Power and privilege

Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. This piece was published in the January 21, 2009 edition of the Business Mirror, page A6.

This report, from the official website of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, datelined January 13, 2009, got me thinking about Israel’s tremendous reach and influence:

“The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) will consider the entry to the Philippines of Palestinian spouses of Filipinos but the arrangement would have to be allowed by the Israeli government, DFA Undersecretary Esteban Conejos Jr. said today.”

Undersecretary. Conejos added, “Israel surely knows their background.  (Palestinian spouses).”

The Philippine government needs Israel’s permission to allow a Palestinian into the Philippines? C’mon.

But nationalists need not get their panties in a bunch. Our government is not the only government that defers to Israel.

Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert  told George Bush to order his Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, to abstain from voting for a UN resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, a resolution she “prepared and arranged.” Bush complied.

Obtained from the United States Government Open Source Center, here is a transcript of Olmert bragging about Bush’s last act of obeisance:

“It transpired all of a sudden that a vote would be held in 10 minutes’ time. I tried to find President Bush, and I was told he was attending an event in Philadelphia.

“I know that if somebody tried to find me on the phone right now, it would have to be something unusual and extraordinary for them to say: Leave it all and go to some room to talk to me. In this case, I said: I don’t care, I have to talk to him right now.

“He was taken off the podium and brought to a side room. I spoke with him; I told him: You can’t vote for this proposal.

“He said: Listen, I don’t know, I didn’t see, don’t know what it says.

“I told him: I know, and you can’t vote for it!

“He then instructed the Secretary of State, and she did not vote for it.

“It was a proposal she had put together, one she formulated, one she organized, one she maneuvered. It left her rather embarrassed, abstaining in the vote on a proposal she herself had put together. That was why the French and the Brits said she had pulled a fast one on them, she having been the one to spur them to submit the proposals.”
With that kind of power, Israel is free to do what it pleases without fear of consequences.  It can do to Hamas and the Gazans what it did to Hezbollah and the Lebanese, confident of support not only from the US government but from American mainstream media as well.

Jeff Greenwald, a columnist for Salon, pointed to a recent New York Times article by Thomas L. Friedman praising Israel’s misconduct:

“Israel’s counterstrategy was to use its Air Force to pummel Hezbollah and, while not directly targeting the Lebanese civilians with whom Hezbollah was intertwined, to inflict substantial property damage and collateral casualties on Lebanon at large. It was not pretty, but it was logical. Israel basically said that when dealing with a non-state actor, Hezbollah, nested among civilians, the only long-term source of deterrence was to exact enough pain on the civilians — the families and employers of the militants — to restrain Hezbollah in the future….

“In Gaza, I still can’t tell if Israel is trying to eradicate Hamas or trying to ‘educate’ Hamas, by inflicting a heavy death toll on Hamas militants and heavy pain on the Gaza population…If it is out to educate Hamas, Israel may have achieved its aims.”

Greenwald noted that Israel’s strategy fits the US State Department’s definition of terrorism:

“The term ‘terrorism’ means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience….”

Greenwald concludes that Israel’s strategy makes statehood the only thing that distinguishes it from “sub-national groups” like Al Qaeda whose rationale is “we’re going to inflict ‘civilian pain’ on Americans so that they stop supporting their government’s domination of our land and so their government thinks twice about bombing more Muslim countries…”

Israel hollows out the Bush administration’s rhetoric on the war on terror. But so what? Power has its privilege.

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