Yalla Peace: Talking, but not walking

By using its veto at Friday’s Security Council vote on Israeli settlement activity, the United States has shown how weak it is.

UN Security Council 311 (photo credit: courtesy)
UN Security Council 311
(photo credit: courtesy)
No amount of words will change minds when it comes to the controversy surrounding Helen Thomas, the veteran journalist of Lebanese heritage who covered the White House from Dwight Eisenhower to Barack Obama.
Judgment depends on who you are. Israelis and Jews criticize her harshly, while Arabs and Palestinians defend her aggressively.
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But she did say something that rings true: When it comes to Israel, the pro- Israel movement “owns” Washington. I won’t use the term Zionism, a political movement that deserves no more protection or defense than any other movement, such as Democrats or Republicans. But the term “owns” is commonly used to describe, in political terms, who has greater influence in Congress.
Thomas might have been criticized by the Arabs because her comment was more of a slam against their ineffective politics in the US. Arabs have been in America since the middle of the 19th century and in truth, they have very little effective influence and may be more divided than any other ethnic group in the country.
STIIL, ONE has to wonder about American foreign policy. It has been longstanding US policy to oppose and condemn the building of settlements in the West Bank.
Some Israelis creatively dodge the term “occupied,” arguing that the West Bank was not “owned” by anyone before Israel conquered it during the Six Day War. There is that word “own” again.
So, some Israelis argue, thing like the Geneva Conventions don’t apply, although in reality they were drawn up to protect people and not the lands in question.
Yet, when the US was asked in the UN Security Council recently to condemn Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank as “illegal,” it couldn’t even stand up to its own policy on the issue. The Obama administration vetoed the resolution, even though it was supported by every other country on the Security Council, 14 states to be exact, some even friends of Israel.
The veto symbolizes how weak the American government is. It has a policy, but when push comes to shove, it cannot stand up and defend it. Former president Bill Clinton said after the vote that the settlements are “illegitimate.” The UN resolution said they were “illegal.”
What’s the difference except a lengthy and boring debate on semantics? American weakness on principle and the rule of law when it comes to the Palestinian- Israel conflict has been an often-debated topic. But it comes at an inconvenient time for the US.
America is viewed as the “leader of the free world.” That’s a big title which basically means it stands up for civil rights, and pushes for people governed in foreign countries to have those civil rights through democracy.
Yet if America can’t stand up for the civil rights of those Palestinians who live under Israeli occupation, how can America serve as a moral beacon for the hundreds of millions of civilians who are demanding their rights now in Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syrian, Iran, Bahrain, Libya and Yemen? American words ring hollow. And it’s become clear to many pro-democracy protesters as they die at the hands of repressive pro-Western dictators in Bahrain, Libya and elsewhere.
It shouldn’t be much of a surprise, though, that the US talks the talk but doesn’t really walk the walk when it comes to supporting democracy in other countries. China continues to brutalize its population but the US government has basically surrendered the issue of democracy building in favor of economic and political ties with the country’s dictators.
Someone could argue that the Chinese lobbyist movement “owns” Washington too. But I don’t think too many people would complain about that.
The writer is an award-winning columnist and Chicago radio talk show host. www.YallaPeace.com