How far will the U.S. and President Obama go in the slavish devotion to Israel?
Turning our backs on a treaty and conference pushing a ban on nuclear weapons in the Middle East—a conference that our arch-enemy Iran has pledged to attend—because Israel doesn’t want to talk about giving up its nukes?
Allowing Israel to start building more illegal settlements in the West Bank—and starting the process by using a construction crew, flanked by security and military officers, to knock down a Palestinian mosque?
Sending out a frantic stream of threats against Palestine for going to the UN General Assembly and being granted “observer” status—as if Palestine should be faulted and punished for seeking recognition from the rest of the world, something it has desperately been craving for many decades?
Professing outrage and surprise during Israel’s deadly bombing of the Gaza Strip that the 1.6 million Palestinians who live in Gaza as virtual prisoners would be displeased with their circumstances and occasionally lash out at their captors?
Having nothing to say when Israel patrols its border with Gaza by opening fire on anyone who even comes near the border fence, which feels like the height of cruelty?
Yes, the U.S. and Israel have a long history, a deep bond, forged across the decades since the nation was created 64 years ago. We have become in some sense the only real ally that Israel has, the big brother from across the Atlantic acting as the protector and the enabler for Israel’s many aggressions over the years. But when does it end? Does it ever end?
It was amusing during the presidential campaign to see Mitt Romney and the Republicans accusing the president of being hostile to Israel and Israeli interests because there has never been any evidence of that during the Obama administration. Though Obama may not have much personal fondness for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—and let’s be honest here, not even most Israelis seem to have a fondness for Netanyahu—he has been just as slavish in his unyielding support of Israel as every other U.S. president. He may not have gotten as many Jewish campaign dollars as Romney, but he hasn’t let that affect his inability to act with anything approaching balance in the region.
The viewpoint of most African Americans on the question of Palestine has been clear over the years—we tend to be exceedingly sympathetic to these people of color who woke up one morning to find that the place they have called home for many centuries had been annexed by persecuted Jews in search of somewhere they could be free, somewhere they could call their own. But Palestine has never been their own. It will never be their own. And if Palestinians feel like prisoners in their own land, and go through their lives with a constantly simmering rage that can explode at any moment, Israelis will never feel completely free.
The violence and conflict over the Palestinian state will never end as long as the U.S. blindly rewards Israel for every indiscretion, closes its eyes whenever Israel does something disgraceful in the name of the protection of the Jewish state.
We have a crucial role to play in the Middle East, but we can’t be effective there unless we are finally able to bring some balance to our perspective.