Foreign Policy

UNderstanding Hamas

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A few rules to understanding

Any reading or viewing by the US public on the subject of Gaza must leave the more curious quite perplexed. Why is Hamas doing something so obviously stupid? Why are the Israelis so bullish in group punishment and disproportionate response where 400+ Palestinian civilians die versus 3 Israelis. Something seems completely mad.

Here are a few rules to understanding.

1. The Arabs as a group and the Palestinians in particular are famously inept at presenting their case. Having lived there for so long I would put this to the belief that they feel it is so obvious that they got screwed in the beginning and continue to be screwed on a daily basis that they should not have to present the case, it is there for all to see and so completely obvious. In fact, what is obvious is that they do not understand the world of marketing, public relations, and generally winning. The result is that we Americans do not get to hear any cogent arguments on their side so the law that "there are two sides to every story" never comes into play.

2. The Israelis are famously brilliant at marketing their case. They also learned in 1957 during the Suez invasion that all (or at least most) roads to getting anything done in this world go through Washington. They worked diligently and immensely effectively in building their power base in the US to the point that the Israeli lobby is now the most powerful foreign policy lobby and shaking the taxpayers money tree organization in the US today. So powerful are they that behind closed doors the CIA, State Dept all know that in most cases US foreign policy roads all now lead through Israel. Certain Israeli politicians like Benjamin Netanyahu even smugly boast of this fact. Meanwhile all US politicians who have won an election, or indeed lost one know that you do not mess with the Israeli situation and ALWAYS say nice things about Israel or you will not get elected. In the recent election both Obama and McCain spoke at Israeli interest groups, and these were the ONLY times they addressed an interest group concerned with a nation other than the USA. That alone has to tell you something.

3. The military industrial complex (as noted by President Eisenhower) is in the business of making war and weapons and it's a mega business. Israel is a major player in buying arms and since the Israeli lobby has made it easy for Israel to get US taxpayer money to buy them Israel is a great client for this mega business. Like most things in this world "follow the money" and you will get why things happen most of the time. The fall of the Berlin wall and dissolution of the USSR was a major shock to the defense industries but then came its inadvertent savior Ben Laden. The stunning fact is that even though Ben Laden presented an extremely low tech enemy where machine guns and donkeys were the basic arsenal our defense establishment still managed to convince us that we needed super duper multi-billion dollar airplanes, ships, and submarines to fight an adversary that didn't even have an air force, navy or even country. Quite a feat if you think about it. Again, lots of jobs to be had building these albatrosses.

4. Israelis recognize that they are in a quandary. They need peace on one hand but on the other the fact that they are in a region hostile to them and indeed in a region that the US now considers hostile to it (partly due to Israel needless to say) encourages the receipt of aid from the worldwide Jewish community worried about their survival and from Western governments most notably the USA. If there was peace their argument that they need all these donations and foreign aid would soon dry up. The squeaky wheel gets the grease don't ya know. Without this foreign aid they would need to have real economic relations with their neighbors to make a go of it and this becomes less and less realistic as the years go on due to the actions they have taken in places like Gaza, their treatment of Palestinians, their occupation of land etc. Even if Israel played nice all of a sudden such wounds would take decades to heal. Peace with Egypt has not lead to great economic benefits for Israel vis a vis Egypt.

5. The predicament Israel finds itself in leads to encourage adventurism that perpetuates hostilities that will suck the US into as well. Many in our State Dept and CIA behind closed doors openly state that Iraq had a lot to do with Israeli policy which had getting rid of Sadam Hussein as a major priority. By the way it was a top priority of Iranian foreign policy also. Recently as last year Israel even tried to get the US to give it super bunker buster bombs so they could bomb Iranian nuclear sites to rid the world of this threat that they have helped encourage us to believe is a big deal. It's not needless to say. The ONLY reason George Bush said no was that even he understood that with so many thousands of US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan such a move would completely undermine the Iraqi and Afghani governments and put our troops at huge risk.

6. On the direct issue of Hamas we should remember that after all the posturing of our government that there should be democratic elections in Palestine, when Hamas won we decided what in fact we wanted was not free and fair elections but was elections that delivered the winner we wanted. Both the US and Israel refused to accept the will of the Palestinian people and the democracy that we had pushed for. Gaza was then subjugated to blockade and harassment that resulted in close to 50% of the population unemployed. The old adage that "idle hands do the devils work" came to become a reality. What a surprise! The Hamas leadership did not help either and made it easy for this response with completely unhelpful anti-Israeli statements issued on a regular basis.

7. The power of the Israeli lobby, the marshmallow US media and the insane Christian right that is waiting for the "Rapture" has made the US politically incapable of encouraging Israel to do the right thing and Israel itself has found its moderates nuked by stupid Arab actions that undermine common sense. Any read of the Israeli press will quickly show one there indeed is plenty of common sense in Israel but it has lost its voice amid the turmoil, idiotic actions and complete public relations ineptitude of the Palestinian side.

In the end it is the Palestinian general public that is screwed again, along with the smart thinking Israeli majority, and US interests in the region. But then again its good for the defense establishment. Yes more tanks and bombs might play a role in getting the economy going again. Let's remember that what REALLY made the "New Deal" work was World War II.

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Updated Jan 2, 2019 12:29 PM EST | More details


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