The leering ugliness of the Israelis' Easter blitzkrieg is darkly illustrated by the news that, having marched into Ramallah, the IDF prepared a special Easter television broadcast for this historically Christian city: "Porn movies and programs in Hebrew are being broadcast by Israeli troops who have taken over three Palestinian television stations of Ramallah, irate residents of the besieged West Bank town have told AFP …. The soldiers started broadcasting the porn clips – considered extremely offensive by most Muslims – intermittently this afternoon from the Al-Watan, Ammwaj, and Al-Sharaq channels, the residents said. 'The pornographic movies started on Al-Watan television at around 3:30 pm,' one 34-year-old Palestinian mother named Reema told AFP. 'I have six children at home, they have nowhere to go with what is going on here and can't even watch TV,' she said angrily. 'It's not healthy really. I think the Israelis want to mess with our young men's heads,' she said." CHEAP THRILLS As the Middle East descends into the political equivalent of a sado-masochistic orgy, the porn trope forms the perfect note trumpeting Israel's triumph. The IDF offensive, the invasion of Arafat's compound, the vaunted flexing of Israel's military muscle – all have the earmarks of some perverted ritual of humiliation and violation. As the IDF's idea of Easter programming attests, the Israeli offensive projects the essential character of the degraded Israeli "democracy" – a lust for domination. After all, why does a robber, having already looted the till and gone halfway out the door, turn and shoot his victim? Because he can. For one moment, he is a god, his power to inflict death, at will, is orgasmic proof of his omnipotence. However, for a certain type of killer there is no such thing as a clean kill: he must torture his victim until the last moment, extracting every ounce of perverted pleasure out of the experience. This sadistic impulse is what drives the IDF and the Sharon government forward – and gives their American amen corner a really cheap thrill. SICKO BLOGGERS Glenn Reynolds, the " blogger "-in-chief of the War Party, responds with a "chortle" to the news of the Easter Sunday porn offensive, echoing Australian war-blogger-cum-journalist Tim Blair 's snicker. And one can only imagine what the sight of those butch young IDFers with their leather boots on Palestinian necks will do to inspire Andrew Sullivan 's much -advertised libido . Flex those "power glutes," Andy! PALESTINIAN KRISTALLNACHT The complete helplessness of the Palestinians before the Israeli onslaught was underscored by President Bush's endorsement of the rampaging IDF : "I can understand why the Israeli government takes the actions they take. Their country is under attack. Every day there has been a suicide bombing, and every day the government sees the loss of innocent life.""Israel is a democratically elected government, and the government is responding to the will of the people for there to be more security.' Israel will make the decisions necessary to defend herself.” Germany, too, was a democracy prior to World War II: Hitler was elected Chancellor, and was recognized as such by all the other powers. Did his "democratic" mandate ameliorate the crimes of Kristallnacht ? But in looking to the American President for a semi-coherent explication of US policy we are bound to come up empty-handed. Arafat could "do more" to rein in the suicide bombers, Dubya dumbly insisted, as the Israelis cut off the phones, the electricity, and the water in the PLO chieftain's compound. Duh-Duh-Dubya is clearly in over his empty head, and is reduced, in a moment that calls for leadership, to a ventriloquist's dummy, dutifully parroting the Israeli line. OFF THE TRACKS Meanwhile, as if to underscore this failure, the US delegate to the United Nations was voting for a resolution condemning the Israeli invasion and demanding the complete withdrawal of the IDF from Palestinian cities. This really brought home the sad truth of Zbigniew Brzezinski's incisive analysis on CNN the other day: "You have shown some very dramatic footage, some very dramatic sound bites as well. And they give you a sense of the immediacy of the tragedy that's unfolding. But I think it's important to step back and to remember that yesterday was a day of historic opportunity in the Middle East as well as a criminal calamity. "The historic opportunity is that, for the first time in 50 years, the Arab states have indicated they are prepared to live in peace with Israel. And they've indicated a more or less equitable framework, subject to negotiation, for such peace. The calamity, of course, is the criminal act of terrorism. I find it baffling that the United States is focusing almost entirely on the calamity. "… [T]he [Bush] administration can't ignore the fact that for the last 10 years, Mr. [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon has opposed the Oslo peace process, he has contributed to the political climate in Israel that subsequently led to the killing of [then] Prime Minister [Yitzhak] Rabin. He [Sharon] has been determined to dismantle the Palestinian Authority and he is using every act of terrorism as an excuse to try to destroy the Palestinian Authority. That is not the way toward peace. And the absence of any meaningful American strategy and a sense of direction is a part of this appalling reality that we are now watching." THE ISRAELIZATION OF US FOREIGN POLICY Lacking any coherence, American policy in the region is effectively placed in the service of Israel's present government. As American-bought tanks roll over the Palestinians, and Bush demands that Arafat – on the verge of being taken into custody or killed – "stop the violence," Sharon's strategic goal has been effectively accomplished. It is now the US and Israel versus the entire Arab-Muslim world. What began as a war against an extremist fringe sect of Islam has turned into a religious and