President Obama has nominated Samantha Power to be his new ambassador to the U.N. The White House is vigorously walking back any and all criticisms she’s made of Israel.
Above is a clip from “Conversations with History,” an interview conducted by Harry Kreisler of the University of California, reportedly in 2002, in which Power appears to call hypothetically for imposing a solution in the Israel/Palestine conflict– in defiance of the Israel lobby, whose financial and political power she addresses, with a nervous laugh. Notice that she also speaks of the money we give to the Israeli military and of “major human rights abuses,” apparently on the part of both Israelis and Palestinians.
Her statements come in response to Kreisler asking her to do a “thought experiment. Let’s say you’re an adviser to the president. How would you advise him to put a structure in place…[in Israel/Palestine] if one party or the other might be looking they might be moving toward genocide?”
Well I don’t think that in any of the cases a shortage of information is the problem. And I actually think in the Palestine Israeli situation there’s an abundance of information. And what we don’t need is some kind of early warning mechansim there.
What we need is a willingness to actually putting something on the line in terms of helping the situation. And putting something on the line might mean alienating [laughing nervously] a domestic constituency of tremendous political and financial import. It may mean more crucially sacrificing or investing I think more than sacrificing literally billions of dollars not in servicing Israel’s you know military, but actually investing in the new state of Palestine, in investing the billions of dollars it would probably also take to support I think what will have to be a mammoth protection force. Not of the old Srebrenica kind or the Rwanda kind, but a meaningful military presence. Because it seems to me, at this stage, and this is true of actual genocides as well, and not just major human rights abuses which we’re seeing there– that is that you have to go in as if you’re serious. You have to put something on the line and unfortunately imposition of a solution on unwilling parties is dreadful. I mean, it’s a terrible thing to do. It’s fundamentally undemocratic. But sadly we just don’t have a democracy here either, we have a liberal democracy. There are certain sets of principles that guide you know our policy or that are meant to anyway. And it’s essential that some set of principles becomes the benchmark rather than a deference to people who are fundamentally politically destined to destroy the lives of their own people. And by that I mean what Tom Friedman has called Sharafat. I do think in that sense that both political leaders have been dreadfully irresponsible. And unfortunately it does require require external intervention, very much like the Rwanda situation– that thought experiment, if we had intervened early.
Any intervention is going to come under fierce criticism. We have to think of lesser evils, especially when the human stakes are becoming ever more pronounced.
Update: I changed the headline, which originally said that “Power said that Israeli human rights abuses are backed by domestic US constituency with tremendous financial clout” to what it is now after some commenters said it was a stretch.