Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Joshua Frank Interviewed About the U.S., Israel,
and Middle East
By Kourosh Ziabari
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, July 12, 2010
I've conducted an interview with the noted progressive writer and
journalist Joshua Frank to discuss the latest developments in the Middle
East, the prospect of Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the future of
Israel with its growing international isolation, the role of United States
in the settlement of disputes between Israel and Palestine, the illegal
nuclear activities of Israel in violation of the UNSC resolution 487 and
the future of controversy over Iran's nuclear program.
Joshua Frank is an American progressive journalist and noted
anti-war columnist. His articles and commentaries have appeared on
CounterPunch, Z Magazine, AntiWar.com, Truthout and Alternet. He is author
of "Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush" and co-editor
with Jeffrey St. Clair of Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance
in the Heartland.
Joshua took part in an interview with me to
discuss the latest developments in the Middle East region, the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the prospect of Israel-U.S. relations, the
recent controversy over the Freedom Flotilla attack and the media
propaganda against Iran. Here is the complete text of our interview.
Kourosh Ziabari: What's the main reason behind the United States'
unconditional support for the state of Israel? In his early days of
assuming office, President Obama failed to address the international
community's concern regarding the Operation Cast Lead in which the Israeli
forces killed more than 1,300 Palestinian citizens. Moreover, it seems
that the United States has retreated from its stance regarding the ongoing
Israeli settlements on the Palestinian lands. Why is the relationship
between the United States and Israel so profound that makes Israel immune
to international law? Why is the United States always "committed" to the
security of Israel?
Joshua Frank: I believe that the U.S.'s
seemingly unconditional support of Israel is a complicated, multifaceted
issue. First and foremost, Israel is a strategic ally for the U.S.
interests in the region. As you know, there aren't many countries in the
Middle East that support the United States' military operations in Iraq
and Afghanistan, nor do many countries see much of the benefit of the U.S.
companies’ profiting from their imperial resource extraction ventures. So
Israel plays a powerful role in supporting the U.S. in these endeavors, if
not directly, then at least politically and tactically. Military-wise,
Israel is the most powerful country in the area, with a large nuclear
cache and airports the serve the U.S. military uses often for its
endeavors. After the Camp David Accords the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
actually helped construct Israeli Air Bases in the Negev Desert.
Likewise, Israel needs the U.S. to support its illegal occupation of
Palestinian territories. Without U.S. backing, the Israel government could
not afford its ongoing military forays. Indeed, the U.S. also plays a
substantial role in deflecting criticism of Israel's ongoing human rights
violations, whether by flexing muscle on the UN Security Council or in the
court of public opinion. Israel can most often rely on the U.S. to support
its actions, illegal or otherwise, be they the invasion on Lebanon or the
recent Flotilla attack. A lot of critics of Israel point their finger
solely at the pro-Israeli lobby in the U.S. as the primary reason behind
the U.S. close relationship to Israel. While the lobby is certainly
strong, the U.S. Empire is stronger, and in fact I would argue, actually
uses the Israel lobby to its benefit. It's a symbiotic relationship, and
not entirely one-sided as many Zionist-conspiracy theorists seem to argue.
KZ: Israel possesses up to 200 nuclear warheads and this figure is
confirmed by a number of international organizations, including the
Federation of American Scientists; however, it's Iran which is being
pressured over its nuclear program. How do the United States and its
European allies justify their double standards regarding Iran's nuclear
program? There's no proof that Iran has moved towards building nuclear
weapons, but everybody knows that the Israeli nuclear technician Mordecai
Vanunu has released the evidences which indicate that Israel has
accumulated a number of nuclear bombs in its arsenal. What's your idea?
