The greatest irony of Western policy

After the US mid-term elections, President Barack Obama is severely weakened by the rise of the Republicans. His unwillingness or inability to pursue true justice and peace in the Middle East will only be worsened.

Indeed, GOP House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has already announced that he sees his job as protecting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from any pressure from the Democrats. A former Israeli Defence Minister is also buoyed by the result.

Obama has made countless avoidable mistakes in his attempts at success in the Middle East. Iraq remains mired in violence with Tehran gaining the upper hand after recent elections. Afghanistan is worsening by the day, explained by Afghan human rights activist and politician Malalai Joya in Sydney last week. There is growing unrest in the Egyptian client state and repression in Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The chance of confrontation with Iran increases.

Tragically, despite the soaring rhetoric including the recent speech to the Muslim world in Indonesia, Obama’s presidency has been notable for its continuation of previous administration policies. Relations with the Muslim world remain dire because occupation has only deepened in places such as Pakistan, Yemen and Afghanistan. For example, drone attacks have killed more civilians in Pakistan since Obama assumed office.

The Israel–Palestine conflict is merely one of the obvious examples of Washington’s failure. The recent American incentive for Israel to continue the non-existent settlement ‘freeze’ is symptomatic of the rot. Colonies have been expanding steadily for years, as anybody who visits the West Bank can see. The US-backed Palestinian Authority, reliant on Israeli permission to act throughout the occupied territories, has little power of its own and behaves like a reliable client state, repressing legitimate forms of dissent, such as democratically elected Hamas leaders.

But something is stirring around this debate. Growing calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel are appearing, including inside Israel:

Extreme Israeli police brutality is under scrutiny like never before. Britain has established a Task Force on Issues Facing Arab Citizens of Israel. There are growing revelations that the US taxpayer is funding the illegal West Bank occupation. The one-state solution is becoming less a fantasy and more a legitimate outcome.

The greatest irony of Western policy towards the Middle East is its shortsightedness. The endgame is a two-state solution, equally backed by the Gillard government, and yet ongoing colonisation makes this impossible. The great silence over daily Israeli abuses in the West Bank must be exposed by bloggers and online writers; the insulated bubbles of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem don’t provide Western journalists accurate insights into life for Palestinians, Arabs and Bedouins.

While the Australian Jewish News still publishes Zionist myths – last week editorialising that Israel in 1948 was a ‘country that was started from absolutely nothing – dirt and rock – and was built by sheer hard work…’ – the global Jewish Diaspora has a choice: embrace human rights for all in the Middle East or find itself on the wrong side of history. Apartheid-backing whites in South Africa could offer some advice.

Antony Loewenstein is an independent journalist, author of My Israel Question and The Blogging Revolution and contributor to Overland.

Antony Loewenstein

Antony Loewenstein is an independent journalist and Guardian columnist. His latest book is Disaster Capitalism: Making a Killing out of Catastrophe (Verso, 2015).

More by Antony Loewenstein ›

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate.

Related articles & Essays