Hillary Clinton comes from a world where the only human beings in the Middle East are the five or so million Jewish people in Palestine. If that is somewhat of an exaggeration, at least it is true that the concerns of those five million are vastly more important than anyone else's in the region. Those five million Jews' objective of having a state with a Jewish majority is, in Clinton's world, a constraint before which every other objective must yield.
Reading a speech about the Middle East by a person like Hillary Clinton, delivered to an audience that holds her skewed perspective in many cases to even a greater degree than she does, for a person who is not from that moral universe, can be stressful. I feel an urge to see evil, callousness, naivete or stupidity in her words from my perspective these are there, but what is really happening is that she comes from a different and incompatible moral universe from mine.
Her moral world starts from different postulates - different basic assumptions - than mine. Specifically, she starts from the assumption mentioned earlier that a majority state for 5 million Jews is either the only, or the vastly overarching regional moral consideration. The rights, objectives, sensibilities of numbers of people far greater than those five million are outweighed to the point of irrelevance. In truth, Clinton's world view, and that of her audience, and that of Barack Obama, is racist or bigoted in favor of Jewish people by any definition except one held by people who share her bigotry.
But let's read parts of her speech and see if we find anything to learn from.
And to all of you, all of AIPAC's members, thank you once again for your example of citizen activism. Petitioning your government, expressing your views, speaking up in the arena - this is what democracy is all about. And I am particularly pleased to see that there are, once again, so many young people here. You recognize that your future and the future of our country are bound up with the future of Israel. And your engagement today will help to make that future more secure.This is somewhat defensive. Clinton is saying that the pro-Israel lobby, which has become more controversial since the failure of the occupation of Iraq, is a good thing. The fact that she says it reflects a small shift in US discussion away from the interests of that lobby.
Given the shared challenges we face, the relationship between the United States and Israel has never been more important. The United States has long recognized that a strong and secure Israel is vital to our own strategic interests. And we know that the forces that threaten Israel also threaten the United States of America. And therefore, we firmly believe that when we strengthen Israel's security, we strengthen America's security.Now of course Israel, opposite of vital for US strategic interests, is the single biggest discretionary strategic liability that the United States supports. (As it has been since its foundation, including throughout the Cold War.) I find interesting how she asserts it is true, with no more argument than that she firmly believes it. Maybe argument by repetition of the conclusion. There is a perceptual box that she cannot see outside of, and in that box not only is her statement true, but she is making a valid argument.
Now we come to an important observation:
And if you ever doubt the resolve of President Obama to stay with a job, look at what we got done for the United States last night when it came to passing quality affordable healthcare for everyone.Obama's political fortunes, unless something unpredictable happens, have been greatly improved by the passage of health care reform. The swing has been so great that two weeks ago it was safe to plan for a one term Obama presidency and now it is safe to plan for a two term presidency. This is bad for the Middle East if, as I suspect, the United States will have to cycle through changes in political party control of the presidency before it can make fundamental policy changes. That process will take longer now.
On the other hand, Obama is again a political figure that is nearly impervious to attack by the Israel lobby. Attacks on Obama as not sufficiently pro-Israel today, unlike last month, will harm Israel's image in the United States far more than Obama's. Health care and the strengthening of the Obama presidency will impact the Middle East indirectly. It is not clear exactly how yet.
Back to Clinton:
And let me assure you, as I have assured you on previous occasions with large groups like this and small intimate settings, for President Obama and for me, and for this entire Administration, our commitment to Israel's security and Israel's future is rock solid, unwavering, enduring, and forever.Clinton's explanation of US support for Israel. Is she really implying that Israel's opponents do not believe in freedom, equality, democracy? This is a really important point because supporters of Apartheid were not able to make this argument. The United States had during the Apartheid struggle a politically mobilized population of African Americans who identified with the anti-Apartheid side of the dispute and simply would not tolerate any implication they were morally defective. They would rightly decry it as dehumanizing and racist.
And why is that? Why is that? Is it because AIPAC can put 7,500 people into a room in the Convention Center? I don't think so. Is it because some of the most active Americans in politics and who care about our government also care about Israel? That's not the explanation. Our countries and our peoples are bound together by our shared values of freedom, equality, democracy, the right to live free from fear, and our common aspirations for a future of peace, security and prosperity, where we can see our children and our children's children, should we be so lucky - and as a future mother of the bride, I'm certainly hoping for that - (applause) - to see those children, those generations come of age in peace, with the opportunity to fulfill their own God-given potentials.
Arab Americans and Muslim Americans are not politically effective in the United States. If they were this type of statement could not be made. There are serious efforts made by Arab Americans and Muslim Americans who are confronting a far more resourceful adversary than the pro-Apartheid lobby in the United States, but there is also a lot of room for US-based groups that identify with Middle Eastern populations to have more of an impact on the terms of discussion in the United States. This is an area where we will hopefully see improvement in the future.
There is an obvious contradiction between her claim that she values equality and her position that authoritarian dictatorship for 60 million Egyptians is good for the region if it helps secure a majority state for 5 million Jews. Her claim to value democracy is also contradicted by a wide range of policies she supports on Israel's behalf.
But an explanation of US support for Israel that does not require an audience that already assumes that Israel's security is the greatest if not only moral consideration of the region does not exist. She would have made it if she could have.
