Barack Obama is not an anti-Zionist, or opponent of Israel. Under Obama, Israel has been able to depend on the continued support of the United States. Israeli officials openly describe this support as vital to Israel’s existence. Each day approximately $18 million in official US aid is delivered to Israel. In addition, billions of dollars worth of weapons and military equipment are also provided annually. Obama has not in any way scaled back support for what US officials have called an “unsinkable battleship”, extending US and western power in the Middle East.
Obama may have deeper experience with and knowledge of Islam than other US leaders, and the early years of his political career involved politics much further to the left than those he currently espouses, but this is irrelevant. Obama has overseen continued US complicity in Israeli atrocities and human rights violations. Despite occasional words of consolation, Obama has been completely loyal to the US tradition of support for Israel and its crimes. This tradition began with Harry S. Truman, who once thundered “I am Cyrus!” at a Zionist gathering in New York City, and it continues with Obama, who has received standing ovations from the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee.
In US politics, the first years of Obama’s presidency were unique, not due to any policy or statement of Obama, but the historical importance of Obama’s taking office. Obama is a dark skinned man of African descent, and he is the first non-white man to ever assume the office of President of the United States.
The reasons for the extreme euphoria resulting from his 2008 electoral victory are rooted in the history of the United States. The United States very existence as a country is the result of white settler colonialism. Black Americans came to the United States in chains from Africa, with millions not surviving the initial journey. Slavery continued until the bloody civil war, which was followed by decades of racist apartheid conditions. African-Americans continue to struggle against discrimination, police brutality, and higher rates of unemployment, imprisonment, and poverty. The recognition of even the basic humanity of African-Americans has been the result of centuries of struggle and confrontation.
Obama’s assumption of the presidency was the cause for so much celebration across the United States because of its symbolism. An event that could not have taken place in the 1950s, or even in the 1990s, had come about. A Black man assumed the office of commander-in-chief, despite the extreme amount of ugly racism in both the present and past of the country. The event was seen as the culmination of decades of struggle against racism, and different sectors of US society reacted to it on that basis.
Israel’s Changing Image
In its early years, the Zionist political movement attempted to portray itself as a progressive struggle for national liberation. The Israeli “Labour” party painted deceptive images of Israel as a kind of socialist garden of Eden. Repeating this falsehood, the majority of the world communist movement and many otherwise progressive and anti-imperialist groupings wrongfully supported Israel, in its early years. In 1948, the opposition to Israel in the United States was dominated by the isolationist right-wing.
However, over the course of the last several decades, Israel’s “socialistic” and “humanitarian” imagery has been torn down by reality. The Jewish settlers who piled into Palestine under the Balfour Declaration, directed by wealthy British bankers, were not socialist utopians but racist white settlers, not much different from those in other parts of the world. They slaughtered and oppressed the Palestinian people with the same Euro-centrist hatred, and expressed the same mentality as that expressed in Rudyard Kippling’s poetry about the “white man’s burden.”
Since 1948, Israel has been torturing, slaughtering, and shocking humanity with its brutality. Palestinians live in horrendous conditions, many homeless and imprisoned within their own homeland. They have been slaughtered on many occasions. Israel’s aggression has not been limited to the Palestinians, but has extended to many other parts of the region.
The current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu represents the right wing current which has assumed dominance in Israeli politics. The rise of Netanyahu’s Likud party is linked to the reality of Israel becoming more apparent. As the reality of Israel as a white colonial apartheid settler regime becomes inescapable, the “Labour Zionist” current, with its socialistic rhetoric has been pushed aside.
Netanyahu’s base of support is the extremist right wing of the Zionist movement, that includes those who establish settlements beyond the 1967 borders. The settlers are known to watch air strike bombings in lawn chairs, like they are a form of entertainment. They are also known to persecute local Palestinians as a form of sadistic entertainment.
Recently, there was a great deal of outcry when photographs surfaced on social media of Israeli high school students staging a mock lynching. Dressed in full Ku Klux Klan attire around a student dressed in “black face” make-up, these high school students appeared to be almost celebrating one of the ugliest atrocities of racism in the southern United States, in which Black men were extra-judicially executed in a carnival like atmosphere.
The Extremist Right-Wing Minority
Since Obama’s election, there has been a section of US society that has refused to recognize his presidency as legitimate. They have frivolously tried to claim Obama has no legitimate birth certificate, and was actually born in Kenya. They attempted to link Obama to the Communist Party USA, or to armed anti-capitalist groups which operated during the 1970s. They have tried to claim he is secretly not a Christian, but a Muslim.
