The latest Haaretz column by the outstanding and courageous Israeli columnist, Gideon Levy, is entitled "America, Stop Sucking Up to Israel," and it highlights one of the most bizarre political facts: criticism of Israeli actions is far more tolerated and permitted in Israeli political discourse than it is in America's. It's simply inconceivable that any establishment journalist or national politician would ever echo Levy's scathing indictments of Israel's conduct and his calls for the U.S. to apply serious pressure and even threats to coerce changes in Israeli behavior. After describing the increasingly conciliatory actions towards Israel by the Obama administration in exchange for nothing but obstinance, Levy writes:
Before no other country on the planet does the United States kneel and plead like this. In other trouble spots, America takes a different tone. It bombs in Afghanistan, invades Iraq and threatens sanctions against Iran and North Korea. Did anyone in Washington consider begging Saddam Hussein to withdraw from occupied territory in Kuwait?
But Israel the occupier, the stubborn contrarian that continues to mock America and the world by building settlements and abusing the Palestinians, receives different treatment. Another massage to the national ego in one video, more embarrassing praise in another.
Now is the time to say to the United States: Enough flattery. If you don't change the tone, nothing will change. As long as Israel feels the United States is in its pocket, and that America's automatic veto will save it from condemnations and sanctions, that it will receive massive aid unconditionally, and that it can continue waging punitive, lethal campaigns without a word from Washington, killing, destroying and imprisoning without the world's policeman making a sound, it will continue in its ways.
Illegal acts like the occupation and settlement expansion, and offensives that may have involved war crimes, as in Gaza, deserve a different approach. If America and the world had issued condemnations after Operation Summer Rains in 2006 - which left 400 Palestinians dead and severe infrastructure damage in the first major operation in Gaza since the disengagement - then Operation Cast Lead never would have been launched.
It is true that unlike all the world's other troublemakers, Israel is viewed as a Western democracy, but Israel of 2009 is a country whose language is force. . . . When Clinton returns to Washington, she should advocate a sharp policy change toward Israel. Israeli hearts can no longer be won with hope, promises of a better future or sweet talk, for this is no longer Israel's language. For something to change, Israel must understand that perpetuating the status quo will exact a painful price.
Israel of 2009 is a spoiled country, arrogant and condescending, convinced that it deserves everything and that it has the power to make a fool of America and the world. The United States has engendered this situation, which endangers the entire Mideast and Israel itself. That is why there needs to be a turning point in the coming year - Washington needs to finally say no to Israel and the occupation. An unambiguous, presidential no.
It's simply impossible to imagine that sort of harsh and blunt critique being voiced by any establishment political commentator or national politician in the U.S. In fact, one finds the exact opposite trend of the one Levy advocates. As Levy suggests, and as Spencer Ackerman insightfully documents and condemns, the Obama administration appears to be rapidly retreating on what was once its promising and commendable demand that Israel cease all settlement growth. The U.S. is unwilling merely to demand from Israel a cessation of activity which is illegal in the eyes of the entire world and destructive to American interests.
Even worse, the U.S. Congress appears poised -- yet again -- to enact a meaningless though odious Resolution that has no purpose other than to shield Israel from criticism; place ourselves squarely on Israel's side no matter what it does; and once again obstruct war crimes investigations. That Resolution -- co-sponsored by two members of Congress from each party, including supreme AIPAC loyalist Howard Berman, the Democratic Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee -- would advance the repellent through all-too-familiar personal smears against U.N. investigator Richard Goldstone by urging that the U.S. "oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration" of Goldstone's report -- which found both Isarel and Hamas likely guilty of "war crimes" in the war in Gaza -- on the ground that the Report was biased, flawed, one-sided, pre-ordained and false.It's apparently not enough that the U.S. Government block all efforts to investigate its own war crimes while immunizing its own war criminals. Now the U.S. Congress has decided that they were elected to do the same for Israel.
Article continues with Moyers/Goldstone interview