Stupidity in politics is no mystery. Stupidity, no matter how appalling or alarming, is always rooted in crude self-interest. The political elite's idea of self-interest may be flat wrong or even crazy, judged from outside, but their activities remain radiantly rational as far as the stubborn perpetrators are concerned.
In international politics the whole point evidently of accruing power and wealth, and gaining a decisive edge over others, is so that one can ignore the weak, skip the details, and grab whatever is in reach. Power is the right to act as rashly as one likes, at least until someone finally stops it. This is the mentality of the ungoverned children's' playground, enshrined as a foreign policy principle.
The often misunderstood doctrine of realpolitik actually urges fretful policy makers to relate their scarce means carefully to the ends they pursue, to act cautiously, and to imagine oneself in the opponent's place so as to avoid costly misperceptions and the triggering of unnecessary gory conflicts. Prudent diplomacy operates on that reasonable cold-blooded basis, but power imbalances and ideological fanaticism shove aside even this stunted form of wisdom.
In practice, realpolitik, as Thucydides had once observed, is doing what you will to those who suffer what they must, which, as his account of the Peloponnesian War shows, is a frightfully stupid thing to do. Ultimately, the smug bully, believing its own self-righteous propaganda, over-reaches, generates its own nemesis, and ends badly. Elites gamble that the reckoning will come after they shuffle off.
The real danger to Israel has never been its own disappearance, for the nation is far too powerful for that scare-mongering scenario, but rather the banishment of the Zionist dream of a purely Jewish homeland. Security lays only in a dominant Jewish state, according to hard-nosed Israeli leaders since Ben-Gurion, when the energy expended to attain this condition internally and in the region generates nothing but more threats, more dangers, more insecurity.
This behaviour might seem a bit foolish except that there are plenty of groups inside and outside Israel who profit from the inevitable 'blowback”: the military establishment, arms manufacturers, the private security industry, banks, land developers, multinationals trawling for natural resources in the occupied territories, and right-wing parties that require mirror-image enemies to justify their own brutal stances.
Israel still can count on a US mass media, owned by weapons manufacturers like General Electric (NBC), to spout anti-Palestinian propaganda so as to justify the ultimate aim, which is expulsion of the Gaza and West Bank Arabs. Having nowhere to go is no excuse for not leaving.
The Israeli Right has been indulged by Western powers for so long that any check or balance on sanity has seemingly evaporated. If we really were enemies of Israel we would exhort Netanyahu and his successors to do exactly what they are doing--pulverise Gaza every two years, keep illegally settling the West Bank, deepen Israel's status as an apartheid state, funnel resources into militarisation, and ignore world opinion.
Mass murder on Gaza's scale still tends to raise questions even among the hitherto gullible. Viewers cannot be blamed for surmising that “cease-fire” is the Hebrew word for “reload.” They could not do more to alienate the rest of the planet.
Indeed, a modern mystery (if you ignore media ownership) is why neo-conservative pundits and market economists are not treated at the disgraceful laughingstocks they are, considering that the neo-cons plunged America into several horrific counter-productive wars and mainstream economists provided cover for the derivatives-enabled financial rape of the American people.
American neo-conservatives clearly won't feel fulfilled until the United States morphs into a magnification of Israel, and it is well along the path: a hollowed-out democracy ruled by entrenched elites, mindless militarisation, overrun with religious phonies, erosion of civil liberties, a steady outpour of governmental mendacity, rampant racism, corruption, cruelty to the weak, a philosophy of all spoils to the strong, surrounded by enemies of their own making, and surveillance and punishment of anyone who dares notice any of the foregoing trends.
Contrary to the Exodus fairy tale, Zionists violently uprooted 800 thousand Palestinians, emptied over 500 Arab villages and eleven urban areas in six months prior to the departure of the British troops and establishment of Israel in May 1948. Intimidation, ethnic cleansing and murder created an 80 per cent majority Israeli state.
The Israelis, better armed, enjoyed a 2-1 numerical advantage against the Arab states, having bought off the formidable forces of Jordan earlier with promises of ceding West Bank land. Jews owned just 6 per cent of the land before their settler-colonialist project kicked into high gory gear. The “memoricide”, as Israeli historian Ilan Pappe calls it, the erasing of the memory of the ugly foundations of Israel through manufacturing myths succeeded beautifully until the recent burst of debunking scholarship, mostly, to their credit, by dissident Israeli scholars. The “right to defend oneself” is not granted to forcibly displaced Arabs who are blockaded illegally in Gaza.
All this is expertly eluded by major US media whose commentators are paid not to fathom why those ragged Arabs insist on encroaching on Israeli territory, and fire rockets back at them. Most Americans didn't even know about the blockade before the attacks on Gaza and now that issue is opened up too.
Meanwhile, the fabled Iron Dome system in Israel sends $40,000 worth of rockets up to intercept $800 homemade rockets, which miss far more often than they hit. The Israelis' punishment ratio isn't so different than German troops versus the Resistance in Europe when their troops were targeted.
Twenty French villagers shot for one Wehrmacht soldier? Twenty Gazans killed for one Israeli ? Are we saying Israelis are Nazis? Absolutely not, but many other concerned people, including many brave Israeli dissidents, increasingly wonder if the old jackboot fits. The Israelis need all the outside pressure we can muster to help them stop doing this again.
— KURT JACOBSEN and SAYEED HASAN KHAN
The writers are freelance journalists and researchers.