Alexander Cockburn | Pariah Nation

As the TV networks 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, in the lethal attacks by Israeli commandoes on the relief flotilla. The guiding rule 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 U.S. Sen. Jim Abourezk remarks, “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.”

Israel proclaims, “We reserve the right to attack and kill in international waters. We reserve the right to slaughter Palestinians whenever we want. We reserve the right to assassinate their leaders, crush their homes, steal their water, tear out their olive groves, and when they try to resist, we call them terrorists intent on wrecking the ‘peace process.’”

Back in 1982, Israel had a problem. Yasser Arafat, headquartered in Beirut, was making ready to announce that the PLO was prepared to sit down with Israel and embark on peaceful, good faith negotiations toward a two-state solution.

The years roll by and with each year, starting with the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, Israel does its successful best to destroy all possibility of a viable two-state solution. It builds illegal settlements. It chops up Palestine with Jews-only roads. It collars all the water. It cordons off Jerusalem. It steals even more land by bisecting Palestinian territory with its “fence.” Anyone trying to organize resistance gets jailed, tortured or blown up.

Sick of their terrible trials, Palestinians elect Hamas, whose leaders make it perfectly clear that they are ready to deal on the basis of the old two-state solution, which of course is the one thing Israel cannot endure. Israel doesn’t want any “peaceful solution” that gives the Palestinians anything more than a few trashed-out acres surrounded with barbed wire and tanks, between the Israeli settlements whose goons can murder them pretty much at will.

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. Polls show that many younger Jews in the United States feel diminishing sympathy for the Zionist national home.

At the start of this year, Gen. David Petraeus expressed the view that Israeli intransigence in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was endangering U.S. security interests in the region. A report initiated by Petraeus went to the Joint Chiefs saying that there was a growing perception among Arab leaders that the U.S. was incapable of standing up to Israel. Arabs have started to lose faith in the United States and its promises.

Not just Arabs. The Turkish government has been vivid in its anger at Israel and harshly critical of the Obama administration’s blocking of any formal motion of censure in the U.N.

A friend of mine gave a good parody of the servile posture of the U.S. 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 Haaretz, “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.”

Alexander Cockburn is co-editor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. He is also co-author of the new book “Dime’s Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils,” available through

Copyright 2010