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Is Israel “Irreplaceable”?
Amer Zahr
by Amer Zahr
March 15th, 2010 (No comments)
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Something funny is happening in Israel. There’s trouble in paradise.

Last week, on March 10, CNN ran a front-page story on the death of Rachel Corrie. Rachel was killed seven years ago when an Israeli bulldozer crushed her to death while she was protesting the destruction of Palestinian homes in Gaza. Her parents have finally gotten their day in court, as they have sued the Israel’s Defense Ministry in connection with their daughter’s death. CNN’s coverage was related to that occurrence. (Incidentally, Israel has refused to release the name of the driver who killed Rachel, even after clearing him of any wrongdoing.)

Things are changing in Israel and America. Not too long ago, this story might have not have made it to the American press at all, as the facts surrounding it make Israel look at best incompetent, or at worst, malicious. American media outlets have made it their stock and trade to shield Israel from such criticism… but things are changing.

Also, on March 9, all major news outlets reported on Vice President Joe Biden’s scathing denunciation of Israel’s decision to build 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem. He said that the “substance and timing of the announcement… is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now.” In the days since then, numerous American officials have echoed his statements, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling the announcement “insulting.” Prime Minister Netanyahu has apologized for the timing of the announcement, but has stuck to its substance, saying that building will go forward. Senior White House Advisor David Axelrod fired back, saying the announcement “seemed calculated to undermine” the so-called “proximity talks” the Americans are trying to set up between the parties.

Since this all happened, Palestinians have not been saying much. You know why? Our jaws have fully dropped. We Palestinians have never this seen kind of mudslinging between the Israelis and Americans. And we kinda like it. We’ve never seen an American administration talk like that to the Israelis. It’s pretty cool.

There is no longer that basic unconditional American defense of all Israeli actions, no matter how barbaric or idiotic. The rules are changing. Palestinians are seeing it, and wondering... Is it a dream? Are we on candid camera? Are we getting Punk’d?

Well, it’s not a dream. This is all happening in a rapidly changing global political hierarchy.

American presidents and politicians have always unequivocally supported Israel, mainly because the strength of the Israeli lobby in the US meant that their unwillingness to do so was political suicide. As American administrations were stoutly supportive of Israel, and since America was the single superpower with no one else even a close second, other nations had to either fall in line or get off Israel’s back. That was how we were operating for 60 years.

The collapse of the American economy has changed things. See, we never needed all the other countries before. Now we do. We need China, the EU, India… we need everyone. The field has widened, and we are no longer the undisputed champion. We now need not only the participation of other nations to help us recover, but also their respect. What the current American administration is realizing is that our unwavering support for Israel is something that the rest of the world sees as dim-witted. It is a crutch to dealing with the world on an equal level. While our “special relationship” with Israel was once something the global community of nations had to fully accept, it is now simply an embarrassing hindrance to being taken seriously. In other words, instead of the American position molding the worldview on the subject, it is now the other way around.

Maybe the next step will be for Congress to slash the more than $5 billion we are still giving the Israelis annually. If we seriously want Israel to stop building settlements, we can just stop giving them the money to do it. That $5 billion might better be used right here at home for, well, I don’t know, say, healthcare. When it comes to Israel, we hold the purse strings. That’s why Palestinians are still weary. While they love seeing America make Israel sleep on the couch, they won’t believe the hype until we puts our money where our mouth is.

The US has been apologizing for Israel’s embarrassing and abusive actions for too long. We give them the money to build the settlements, and then an Israeli politician says that American criticism of Israeli settlement policies is meddlesome, uninvited, and “sheer chutzpah.” Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. That would be like us trying to dictate things to China if we owed them over $2 trillion. Oh, oops.

We are now having to admit to something we really already knew, that our “unique” relationship with Israel has affected our standing and credibility with everyone else.

Well, we can’t be Israel’s battered victim anymore. We’re going on Oprah! We want our life back! We’re dumping you! It’s time to call the cops, and this time, we’re pressing charges! Israel, to the left, to the left!

Maybe Palestine can catch America on the rebound… and you know what they say about Palestinian guys… well, that’s for another day.

 

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* Amer Zahr is a Palestinian American comedian, writer, professor and speaker living in Dearborn, Michigan. He is also the editor of "The Civil Arab."

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