Monday, April 01, 2002

The timing of the current Israeli brutality against the Palestinians is instructive. Just a few weeks ago, when the Americans were attempting to obtain Arab acquiescence to an attack on Iraq, the Americans were full of words of support for a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Of course, every time the Americans want something from the Arabs, they make these kind of noises. Once the Americans don't need Arab support anymore, they go back to supporting Israeli oppression. In this case, Dick Cheney toured the various Middle Eastern capitals, and got no support at all (it was one of the most embarrassing trips by a high U. S. official in recent American history). As soon as the useless trip was over, Sharon attacked. Coincidence? I think not. It became apparent to the U. S. that they weren't going to get the support they wanted, so it was no longer necessary for them to pay lip service to the idea of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The conflict is in fact an important part of U. S. policy towards the Middle East. It serves the following purposes: 1) it gives the people in other countries in the Middle East, chafing under the various corrupt dictators who serve as stooges for the colonial power (originally Britain or France, now the U. S.), a sobering example in the Palestinians of what might happen to them if they get too uppity; 2) it creates an example of outrage around which to create a phony Arab nationalism which the various unpopular regimes use to maintain power; 3) it creates a huge need for Israeli arms purchases, which are paid for largely by U. S. tax dollars, which then flow back to the U. S. military-industrial complex; 4) Israeli arming provides an even more lucrative response from the Arab states, who arm themselves with more toys bought from the U. S. military-industrial complex, which arms are also used to suppress domestic unrest (it is not an accident that the British and Americans chose members of minority groups to run the Arab countries - these groups have no popular support and therefore support the interests of the colonial powers in return for the protection that keeps them in power); 5) support of Israel, particularly encouragement of Israeli violence and religious extremism, satisfies the weird evangelical protestant theology behind the current American regime; and 6) most importantly, general tension in the Middle East keeps the world oil price artifically high to the benefit of U. S. multinational oil companies and, in particular, domestic (i. e., Texas) oil producers, who can't compete at lower prices (much American foreign policy seems to consist of keeping the oil price high, but not too high, a bit of a juggling act). The problem with the current intifada is not the disruption that it causes, but the amount of disruption. Once the intifada had started to seriously affect the Israeli economy, the U. S. was suddenly interested in its supression (at least after the Americans no longer had to appear to be impartial). I think it is funny that some people are starting to criticize Bush for his lackadaisical efforts towards calming the situation, as if this were another example of Bush laziness, stupidity, or inattention, when the U. S. lack of response is exactly in line with its general policy. Israel can choose whatever brutal methods it wants to manage the Palestinians, as long as : 1) the Americans aren't trying to get Arab support for something; 2) the unrest doesn't get so out of hand that it requires repairs to the Israeli economy which will cost American money; or 3) most importantly, the methods don't have the effect of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian problem. The United States could resolve the whole problem tomorrow by insisting on the removal of settlers and soldiers from the Occupied Territories in return for a U. N. protective army surrounding Israel. The Americans don't resolve the problem because peace in the Middle East is against U. S. policy.