JF: I think you sort of answered your own question. The U.S. doesn't
have to justify their double standards to anyone, especially not the
international community. It's also about how the western world views
itself, that our actions are always genuine and justified. Through this
distorted lens Israel can view itself as the victim and not the
perpetrator. So whereas Iran's alleged nuclear program, real or mythical,
is seen as a threat, Israel's existing arsenal that could detonate the
entire Middle East is for peace of mind, because you just never know when
those darn Arabs will attack for no reason at all!
It may sound
ridiculous, sure, but there are many people who follow this line of
thinking. Of course, they can blame it on militant strains of Islam, which
certainly has its problems, but by and large the outrage directed toward
Israel is cross-sectional because so many of the country's policies are
overtly arrogant. Of course, even within the country you have plenty of
lively dissent, much of which does not get its due attention in the
mainstream press. Vanunu is one historical figure example of this
movement, a movement that is growing by the day.
KZ: Iran is under
the spates of black propaganda by the western mainstream media. The
western media depict Iranian nation as a backward, uncivilized and
extremist people. How is it possible to acquaint the western public with
the unseen and concealed realities of Iran?
JF: I think the new
media is already breaking through this propaganda very effectively. I also
believe there are plenty of people in western countries that know
governments don't always represent the interests of the masses. The
Iranian government is reckless to be sure, but that doesn't mean all
Iranians agree with every single policy; same story for voting Jews that
live in Israel. It is naiive to think all Jews support the occupation of
Palestine. Many do of course, but there are many that also believe it is
illegal, unjust and counterproductive to achieving peace in the region.
The bigger issue is that Westerners are consistently inundated with
misinformation. The U.S. government for example, has to continually sedate
its citizens into compliance. It's brilliantly executed time and again and
it's the reason why the antiwar movement, for instance, is virtually
non-existent in this country at the moment. Even those that oppose the
escalation of war in Afghanistan are by and large silent. That wasn't the
case during the Bush era, where a surge in troop levels combined failure
of an exit strategy would have forced tens of thousands into the streets.
But since liberals and progressives now have their liberal Obama, mums the
word. They've been scared into complacency by the propaganda of "change"
and “hope”. They are literally afraid to resist the man they worked to
hard to elect. It's a special kind of trepidation. Meanwhile, the PATRIOT
Act gets reaffirmed, billions more is passed for war funding and U.S.
soldiers continue to die in two endless, directionless wars.
It seems that whoever wants to rise to prominence as a potential choice
for presidency in the United States should avow his commitment to the
security and stability of Israel, even at the cost of killing thousands of
people or destructing the other countries. As you quoted him in one of
your articles, Barack Obama had told a crowd of pro-Israeli Americans that
he would never put the military option off the table concerning Iran's
nuclear program. My question is that, is the Israeli lobby so powerful and
influential in the United States that even determines the destiny of White
JF: It's bigger than that, I think. Like I said, it’s not
the lobby that determines the destiny of the White House, it is the Empire
apparatus that does. For example, Obama, had he challenged U.S.
imperialism during his campaign and tenure in the Senate, would never have
been supported by the arms industry, the oil companies and the like. The
Israel lobby is just one of these major forces and shouldn't be viewed in
isolation. The energy cartels, I think, have just as much or even more
sway over the administration, as the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico so
boldly symbolizes. Same goes for the corporate GM food giants, the
pharmaceutical industry, military contractors among others. Ultimately it
is about corporate and military domination of public policy and the
pro-Israel lobby is one of the big players, but not the only one that
holds the US government and the U.S. people hostage.
analysts believe that Israel has paved the ground for its growing
isolation by unjustifiably attacking the Freedom Flotilla. As an instance,
the government of Nicaragua decided to sever its diplomatic ties with
Israel. What's your estimation? Will the state of Israel succeed in
getting through with this pivotal juncture safely?
JF: The Freedom
Flotilla was a horrific, bloody episode that will surely be notched up as
another military defeat for Israel. Anytime this sort of thing happens,
Israel has to work overtime to save face. Previously, and to a greater
extent, I think the attack on Lebanon for dubious reasons was also a
blemish for Israel power. They ended up having to halt their excursions
and bombings because the international community by-and-large believed
their actions were not justified.
