Posts Tagged ‘US Foreign Policy’

You might have noticed that the name of my blog has changed. It’s a change that’s been a long time coming, as I’ve not been comfortable with the name, “The Third Way” for quite a while. But the change represents more than a mere marketing decision.

I began this blog when I was the co-director of Jewish Voice for Peace, nearly 15 years Jstreet2017-0595ago. At that time, I liked the name of the blog. I didn’t see it as reflecting a “middle path,” or a “compromise position” on the Israeli occupation. But I felt that it represented what I was trying to present: an analysis of the Israel-Palestine conflict born out of an understanding of and a sympathy for both Palestinian dispossession and lack of rights and Jewish history and realpolitik.

When I left JVP, I took the blog with me. The name still seemed to suit me for a time, but my discomfort with it soon emerged. That was in part due to my work for B’Tselem, which required me to rein in a lot of my political writing, a result of the misguided notion they held at the time that human rights work was somehow separate from political activism.

In more recent years, I’ve been sure that the name was wrong. That’s not because my views have shifted that much. They have inevitably evolved over 15 years, of course, but I still approach the issue with empathy for the shared history I have with other Jews as I work to make Americans recognize that the occupation is a horrific, ongoing crime that would have ended long ago were it not for the policies of the United States.

The name no longer fit for several reasons. First, I was writing about a lot more than the Israel-Palestine conflict. Second, the politics of the conflict had changed with the long-term split in Palestinian politics, the utter dominance of the Israeli right over Israeli policy, and the twin effects on discourse in the United States: while both parties in Washington had been pulled much farther to the right, liberal disconnect, both Jewish and non-Jewish, from Israel had grown and with it, so had more open criticism of Israeli policies.

I finally settled on the name “Rethinking Foreign Policy.” The fact that the US is the key enabler of the occupation is not given nearly enough attention. The discourse in the US sort of recognizes the huge role we play, as well as the unique position this foreign policy item occupies in US domestic politics. But it’s still discussed as an “over there” issue. No, friends, it’s a here and now issue. If the dark days of the Trump administration prove nothing else about Palestine-Israel, they prove that.

The word “rethink” has become popular lately, especially in progressive circles. ReThink Media, a very important organization working on the same issues I write about is one example. There’s a number of other really great organizations rethinking education, how to raise boys to resist the indoctrination toward sexual violence, behavioral health care and other issues. I’m not much for following trends, but this one seems like a good one.

The way Americans discuss foreign policy is rotten at the core. Our racism, belief in American exceptionalism, and apathy regarding our history, legacy, and ongoing policies that impoverish and dispossess people all around the world, as well a s here at home, underpin a lot of foreign policy thinking, including quite a bit of mainstream progressive thought. Even when intentions can go beyond those limitations, the often stodgy thinking dominated, as this field is, by excessively privileged white men is very slow to change.

Perhaps I am overly and unjustifiably flattering myself, but I choose to believe that I offer an analysis that is relatively independent. Anyone who claims to be unbiased is either lying or simply has no knowledge of the subject under discussion, as that is the only way to escape bias. But, as many of you know, I have spent much of the past decade unemployed, so I have been able to develop my thinking, writing, and analysis without any organizational constraints. and I’d like to think that makes me a little less biased than many others.

So I am trying to inspire a basic “rethinking” of our foreign policy. That’s the approach I have pursued and will continue to do so.

I plan to do more short blog posts that will appear here in their entirety, so this site won’t just be a collection of links to my articles and appearances at LobeLog and elsewhere. While I will still write a great deal on Palestine and Israel, I will also continue to expand my writing to include other major US foreign policy issues, as I have been doing with Iran, Syria, North Korea, and the Persian Gulf. I expect to also write more about China, Latin America, Trump’s slashing of our relationships with allies like Canada and the EU, and even some domestic issues.

That’s my plan, anyway, We’ll see if I can actually pull it off. Thanks for sticking with me through all of these years, and for continuing to follow my work.

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Today, at Westminster College, Senator Bernie Sanders delivered a powerful, progressive view of foreign policy. This is precisely the way Democrats should be talking about international affairs. Yet, somehow, media coverage was largely absent. This demonstrated that the US media has learned nothing from their disastrous performance in the coverage of the 2016 election campaign.

