Pariah Nation

by Alexander Cockburn, June 11, 2010

As the tv networks here give unlimited airtime to its apologists, the message rolls out that Israel is permitted every illegal act in the lexicon of international law, from acts of violence against a civilian population (the people of Gaza, starved under permanent blockade) to piracy on the high seas and the lethal attacks by Israeli commandos on the relief flotilla. The guiding purpose in this tsunami of drivel is that the viewers should be brainwashed into thinking Israel somehow has the right and the duty to act at will as the mad-dog of the planet.

Israel regrets… But no! Israel doesn’t regret. It preens and boasts and demands approval — which it duly gets from its prime sponsor, the United States government, and most of the press. As former US senator Jim Abourezk remarked on our CounterPunch.org website last week, “It's very much like the bully who, after punching someone smaller in the jaw, requires the victim to apologize for getting his face in the way of the bully's fist.”

Two points need stressing. Some of the critical commentary suggests that Israel’s murderous onslaught on the Mavi Marmara represents a qualitative escalation in that nation’s brazen criminality. Scarcely. Brazen criminality coincided with the establishment of the state in 1948. Only last week I reminded CounterPunchers of the lethal onslaught on the USS Liberty in 1967 which killed 34 and wounded 173.

The attack on the Mavi Marmara was carefully planned. As Max Blumenthal reported on his Counterpunch.org:

“Tel Aviv, Israel — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his senior ministers have attempted to blame army commanders for ‘the bungled raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla,’ according to the UK’s Daily Telegraph. … But was the raid really bungled? Did the Israeli military command and Netanyahu government have no clear strategy going in? Or was the violence they meted out against the flotilla activists deliberate and methodically planned?

“Statements by senior Israeli military commanders made in the Hebrew media days before the massacre revealed that the raid was planned over a week in advance by the Israeli military and was personally approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak. … Details of the plan show that the use of deadly force was authorized and calculated.”

The massacre of activists should not have been unexpected.

On May 28, three days before the raid, top Israeli military officials revealed details of their strategy to Maariv, Israel’s most widely circulated paper. The caption of the Maariv article reflected the military command’s plan to use force: “On the way to violence; one of the boats is on its way.”

In the opinion of much of the world, Israel is descending to the status of South Africa in the final years of apartheid (in which period, it has just emerged, Israel was trying to sell South Africa nuclear weapons) — a pariah nation.

A friend of mine gave a good parody of the servile posture of the US government and press: “I think,” he wrote to me, “that matters are close to the point where if Hillary Clinton and a group of senior American officials were meeting the Israeli leaders for negotiations, and Netanyahu expressed his displeasure at the American positions by pulling out a gun and shooting her dead, then having the entire American delegation beaten to death by his security guards, there would probably be a small item buried in the next days' American newspapers that due to conflict with the Israelis, Obama had decided to nominate a new Secretary of State.”

In February the Tel Aviv-based Reut Institute presented a big report to the Israeli cabinet, long in the making, called “The Delegitimization Challenge: Creating a Political Firewall.” It has sinister recommendations for a strategy of “offense.” Israel’s government is embarking on a methodical assault on human rights groups and kindred NGOs seen as delegitimizers. It’s not paranoid to expect COINTELPRO-type black-bag jobs sponsored by Israel on solidarity groups here and around the world.

Israel is plunging into deeper darkness. As the Israeli journalist Gideon Levy recently told one interviewer: “In the last year there have been real cracks in the democratic system of Israel.… It’s systematic — it’s not here and there. Things are becoming much harder.” And Levy also wrote in Ha’aretz, “When Israel closes its gates to anyone who doesn’t fall in line with our official positions, we are quickly becoming similar to North Korea. When right-wing parties increase their number of anti-democratic bills, and from all sides there are calls to make certain groups illegal, we must worry, of course. But when all this is engulfed in silence, and when even academia is increasingly falling in line with dangerous and dark views… the situation is apparently far beyond desperate.”

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