Siegman on the U.S.-Israel Alliance, Published in England, Of Course

on 10 Comments

Why is it that the most important advances in American understanding of the Middle East can only appear in papers that spell neighbor “neighbour”? Lately it was Tony Judt in the London Review of Books. Before that the LRB gave us Walt and Mearsheimer. And now it’s the Financial Times, publishing the great Henry Siegman on the choice Israel faces, to live with its Arab neighbors or to depend on the United States.

If Israel indeed rejects this opportunity for dialogue with a Hamas prepared to end violence and accept Israel’s pre-1967 borders, its problem is not finding a Palestinian peace partner, but its rejection of any such partner in favour of reliance on the IDF to impose Israel’s will by force on its Arab neighbours. Such a decision, and Israel’s continued identification with Mr Bush’s misguided crusade against “Islamo-fascism”, will allow the hatred that surrounds Israel to undermine its existence in a part of the world that for the Jewish state would turn – sooner or later – into “the heart of darkness”.

Siegman’s argument is that Israel’s close affinity to the United States has hurt its own interests in the region. As our implication in the apartheid policies of the occupied West Bank have damaged our interests in the Arab world.

This is hardly a new point. I’ve been reading the history of Zionism, and one of the main points that Hannah Arendt made more than 50 years ago, or Avi Shlaim 15 years back, or Simha Flapan 20 years ago (read Prophets Outcast, the marvelous collection edited by the Nation’s Adam Shatz) is that Israel’s strategic decision to ally itself with a superpower in defiance of local opinion was a recipe for local disaster. Hey, all politics is local. The point is made in former Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami’s recent book, Scars of War, Wounds of Peace:

What was to become a pillar of Ben-Gurion’s strategic thinking as the prime minister of the future state of Israel [was] never to operate without the support of a Western superpower… Most of the leaders of the Yishuv [Zionist settlement in Palestine] knew very little of Arab civilisation and despised what they saw…. The future Jewish state was to be for all of them an offshoot of Western civilization in the stagnant and despotic East.

Ben-Ami’s book was published earlier this year by Oxford University, by the way. Thus, civilisation.

The spelling speaks to the larger problem. Israel has become so dependent upon American power that it cares little about the opinion of its neighbors and everything about our opinion; and the organized Jewish community here has done all it can to limit questioning in this country of that policy, lest Israel is cast to the dogs—its neighbors. In a sense the Israel lobby here was born of Israeli policy: we must grapple the U.S. to us with hoops of steel. Thankfully for all, those hoops seem at last to be losing their grip. In the wake of the Iraq and Lebanon debacles, which have demonstrated the folly of militarism as a way of healing the Arab world, and of the continued overtures for peace from Israel’s Arab neighbors, Americans are beginning to question the wisdom of the alliance. For now they are expressing themselves in England. Soon that will change.

10 Responses

  1. Pat
    September 19, 2006, 6:47 pm

    Lebanon was a military success. Israel is safe and Lebanon will think twice before allowing Hezbollah to re-arm and there will not likely be a threat from Lebanon for many years.

    Weiss, you are such a blowhard. Why don't you go back to sixth grade and give your book reports there.

  2. Warren Buffett
    September 19, 2006, 6:56 pm

    On his first visit to Israel, US investment guru Warren Buffett praised Iscar Metalworking, his first-ever acquisition outside the US, as a model enterprise, while declaring his commitment to Israel and his interest in making additional investments in the country.

    "Iscar and the Tefen Industrial Park should be taken as an example… around the world of what can be done against all odds," Warren Buffett said after his visit to Iscar. He purchased an 80 percent stake in the firm for $4 billion four months ago. "I knew Iscar was a sensation but I had to see it with my own eyes, and I am looking forward to going back to the US to tell people about it."

    Charlie Munger, Buffett's partner at the Berkshire Hathaway investment firm, accompanied him on the trip. He said Iscar was "one of the world's greatest companies."

    "With this purchase, we are sending an indirect message to the world for foreign investors to make similar investments," he said.

    Buffett said, "Berkshire Hathaway and Israel will be here forever, as Israel and the US will be here forever."

  3. MJ Rosenberg
    September 20, 2006, 12:39 am

    The reason these pieces are published in the UK is that the kind of garbage that passes for serious debate here just won't fly in the UK.
    Here any and all criticism of Israeli policies is treated as beyond the pale, mostly by folks who read nothing about the Middle East other than propaganda.
    Also, I think in Europe, Israel is not used as a political football by political parties all too happy to raise money by calling for policies that could lead to Israel's demise.
    Here, ritualistic carte blanche "support" for Israel is the easiest way to raise political money.
    I think the American Jews who know Israel best, have traveled there the most, and care about it the most tend to support peace policies. The screamers, the Dershowitz and Marty Peretz types, use Israel to score political points but spend not much time at all, if any, agonizing over Israel's losses in war or its future.
    For them, Israel is a weapon to be used to beat up people with whom they disagree, usually the so-called left.

    Phil, don't forget that the UK is not the only place in the world where you can freely criticize Israeli policies and not be attacked by the last surviving members of the Know Nothing Party. The other place is Israel.

  4. Phill
    September 20, 2006, 3:21 am

    Henry Siegman is living proof that claiming expertise on the Middle East and acquiring a few titles related to the topic do not actually produce expertise on the Middle East.

    Read about his falsehoods that distort and denigrate in this piece from a media watchdog organization,, CAMERA:
    link to

  5. Hey
    September 20, 2006, 3:43 am

    Sonderkommando Weiss strikes again.

    It's Ramadan this weekend. Can we expect you to simulblog Egypt's airing of the Protocol Miniseries, the traditional Arab way of passing Ramadan's fasting by feasting on Jew hatred? But of course asking Arabs to conduct themselves in a civilised manner, rather than barking for genocide, is racist of me. Thinking that both sides are human and have responsibilities is obviously racist, while indulging the obvious children of the Arab world is so much more enlightened. Right!

  6. Poopy
    September 20, 2006, 4:09 am

    This is this the same dogmatic crap that Weiss wrote two months ago. Does Weiss suck or does The Observer suck?

  7. PS
    September 20, 2006, 4:13 am

    Don't click on any of the google or advertising links that are on this page, or any Observer page- the Observer gets revenue from these clicks.

  8. OR
    September 20, 2006, 4:16 am

    Click on them as much as you can (clickfraud them) and then let the advertisers know how they have wasted their money…

  9. Laura Goldman
    September 20, 2006, 3:36 pm

    Why doesn't Phil ever mention all the foreign aid that Egypt gets from the United States?
    In the last war, it was the American government that wanted Israel to push further into Lebanon to destroy Hezbollah. If Israel does not destroy Hezbollah, the United States and England will have to. The great Prime Minister Tony Blair understands that terrorism is a global problem now. It is a shame that it has caused him problems in England.

  10. Laura Goldman
    September 21, 2006, 12:58 am

    My namesake is a moron. Does she not know that the reason Egypt gets all that aid is because it signed a peace treaty with Israel that has guaranteed Israel's border with Egypt for 25 years.

    Sure are alot of Judaeo-fascist neanderthal haredi dimwits posting here. Go where you belong.

Leave a Reply