Sunday, 20 July 2014

Ukraine, Gaza, Imperial Hypocrisy

Widely reported evidence suggests that pro-Russian rebels in Eastern Ukraine shot down Malaysian flight MH17 with a missile, resulting in the loss of nearly 300 lives. Even if that turns out to be true, nobody would claim that this was done on purpose. It was a stupid, incompetent by-product of a civil war. It was not a plan to kill tourists. This event results in western powers rounding on Russia, with resolutions tabled at the UN and all the major country media unified in condemnation.

Contrast this reaction with the past week's attack on Gaza by Israel's forces. Blasting children off the beach, widespread destruction of homes and hospitals, absurd orders from the Israeli military to 'evacuate' when there is nowhere to go - these events, resulting in the loss of far more than 300 lives, lead western governments to affirm Israel's right to 'defend itself'! No US, EU or UN sanctions counter Israel's genocide against the Palestinians, but nobody could claim that these murders are an accident.

The scales are set like this: one life lost that can be used in support of imperial policy weighs much more than hundreds whose recognition would be politically inconvenient.

Tony Norfield, 20 July 2014


  1. I agree with the general outrage here.

    Just one question, do you regard Israel as basically an imperialist base, i.e. if they impose sanctions on Israel they would be imposing sanctions on themselves?

  2. SteveH, thanks for your question. This is a big topic, but my (brief) answer is below:

    The role of Israel in relation to imperialism has changed over the years since the founding of the state with land expropriated from the Palestinians. That relationship has to be understood from two sides, not simply in terms of what the major powers want/need Israel to do, but also in terms of the actions of the illegitimate state itself. For example, the war between the British and the Zionists in the period leading up to 1948 indicates a more complex picture than the usual reference to Britain wanting a 'little, loyal Ulster' in the region would imply, since it ignores Britain's relationships with the Arab states that it had played a big role in forming.

    A consistent trend in Zionist politics has been to seek support from one of the great powers, even before the founding of the Israeli state. This marks out Israel as a product of imperialism, but it also means that Israel cannot deal with other states as a legitimate counterparty, only as a gangster looking for the next deal.

    In the early stages, Israel sought a relationship with the main regional powers, Britain and France. The result was the adventure against Egypt and the Suez crisis in 1956-57. That revealed to Israel the limitations of these powers, although France delivered the uranium necessary for Israel to develop its nuclear weapons, in exchange for giving France intelligence on US nuclear technology (Britain already had access to this).

    Israel later turned to the US as the only game in town. From the early 1960s, the US also took a more favourable view to having a relationship with Israel as a means of controlling Arab nationalism, especially given the weaker US links with other Arab states at that time. Israel's potential role for the US was confirmed by its performance in the 1967 war. The big US military loans and grants to Israel date from the early 1970s.

    Zionist ideology is a form of 19th century European racism, based on blood, soil and ethnicity, and its military actions are similarly akin to the colonial powers' bombing of villages to teach the natives a lesson. In the 21st century, these persistent features of Israeli policy are becoming a little embarrassing, even for the US. However, there are enough imperial problems with the unravelling of 20th century colonial borders in the Middle East, so the US (and the other powers) will not consider yet any significant change in stance, let alone imposing any sanctions against Israel.

  3. Thanks for the response.

    While the historical narrative you sketch out reveals levels of complexity I have to look at the aid given to Israel, its wildly disproportionate science and military spending etc and I have to come to the conclusion that Israel, whatever it was historically, has qualitatively been transformed into a huge, strategically important overseas US base. the mother of all US bases.