While a certain level of extreme hostility is expected from the political opponents of any president, the extreme rage of the almost entirely white “Tea Party” movement in the first years of Obama’s presidency was unique. In one instance an elderly white Tea Party activist at a town hall screamed “What’s happened to my America!” in front of TV cameras.
A certain sector of US society has seen Obama’s presidency as a defeat for the white establishment of the United States. They see it as a defeat for the racist historical set up of the United States, and a victory for the anti-racist movement. Regardless of Obama’s actions and policies, this sector continues to insist that he is dismantling the “American Way of Life.”
These extreme forces are a minority of US society. Even much of the Republican Party has distanced itself from them. They are the extreme right-wing fringe of US politics, which is currently facing an identity and political crisis. Different currents including conspiracist libertarians, anti-immigrant bigots, Christian fanatics, isolationists, and “Anarcho-Capitalists” seek to point the US right-wing in different directions. A generational crisis has plagued the US far right, and a slew of different narratives explaining their grievances compete for believers. The recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which selected Rand Paul as its favorite candidate, was a display of the crisis facing the extreme right-wing in the United States. Many conservatives are longing for the Bush years, when the simplistic politics of “Support Our Troops and Their Commander-In-Chief” and “United We Stand” were in command.
Netanyahu’s invitation to speak at a joint session of the US congress is an extreme blunder for Israel in terms of public relations. The speech, and the controversy it has aroused has effectively linked Israel to the weak and confused extreme right-wing in the United States. Polls show that a majority of US voters do not approve of Congressman Boehner’s invitation of Netanyahu against the wishes of the President.
The Republican Party’s celebration of Netanyahu, and Netanyahu’s acceptance of this celebration, further reveals what Israel has often tried to conceal.
The Israeli settlers who cheered as bombs were dropped on Palestinian families, and the right-wing fanatics who believe Obama is secretly a Muslim Communist born in Kenya, are political clones. They are defenders of empire and the legacy of colonialism. They are white supremacists, who view dark skinned people as inferior. They are growing enraged as this worldview has become more and more thoroughly repudiated and threatened over the course of the last century.
Though the Soviet Union is gone, and countries struggling for national liberation can no longer depend on its support, the anti-racist and anti-imperialist sentiments it boosted have not declined. The rise of Bolivarianism in Latin America, the rise of Russia and China on the global markets, all point toward the decline of the global imperialist set up, where bankers in Wall Street and London have complete hegemony.
An Opening for Resistance
The height of Israel’s strength was when it could deceive the world about its nature. When Israel could align itself with figures like leftist Vice President Henry Wallace, and promote itself with films like “Exodus”, it was able to gather far more approval for its actions. The myth of Israel as a socialistic incarnation of the national aspirations of Jews was very effective in furthering Israel’s aims, and gaining approval and funding for its crimes.
However, this image has fallen into almost complete disrepair. The decline of Israel’s public relations has been a lengthy process. The Soviet Union and China’s support for Palestinian resistance, the revelations of Israeli cooperation with apartheid in South Africa, the Goldstone Report documenting war crimes and abuses, have all played a role in redefining Israel’s image and narrative in global discourse.
Netanyahu’s alliance with the Tea Party’s Anti-Obama fanaticism, and his participation with them in a joint political assault on the sitting president, pushes Israel further down the fatal road it cannot escape. With the entire global set-up increasingly on the defensive, the future of a white settler regime is obviously in great danger.
Netanyahu’s blunder creates an opening for forces opposed to Israel and its crimes. It creates potential allies in all who find the Tea Party extremist right-wing in the United States, to be disturbing. It opens millions of those who know nothing of middle eastern politics, but are opposed to racism within the United States, to suddenly view forces of resistance in Palestine as potential allies. The Ferguson uprising and the many Black Lives Matter protests show the widespread anger within the United States against racism and the rising police state.
As Israel’s public image declines, it will be the duty of Palestine’s allies to make the important connections to anti-imperialist struggles around the world. The predictions from the CIA about the pending collapse of Israel were not made frivolously, and the following decade could be one of vital importance for the global movement of resistance, specifically its forces in the middle east.
Caleb Maupin is a political analyst and activist based in New York. He studied political science at Baldwin-Wallace College and was inspired and involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.