By Jamil Toubbeh
'Obsession with Israel' is akin to wearing the Stars and Stripes on one's lapel; while both may be symbols of commitments to causes, the causes, by virtue of their uniqueness, are rarely complementary and if by chance they are, their individual objectives and outcomes are usually skewed to one or the other cause(s). The reason: in a democracy national interests and sovereignty are unique and supreme. This concept is best articulated in George Washington’s enduring statement in his historic Farewell Address, delivered more than 150 years before the establishment of the self-proclaimed Jewish State, aka Israeli. Washington said: “[A] passionate attachment of one Nation for another provides a variety of evils...facilitating the illusion of an imaginary interest, in cases where no common interests exists; and infusing into one the enemies of the other, betrays the former to participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter". The first president’s foreign policy construct is as valid today as it has been throughout US history--the “passionate attachment” to Israel is no exception. Or is it?
The subject, ‘obsession with Israel’, is not new; it has historical, academically-inspired antecedents.
Keith W. Whitelam (UK), Professor of Religious Studies, with particular focus on the emergence of early Israel in historical perspective, noted that “Palestinian history, specifically for the 13th century BCE and to the 2nd century CE (1500 years), has been either a minor subset of or excluded from biblical studies” by scholars’ narrow focus on ancient Israel and the Hebrew Bible. This scholarly inclination gave credence to Zionism’s claim over Palestine--“a land without a people for a people without a land”--and to Christian Zionists, a Phoenix of an ancient Israel sculpt by religiously inclined academics. [The Phoenix, we may recall, is that mythical Arabian wilderness bird of exceptional beauty who regains his youth every half a century through self-immolation]. In the process of inventing ancient Israel, Whitelam argues, Palestinian history was “subsumed with the social, political and religious development of ancient Israel”. Biblically-inspired archaeological digs have yet to produce a Heinrich Schliemann’s Troy of ancient Israel in historic Palestine. The zealous pursuit of ancient Israel led to denial of Palestinian history that, in turn, gave impetus to a vocabulary of derogatory descriptions of Palestinians or to total disregard of Palestinian rights by conservative political or religious groups within the American and British societies.
Denial of Palestinian history and Palestinian identity underscores and perpetuates ‘obsession with Israel’. Newt Gingrich recently referred to Palestinians as “invented” people, a description that reflects intentional denial of history and obsession with a nebulous and fabricated history. The historian’s history not only mimics early Zionists’ colonial mindset, but muddles more than 60 years of US involvement with Palestinians and their leaders. It was Golda Meir (PM 1969-1974) who died searching for Palestinians in her Jerusalem backyard.
Mr. Gingrich is not alone in excluding Palestinians from the equation of Palestine’s history. Earlier, Christian Zionist televangelists played in the hands of Zionists eager to reach the US public, in addition to the more malleable legislators in the US Congress. Menachem Begin (PM 1977-1983) curried favor with the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, founder of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, VA, giving him (Falwell) a private jet to facilitate his travel to Israel. The Rev. John Hagee, another Christian Zionist, founder of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, TX, followed in the footsteps of Falwell to enhance Israel’s outreach into the heats and minds of US conservative religious communities. Rev. Hagee, an outspoken televangelist, is known for his support of Israel’s colonization of the rest of occupied Palestine. His obsession with ancient Israel is symbolized by a physical replica of the Wailing Wall on his church’s site and the obliteration of the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque from panoramic views of the Old City of Jerusalem, a site holy to a billion Muslims. Were Mr. Hagee’s convictions not incongruous with his own political inclinations, one would have no reason to question his symbolic exclusion. The exclusion, however, reflects the strength of his obsession with Israel and his personal crusade against Islam. Ironically, neither US politicians nor Christian Zionist can claim long-term tangible benefits from their respective kneejerk obsessions with Israel: the “favored nation” has been a drag on the US economy as well as US standing in the world community.
The Arabic language whose boundaries are extensive relative to most other extant languages fails to describe or define the construct ‘obsession’, particularly as it relates to America’s political system and the country’s relations with the world community. Because Arabs, regardless of ethnic or religious affiliation, and Muslims are the most affected by this unusual societal behavior, the large majority is inclined to interpret the phenomenon as either a spurious element in the US political system, or a fabricated Zionist construct to isolate Arabs and Muslims from the West for ulterior reasons. The latter is more plausible despite the construct’s disparate elements. Zionists, Jewish or Christian, have been able to weave their separate agendas into the fabric of the US’ (as well as other Western nations’) social, cultural, religious and political life, creating an ironclad construct that has assumed a high level of credibility even among the educated. A construct, by definition, is a latent variable or a factor that is subject to validation. ‘Obsession with Israel’ is not subject to validation or inquiry: it is an Orwellian construct, and like Orwell’s authoritarian rule, it is based on rickety historical variables, most significant being fear, fear of being tagged a denier (of the 6 million), fear of being tagged anti-Semitic or intolerant, fear of being accused of hate crimes, of losing an election or a livelihood, fear of not joining the crowd at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) annual “YesWeDo” gathering, and fear of missing the moment of rapture. ‘Obsession with Israel’ transcends the accepted definition constructs such as ‘love’ that easily measured by variables as touch, commitment, roses, a kiss, ad infinitum. Exploring the meaning of ‘obsession with Israel’ is like standing at the base of a leaning tower and pulling down tethered concrete blocks to validate the theory of falling objects.