I think, as Alexander Cockburn
and others have pointed out, that this is an example of Israel's power
rapidly dwindling. The fact that Israel felt threatened by a Freedom
Flotilla should be enough for anyone to realize that their use of force
was not only illegal under international law, but unethical and a sign
that they are losing the fight they started. Such bullying acts won't win
Israel many new supporters; it will only harden its militarist admirers.
KZ: Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren has called
the IDF incursion into the Freedom Flotilla a human and responsible
action. He likened the massacre of civilians onboard the Freedom Flotilla
to the America's fight against the Nazi Germany in the Second World War.
What do you think about what he has said?
JF: Honestly I don't
think much about it. Military talking heads like Oren are pure vessels of
propaganda. They will do whatever they can, soul already sold, to defend
Israeli military actions. Internationally such rhetoric is taken at face
value: never believe half of what Israel taking heads say -- or any other
political leaders for that matter -- who spout in defense of such brutal
actions. If anything, Oren is quite adept at employing the very Nazi
propaganda he so despises.
KZ: It's widely believed that the
political regime of Israel will immediately collapse should the White
House lift its support to Tel Aviv. Is it possible for Israel to survive
without the U.S. backing? Will the influence of Israeli lobby over the
corporate government of the United States allow any independent president
to rise to power and oppose to Israel ideologically?
would certainly survive without U.S. backing, but in a much more modest
capacity. As a supporter of a one state solution, I don't believe any
peace between Palestine and Israel will occur until the U.S. takes a more
brokered approach. If Israel makes concessions and the U.S. backs off its
monetary support, the international community will ensure that a new
Israel, one that is truly democratic and less economically stratified,
will survive in its place. I think that the American people would support
a candidate that spoke truth to power with regard to Israel. They really
haven't had a chance to do it. Would the lobby accept this? Not likely,
but nor would any of the other corporate and military powers that
capitalize on American intentions in the Middle East.
KZ: What do
you think about the U.S. and UK mainstream media which are said to be
controlled by the Zionist owners and media moguls such as Rupert Murdoch?
How do these media outlets shape reach-out to their international
audiences and shape their opinions?
JF: Biased news and commentary
is just that, biased, and plenty of outlets spew gross lies and
propaganda. However, the new media is breaking ground every day. Here in
the U.S. Glenn Greenwald's analysis has become widely read, mainly because
it's free and uncensored on the web. As a result of his popularity, he is
consistently being interviewed in the mainstream press and on popular
cable news programs. This is just one example of alternative views making
their way to the public. The freer the media, the more informed the public
and the less censorship that ultimately occurs. So I'm hopeful that the
Murdochs of the world will continually be challenged by this new reality.
KZ: What's your prediction for the destiny of Israel in the
Middle East? With a U.S. government which offers its unconditional support
to Tel Aviv and the EU countries that follow the U.S. trajectory
passively, can Israel rescue itself from the growing isolation it's facing
JF: Israel will have to make large and
significant compromises if it is to survive as a Jewish state. The world
is watching their every move very closely. Despite the media blackout and
the power of pro-Israel forces, the plight of Palestinians is being
exposed daily, not only in other countries, but within Israel itself.
Israelis are not all in support of the occupation and do not by any means
believe it makes them any safer. On the contrary, it makes them less safe.
The bigger question is, can the U.S. survive in its current
state? Can the U.S. continue to exploit the resources and people of the
Middle East for its own profit and greed? Can it abuse and exploit its own
people for much longer? I don't believe so. Our economy is crumbing and
our military is overextended and local budgets continue to dip into the
red. We simply cannot continue to expand U.S. Empire. And when the U.S.
Empire falls, Israel's power and ego will be deflated as well. Again, it's
a symbiotic relationship and intimately intertwined.
Freelance journalist from Iran