In order to address this, I am posting the full text of Senator Sanders’ speech. Please link to this, share it as far and wide as you can. (more…)

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During the summertime war in Gaza, the two most progressive members of the US Senate stirred up controversy among their backers with 7258702972_d11e56b4ea_z (1)expressions of uncritical support for Israel. At a town hall meeting, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the lone Senate independent, responded to a questioner that Israel had “overreacted” with its 52-day bombardment and ground incursion, but then proceeded to justify Israel’s actions with the usual pro-Israel talking points about “missiles fired from populated areas” and “sophisticated tunnels.” An audience member began to shout objections, to which Sanders said, “Shut up.”

Elizabeth Warren, the Democrat from Massachusetts, went further in her defense of Israel at a meeting with constituents on Cape Cod. She said it was right for the United States to send $225 million in aid to Israel, a “democracy controlled by the rule of law,” as the bombing continued. She ventured no criticism at all of the extensive damage to civilian lives and livelihoods in Gaza. When another constituent suggested that future US aid be conditioned on Israel halting settlement construction in the West Bank, Warren replied, “I think there’s a question of whether we should go that far.” Read more at the Middle East Research and Information Project

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238 years ago today, a country declared its independence. The country that was created on that day had already begun its

Photo by Rob Roy, used under a Creative Commons license

Photo by Rob Roy, used under a Creative Commons license

campaign of genocide of the native people, was building its economy in large part on slavery and intended its vaunted “freedom” only for white, male land-owners, a very narrow slice of the new country’s population.

Since its inception, the country has been involved in countless wars and undeclared military actions and has routinely sacrificed the stability, security and the very lives of the people of other countries in pursuit of its interests, both economic and ideological.

Yes, there were ways in which, in 1776, the new country was a step forward, especially insofar as it reflected the institution of individual rights and the rule of law supplanting both the rule of God and the rule of kings. But it has long since been surpassed in any such ideals by many other countries.

Today, that country is the global superpower, and its policies have been a major factor (though, to be sure, far from the only one) in the devastation of Africa, the chaos in the Middle East and the massive proliferation of weapons of mass destruction around the globe. It is the source of the majority of the ocean of smaller weapons in the world. It exploits impoverished countries for cheap labor and persecutes those who flee those conditions to try to seek a better life within its own shores, contrary to the purported ideals on which it was founded. It is the source of the majority of the most destructive and reactionary Judeo-Christian religious forces in the world. It has distorted the basic precepts of capitalism (however flawed they might be themselves) to empower the ultra-rich and global corporations, giving those forces enormous power. It has routinely supported some of the ugliest governments in the world (it was the last country to withdraw support from Apartheid South Africa, and the examples in Latin America are too numerous to list here), and to this day, supports crimes all around the globe, as long as the criminals enforce its own policies and objectives.

Forgive me, then, if I find little reason to celebrate the anniversary of that country’s birth.

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A lot of things will grow out of the Egyptian protests that we cannot predict, but at this point, very few have begun yet. What has begun is what one colleague called the “Blameobamathon.” Aluf Benn, writing in Ha’aretz, says that Obama will be remembered as the President who “lost Egypt.” This is obvious nonsense, of course. What’s happened in Egypt and Tunisia, as well as what is simmering in Jordan and Yemen, is connected to the US only insofar as the dictators in those countries are “our guys.” That is a policy that has endured for a long time with most of these regimes since the early days of the Reagan Administration or even the days of Jimmy Carter. And the policy has stayed the same, with only minor changes, no matter who is in the White House. It’s just Obama’s fortune that it bubbled over now. What this view shows, more than anything else, is the arrogance of America, shared by Israel, that everything that happens in the world can and should be controlled, prevented or created by the USA. Egypt and Tunisia are demonstrations that this is simply untrue…

