04 January 2009

This is a one-way street

Glennzilla has another salient observation:
There sure is a lot of agreeing going on -- one might describe it as "absolute." The degree of mandated orthodoxy on the Israel question among America's political elites is so great that if one took the statements on Gaza from George Bush, Pelosi, Hoyer, Berman, Ros-Lehtinen, and randomly chosen Bill Kristol-acolytes and redacted their names, it would be impossible to know which statements came from whom. They're all identical: what Israel does is absolutely right. The U.S. must fully and unconditionally support Israel. Israel does not merit an iota of criticism for what it is doing. It bears none of the blame for this conflict. No questioning even of the wisdom of its decisions -- let alone the justifiability -- is uttered. No deviation from that script takes place.
This is striking and bizarre, but I think the answer to this riddle is a relatively easy one. The existence of Israel as a friendly but embattled client state in the Middle East serves the ambition of the United States in that region nicely. Any and all American intervention in the Middle East can be justified within the all-encompassing umbrella of the need to "protect Israel." Any would-be rogue Arab state with a couple of Molotov cocktails can't be reasonably claimed as a security threat to the United States, but enough evidence can be ginned up to show they're a "threat to Israel," so taking care of them becomes a humanitarian necessity. This complete melding of U.S. and Israeli interest is pitched to the American public with appeals to varying combinations of anti-Arab racism, sympathy with historical oppresion of the Jews, and wooing American Christians to view Israel as a kind of proxy Crusader state. The second is the most popular tactic among the neocon charlatans who dominate the conversation in this country, though it's lost much of its power in the rest of the world as Israeli militarism becomes increasingly beligerrent. And, as Glenn points out in another post, it may be losing traction inside the United States as well, though you'll never see anyone in the political elite acknowledge it.
Is there any other significant issue in American political life, besides Israel, where (a) citizens split almost evenly in their views, yet (b) the leaders of both parties adopt identical lockstep positions which leave half of the citizenry with no real voice? More notably still, is there any other position, besides Israel, where (a) a party's voters overwhelmingly embrace one position (Israel should not have attacked Gaza) but (b) that party's leadership unanimously embraces the exact opposite position (Israel was absolutely right to attack Gaza and the U.S. must support Israel unequivocally)? Does that happen with any other issue?
It's times like these when the two-party monopoly must come together to defend the American empire from American democracy. Issues like these are too important for the voting public to have any choice. The Democratic leadership may know that most of their constituents want a more nuanced approach to the Israel/Palestine question, but they also know that they can continue to adopt the same far-right position as the Republicans, because those voters have nowhere else to go. I suspect this happens more frequently than Glenn may think. The two-party monopoly works by sweeping a great mass of political issues off the table of discussion; the Israel/Palestine question is just a particularly high-profile demonstration of this procedure in action.