American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s hasty diplomatic shuttle from Southeast Asia to the Middle East this week can be seen as reflecting Washington’s priority to shore up stability in the region. It is a deep apprehension to maintain a shaky status quo that motivates Washington’s concern, not negotiating an end to appalling violence and human suffering in Gaza…
Clinton shook hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and publicly declared that the US was «rock solid» in its commitment to «defend Israel». There were token glib words of concern for Palestinians, but Clinton’s studied emphasis was on Israel’s «security against aggression». She did not, of course, pay a visit to the butchered people of Gaza – over 130 dead, thousands injured, multiple times Israeli casualties at the time of her visit. Her itinerary’s omission of Gaza was partly because Washington denotes the elected Hamas government as a terrorist organization. However, more subtly and more importantly, the tacit signal was intended to portray Israel as the victim and having moral right to conduct violence.
Next stop for Clinton was to meet Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo to underpin efforts at brokering a putative ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. The US diplomat extended President Obama’s «gratitude» for Egyptian attempts to facilitate a cessation of violence.
But, as with Clinton’s lopsided emphasis in her high-profile meeting with Netanyahu, it can be discerned that Washington’s priority is less about bringing an end to human misery or upholding Palestinian rights and more to do with stabilizing a volatile regional situation. In other words, self-serving political calculus.
It can also be deduced from the official US response to the crisis that Washington had a hand in Israel’s offensive. Recall that the US military and Israeli forces conducted major war games in the preceding weeks under the operational title «Austere Challenge» in which the focus was on testing Israel’s newly supplied American-made anti-missile defence system.
The timing of the Israeli air strikes and naval barrage on Gaza came one week after the re-election of Barack Obama to the White House, which strongly suggests that his administration orchestrated the attacks to occur after the election to avoid any possible domestic political damage in the polls. A major military onslaught such as this requires weeks of planning and, significantly, consultation given the integral role of the Pentagon in Israel’s deployment of the anti-missile system, known as Iron Dome.
Furthermore, the stoic demeanour of Clinton in her meeting with Netanyahu this week – in the face of truly shocking images of barbarity – and her pointed reference to «the success» of the Iron Dome system also indicate a level of preparedness on behalf of Washington for what would unfold in the Palestinian territories.
Nevertheless, the public backlash across the region to Israeli violence must give cause for concern to the Washington patron. Obviously, the Israeli state is feeling the heat of public anger. But there are other links in the chain of American hegemony across the Middle East that are also coming under searing scrutiny from the Arab masses and world public opinion generally. These links are the autocratic monarchies of the Gulf Arab oil sheikhdoms.
News footage showing lifeless bodies of tiny Palestinian children – their eyes fixed in blank stare – being piled up in morgues, or a civilian occupant of a car being incinerated from an Israeli air strike, as firefighters try to douse the vehicle, such images of heartless barbarity on innocents have enraged people around the world and the Middle East region particularly.
Israel’s Holocaust political capital – which has up to now shielded the state from much public criticism owing to emotive charges of «anti-semitic» – is being depleted rapidly to the point where the Zionist entity is losing the moral and historical argument.
The governments in Washington and Tel Aviv may talk about Israel’s «right to self-defence» – but public opinion around the world and especially in the Arab countries see the violence as simply further Israeli aggression and crimes against humanity added to an already towering pile of violations.
Even if it is acknowledged that Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups have been firing hundreds of rockets into Israeli-occupied territories and cities, it is widely understood that this action is in the context of an inhumane, genocidal siege on Gaza by Israeli forces – a siege that has been imposed for five years. To most observers, it is the Palestinian people who have the moral right to self-defence, and yet for exercising that right they are now being slaughtered.
In this context, the American-Israeli narrative is not merely factually and morally wrong. It is an egregious affront to humanitarian values, morality and to international law. Added to this tinderbox of outrage over the immediate suffering in Gaza is the bigger picture of Palestinian oppression: the cynical, bankrupt peace process that offers Palestinians and their refugee diaspora nothing – absolutely nothing – while continually rewarding Israel with relentless illegal settlements that then become «facts on the grounds».
The usurpation of historic Palestinian territory has been going on now for more than six decades and shows no sign of abating. Indeed, the mainly Muslim Arab people of this land are being pushed further and further into diminishing balkanized rumps that are not even self-governing, on the periphery of what was once Palestine. Their fate resembles that of the North American native peoples as they get pushed inexorably towards oblivion.
Perhaps worst of all, the holy Muslim city of East Jerusalem/Al Quds with its Al Aqsa mosque – the third holiest Muslim site on earth after Mecca and Medina – is now under threat of being appropriated and erased by the apartheid Zionist regime. Even for non-believers, that abomination is hard to stomach.
The crimes of American-backed Israel are to some extent expected. But what of the crimes of the American-backed Arab monarchies and puppets?
The silence of the Persian Gulf Arab monarchies in the face of aggression against Arab people and the Muslim sanctities of Palestine makes these rulers complicit in the crimes. The people of the region, and the wider world, see how these autocrats are sending, without the slightest interruption, millions of barrels of oil every day to the US, the patron of Israeli aggression. Evidently, it’s business-as-usual without a word of protest from Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest exporter of oil. Hardly a whimper has emanated from the other monarchs in the Western-backed Gulf bloc of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar or the United Arab Emirates.
Only two weeks ago, Saudi Arabia and the UAE bought billions-of-dollars-worth of fighter jets and other military equipment from Britain and the US. Why aren’t these warplanes being used by Saudi Arabia and the UAE to set up no-fly zones over Gaza to protect the citizens there?
Kuwait and Qatar possess American-made Patriot missile defence systems. Why are they not being sent to Gaza to take out Israeli rockets and warplanes?
Why isn’t a fraction of the weapons that Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE are funneling to Sunni extremist mercenaries waging a criminal war on Arab people in Syria being sent for the real moral cause of defending Palestinians from American-Israeli aggression?
Why aren’t millions of dollars of humanitarian material – a mere pittance of Saudi’s annual oil revenues – being shipped and airlifted to Gaza right now?
Of course, the answers point up the true nature of the Arab oil dictators. They are heretics, charlatans and betrayers of the Muslim people. They are corrupt stooges who steal the wealth of their own people, oppressing their populations with squalor, poverty, brutality and ignorance. Their callous indifference to the suffering of the Palestinians and their collusion with the American and Israeli oppressors is emblematic of their entire despotic disposition and dependence on American imperialism.
And it is not just the Persian Gulf Arab dictators who are being exposed in the eyes of their people. Beyond empty rhetoric, what are the other Arab rulers doing in practical, meaningful terms to help the Palestinians? Why isn’t the King of Jordan or Morocco sending in troops? What is the so-called «revolutionary» government of Tunisia doing? Why is Egypt’s Morsi only talking the talk and not walking the walk with massive convoys of aid and troops demolishing the criminal siege on Gaza?
The reasons for Washington’s coordinated Israeli aggression in Gaza are not yet clear. It could be part of the US regional plan for war and regime change in Syria and Iran. But one thing seems clear: the aggression and crimes against humanity unleashed in Gaza are rebounding in unforeseen ways to put the American-backed hegemonic realm of Arab dictators, despots and dilettantes on notice. That is why Washington is hastily pushing for a «ceasefire». It is trying to put the genie back in the bottle.