December 09, 2013| News | John Glaser
Last week I drew a comparison between the South African apartheid system that is now the focus of Nelson Mandela’s legacy and current Israeli policies toward Palestinians. Obviously, that strikes many in the U.S. as offensive and inaccurate. But, as Israeli activist and military veteran Mikhael Manekin said in January 2012, the “apartheid” criticism is an accepted part of the debate lexicon in Israel.
Today, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz demonstrated how true that is with a discussion of it led by correspondent Amira Hass:
What do those who say “Israeli Apartheid” mean?
They definitely don’t mean the official and popular biological racism that ruled South Africa. True, there is no lack of racist and arrogant attitudes here, with their attendant religious-biological undertones, but if one visits our hospitals one can find Arabs and Jews among doctors and patients. In that regard, our hospitals are the healthiest sector of society.
Those who say “Israeli Apartheid” refer to the philosophy of “separate development” that was prevalent in the old South Africa. This was the euphemism used for the principle of inequality, the deliberate segregation of populations, a prohibition on “mixing” and the displacement of non-whites from lands and resources for their exploitation by the masters of the land. Even though here things are shrouded by “security concerns,” with references to Auschwitz and heaven-decreed real estate, our reality is governed by the same philosophy, backed by laws and force of arms.
What, for instance?
There are two legal systems in place on the West Bank, a civilian one for Jews and a military one for Palestinians. There are two separate infrastructures there as well, including roads, electricity and water. The superior and expanding one is for Jews while the inferior and shrinking one is for the Palestinians. There are local pockets, similar to the Bantustans in South Africa, in which the Palestinians have limited self-rule. There is a system of travel restrictions and permits in place since 1991, just when such a system was abolished in South Africa.
Does that mean that apartheid exists only on the West Bank?
Not at all, it exists across the entire country, from the sea to the Jordan River. It prevails in this one territory in which two peoples live, ruled by one government which is elected by one people, but which determines the future and fate of both. Palestinian towns and villages suffocate because of deliberately restrictive planning in Israel, just as they do in the West Bank.
Writing at The Diplomat, Zheng Wang, an Associate Professor of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University and a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, paints a gloomy picture of the recent heightened tensions in the East China Sea:
The clock starts ticking for the next crisis. With China’s announcement of the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea and the strong response from Japan, the United States and several other countries, tensions in East Asia are mounting. Since the crisis over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands in September 2012, both China and Japan have begun to conduct frequent air and marine patrols in the Diaoyu/Senkakus area. With the flyby of the American B-52s, the area around these tiny islands has become a zone of tension with high probability of an accident and subsequent conflict. Just like the EP-3 collision incident between the US and China in 2001, if states continue to play this game of chicken, then an accident is inevitable. As anyone who studies East Asian international relations knows, a small accident between China and Japan could immediately escalate into a major crisis and even military conflict.
In order to avoid what is a real danger of conflict breaking out, Wang suggests a temporary deal to establish a “zone of peace” in the East China Sea. “If they want to avoid conflict,” Wang writes, “especially one arising from a small incident, they should take measures to decrease the likelihood of such accidents through using tools such as the zone of peace.”
China and Japan could agree not to send any official or military aircraft, vessels, and personnel into this zone for an agreed upon period of time, such as two years, as a means to avoid accidental incidents and conflict. The zone’s size could be decided upon by these countries, perhaps 12 nautical miles surrounding each of the small islands. This zone of peace would only be a temporary arrangement; it would not nullify the territorial claims that each side has maintained.
While that sounds like a fair interim deal to ease tensions, I tend to think there is a simpler long-term solution. As I’ve written and demonstrated numerous times at this blog, U.S. support for countries like Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines are exacerbating the tensions in the region. When the world’s only superpower explicitly vows that it will come to your defense in any conflict, it tends to embolden hardline, nationalistic postures.
There is no guarantee that an absence of U.S. meddling would eliminate the possibility of a clash between China and its neighboring rivals, but the least Washington could do is refrain from inflaming these disputes. Simply put, the U.S. has no business getting involved the regional squabbles in the East and South China Seas. The only reason it’s thought to be any of our business in the first place is because the Asia Pacific is a region Washington has tried to dominate for decades, as it dominates its own Western hemisphere.
In a sense, the real clash here is not between China and Japan, or China and the Philippines, but rather between China and the U.S. The U.S. is the global hegemon and “China,” as Andrew J. Nathan and Andrew Scobell have written in Foreign Affairs, ”is the only country widely seen as a possible threat to U.S. predominance.”
In thinking of ways to solve this and other problems, letting go of hegemony as a stated goal of U.S. foreign policy would be a start.
In Washington, there is a lot of opposition to the ongoing diplomatic negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. For the most part, the reasons for their opposition are unconvincing reiterations of trite political slogans.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), for example, insists the Iranians are not sincere and are only engaging in talks to distract the world while they expand their nuclear program. The history of diplomacy with Iran “is littered with Iranian feints and the promise of concessions that never occur,” he wrote in Politico. “The United States should think long and hard before taking any Iranian official that speaks for this regime at his word,” Rubio warned.
Sens. McCain and Graham, two of the most hawkish members of Congress, expressed similar doubts. “We remain skeptical of the Iranian regime’s seriousness in negotiations,” they said in a joint statement last month. They then urged the Senate to take up the issue of additional sanctions because, “As the current negotiations proceed, it is essential for the Congress to continue to keep the pressure on Iran’s rulers.”
