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Rethink our alliance with Israel

BY MATTHEW BYRD | JULY 09, 2014 5:00 AM

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The late Christopher Hitchens, a polemicist of incomparable talent, once remarked that the common phrase “killing time” was ironic because “time, after all, is killing us.” Besides crafting yet another beautiful phrase that makes writers such as yours truly wonder what the hell they’re doing with their lives, he also provided us with an interesting way of looking at our country’s, shall we say, time-honored alliance with Israel.

The alliance that has been propelled to the forefront of the American consciousness by a June defined by its weight in blood and brutality. Starting with the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli students studying at a yeshiva (religious school) in the West Bank. The Israeli Defense Force responded by flooding the territory with troops, killing five Palestinians and arresting hundreds more.

This was followed by murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old Palestinian who was burned to death by Israeli extremists who have since been arrested. His 15-year-old American cousin was beaten to a pulp by Israeli police during a demonstration in East Jerusalem. Riots have broken out throughout the West Bank, and the Israeli Defense Force has launched air strikes in the Gaza Strip that have killed numerous people. The strikes were in response to missiles launched by Hamas, the first since 2012, into Israel.

It seems that Israel is either on the precipice of descending into the third Intifada (Palestinian uprising, essentially all-out war) in almost 30 years or that tensions will simmer down and the low-intensity bloodshed that’s defined the country in the eyes of international observers will continue.

In the wake of yet another period of intensified violence between Israel and the Palestinian territories it occupies, perhaps it is time to reconsider the merits of being allied with Israel — merits that seem to be vanishing by the minute.

There’s essentially two general (a cynic would say simplistic) ways of understanding alliances. There’s the liberal/internationalist framework, in which countries make alliances because they share values, political philosophy, and common goals, and the realist framework, in which countries ally out of competitive self-interest.

Viewed through both these philosophies’ respective goggles, allying with Israel just doesn’t make any sense.

Increasingly, the United States and Israel are diverging on both values and common political objectives. The United States prides itself (while certainly not always, or even often, exemplifies itself) on a type of heterogeneity and multiculturalism that “the Jewish State” is seeking to suppress.

The ideas of self-determination, freedom of movement, and other basic democratic rights that the United States claims to hold dear are perverted in Israel by the occupation. The Palestinians cannot decide to expel Israeli troops from their homes, cannot move freely through their own country, do not have a right to their own natural resources, and cannot expect a right to privacy.

How can the United States, a country that 60 years ago swore off Jim Crow in favor of attempting to create an equitable society, ally itself with a country that is seemingly on track to become the next South Africa pre-Mandela?

An Israeli alliance is even less logical from a realist perspective. Israel conducts a campaign of industrial and military espionage against the United States at a level unbecoming of a “friend,” according to numerous American intelligence and law-enforcement agencies such as the CIA and the FBI. In addition, our continued support of Israel in the face of its egregious human-rights violations against the Palestinians festers anti-Americanism, not only in the Middle East but the world round.

The time we spend in the service of a burgeoning apartheid state is toxic. It’s time to stop the clock.


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