Palestine: Hostage To American Politics
By Terrell E. Arnold

Last week Egypt's Al Ahram weekly ( published an article titled Bias Breeds Disillusionment by a Palestinian writer Khaled Amayreh. The main thrust of this article was that US pro-Israel bias has become so pronounced that Palestinian leadership is thinking of "ditching the two-state solution". In case readers might have trouble understanding this decision, the problem lies with long-standing and absolutely one-sided support of Israel on all matters of concern to the Palestinian people. The straw that broke the camel's back this time was a lone US vote last week against a resolution of the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHCR) in Geneva, Switzerland to investigate Jewish settlements in the areas of Palestinian Jerusalem and the West Bank of the Jordan River. The resolution also demanded reversal of the Israeli settlements policy which includes not only establishing new settlements but expanding existing ones.

Palestinians are very realistic in their appraisal of the long range purposes of the Israeli settlements policy. The Israeli Zionist dream is to achieve a Jewish state free of all Palestinians that extends from the shores of the Mediterranean to the banks of the Jordan River. In pursuit of that goal, settlements now dominate many once Palestinian areas of East Jerusalem; settlements are carefully positioned along the Jordan River and on good building sites near ancient cities and elsewhere in the West Bank, and they dot attractive farming or touristic areas of the Golan Heights region that is being confiscated by Israel from Syria. As of December 2010, these settlements contained an estimated 540,000 Israelis.  Thus Israel now has upward of 10% of its Jewish population in settlements, including government officials such as the Defense Minister. In short, the message of Israeli intentions is absolutely clear to all Palestinians.

The situation, however, is not a mere product of the political clout of the Zionists. There simply is no other place on the planet where the lands of a neighboring state (that is Palestine as recognized by the great majority of the world's nation states) could be grabbed, literally confiscated, without dire legal consequences. All major world governments publicly oppose the Israeli settlements policy, but none of them actively fight to get that policy overturned.  However, the United States regularly vetoes any United Nations effort to deal with the problem.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) resolution illustrates this problem. The resolution was passed by the UNHCR by a vote of 36 affirmatives, 10 abstentions, and one negative vote by the United States. In short, while saying that it opposes the Israeli settlement policy, the United States routinely vetoes UN resolutions that are in any way critical of Israel or which seek to bring Israeli behavior in line with the Geneva Convention or other international norms. The ten abstainers are not much better than the United States; their goal was most likely to avoid going on the record against the Israelis.

In his article Amayreh takes the position that the bias of American leadership toward Israel is sustained by a preoccupation with the power-and the money-of the Jewish/pro-Israeli groups in the United States. Some may think of that in terms of the Jewish vote and Jewish political contributions to political campaigns, but that is, to say the least, an incomplete picture. Putting aside the money contributions-which from a few at least are quite substantial-Jewish voters are not single issue voters any more than many other Americans.  And they do not by any means all support Israeli policy.  If they did, their vote would indeed be a possible swing vote measuring about 2% of the voting population of the country. It would be substantially larger than that in some key states such as California and New York.

But the much larger pro-Israel vote lies with America's fundamentalist Christians, many of whom are avid supporters of Israel because of its role in the biblically prophesied End of Days. More than that, however, is the view of many Christians, as once characterized by Jerry Falwell, that "to stand against Israel is to stand against God."  There are other ways to define the Christian view of Israel, but the summary judgment is that support for Israel is broadly based in American culture and that support is largely blind to the extremes of Israeli policy, specifically their abuse of the Palestinian people.

For the American politician the patterns and depth of support for Israel present awkward challenges. There is one truth about the Middle East that is virtually tattooed on the wrist of every practicing politician: "Criticism of Israel is a way to get yourself politically skewered." Only part of the weight of that dictum is supplied directly by the Israeli public or government.  Most of it is sustained by the work of the powerful lobby the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). A substantial piece of that dictum is serviced by actions of the US Congress whose members virtually jump through hoops to demonstrate fidelity to Israel. However, a significant and relatively invisible service of that dictum is provided by the so-called Christian Right.  This is a virtually US-wide cadre of voters whose weight in any US election can be decisively for or against any political career.

This is the political truth that holds the fate of the Palestinian people hostage to the realities of American domestic politics. Israeli politicians and Zionist practitioners know this all too well.  They do not have to press the point to exert enormous influence on American Middle East policies. They succeed, even at the expense of severe damage to American interests in the region. Thus Palestinians increasingly see the Two State option as dead. Many are now looking to a One State solution as a way to share their native land with the invasive Central European Jews who dominate modern Israel.


Terrell E. Arnold is the author of Palestine: In Need of a Just God that is now available on in print and Kindle editions, as well as in a lending library for Amazon Prime members. He is author, co-author and editor of five additional books mainly on politically motivated violence. He is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer with experience in Egypt, Syria, India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Brazil. He also served as Chairman of the Department of International Studies of the National War College. Following retirement he served as a Senior Associate of Booz Allen Hamilton and as a consultant to State, FEMA, the US Navy and the White House on program management issues.    He will take comments at



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