In the aftermath of the onslaught on Lebanon you can open up the Israeli press, particularly the Hebrew editions, and find fierce assaults on the country’s elites from left, right and center.
The overall panorama is one of chickens of all ages coming home to roost. Small pustules highlight larger rot. Chief of staff Dan Halutz, a narcissistic bully, secretly took time off the morning he ordered the terror bombing of south Beirut to tell Bank Leumi to sell his stock portfolio before the market plunged, which it soon did by nearly 10 percent.
The capacity of the US armed forces to fight intelligently and effectively has been almost destroyed by a system of graft-ridden procurement that favors expensive weapons systems validated by bogus tests. Israel’s supposed military requirements have been a particularly ripe sector of that racket, and the consequences are plain to see. Israel’s receipt of Patriot missiles was no doubt hugely profitable for the parties involved in the transaction, but in defensive function entirely useless. The Patriot missile batteries stationed near Haifa and Safed, much trumpeted by the Israel Defense Forces, played no significant role in the recent conflict.
Israel’s generals paraded on TV in resplendent uniforms even as people in northern Israel too poor to flee found either no shelters at all (particularly Israeli Arabs) or, in the words of Reuven Pedatzur in Ha’aretz, “sat for more than one month in stinking shelters, some of them without food or minimal conditions.”
Disfigured by its “special relationship” with the US arms industry, of which the US Congress is an integral component, the IDF has been morally corrupted by years of risk-free brutalization of unarmed Palestinians, many of them children. It’s one thing to level an apartment building with a missile from a plane or crush a protester with a bulldozer or lob shells at a Palestinian family having a picnic on a beach or kidnap middle-aged and democratically elected Palestinian politicians. It’s another to confront a foe, with modest but effectively deployed weaponry, prepared to fight back.
Years of racism have taken their toll too. Think of Arabs as subhuman “terrorists” and you end up making a lot of misjudgments, tactical and strategic.
Amid the first days of the “cease-fire” the Israeli press has been carrying reports not only about Halutz’s secret stock sales but also that prime minister Ehud Olmert may have accepted a $500,000 bribe as part of a conspiracy with a building contractor, that justice minister Haim Ramon has resigned to battle charges of indecent assault on a female employee at a Defense Ministry party and that Israel’s president, Moshe Katsav, may face charges of rape of a female employee.
On that first pre-cease-fire weekend, USA Today carried a story datelined Nabatiyeh by Rick Jervis headlined “Hezbollah workers rush to help victims rebuild”: “Hezbollah deployed its army of social workers and engineers throughout this southern Lebanese city…. ‘[They] were here even before the bombing stopped,’ said Mustafa Badreddine, 50, the mayor. ‘They have offices here. They have municipal resources. And the people trust them.'”
As corrupted as the Israeli military that shoves them around, Israeli politicians have grown accustomed to thinking that any outrage on morality and reason will get a lusty cheer from the US political establishment, press and entertainment industry mostly included. They’re right. They did get material encouragement from the Bush Administration, and lusty cheers from Capitol Hill and Hollywood while the press echoed all the nonsense about the kidnapping of the Israeli soldiers being a legitimate casus belli.
Israel has been kidnapping Lebanese and Palestinians for years. There are now 10,000, mostly Palestinians, rotting in Israeli prisons. On June 25 Corp. Gilad Shalit was captured in Gaza, prompting an escalation in Israel’s already barbaric assaults on the civilian population there. Since June 25, says the Palestinian Ministry of Detainees, Israel has kidnapped more than thirty-five Palestinian Parliament members and ten Cabinet ministers. On June 24 Israeli forces kidnapped two civilians in Gaza, a doctor and his brother, and sent them off to some dungeon.
You can read much commentary round the world, most particularly in Israel, saying this recent war was a benchmark event that could conceivably teach Israel its security is not won by unending land grabs and by terror-bombing of Lebanon and Gaza. But not in the United States. Open up the Washington Post and the strategic vision on display was an utterly mad piece co-written by one of the big boosters for war on Iraq, Kenneth Pollack. He’s a hack thinker at the Brookings Institution, now an integral part of Israeli territory with its Saban Center for Middle East Policy, named for the fanatic Zionist news and entertainment billionaire Haim Saban, a man who handed the Democratic Party $12.3 million in 2002, a $7 million component of which was the single biggest contribution ever recorded up to that time. Silent about his role as war promoter (his forte was Saddam’s imaginary nuclear arsenal), oblivious to the lessons of disaster in Iraq, reduplicated in the war in Lebanon, Pollack (with Georgetown University’s Daniel Byman) called for a high, ongoing US troop presence in Iraq to help set up “refugee collection points”–i.e., concentration camps–on Iraq’s borders and for tripwires–no doubt ultimately nuclear–to be established in expectation of war with Iran. You think Republican neocons are the only crazy ones?
Thirty years ago I used to be told that liberal American Jews were aghast at the rise of the ur-neocon fanatics like Norman Podhoretz, at Commentary, whose parent outfit was and is the American Jewish Committee. Soon, the liberals said to me off the record, there would be a counterattack by the forces of reason, as embodied in liberal American Jewry. There never was. The liberal Jewish intelligentsia here has, politically speaking, sat on its hands for decades, mouths zipped shut when it comes to criticizing Israel. Even more effectively than military contractors, they have contributed to, and indeed cheered on, Israel’s corrupt rejectionism. Will this war make them change their minds? I doubt it.