civilizational conflict. The unprecedented Saudi peace plan was met with a volley of spittle in Crown Prince Abdullah's face, coming not just from Sharon but from Bush. If one of the chief aims of the Israeli lobby in the US has been to provoke a final split between Washington and Riyadh, then the Easter offensive certainly accomplished that. Our "war on terrorism" – marketed, at first, as a war on Osama bin Laden and the perpetrators of 9/11 – has now become a war on a billion-plus Arabs and Muslims worldwide. It is a war in which the US will have few dependable allies: perhaps only Israel can be counted on. And that's just the way the Israeli lobby likes it. A NATIONAL DISGRACE It's a disgrace, really, how American interests are being ignored and derailed in the Middle East, while our policy benefits only the interests of a belligerent little settler colony based on religious obscurantism and an outdated paranoia. The Saudi peace plan, as an excellent piece in Reason pointed out , offered the Israelis what they have always claimed to want – normal, peaceful relations in the region: "Thanks to the Saudis a political horizon now exists. What emerged from the Beirut conclave was an inventive offer that defied the tide of anger in the region aroused by the Intifada. Pointedly, it was directed at Israeli public opinion and came accompanied by a most amiable Saudi interpretation of the type of 'normal relations' the Arabs promised Israel." "The Arabs are bluntly offering Israel what it has always demanded," concludes Reason contributing editor Michael Young. "If Israel refuses, its quarrel may no longer be merely with its neighbors, but also with the US." I'm afraid Young is overestimating the Bush administration's willingness to face down Sharon and Likud's American amen corner. It was the libertarian journalist and polemicist Garet Garrett who, in 1952, presciently noted that "no Empire is secure in itself: it's security is in the hands of its allies." Now, it appears, our foreign policy and our security has been placed in the hands of one particular ally, which is intent on dragging us into their war. THE NEW 'ISOLATIONISM' In declaring Arafat "the enemy," Sharon announced that the purpose of surrounding and invading the PLO compound was to "isolate" him. With this act, the Israelis also succeeded in isolating the US. Brzezinski outlined the dangers well: "I worry about the American national interest. I can see two major jeopardies ahead if we don't step into the breach. If the tragedy between the Israelis and Palestinians degenerates into total violence, if Arafat is killed, we'll probably see major uncertainty, major instability in the Middle East. We'll become more isolated in the war against terrorism because the Arabs will then unite against us. And we could even get an oil embargo with the Saudis, the Iraqis and the Iranians joining forces despite their disagreements. That's a very, very ominous scenario." THE WAR PARTY REJOICES Oh, but what a glorious scenario for the War Party! Why, just think, they can have all the melodrama of a World War II movie: rationing, grim determination, and the same self-righteous retort to all critics and other whiners: "Don't you know there's a war on?!" Andrew Sullivan will lecture us on the morally uplifting effects of fasting; Victor Davis Hanson will write an article full of classical allusions to Spartan self-sacrifice and the manly virtues of imperial Rome; Norman Podhoretz will exhort us not to engage in "another Munich" when the Arabs come up with another peace proposal; and Rich Lowry will stop denying he really wanted to "nuke Mecca," admit it wasn't a "joke," and ask "well, why not?" AS YE SOW… The line of the Bush administration and the Israelis is clear: the suicide bombings cannot be tolerated, and Arafat is responsible. Since 9/11, it's a whole new ballgame, and the Arabs had better get used to it, and get out of the way. Aside from the question of Arafat's responsibility, which hardly seems a credible contention when he can't even turn the lights on in his headquarters, what the American people don't know about is the degree of the Israeli government's own responsibility for the terror campaign now being unleashed on their civilian population. For, as Richard Sale, UPI's terrorism correspondent, noted, Israel gave major aid to the fundamentalist Hamas – the principal terrorist group coordinating the suicide bomber campaign: "Israel and Hamas may currently be locked in deadly combat, but, according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials, beginning in the late 1970s, Tel Aviv gave direct and indirect financial aid to Hamas over a period of years. Israel "aided Hamas directly – the Israelis wanted to use it as a counterbalance to the PLO," said Tony Cordesman, Middle East analyst for the Center for Strategic Studies. Israel's support for Hamas "was a direct attempt to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO by using a competing religious alternative," said a former senior CIA official." Hamas was legally registered in Israel in 1978, as Al-Mujamma Al Islami, and funds flowed into its coffers without any interference from the authorities; funds slated for the secular and leftist PLO were embargoed. At the time of the Iranian revolution, Hamas began to pick up support, and, according to US intelligence sources cited by Sale, "Israel was certainly funding the group at that time. One US intelligence source who asked not to be named, said that not only was Hamas being funded as a 'counterweight' to the PLO, Israeli aid had a more devious purpose: 'to help identify and channel towards Israeli agents Hamas members who were dangerous terrorists.'" … SO SHALL YE REAP Hamas was rife with Israeli collaborators, some of whom were weeded out and executed – but not all. The secular nationalism of the PLO had merged Palestinian Christians and Muslims into a unified struggle against the Israeli occupation. Hamas had started out as an Islamic alternative to this structure, and so was encouraged by the Israelis. However, via the confluence of two factors – the rise of fundamentalism in Iran and the infusion of millions in Israeli funding (all of it US tax dollars, by the way) -- the group metastasized into a virulently murderous cancer that eventually turned on its creators. Yet, as Sale points out, "Even then, some in Israel saw some benefits to be had in trying to continue to give Hamas support: 'The thinking on the part of some of the right-wing Israeli establishment was that Hamas and the other groups, if they gained control, would refuse to have anything to do with the peace process and would torpedo any agreements put in place,' said a US government official. 