Just when you thought Israeli propaganda could sink no lower, along comes a top American official and actually manages to dig a deeper hole for it.
According to U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, the billions of dollars with which the United States annually fuels Israel’s military machine – in violation of U.S. law, though Carter never says so – is justified because “we got a lot from them” in return. As proof, Carter cites a “clever” device the Israelis have designed to detect what the Pentagon calls “improvised explosive devices,” or “IEDs.”
“It’s a two-way relationship,” Carter told Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg in an extended interview this month. “[W]e really do get things from the Israelis in technology.”
Naïve readers might have supposed all along that the U.S. superpower expected to get something in exchange for all that money. But if Secretary Carter’s clarification of the arrangement means anything, it means that except for a bit of hardware-bartering here and there, America’s government neither gains nor expects to gain any genuine benefit from the systematic brutality that its military funding underwrites in the Occupied Territories.
It also means that Israeli “security” is unaffected by all those billions – or why didn’t Carter mention that old chestnut to justify buying Israel so many killing machines? After all, Israel’s prime minister continues to insist that his country faces possible annihilation. Goldberg himself claims that “the defense relationship between the two countries [the U.S. and Israel] has been of paramount, even existential, importance to Israel for more than 40 years.”
But if his words are any guide, that’s not how America’s Secretary of Defense sees it. According to him, the only real threat Israel faces is the possibility that its officials’ feelings will be hurt if the White House doesn’t applaud their brutality with sufficient enthusiasm. While mass terror and extrajudicial executions by the IDF (supplemented by more than usual settler violence) spiral further out of control throughout the West Bank – killing over 70 Palestinians, including 15 children, and wounding more than 1,200 others since the beginning of October – Carter notes sympathetically, according to Goldberg, that “Israeli officials are not being unreasonable to occasionally feel put upon by American criticism,” or to use Carter’s own words: “[S]ometimes they feel that this criticism is uttered without adequate care for the actual dilemmas in which they find themselves.”
Since Carter never once mentions Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, nor the fact that this occupation is unquestionably illegal, he is right in saying that U.S. leaders ignore the actual circumstances of Israeli anti-Palestinian violence. But if a top member of Obama’s cabinet can only see unfairness to Israel from Washington’s partnership in Israeli propaganda, it’s hard to see why Israel’s leaders should feel “put upon” – that is, if their feelings had anything to do with the facts.
Even as Carter implicitly admits that Washington is funding Israel’s illegal military occupation simply to maintain Israel’s illegal military occupation, he reassures Goldberg – and his readers – that this isn’t the only illegal venture Israel and the U.S. are undertaking together. Carter promises that the U.S., with Israel’s encouragement, will unilaterally bomb Iran if the Pentagon believes that country is getting too close to building a nuclear weapon. Again, naïve readers might remember that even the threat of such an action, casually offered by the head of the world’s deadliest military, is a direct violation of Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter. But why should Carter or the Atlantic waste any time on a trifle like international law?
Still, we haven’t plumbed the depths of Carter’s rhetoric until we examine what he does say. The Secretary, remember, specifically praises the Israelis for having developed a new system to counter mines and IEDs, and stresses that the U.S. expects to benefit from this technology. Yet Carter nowhere poses the obvious question: why are Israel’s military-industrial boffins building anti-IED devices in the first place? After all, when Israel Aerospace Industries first unveiled the system in October 2014, the U.S. army was supposed to be out of Iraq – where IEDs had been a serious problem for the occupying forces – meaning that American demand for the new technology could not have been acute. And as for Israel, when was the last time the IDF had to worry about land mines?
The ugly truth is that Israel, while oppressing Palestinians for its own purposes, is also a full partner in the global business of “pacifying” local populations in the interest of imperial power, a business in which Palestinians figure as guinea pigs. Yotam Feldman, a journalist who once wrote for the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, told Al Jazeera over two years ago that Israel has turned the occupied territories into a laboratory for refining, testing and showcasing its weapons systems. “You only have to read the brochures published by the arms industry in Israel,” agreed Ben Gurion University’s Neve Gordon. “What they are selling is Israel’s ‘experience’ and expertise gained from the occupation and its conflicts with its neighbours.”
Jeff Halper, founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and author of the recent book War Against the People: Israel, the Palestinians and Global Pacification, argues that Israel has deliberately refined its role as the trailblazer in what Halper calls “securocratic” warfare – that is, the use of military force to suppress resistance “from ‘below.’” And Israel’s long-running expertise in this sort of violence – after all, the occupation of the West Bank is now close to 50 years old – has borne bitter fruit within the U.S. itself. As Halper notes, “The fact that officers in the different police forces dealing with the Ferguson protests, who chose a confrontational approach backed up by heavy military equipment, were trained in Israel has led to a feeling that the people of Ferguson have been ‘Palestinianized.’”
Exactly what role an anti-IED device may play in such “pacification” is not clear, but you can be reasonably sure that neither the U.S. nor Israel will be using it to defend against an invading army – certainly not in the foreseeable future.
So yes, Virginia, there is a “two-way” relationship between the military forces of Israel and the United States. But it’s a relationship aimed not at protecting American citizens but at exposing them, along with Palestinians and other peoples around the world, to enhanced state terror. And not even Israeli propagandists have had the chutzpah to point to such sinister ends as a “benefit” of the U.S. role in the occupation of Palestine.