Nothing demonstrates how trite and clichéd these objections are better than pointing to the exact same objections coming from hardliners in Iran. In an exclusive Time magazine interview with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, the Iranian skeptics are said to “believe the West and particularly the United States are not sincere, are not interested about reaching an agreement.” The U.S. is determined to “use the mechanism of negotiations in order to derail the process, in order to find new excuses.” Sounds all too familiar.
Q: What opposition are you facing at home to the Geneva deal? And what are you doing about it?
A: The most opposition here emanates from the lack of trust because we do not have a past on which we can build. It’s a psychological barrier to interaction that we need to overcome. The fundamental reason for opposition: they believe the West and particularly the United States are not sincere, are not interested about reaching an agreement. They believe that they will try to use the mechanism of negotiations in order to derail the process, in order to find new excuses. And some of the statements out of Washington give them every reason to be concerned. Now we know that Washington is catering to various constituencies and is trying to address these various constituencies. We read their statements in the light of their domestic constituency process. But not everybody in Iran does that. We believe that the U.S. government should stick to its words, should remain committed to what it stated in Geneva, both on the paper as well as in the discussions leading to the plan of action.
Notably, Time asks Zarif what will happen if these U.S. hardliners win out and succeed in imposing new sanctions on Iran. “The entire deal,” he answered, would be “dead.”
Q: What happens if Congress imposes new sanctions, even if they don’t go into effect for six months?
A: The entire deal is dead. We do not like to negotiate under duress. And if Congress adopts sanctions, it shows lack of seriousness and lack of a desire to achieve a resolution on the part of the United States. I know the domestic complications and various issues inside the United States, but for me that is no justification. I have a parliament. My parliament can also adopt various legislation that can go into effect if negotiations fail. But if we start doing that, I don’t think that we will be getting anywhere.
There are two important lessons from this exchange with Zarif. First, there is nothing particularly enlightened or novel about the hardliner’s reasons to oppose diplomacy. Second, the argument from the hardliners in Washington that new sanctions would facilitate Iranian cooperation and capitulation is just flat out wrong. It would derail the deal (which, I believe, many of them want).
If you want to get an idea of how tight a hold defense corporations have over the government, take a look at this Seattle Times scoop (update: originally reported at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch). It reports on a secret document drawn up by Boeing and sent to 15 state governments. Boeing is dangling the prospect of establishing factories to build its new 777X commercial airliner, with the promise of creating thousands of jobs, but it is also demanding that taxpayers foot the bill for the building of the factory, the real estate, the facilities, and much more.
Here is a list of some of the demands the great welfare queen Boeing issued:
• “Site at no cost, or very low cost, to project.”
• “Facilities at no cost, or significantly reduced cost.”
• “Infrastructure improvements provided by the location.”
• Assistance in recruiting, evaluating and training employees.
• A low tax structure, with “corporate income tax, franchise tax, property tax, sales/use tax, business license/gross receipts tax, and excise taxes to be significantly reduced.”
• “Accelerated permitting for site development, facility construction, and environmental permitting.”
• Low overall cost of doing business, “including local wages, utility rates, logistics costs, real estate occupancy costs, construction costs, applicable tax structure obligations.”
• The quality, cost and productivity of the available workforce.
• Predictability of utilities pricing and government regulation.
So, Boeing walks into a bar tended by Uncle Sam and says, “Hey Sam, give me billions of dollars worth of free stuff, tax breaks, subsidized cost structures, and any other government assistance you can think of, and put it on the tab of the American people. In exchange, I’ll put some of your constituents to work – albeit at lower wages than usual.”
What a deal! While it’s great for Boeing and it helps ensure the politician’s reelection because they get to point to the uptick in employment numbers, it’s a bad deal for the taxpayer.
Despite the fact that in this case the Boeing factory will be building commercial airliners, this is the kind of raw deal Americans are served with in virtually every military contract. As I wrote about in October, rent-seeking defense corporations that have politicians wrapped around their little finger keep building expensive jets, tanks, warships, and weapons systems that the Pentagon says it doesn’t want or need. But they get built and bought anyways because politicians who understand the whole reciprocal back-scratching proverb insist upon it. It’s not necessary for national defense according even to the top military brass, but Americans get stuck with the bill anyways because the military-industrial complex has the clout to do it.
That’s the kind of safety net Republicans and Democrats don’t like to make an agenda out of.
Foreign Policy reports that Japan is stiffening the state’s ability to classify information and punish whistleblowers and is even rolling back their pacifist constitution to get “in line with U.S. preferences.”
The new law, which passed Japan’s upper house Friday, will give agency heads discretionary power to classify 23 types of information in four categories — defense, diplomacy, counter-terrorism, and counter-intelligence — and stiffens penalties for leaking state secrets, even in cases of journalists exposing wrongdoing. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has insisted that the law is necessary if Japan is to maintain effective diplomatic partnerships with the United States and other allies.
Washington, for its part, has long supported stronger secrecy laws in Japan, if only to make it easier for the two nations to share information.
…The measure is part of a larger effort by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to move away from Japan’s pacifist past and establish a stronger military posture that is congenial to, or in line with U.S. preferences, according to Samuels. Among other initiatives, Abe plans to create Japan’s version of the U.S. National Security Council, the coordinating body of American foreign policy, and is pushing to reinterpret Japan’s constitution to expand its military’s limited self-defense role — giving it the authority to aid the United States and other allies, if they’re attacked.
These developments should be viewed in the context of the Obama administration’s Asia Pivot, which is helping to militarize U.S. allies in Asia so they can assist in containing a rising China.