Wherever he turned in the Middle East, the U.S. secretary of state was met by opposition, reports Joe Lauria.
By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has ended his four-day excursion to the Middle East where he was publicly rebuffed by Israel, schooled by Egypt and Jordan and protested in Turkey.
Blinken will arrive back in the United States where hundreds of thousands of Americans, including many Democratic Party voters, are in the streets eviscerating the Biden Administration for its role in genocide.
He returns to a State Department where one official resigned over the administration’s unconditional support for Israel, and a second Department employee accused Joe Biden on social media of being “complicit in genocide.”
Arab-American voters of Blinken’s party, who helped Joe Biden win the White House in 2020 by delivering him the swing state of Michigan, are openly rebelling this time because they see on their screens what anyone with a half a heart is seeing and they know Biden’s part in it.
He is ahead of Donald Trump in only one of six swing states, according to a new New York Times and Siena College poll. The level of barbarity being unleashed by the rabid, rightwing regime in Tel Aviv has taken Blinken and Biden aback, if only because of the political consequences.
U.S. officials are so used to automatically backing Israel, that they’re having a hard time coming to terms with what it is exactly that they are backing this time. But it’s starting to sink in. If there are embers of a human conscience left in Biden and Blinken they are not unmoved. Lacking normal human reactions, they clearly don’t know what to do other than what they’ve always done: back Israel to the hilt despite what their eyes tell them.
The political calculus is muddied because of the unmistakable power of the Israel lobby to destroy American political careers by “primarying” a candidate or backing a general election opponent. This adds to Biden’s dilemma.
“As Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza escalates, the Biden administration finds itself in a precarious position: Administration officials say Israel’s counterattack against Hamas has been too severe, too costly in civilian casualties, and lacking a coherent endgame, but they are unable to exert significant influence on America’s closest ally in the Middle East to change its course. …
With every missile unleashed on Gaza, with every killing of a Palestinian child – and Israel has killed in this war more children than all global conflicts did since 2019 – the whole region is sinking in a sea of hatred that will define generations to come. ”
Given that Washington is Israel’s military underwriter and the White House has asked Congress for another $14 billion for Israel in the midst of its atrocities, Johnstone remarks, “The Biden administration does in fact have tons of leverage it can use to stop the genocidal massacre in Gaza, it just doesn’t want to because it would be ‘politically unpopular’ and because ‘Biden himself has a personal attachment to Israel.'”
Humiliated by Netanyahu
Blinken flew to Israel on Friday to press Benjamin Netanyahu to accept what the U.S. had just days earlier vetoed at the U.N. Security Council: humanitarian pauses to get aid into Gaza and foreign nationals out. It’s a little like stopping the torturer for a minute to give the victim a sip of water before encouraging the torture to resume.
The fact that the administration is now pushing these pauses — instead of a ceasefire — where before they exercised their veto against them — not a light matter — shows what a quandary it is in and how desperate it is to find a way out.
The unsophisticated Blinken is no match for a world-class Machiavellian like Benjamin Netanyahu. Still, he had to meet Blinken because after all there’s $14 billion on the table. Pulling that money back would be a major setback for Netanyahu and relief for the Gazans. So he patted Blinken on the head and said thanks for coming, but no thanks to your pauses.
Blinken had to make a statement to the press alone when normally he would be standing next to the leader he’d just met. But Netanyahu was too busy. He has a cleansing operation to run.
Afterward Netanyahu appeared alone in blackshirt to say no to humanitarian pauses, no to fuel, no to everything going into Gaza but death.
Lectured by Egypt & Jordan
Next it was off to Amman where Blinken was totally outmatched by the foreign ministers of Jordan and Egypt, who schooled him on the massive crimes Israel is committing around the clock. Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi talked about “the importance of abidance” to
“international humanitarian law … and the rejection of the displacement of Palestinians, of their land. … We consider that this is a war crime that we will stop with all our strength. … The killing must stop, and also Israeli immunity from committing war crimes must stop. … How can we even entertain what will happen in Gaza when we do not know what kind of Gaza will be left after this war is done? Are we going to be talking about a wasteland? Are we going to be talking about a whole population reduced to refugees?”
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry could not have been blunter when he said, with Blinken in the room:
“The collective punishment – Israel targeting innocent civilians and facilities, medical facilities, paramedics, in addition to trying to force migration for Palestinians to leave their lands – this cannot be a legitimate self-defense at all. … I would like to ask for an immediate and intensive ceasefire in Gaza without any condition, and that Israel would stop … its violations of international law and the laws of war.”
There is a severe disconnect in Blinken’s thinking, when he says, “We believe pauses can be a critical mechanism for protecting civilians, for getting aid in, for getting foreign nationals out, while still enabling Israel to achieve its objective: defeat Hamas.”
Does he not get that Israel’s objective is the destruction of the Palestinian people in Gaza en route to defeating Hamas?
Completely unaware of where he was or who he was appearing with, Blinken thought out loud, justifying the monstrous Israeli policy of bombing civilian targets like hospitals because of an alleged Hamas presence and their use of “human shields.”
Tamer Smadi of Al Jazeera asked Blinken: “What are the results that Israel has achieved, and what is the number of victims exactly, of civilians, that would make the United States to stop and think and look at this most open massacre and to ask Israel decisively to stop this bloodshed in the Gaza Strip?”
All but explicitly justifying Israel’s war crimes, Blinken answered:
“Hamas cynically, monstrously embeds itself in the midst of civilians; puts its fighters, its commanders, its weapons, its ammunition, command and control in residential buildings, under schools and in schools, under hospitals and in hospitals, under mosques and in mosques – monstrous.”
Getting Stuffed in Turkey
— Afshin Rattansi (@afshinrattansi) November 5, 2023
After an unexpected detour to Baghdad, Blinken flew to Ankara, where just a week earlier President Recep Tayyip Erdogan led a rally of nearly a million people at the airport, which roundly condemned Israel.
Two days before Blinken’s arrival, Erdogan embarrassed him by recalling Turkey’s ambassador from Israel. (Of course he won’t cut off 40 percent of Israel’s oil supplies that pass through Turkey). Blinken came to the Turkish capital but Erdogan didn’t have time to meet him. Turkey is demanding a ceasefire and isn’t buying Blinken’s belated pauses appeal.
Before Blinken’s meeting with the Turkish foreign minister, Turkish police had to use tear gas and water cannon to stop hundreds of protestors from storming the Incirlik air base, which houses U.S. troops. About 1,000 protestors also demonstrated outside the U.S. embassy in Ankara.
It was a weekend that should seize minds in Washington.
As Blinken said in Amman,
“When I see a Palestinian boy or girl pulled from the wreckage of a building, it hits me in the gut just as it hits everyone’s gut, and I see my own children in their faces. And as human beings, how can any of us not feel the same way?”
Then act on it. Stop Israel.
Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former U.N. correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers, including The Montreal Gazette, the London Daily Mail and The Star of Johannesburg. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London, a financial reporter for Bloomberg News and began his professional work as a 19-year old stringer for The New York Times. He is the author of two books, A Political Odyssey, with Sen. Mike Gravel, foreword by Daniel Ellsberg; and How I Lost By Hillary Clinton, foreword by Julian Assange. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @unjoe