public will not allow it. Israel must negotiate and compromise, and perhaps make reparations for past transgressions.
In September, the majority of the United Nations General Assembly will recognize a Palestinian State. The ensuing disagreements, between Israeli claims and aspirations, and a newly recognized Palestinian state, will likely result in military action. Israel does not have a record of successful diplomacy and cooperation in the region. Their expansionism, settlements, and inhumane treatment, has impoverished and oppressed the people that surround them. Israel has surrounded themselves with people that they have mistreated, and abused, and who, thanks to Israel, have nothing less to lose. Israel has created a very tense situation, for Israel.
How far does America’s “special relationship” go? Can Israel rely on America to keep it from having to cooperate, negotiate, make concessions, or pay reparations? Are more American lives worth protecting the intransigent stance of Israeli policy, biblically based claims, and hostile expansionism? Should America support a government guilty of systematic discrimination, oppression, bigotry, and human rights abuses? Why again is it that America has a “special relationship” with Israel, and what is the nature of that “special relationship?”
It’s is a question worth asking, and answering. The discussion cannot be disallowed by false claims of Antisemitism. The not too distant future may require Americans to choose whether or not they will allow their soldier’s blood to be spilled, or to spill the blood of another, based on this “special relationship.” It needs to be answered honestly. If it’s because of resources, what are they? If it’s because of Israeli investment in America, how much, and for what that it would warrant going to war over? If it’s religion, pro-Judeo-Christian and anti-Islam, then it needs to be stated as such so that there can be a national discussion, and understanding, about how this came to be a tenet of national policy, and how to end it… unless America somehow became a Christian theocracy and is engaged in a crusade by proxy.
American support for Israel must not be at the expense of the Arab people. America should support a peaceful and secure resolution rather than any belligerent combatant. Instead of offering blind allegiance, and a carte blanche, to an old frienemy, America, and the world, would be better served if America develops a “special relationship” with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the democratic revolutions sweeping the world.