The United States has also led the fight in international institutions against anti-Semitism and efforts to challenge Israel's legitimacy. We did lead the boycott of the Durban Conference and we repeatedly voted against the deeply flawed Goldstone Report. This Administration will always stand up for Israel's right to defend itself.We have an interesting rhetorical maneuver here. "Anti-Semitism and efforts to challenge Israel's legitimacy." Are these two different ideas the US is fighting, or are efforts to challenge Israel's legitimacy, according to Clinton, anti-Semitism in themselves? If she had made an explicit assertion, if she had said it is anti-Semitic to challenge Israel's legitimacy, then even though she would not be challenged there, her statement would have been dismantled later.
An argument that it is anti-Semitic to say that 60 million Egyptians, over 20 million Saudis and millions more in the region living under dictatorship is too high a price to pay for a Jewish majority state for 5 million Jews cannot be sustained if exposed to opposition. Opponents of Zionism do have to go out of their way to make the argument because even before the most friendly audiences supporters of Israel only hint at the connection.
Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and those that think like them have to be openly challenged to either defend or abandon the argument that challenges against Israel's legitimacy are anti-Semitic. If they are not challenged directly, they will make the assertion in hints, using phrases that may or may not have that meaning as Clinton does here.
And for Israel, there is no greater strategic threat than the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran. Elements in Iran's government have become a menace, both to their own people and in the region. Iran's president foments anti-Semitism, denies the Holocaust, threatens to destroy Israel, even denies that 9/11 was an attack. The Iranian leadership funds and arms terrorists who have murdered Americans, Israelis, and other innocent people alike. And it has waged a campaign of intimidation and persecution against the Iranian people.Of course, by nuclear armed, Clinton means nuclear-capable. Iran may be making a mistake in its communications with the West by not more often directly saying, as Ali Larijani did, that Iran has the right to be as nuclear capable as Japan.
Last June, Iranians marching silently were beaten with batons. Political prisoners were rounded up and abused. Absurd and false allegations and accusations were leveled against the United States, Israel, and the West. People everywhere were horrified by the video of a young woman shot dead in the street. The Iranian leadership denies its people rights that are universal to all human beings, including the right to speak freely, to assemble without fear, the right to the equal administration of justice, to express your views without facing retribution.
"Silently ... batons ... false allegations ... horrified." This segment that she shares with Obama's Nowruz speech, word for word, except that she adds Israel to the list of allegation targets certainly works better for her talking to AIPAC than they would have worked for Obama speaking, ostensibly, to an Iranian audience.
More on Iran:
We've made extensive efforts to reengage with Iran, both through direct communication and working with other partners multilaterally, to send an unmistakable message: Uphold your international obligations. And if you do, you will reap the benefits of normal relations. If you do not, you will face increased isolation and painful consequences.I've long believed that the US has calculated, from before the 2007 NIE was released, that decreasing tension with Iran was a US national interest. If that was the case, then the US would have struck an informal agreement with Iran that Iran would hold its rate of enrichment steady and there would be no significant increases in sanctions. Clinton says the US hand is strengthened if Europe, Russia or China agree that Iran is being intransigent. I don't believe that. The US hand is strong to the degree that it can tolerate Iranian responses to increase hostilities, and weak to the degree that it cannot.
We took this course with the understanding that the very effort of seeking engagement would strengthen our hand if Iran rejected our initiative.
The US could have gotten some sanctions by now this year if it wanted to, or could have gotten sanctions last year, or could, at any time, unilaterally interpret existing sanctions to permit inspections of Iranian shipping. The United States is deterred not by diplomacy but by Iran's retaliatory capabilities, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, but in other places as well. I take talk about sanctions as theater for exactly the audience Clinton was facing here.
It has taken until now to get to the heart and soul of Clinton's speech:
It is true that heightened security measures have reduced the number of suicide bombings and given some protection and safety to those who worry every day when their child goes to school, their husband goes to work, their mother goes to market. And there is, I think, a belief among many that the status quo can be sustained. But the dynamics of demography, ideology, and technology make this impossible.Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have all said this before, but never in as detailed a way as Clinton does here.
First, we cannot ignore the long-term population trends that result from the Israeli occupation. ...This is an important section. The US, faster now than Israel though still too slowly, is moving toward the conclusion that it will not have the resources to permanently sustain Israel in a conflict against its region given that conflict's current shape. Clinton is wrong in believing that the type of state she would give the Palestinians would change the situation, but she is right in understanding that unless the situation changes the US will fail or refuse to commit the necessary resources further to defend Israel.
Second, we cannot be blind to the political implications of continued conflict. ...
And then finally, we must recognize that the ever-evolving technology of war is making it harder to guarantee Israel's security. ...
Hillary Clinton expressed the beginnings of this recognition before AIPAC and not in hints, but in great detail. She skipped over the part that the US is not confident that it can prevent Iran from acquiring and maintaining a nuclear capability but other than that was actually brutal in her delivery.
Maybe this section should be its own post. Clinton after this section reverts to usual framing of issues involving Israel in ways most favorable to Zionism, but despite her protestations that US support for Israel is unlimited and eternal, the fact is that if the US could commit to unlimited support, it would not be as irrationally eager to attempt to reach two states as it is.
The speech was nothing new. I'm not sure it was worth the psychological price of a journey into the mind, into the the unspoken assumptions of a person with such an offensive ability to minimize the human value of every non-Jewish person in the Middle East. On the other hand there are clear signs that the US is seeking greater strategic independence from the very lobby Hillary Clinton was speaking before.