The construct, obsession with Israel’, is all-encompassing. For example, what better way to express obsession-cum-devotion to Israel than to link one’s personal life or religiosity to the Jewish state than to say: “My daughter is Catholic. My son-in-law is Jewish…Last week I celebrated my birthday and my grandchildren, age 4 and 6, [were] called to sing ‘Happy Birthday’”. And the surprise, the real gift, was that they sang it in Hebrew” (US Rep. Nancy Pelosi, at annual meeting of AIPAC in Washington, DC, reported in JTA by Jennifer Jacobson, 11/08/06). In 2001, the Honorable Pelosi chose to sidestep history by referring to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land (in violation of international law) as “nonsense” and later, to cleanse historical facts by stating that the single most important accomplishment of the 20th century is the formation of the state of Israel. This construct-of-a-different-color shows up elsewhere. The 2004 presidential candidate, John Kerry, discovered that he had Jewish blood and in the same year, the Honorable Madeline Albright, Secretary of State during President W. Clinton’s Administration, discovered that she, too, had Jewish ancestry, noting that the discovery was a “major surprise”. Recently at a foreign policy debate in Washington, DC, Mitt Rodney pledged that as president his first foreign trip would be to Israel “to show the world we care about that country and that region.” (Reported by Alexander Burnes, 11/22/1).
Anyone with rudimentary knowledge of US society can identify the flaws in the Zionist fabricated construct. If ‘obsession with Israel’ were the rational basis for shared democratic ideals, the construct would be a house of cards: in Israel, racism is institutionalized. If the construct were the basis for US interests in the Arab and Muslim worlds, it would not hold a leaf on its fabricated limbs: Israeli jingoist policies have isolated the US from its allies in these populous worlds (pop. 1B). Zionist-inspired media in the US has consistently denigrated and dehumanized Arabs and Muslims, contributing significantly to widening the knowledge gap between Arab (Christians and Muslims) and other Muslims worldwide, in Western societies, especially in the US. ‘Obsession with Israel’ has been a divisive element across all levels of the US educational system, inviting censorship, often unwittingly or self-imposed, and at other times, imposed by pro-Israel stealth lobbies at local governmental or institutional levels.
Despite its flaws ‘obsession with Israel’ remains a guiding principle of culturally-correct behavior in the US and other Western nations.
Is there light at the end of this obsession? Unfortunately, ‘obsession with Israel’ is not as easily discredited as the colognes ‘Obsession-by…’ There are common denominators however: tolerance and longevity. Today, America’s partnership with the world community is barely a shadow of its past. Besides Britain, America’s coalition partners are reluctant to participate in global matters. America’s sphere of influence in the Middle East has become a war zone that has lasted more than 15 years at an estimated cost of $3 trillion dollars. America has been forced to use its veto power more than 40 times at the UN to shield Israel against sanctions. Recently, it has used every trick in its bag to prevent the UN from recognizing a Palestinian state, when the large majority (139) of member nations favored the creation of the state. In shielding Israel, America has become a partner with Israel in violating international laws.
With few exceptions, the majority of nations would favor an America that has the capability to infuse stability in a world-at-conflict. At the same time, many nations, particularly in the Arab World, would argue against America’s neocolonialist policies, support of dictatorships, and America’s insatiable appetite for military adventures driven by corporate lobbies or lobbies that represent foreign interests, particularly interests of Israel. The list of grievances against America is long indeed, but America remains unique in its democratic infrastructures, a construct that has proven its validity over time. The intrusion of the pro-Israel lobby, Israeli leadership and Christian Zionists in America’s social, cultural, political and legal systems has shaken America’s secular democratic infrastructure and has “provides a variety of evils ...facilitating the illusion of an imaginary interest…where no common interests exists; and infusing into one the enemies of the other, betrays the former to participation in the quarrels and wars of the latte…”.
In Homer’s Odyssey, after a long siege of Troy, the Greek army constructed a giant wooden horse within which a select group of soldiers was hid and then faked a retreat from the city. Unaware of the deception, the Trojans pulled the horse into the city and secured the city gates. At night, the hidden Greek soldiers descended from the cavernous wooden structure, opened the city gates and occupied Troy. In common usage, a “Trojan Horse” refers to any trick or stratagem that invites an opponent into a secure space. In computer language, a Trojan is described as a “standalone malicious program that attempts to infect computers in a completely automatic manner without help from outside forces like other programs and human intervention. Trojan horses can [duplicate] themselves, steal information, or harm the host computer systems”. The construct ‘obsession with Israel’ is a more sophisticated and variegated Trojan horse that ‘does its thing’ efficiently using surrogates.
- Jamil Toubbeh is author of Day of the Long Night, (McFarland & Co. Publishers), a Fulbright Scholar and recipient of the Eagle Feather for work on Native American disability policy. He is currently Senior Researcher in cancer health disparities at Center for Asian Health, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.