Israel's deadly attack on the relief boat bound for Gaza almost defies comment. Its wanton criminality is so blatant and its "justifications" so transparently false that condemnation seems almost superfluous; the evil of the action is self-evident. Likewise, the reactions of the American power structure – timorous appeasement from the White House, unhinged bloodthirstiness from Congress – have been so wildly inappropriate and utterly divorced from reality that they can scarcely bear any serious consideration; they are simply roars of meaningless noise, set loose in hopes of drowning out the truth.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of the incident (beside the loss of innocent life) is its glaring confirmation of this long-established, deeply destructive fact: there is no outrage that Israel can commit that the United States government will not countenance.
Of course, this has been true for decades, encompassing everything from the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty, its illegal development of a nuclear arsenal, its decades of relentless espionage in the United States, its atrocities in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, its state-terror, collateral-damaging "targeted assassinations" around the world, its heinous apartheid wall, the open, often genocidal racism of many of its political and government leaders, its mass cluster-bombing at the end of its latest military aggression in Lebanon, its horrific civilian slaughter in its latest full-scale assault on Gaza, and the subsequent strangulation of Gaza, a war crime of collective punishment that resembles nothing so much as the Nazi ghettoization of Jews in Warsaw. And throughout all of this, the United States has given billions of dollars to Israel, year in, year out, decade after decade, to support its war machine and its structures of repression.
So in a very real sense, the current situation is nothing new at all. But it is also true that this atrocity-producing dynamic has become ever more frenzied since the launching of the bi-partisan, world-wide, multi-generational "War on Terror." There is no longer even any pretense of any red lines that Israel might cross that would lead to even the slightest diminution of American support. In any case, as Glenn Greenwald (among others) points out, the two nations now share fully and openly the same policies of torture, lawlessness, state terror (including assassination), military aggression, war profiteering and extremist, demonizing rhetoric aimed at keeping their populations roiled with fear, anger and confusion.
(In fact, the Americans kill far more innocent civilians in predominantly Muslim lands each year than the Israelis -- who, if only in this, might feel justifiably wronged in being singled out for international condemnation when their mentors and paymasters in Washington commit the same depredations on a much larger scale.)
It's true that part of the American elite's indulgence of Israel stems from the political clout of the "Jewish Lobby." And this influence, which traditionally weighed most heavily on the Democratic Party, has now been joined by the even more zealous -- not to say maniacal and mindless -- support for Israel from America's religious Right, which has almost entirely subsumed the Republican Party. Just as elite bipartisan consensus on military empire and unrestrained corporate oligarchy have eliminated institutional barriers to vast atrocities, crimes and follies in these areas, so too has the convergence of traditional Lobby clout and empowered religious extremism eliminated any real opposition in Washington to any Israeli policy or action.
But I believe there is an even deeper root to this "special relationship" -- and that's the process of "ethnic cleansing" and violent land-grabbing which is absolutely foundational to both nations. What the Americans did long ago -- drive the natives from the land by force, steal their territory and plant a new state there, reserved for the benefit of the "right" sort of people -- the Israelis are now trying to do in the Middle East. Even the same false tropes of justification are used: the natives were lazy and shiftless, they had not "improved" and exploited the land, and therefore had no legal or moral title to it. Then comes the fact-free claim that there weren't even many of these lower creatures to begin with: "a land without people for a people without land," the "virgin continent," just waiting to be populated. And finally, the land-grabbing and ethnic cleansing are hailed as part of a divine plan for God's chosen people, who by conquest, extermination and theft are to become "a light unto the nations," "the shining city on a hill."
This shared ethos is probably another reason why Israel continues its subjugation of the Palestinians with such relentless fervor -- because they know it can work. If you press the natives hard enough, for long enough, if you have the steel to "do whatever it takes" to crush their resistance -- as the Americans did with the Indians -- then you too might win out in the end. It can be done, because it has been done in history (and not just by the Americans, of course); it's a risky business, but for the Israeli elites, as for their American role models, the game is worth the candle.
At any rate, the latest incident will only embolden the Israelis to further atrocities, with the backing -- and often the weapons -- of the United States. Where this process will end is almost too harrowing to contemplate. I honestly believe that if the Israelis decided to "liquidate the ghetto" in Gaza, as was done in Warsaw, then you would see the American elite contorting themselves -- and the truth -- this way and that in order to justify the carnage.
And why not? An elite which has instigated the murder of more than a million people in Iraq -- in a ghastly operation hailed as "an extraordinary achievement" by the progressive peace laureate now in charge of the American war machine -- would certainly not blanch at a little liquidation by their protégés.
Hey man, it's all just payback for 9/11, right? And maybe for Custer as well.