Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Middle East geopolitics 101

For the past week or so, I’ve been following Israel’s military incursion into Lebanon closely. Never a fan of the MSM, with their need to slant news and information towards their corporate viewpoint, regardless of the story, I still have been surprised at how pro-Israeli the coverage has been.

Like most Americans, even those who purport to be geopolitically astute, my understanding of Middle Eastern politics could be called perfunctory at best. Yet, understanding the roots of this escalating conflict isn’t as difficult to acquire as I am led to believe by the mantra, “the roots of this conflict are rooted in ancient times,” or some variation on the theme that “this issue is a complicated one, so just sit back and let us experts explain it to you.”

Actually, if you rely on the so-called experts, you’ll be woefully misinformed, at best and duped at worst.

As I mentioned, I’m no scholar of Palestinian history, but even in my previous state of ignorant bliss, I knew that AIPAC (pro-Israeli lobby) wielded a great deal of influence in Washington, as well as with media outlets. Coupled with a fear of being labeled anti-Semitic, the MSM tiptoes around issues regarding Israel, predominantly taking the position that whatever the IDF does is justified, as poor little Israel, swimming in a sea of Islamic terrorists and jihadists, are only protecting themselves and saving themselves from being pushed into the sea. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that much of the coverage in the American press could be classified as racist!

As with any subject that you are attempting to understand, it’s always helpful to put it into some historical context. The most recent invasion byIsrael didn’t begin two weeks ago, with the capture of two IDF soldiers by Hezbollah, despite the MSM’s historical amnesia. This goes back to 1982 and much further, if you take the time to do some research on Jewish settlement in the region.

Despite the evidence that exists for a Palestinian state (two-state solution), the need to spin things favorably for Israel continues unabated. I would challenge anyone to try to find any recent article in a mainstream publication that doesn’t frame Israel’s blatant and brazen attack on Lebanon as one of self-defense and security. You may run across the odd story here and there that attempts to show the Palestinian position, but it will be rare and require some serious sleuthing.

Since the Middle East is a region that will occupy our military’s attention (as well as a significant amount of tax dollars for the remainder of all our lifetimes), it would seem prudent to begin to expand one's knowledge-base of that region.

All of what’s happening between Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Iran have clear implications for our own military and the ever-widening scope of the “war on terror,” as our linguistically-challenged president is fond of uttering.

The late Edward Said (interestingly, you'll find attempts by pro-Israeli "scholars" to discredit his work) is someone worth reading for the Palestinian side of the equation and a good starting point. Also, I find Counterpunch to be a provocative, progressive read. Interestingly, as you begin to see things in a new light, don’t be surprised if someone accuses you of being anti-Israel, or worse, anti-Semitic. In much the same way that right-wingers attempt to end debate on matters germane to American politics with the “anti-patriotic” lob, so will those who wish to deny the indigenous Palestinian people their right to co-exist in their homeland.


weasel said...

I heartily recommend Robert Fisk's "Pity The Nation" for anyone trying to get a handle on the Lebanese/Palestinian/Israeli trifecta, and "Empires of the Sand" by Efraim and Inari Karsh for a detailed yet succinct overview of the collapse of the Ottoman empire and the formation of the modern Middle Eastern cauldron.

If I was being vain I'd offer up my bachelor's dissertation of "Anglo-American Relations and their Impact on the Establishment of the state of Israel, 1944-48", but a) It is awfully dry reading and b) I think the only two copies I have are in my father's attic in England...

Jim said...


Thanks for the recommendations.

While the dumbed down nature of Americans is not a new curiosity, I've been struck of late at just how woefully ignorant our nation is about anything beyond our borders.

The incessant drumbeat of racist vulgarities passing for news regarding Israel and its recent forays and attacks on Lebanon has really become an issue for me.

I just picked up Said's book, "Peace and Its Discontents" and I noticed that Hitchens has the foreward, adding his inimitable introduction to the work.

Your use of "cauldron" is an apt term for the Middle East. Unfortunately, its not a region that lends itself well to the current black and white worldview of our groper in chief and his lackeys..