'Israel would still be the only democracy in the region for the United States to deal with,' he said." BIRDS OF A FEATHER A recent juxtaposition of links published by Antiwar.com makes the thrust of Israeli policy all too clear: "The Saudi Peace Plan has created unusual allies: "In favor: Arab Nations George Bush Yasser Arafat Opposed: Ariel Sharon Hamas Osama bin Laden " The degree to which Sharon and Hamas have goals in common, taken in context with a recent curious news story about one of these suicide bombers, leads us in a disturbing – but none too surprising – direction. As Associated Press account of the death of suicide bomber Murad Abu Asal appears, at first blush, to be merely baffling: "A Palestinian suicide bomber threw himself on an Israeli vehicle parked close to the West Bank border Wednesday, wounding two members of Israel's Shin Bet security service who were sitting inside, police said. A statement from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office, which is responsible for Shin Bet, said the injured agents were on "an operational mission" when they were attacked. The bomber's body was left at the scene until explosives experts could check it for booby traps. Palestinian security sources and Israeli radio reports identified the bomber as Murad Abu Asal, 23, and said he had worked as a collaborator with Israel. "… Palestinian security sources said collaborators regularly meet with Israeli security agents in that area. Israel's security forces have a wide network of Palestinian collaborators who provide intelligence." On second blush, however, this raises a few questions, at the very least, such as: what sort of "operational mission" were these two Shin Bet agents on when they met their fate? It would be pointless to speculate, but forgive me if I at least raise the possibility that they were up to no good, and that this was one collaborator who finally – and literally – went off on them. SHARON'S GAME Since 9/11, we are all supposed to empathize with the Israelis, because we allegedly know just how they feel, they who have to live every day of their lives with the specter of terrorism hanging over their heads. But the suspicion that the Israeli government may bear some responsibility for that threat – and not just indirectly, on account of the occupation – may yet alert Americans and Israelis to the twisted nature of Sharon's game. TWILIGHT WORLD In the black-and-white world of George W. Bush's "war on terrorism," the idea that things are not always what they seem to be on the surface – especially when it comes to the murky relations between nations – is lost or glossed over. In the twilight world of covert action, however, where there are no allies and it's a war of all against all, moral parameters and boundaries are dissolved in the solvent of necessity, and it's hard to tell friend from foe. Which brings to mind a curious news item from the Bergen County (New Jersey) News, dated September 15, 2001…. A CURIOUS TALE The story paints a picture of a widening dragnet in the greater New York-New Jersey area designed to sweep up anyone and everyone connected to 9/11, including a raid on a business known as Urban Moving Systems: "Investigators first became interested in the business after witnesses reported Tuesday that three men seemed to celebrate the World Trade Center explosions in Liberty State Park, then drove away in a company van. … Agents took pictures inside the company's office Thursday night and seized 13 computer hard drives. They also showed a keen interest in the roof, which had a very clear view of the World Trade Center until Tuesday. A half-dozen agents searched the roof with flashlights and appeared particularly interested in the sight lines from the roof toward downtown Manhattan. "East Rutherford police stopped an Urban Moving Systems van on Route 3 Tuesday and detained five men inside, at least some of them company employees. The occupants said they were all Israelis. They were being detained because they are in violation of immigration regulations, and all have expressed a desire to leave the country on their own, according to an Immigration and Naturalization Service spokesman. "An employee of Urban Moving Systems, who would not give his name, said the majority of his co-workers are Israelis and were joking on the day of the attacks. "'I was in tears,' the man said. 'These guys were joking and that bothered me. These guys were like, 'Now America knows what we go through.'" At first, it seems like an anomaly that a bunch of Israelis would be cheering – literally jumping for joy – at the sight of the World Trade Cener, the pride of New York, brought down and humbled. But, then again, on second thought, it makes perfect sense, now doesn't it? "Now America knows what we go through," indeed. In light of the growing scandal over Israeli spies in this country – who might have known something about 9/11 before the dawning of that fatal day – we all ought to be as "bothered" as that astonished employee of Urban Moving Systems by such a perverse willingness to go to any lengths to gain our sympathy. We have to ask: what wouldn't they do to keep it?
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