An Egyptian government led by Mohammed ElBaradei is probably the best case scenario for US concerns in the region, but it would still be a big shift away from Mubarak. ElBaradei is a seasoned veteran of the international arena, having once headed the International Atomic Energy Agency, spent many years in the Egyptian foreign ministry and worked in the UN. He also was a professor at Yale for a number of years, so he knows the United States very well. He is about as moderate a leader as one could ever imagine coming out of this turmoil, in both the real sense of that word as well as the American meaning, which is that he will cooperate with our program. But that latter sense will only go so far, as ElBaradei will have to work within a very new Egyptian framework where the Muslim Brotherhood will be a very influential force and where the Egyptian populace’s views will be much more of a concern. That will mean a general encouragement of getting along with the US, but not when it conflicts with the popular sentiment in Egypt. This means, among other things, an end to helping Israel sustain its blockade of Gaza and an end in general to cooperating with the occupation. But I doubt that will necessarily lead to open hostility to Israel, unless the Israeli and American response to the new Egypt is particularly provocative or insulting….

 

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The following post was originally published on the Meretz USA blog. – MP

It is hard to imagine that a matter as explosive as The Palestine Papers (a massive leak of some 1,600 documents the Palestinian Authority had, including minutes, strategy papers, maps and e-mails) could be completely drowned out by other events, but the massive upheaval in Egypt has done just that. The implications for Israel and the United States of the widespread protests throughout the Arab world and the Papers are not yet fully predictable, but they are sure to be profound.

The Palestine Papers have exposed the “peace process” as a sham, with the Palestinian Authority offering concessions that would probably not have been acceptable to most Palestinians, Israel downplaying and even ignoring many of those same massive concessions and the United States doing nothing to bridge gaps and putting pressure only on the Palestinian side.

But the spreading protests in the Arab world signify a major shift in the status quo on the horizon. The United States, which learned nothing from its experience of forcefully keeping a ruthless dictator in power in Iran, has done the same with petty and violent dictators throughout the Arab world. Interestingly, the protests in Tunisia and Egypt, and the simmering ones in Jordan and Yemen, have been completely focused on those countries’ respective dictators, and there has been relatively little anti-American rhetoric thus far; or at least very little has been reported. This may have a lot to do with American silence on both matters and our quick abandonment of our favored proxies once it became obvious they had lost control. Or it may be yet to come.

In any case, the issues of the US and Israel, and even the Palestinians have been sidelined as Egyptians, like Tunisians before them, demonstrate for democracy to overthrow their tyrants. But these developments will have serious implications for the US and Israel nonetheless.

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Many of my readers are probably aware that the Palestinians have been working to bring a resolution to the UN Security Council that would reaffirm the obvious fact that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law. The Obama Administration is hemming and hawing about the resolution, obviously uncomfortable with it but unable to explain why it would consider vetoing a resolution so obviously consistent with stated US policy on the matter.

It’s more difficult for Obama than for previous presidents because he has been so vocal about settlements, but has consistently avoided taking any concrete action about them. Israel knows very well the boundaries: they will not respond to mere US statements, but if there is the threat that the US will take action, they will be much more responsive. That doesn’t happen often.

Expansion of the Givat Ze'ev settlement block near Jerusalem. The picture was taken on 10 August 2005 from the Palestinian village Beit Duku. Photo credit: Kareem Jubran, B'Tselem

In Part II of this post, you will find a letter from an impressive array of former leading diplomats and intellectuals on the Middle East urging Obama to have his ambassador support the anti-settlement resolution at the UN.

Here, though, look at this exchange between a reporter and the State Department’s spokesman, PJ Crowley. The double-talk overflows, and one finally feels a bit sorry for Crowley being in the position of having to defend the Obama Administrations actions which clearly contradict US policy.

QUESTION: Let’s see, where to begin? There are so many places. I’ll – can I start with the Middle East and the Palestinians talking about this resolution that they want to put into the Security Council this week which would condemn Israeli settlement activity. At the same time, they’re continuing their push to get countries to recognize their independence, even without a negotiated settlement. They raised the flag at their mission downtown here today, this morning.

MR. CROWLEY: Which, on that particular point, we had agreed months ago, but it doesn’t change their status in any way.

QUESTION: Well, no, but their status changed in August.

MR. CROWLEY: No, but the granting permission to raise the flag –

QUESTION: Well, that’s actually part of my question. (more…)

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