In its July attack on Lebanon, Israel again demonstrated its willingness to murder innocent civilians. Rather than negotiating for the lives of its two soldiers, Israel decided to "turn Lebanon's clock back 20 years," in the words of Israeli army chief of staff Dan Halutz. Among the hundreds of civilian casualties were 56 in the village of Qana, a town with no Hezbollah presence. As Independent journalist Robert Fisk reported from Qana, "[T]here was no doubt of the missile which killed all those children yesterday. It came from the United States, and upon a fragment of it was written: 'For use on MK-84 Guided Bomb BSU-37-B.'"
Indeed, the U.S. leant a hand in this slaughter, expediting the delivery of laser-guided missiles to Israel, and stalling a cease-fire resolution in the UN. However, it was not the first time the U.S. unleashed its Israeli enforcer.
The unique relationship America has forged with Israel has not come cheap. Israel receives more than one-third of all U.S. foreign aid, more than all U.S. aid to sub-Saharan Africa. While hunger and disease are rampant in Africa, Israel has an advanced economy, with a per capita income comparable to Europe. Israel boasts the fourth largest air force in the world, which recently sprinkled American-made cluster bombs over Lebanon. The U.S.'s incredible charity to such as wealthy nation is baffling to many.
In return, Israel plays a unique role for the U.S., as a hired thug in the Middle East. In 1953, when the CIA overthrew the democratic government of Iran and installed the U.S.-friendly Shah, the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz offered "The West is none too happy about its relations with states in the Middle East … But if for any reason the Western powers should sometimes prefer to close their eyes, Israel could be relied upon to punish one or several neighboring states." Israel proved its mettle to the U.S. in 1967, attacking the left-wing Egyptian government and easily defeating Egypt, Syria and Jordan. After the Six Day War, U.S. aid to Israel quickly multiplied.
Over the years, Israel has been willing to prop up U.S.-friendly dictatorships in the Middle East and around the world. In 1970, the Jordanian monarchy crushed Palestinian guerillas, while Israel provided cover from Syria. In Iran, Israel trained the Shah's secret police, and sold U.S. aircraft to General Suharto in Indonesia, which he used to kill 200,000 East Timorese. In 1977, Israel broke the international arms embargo against apartheid South Africa, and Israeli military officers trained white soldiers to fight black "terrorists." Time and again, Israel has served as the U.S.'s middleman to regimes too murderous for the U.S. to aid directly.
Israel's reliability as an enforcer is rooted in the colonialist nature of the Zionist state, originally conceived as a colony of the British Empire. Like America today, the British valued control over the region for its oil and proximity to the Suez Canal, and accepted the Zionists' offer to become "a portion of the rampart of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilization as opposed to barbarism." The Zionist immigrants assisted the British by putting down Arab rebellions, including a general strike in 1936. After WWII, with Britain weakened and abandoning its colonies, Zionist militia established Israel as an independent state, by expelling 700,000 Palestinians from their own land.
The dispossession of the Palestinians is what makes Israel America's most reliable ally today. Unlike Jordan or Egypt, Israel is a state where the majority of citizens are effectively colonists in a hostile region, while the indigenous people are relegated to second-class citizenship or exile. Although the colonists are fanatical defenders of their "homeland," they are an embattled minority and rely on the patronage of the world superpower.
In this light, it is easy to see how support for Israel and the occupation of Iraq are linked. To secure its interests in the Middle East, the U.S. must also rely on Arab regimes, such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia and its new puppet government in Iraq. Israel serves as the lead enforcer, keeping the others in line. Without Israel, one former U.S. general estimated that it would cost $125 billion to maintain an equivalent force in the Middle East, and that Israel was worth "five CIAs." As Ha'aretz predicted in the 1950s, Israel has become America's watchdog.
For enemies of U.S. imperialism, the lesson is clear: to oppose American occupation in the Middle East is to oppose Israel. If we want to see an end to Bush's wars for oil, we must build an antiwar movement that challenges the so-called "war on terror," and defends the right of Palestinians and Lebanese to resist Israel's aggression.
The International Socialist Organization is having a meeting called "Axis of Empire: Why the U.S. Supports Israel's Terror" at 7 p.m. Wednesday Sept. 27, Memorial Union (T.I.T.U.).
Paul Pryce is a member of the International Socialist Organization and a UW junior.