Friday, October 18, 2013

Medea Benjamin Goes After Israel

Drone strikes! Government shutdown! Torture on US Navy ships! NSA spying! Potential war on Iran! Human trafficking! There's oh so much for a human rights activist to do, and considering Medea Benjamin has declared herself to be all human rights all the time, you'd think she would have a lot to say about the latest misbehavior by the Obama administration. But not so! See, it's time for her to dredge up decades old talking points about Israel's nuclear program. Not surprisingly, she brings absolutely nothing new to the table.

Not surprisingly, Benjamin goes after Israel for criticizing Iran's nuclear program while keeping its own secret, an argument that I have probably seen hundreds of times in various places and forms. She does admit that Iran signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty but doesn't seem to understand what that means:
"Whereas Iran signed the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), giving the international community the right to demand inspections and controls, Israel has not -- and is therefore not subject to external oversight."
So what exactly is the problem? Iran is not fulfilling its obligations under the treaty and Israel has no obligations, and that makes Israel in the wrong? Benjamin doesn't elaborate on this, instead she goes into a history of Israel's alleged nuclear program. Along the way she amusingly rewrites Israel's history, just in case you thought she didn't have prejudices or anything:
"The first president of Israel took action to initiate a nuclear-development project by the end of the new state's first decade, with its successful "birth" on the eve of its 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem." 
Yep, that's exactly how it went down well said Benjamin. Israel was just chilling, doing its thing, when it suddenly decided to occupy the West Bank and East Jerusalem because they were there. There was no war that preceded that occupation, oh no! It just happened, like the weather. I also don't know why the Golan Heights, Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip were left out. Perhaps Benjamin is "pro-Palestinian" by which I mean she has her blinders up for anything that doesn't relate to Israel and the "occupation."

Anyway Benjamin returns to his history lesson, bringing up Mordechai Vanunu and comparing him to Edward Snowden. Because building defensive nuclear weapons is just like spying on your own people, a subject that Benjamin has had little to say about. She forgets that Vanunu didn't reveal anything about nuclear weapons, only what you might find in a medical clinic (sound familiar). She then mistranslates a Hebrew word and finally in her last few paragraphs gets to her main points, which are pretty lacking.

She blames Syrian acquisition of chemical weapons on Israel, then blames Israel's (and America's but she doesn't mention that) insistence on zero enrichment for this latest nuclear deal will sink it, then quotes propagandist Trita Parsi who says that Israel doesn't want a deal because it doesn't want American and Iran to be friendly. Yeah, that makes sense. And only then do we get her actual point:
"Neither the world, nor Israel, is served legally or morally by continuing to condone a practice of don't ask-don't tell for an issue that is so central to global security and safety. As long as Israel refuses to acknowledge its possession of nuclear weapons or even that it has produced weapons-grade materials, it is difficult, if not impossible, to engage it in any meaningful arms control or other nuclear-related diplomacy. It certainly makes it impossible to move towards a nuclear-free Middle East -- a goal to which the entire international community should aspire, and that has been endorsed by the new Iranian president."
The truth is that Israel's don't ask-don't tell has been working just fine for the past fifty years. It hasn't started the arms race that some people were expecting, and Israel has been proven to be responsible with them. Not so with Iran. And Israeli weapons does not make arms control or nuclear-related diplomacy any more impossible than any other nation's possession of nuclear weapons. Israel is not unique in having weapons without signing the treaty, but they are unique in that "progressives" like Benjamin keep pointing at it to deflect attention away from the real problems here.

I get it: Benjamin is anti-US wars. But focusing on Israel won't just make this Iran problem magically go away. This is all just a waste of time and energy, and apparently the Huffington Post readership feel the same way. Despite being given top billing on the "World" section it's barely racked up 20 comments. I guess that human trafficking story gathered more attention. Can't imagine why.

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