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Red Rag column: Obama: the god that failed. The return of Barak.
By: Gideon Spiro
19 September 2016 (English translation posted 26 September 2016)
The god that failed
I was one of the multitude of excited people who shed tears of joy at the inspiring speech Barak Obama gave when he was elected the first Black President of the United States. Our hopes were sky-high. There was a feeling that America was entering a new, social-democratic era, not only internally, but also in its foreign relations, meaning that it would now support governments, states and movements that are struggling for democracy and social justice.
My aim here is not to summarize all the years of his presidency. He had his successes and he had his failures. My purpose is to focus on US-Israel relations. My hopes and the hopes of many peace-loving Israelis was that the massive US support for Israel, both political and economic, would be conditioned on Israel’s policies.
That meant that as long as the Occupation, war crimes and the apartheid regime continued, Israel would have to finance its own folly. The hope was that President Obama would apply a mathematical formula according to which US aid and support would decline to the extent that the cost of the Occupation and the settlements rose.
The depth of the disappointment matches the height of the hopes. Obama is continuing the policies of his predecessors, with generous economic and political support which have permitted Israel to continue its policies which have amount to a massive and brutal violation of human rights that has lasted for 50 years. Indeed Obama has occasionally made declarations that were pleasing to the ears of lovers of peace, but they have never been translated into real change on the ground in terms of support and aid.
Israel could not finance its nuclear arsenal, its bloated army and the machinery of the Occupation without Obama’s generous help. Despite all the talk about tension between Netanyahu and Obama, and despite Netanyahu’s offensive and sometimes crude treatment of President Obama, the aid continues, climaxing with the accord that has just been signed, which promises Israel 38 billion dollars over 10 years (2019-2028).
It has to be said honestly that Netanyahu’s achievement in ensuring the financing of the Occupation for another 50 years is a substantial one. I assume that after his retirement Obama will write his memoirs, in which he will say strong words about Netanyahu, but that lacks practical importance, because what really matters is his policy in practice, which has contradicted the lofty words of his inspiring speeches.
The strength of the Jewish lobby and the American military establishment has proven yet again to be the true maker of policy.
The return of the disaster
The name of Ehud Barak, crowned with much failure as a prime minister and chief of staff, has been mooted again as the one who can save Israel from Netanyahu. Among those who will welcome his return are some people of the Left who should know that no water will come from this stone.
Barak took an axe to the Israeli Left after he returned from Camp David, where he had attended a summit with Presidents Arafat and Clinton, and coined the slogan, “There is no partner”.
The Left has not recovered to this very day, and the Right has thrived since then, up to the present right-wing government. Those who place their hopes on Barak after that bitter experience can be likened to addicts who can’t get off politically hallucinogenic drugs. You don’t get rid of one corrupt leader by replacing him with another one.
There is no essential ideological difference between Netanyahu and Barak. With Barak as with Netanyahu, there is a moral failure that is expressed in economic policy and Occupation policy. In the Barak era the settlements flourished and the tycoons rejoiced, as did the contracting companies, so gifted at raking in exorbitant profits. Not to speak of the racist policies of the Barak government, which found refined expression in the events of October 2000, when Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed. And let us not forget his part in the outbreak of the Second Intifada, when he authorized Ariel Sharon’s provocative tour of the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which ignited the Intifada.
Workers as spare parts
The collapse of the Barzel parking tower in Tel Aviv, in which 6 workers were buried alive and 24 injured, shone a light on one of the most distasteful phenomena in Israeli society, in the field of safety in the construction sector. Again and again we hear reports of a worker who fell off a high scaffold, who was injured or killed because the construction companies are economizing on safety measures.
This is one of the ugliest manifestations of Israeli racism. Nearly all the victims are non-Jews, mostly Palestinians, Ukrainians, Romanians, Turks or Chinese, whose lives are cheap. The companies tell themselves that for every worker who is killed there is another worker whose economic distress will force him to agree to work under such dismal conditions.
A government that respects human life whoever and wherever it is would put the owners and managers of the companies on trial for endangering human life. Not in Israel. The racism of the government mixes very well with the racism of the construction companies.
And on this matter too, Barak will not change the picture.
Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent
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