12 August 2006

Missiles do Israel no favours

By Liam Carroll

Peace activists in East Anglia have reacted to the transfer of missiles from the United States to Israel by staging protests at the US special Operations base at Mildenhall. They are peace activists in the true sense of the word. This is not an anti-Israeli action, this is an action that asks the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom to bring peace, not war, to Israel. For all the anger directed at the Israeli barrage of southern Lebanon we must not forget where the weapons and much of the funding for the Israeli military fortress have come from. The transfer of arms to Israel is not simply assistance for a beleaguered country, it is a ringing endorsement for a military solution to the problem of Israeli integration with the wider Arab world. While the people of Israel remain relatively isolated in the world, it is no surprise that they look to the United States for guidance and support. The response of the United States has been to arm Israel with the latest high tech weaponry that is superior to that of even most European forces. We do the Israeli people no favours in helping to ship in these arms, whether through the Scottish airfields of Prestwick or the US military bases of East Anglia.

The United States does not stand embedded in the Arab world in the same way that Israel does; surrounded by people who sympathise with the grim plight of the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. On a day to day basis the American government is removed from the violence that permeates the Middle East, and does not directly suffer under the continual threat of attack. It is thus far easier for Washington to support military solutions to political problems when the consequences of these policies are more likely to be felt by others. After 58 years of existence as an internationally recognised state, and an even longer history as a people fighting to create their own country in other people’s land, the Israelis must still surely feel insecure and defensive. The military fortification of Israel and the building of security walls has not changed this, as the steady in-flow of rockets demonstrate. US policy has not brought security to Israel, and indeed the levels of antagonism toward the country have grown, with Hamas and Hizbollah growing in popularity in their respective regions for adopting a less conciliatory role to Israeli policy than their forbears.

All this begs the question of what the overriding US policy in the Middle East is. We know it isn't simply to bring democracy to the Arab states, as the key US allies in the region, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Jordan and Egypt remain fairly immune from Washington’s democratising zeal. We know it isn't disarmament of any sort, as the flow of arms and missiles continues unabated to the region, and Israel's nuclear weapons have fallen of the Security Council agenda (Resolution 687 called for "a zone free from weapons of mass destruction" in the Middle East in 1991). Somewhere in the background lies the pervasive influence of oil. If there is an overriding long term fear amongst Washington's policy planners it has to be the fear of being shut off from the world's major oil reserves. Oil is such an important strategic resource in both commerce and war that no long-term polcy for the global superpower can fail to take account of this vital resource. The lesson of the US attitude toward Iraq and Iran is that the United States fears, surely beyond that of terrorism, the emergence of a strong anti-american state at the heart of the world's largest oil reserves. The ability of any state to threaten western economies by restricting the flow of oil would surely act as a considerable restraint on Washington's ability to fulfil certain policy objectives.

Israel remains the only reliable ally to the United States in the region. Since proving their military determination in a number of inter-state wars since 1948, Israel has gained the admiration of US military planners. This admiration has extended to a lasting military alliance with Washington that has developed Israel into a well-armed fortress. Israel has been encouraged at every step to develop it's military might at the expense of pursuing political and diplomatic solutions to integration. In supporting this we do Israel no favours. This war in the Lebanon will no more bring them security than the previous wars have, let alone what it brings to the Lebanese people. It is not to the Israelis though that we should look for an answer, true leadership in the pursuit of peace surely lies with those who have the ability to remove the option of violence.