I’ve begun writing a weekly column over at the Nation Institute’s Mondoweiss, where I’ll be looking at what the WikiLeaks State Department cables say about Israel/Palestine. This is the first installment in “The Palestine Cables”:
The revelations from the classified State Department cables being published by WikiLeaks and news organizations keep coming, and there’s no shortage of items concerning Israel/Palestine.
The cables have included interesting revelations about European countries’ relations with Israel–and how much the Goldstone report has mattered, thought not enough–as well as what seems to be a Lebanese official passing on advice to the Israeli government on how to defeat Hezbollah in a new conflict.
One cable, dated September 5, 2006 and sent from the U.S. embassy in Dublin, reports that the Irish government “has informally begun to place constraints on U.S. operations at the facility, mainly in response to public sensitivities
over U.S. actions in the Middle East.” Specifically, the cable states that the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs decided to “forbid U.S. military transits carrying munitions to Israel” because of “the Irish public’s overwhelming opposition to Israeli military actions in Lebanon.”
Another cable dated October 29, 2009 from the U.S. embassy in France reports that, days before France and Israel were set to hold a “strategic dialogue,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and suggested that Israel “establish an independent investigation into the actions of the Israeli Defense Forces in the Gaza conflict.” Sarkozy said that “such a step would decrease pressure on Israel and its allies stemming from the Goldstone Report, but Netanyahu responded briskly: ‘No way.’” In addition, the cable notes that “European countries stopped selling Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) parts to Israel” after the 2008-09 assault on Gaza, although France had continued to sell UAV parts to Israel.
There was also the November 10, 2009 suggestion–two weeks out from when Israel first “froze” settlements–from Germany that the U.S. force Israel to agree to a settlement freeze or else risk the U.S. withdrawing pledges to block U.N. Security Council votes on the Goldstone report. The U.S. said no, calling the proposal “counterproductive.”
Compared to the U.S.’s routine practice of groveling before Israel, the European countries’ attitude towards Israel seems remarkable. But that’s not the full story–Europe remains deeply complicit in the Israeli occupation.
I reached out to David Cronin, the author of the soon-to-be-released book Europe’s Alliance with Israel: Aiding the Occupation, to get his reaction to the WikiLeaks revelations about Europe-Israel relations:
It is correct that the Dublin government has felt an obligation to respond to the widespread public revulsion in Ireland at Israel’s barbaric treatment of the Palestinian people, as well as Israel’s 2006 war against Lebanon. It is also true that Micheal Martin, the Irish foreign minister, has been more critical of Israel than any of his counterparts in the EU.
Yet his criticisms have been largely tokenistic. When evidence emerged that Mossad, the Israeli secret service, had used counterfeit passports so that its agents could pose as Irish citizens when assassinating a leading member of Hamas in January, Ireland expelled an Israeli diplomat from the country. The Irish government had an opportunity to make its displeasure known in more strident terms in May, when Israel’s application to join the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) was under discussion. Yet Ireland took no concrete steps to block Israel’s membership of this elite capitalist club, a move that was rightly seen as a major diplomatic and political victory for the Israeli government…
France and Germany both have governments that have acted as an apologist for Israel on many occasions in recent years. Indications or reports that they have been unhappy with some aspects of the occupation do not alter this general picture. Neither France nor was prepared to support the Goldstone report, which documented how Israel had committed crimes against humanity in Gaza in 2008 and 2009. (Germany voted against the report at the United Nations last year, while France abstained).
To a significant degree, the EU’s foreign policy is determined by its largest member states. All four of its largest countries – France, Germany, Britain and Italy – have right-leaning governments that consistently defend Israel, albeit with the occasional expression of concern when Israel is perceived to have gone “too far” (e.g. with the attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla). It is almost as if these governments are competing with each other to see which one can be the most pro-Israel.
In Lebanon, the WikiLeaks State Dept. cables are fueling tensions. A March 2008 conversation revealed that “Lebanon’s Defense Minister Elias Murr told Americans the army would stay out of the way if Israel tried to wipe out Hezbollah,” according to a Los Angeles Times report. The cables were published by the left-wing Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar.
In an e-mail, As’ad Abu Khalil, a Middle East analyst who blogs at the Angry Arab, commented that “Al-Murr was basically (like other Arab leaders–although he is no leader) trying to get close to the US by showing his goodwill toward Israel.”
These cables from WikiLeaks follow a growing sense of unease in Lebanon ahead of the expected indictments of Hezbollah members for the 2005 killing of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and Hezbollah’s vows to resist the indictments.
For more news and analysis on the WikiLeaks State Dept. cables and Israel/Palestine, see:
Josh Ruebner, the Huffington Post: WikiLeaks: Israel’s Security Concerns Often Clash With U.S. Interests
Ian Black, the Guardian: WikiLeaks cables: Sudan warned to block Iranian arms bound for Gaza
Ewen MacAskill, the Guardian: WikiLeaks cables: Saudis proposed Arab force to invade Lebanon
Marc Lynch, Foreign Policy: What the WikiLeaks cables really say about Arabs and Iran
Yousef Munayyer, the Palestine Center’s Permission to Narrate blog: Top 10 Wikileaks Palestine Nuggets
Yousef Munayyer, the Palestine Center’s Permission to Narrate blog: Who Remembered Gaza in Wikileaks?
Stuart Littlewood, the Palestine Chronicle: Wikileaks: Did Abbas Know about the War on Gaza?