Thursday, October 9, 2008

When it comes to Palestine and Israel, the US simply doesn't get it

When it comes to Palestine and Israel, the US simply doesn't get it


Biden and Palin hid like rabbits from the centre of the Middle East earthquake


Robert Fisk


Saturday, 4 October 2008


Palestinians ceased to exist in the United States on

Thursday night. Both Joe Biden and Sarah Palin managed

to avoid the use of that poisonous word. "Palestine"

and "Palestinians" - that most cancerous, slippery,

dangerous concept - simply did not exist in the

vice-presidential debate. The phrase "Israeli

occupation" was mercifully left unused. Neither the

words "Jewish colony" nor "Jewish settlement" - not

even that cowardly old get-out clause of American

journalism, "Jewish neighbourhood" - got a look-in. Nope.


Those bold contenders of the US vice-presidency, so

keen to prove their mettle when it comes to "defence",

hid like rabbits from the epicentre of the Middle East

earthquake: the existence of a Palestinian people.

Sure, there was talk of a "two-state" solution, but it

would have mystified anyone who didn't understand the region.


There was even a Biden jibe at George Bush for pressing

on with "elections" - again, the adjective

"Palestinian" went missing - that produced a Hamas

victory. But Hamas appeared to exist in never-never

land, a vast landscape that gradually encompassed all

the vast and black deserts that stretch, in the

imagination of US politicians, from the Mediterranean to Pakistan.


"Pakistan's (nuclear) missiles can already hit Israel,"

Biden thundered. But what was he talking about?

Pakistan has not threatened Israel. It's supposed to be

on our side. Both vice-presidential candidates seemed

to think that our ally in the "war on terror" was now

turning into an ally of the axis of evil. Even Islam

didn't get a run for its money.


Indeed, one of the funniest reports of the week, yet

another investigation of Obama's education, came from

the Associated Press news agency. The would-be

president, the Associated Press announced, had attended

a Muslim school but hadn't "practised" Islam.


What on earth did this mean, I asked myself? Would AP

have reported, for example, that McCain had attended a

Christian school but hadn't "practised" Christianity?

Then I got it. Obama had smoked Islam but he hadn't inhaled!


Travelling across the US this week - from Seattle to

Houston to Washington and then to New York - I kept

bumping into the results of America's White

House-induced terror. A well-educated,

upper-middle-class lady at a lunch turned to me and

expressed her fear that Islam "wanted to take over

America". When I suggested that this was pushing things

a bit, she informed me that "the Muslims have already

taken over France".


How does one reply to this? It's a bit like being

informed by a perfectly sane and rational person that

Martians have just landed in Tennessee. So I used the

old Fisk trick when confronted by ravers of the "admit

George Bush did 9/11" school. I looked at my watch,

adopted a shocked expression and shouted: "Gotta go!"


But seriously. There was Biden on Thursday night,

telling us that along Pakistan's border with

Afghanistan - he was referring, of course, to the old

frontier drawn by Sir Mortimer Durrand which most

Pushtuns (and thus all Taliban) regard as fictional -

"there have been 7,000 madrassas built ... and that's

where bin Laden lives and we will go at him if we have

actually (sic) intelligence".


Seven thousand? Where on earth does this figure come

from? Yes, there are thousands of religious schools in

Pakistan - but they're not all on the border. In

another extraordinary bit of myth-making, Obama's man

told us that "we kicked the Hizbollah out of Lebanon" -

which is totally untrue.


And, of course, Israel - a word that must be uttered,

repeatedly, by all US candidates - became the compass

point of the entire Middle East, this "peace-seeking

nation ... our strongest and best ally in the Middle

East" (quoth Palin) of whom "no one in the United

States Senate has been a better friend...than Joe

Biden" (quoth Biden).


Israel was "in jeopardy" if America talked to Iran,

Palin revealed. "We have got to assure them that we

will never allow a second Holocaust." Thus was the

corpse of Hitler dug up yet again - just as McCain

resurrected the shadow of the Second World War last

week when he blathered on about Eisenhower's sense of

responsibility before D-Day. That Israel can quite

adequately defend herself with 264 nuclear warheads

went, of course, unmentioned, because acknowledging

Israel's real power undermines the image of a small and

vulnerable country relying on America for its defence.


Israelis deserve security. But where were the promises

of security for Palestinians? Or the sympathy which

Americans would immediately grant any other occupied

people? Absent, needless to say. For we must gird

ourselves for the next struggle against world evil in Pakistan.


Biden actually demanded a "stable" government in

Islamabad, which was a little bit hypocritical only a

few days after US troops had crossed its sovereign

border to shoot up a Pakistani house allegedly used by

the Taliban. As General David Petraeus told The New

York Times this week, "The trends in Afghanistan have

been in the wrong direction ... wresting control of

certain areas from the Taliban will be very difficult."


It's an odd situation. Obama and Biden want to close

down Iraq and re-conquer Afghanistan. The Palin College

of Cliches characterised this as "a white flag of

surrender in Iraq" while continuing to warn of the

dangers of Iran, the name of whose loony president -

Ahmadinejad - defeated McCain three times in last

week's pseudo-debate.


But it's the same old story. All we have learned in

America these past two weeks, to quote Joan

Littlewood's Oh! What a Lovely War, is that the war goes on.





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