By Ray Hanania
No word defines the American approach to policy, violence or peace in the Middle East more than “dual.” That is because America long ago decided to support Israel no matter what it does or what it demands. The US’ relationship with Israel is based on hypocrisy and exceptions — hypocrisy on violence and exceptions that benefit Israel over others.
This dual policy is most apparent in the ongoing brutal Israeli assault on the 2 million civilians trapped in the Gaza Strip, from where Hamas militants on Oct. 7 launched a horrendous assault on Israeli targets that surprised the world, particularly Israel itself. Regardless of the exaggerations made regarding the attack, many innocent civilians and off-duty Israeli soldiers were killed, wounded or kidnapped.
Since Israel’s military tightly controls and censors media coverage of everything involving its conduct toward Palestinians, it is difficult to know where the truth ends and the lies begin. But the word dual falls in line pretty quickly.
For example, the US has a dual approach to news coming from the conflict. Whatever Israel asserts in its media propaganda campaigns, American officials embrace without question and stick to it even when evidence ultimately shows it to be an exaggeration or an outright lie. This dual approach to violence is stunning. The Hamas militants who attacked Israel on Oct. 7 took the lives of more than 1,000 civilians and 300 Israeli soldiers. US officials have joined Israel in expressing outrage at the “carnage,” while considering all the fatalities as “victims,” including those serving in Israel’s military.
The duality surfaces when the same American officials brush aside the even more staggering death toll resulting from Israel’s bombardment of Gaza’s civilian population, which has destroyed hundreds of residential buildings, hospitals, mosques and churches and killed more than 6,000 Palestinians. This number will continue to rise as long as the US blocks calls for a ceasefire.
President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have both rejected calls for a ceasefire that would end the killing of innocent civilians — a reflection of America’s dual policy, which cares for Israeli lives but lacks concern for Palestinian lives. To obfuscate that duality, Biden and Blinken have both expressed a need to stop the killings of civilians, without mentioning that the only killings taking place now are of the Palestinians being indiscriminately targeted by Israel.
In another example of America’s dual policy, the Biden administration is working hard to evacuate Americans who wish to leave Israel. In fact, despite concerns about Israel’s qualifications and commitment to applying it fairly, Biden fast-tracked Tel Aviv’s entry to the Visa Waiver Program that will allow Israelis to enter the US without requiring a visa. But what the Biden administration is not doing is evacuating Americans who are in Gaza. Hundreds of American citizens are huddled at the Rafah crossing. They cannot cross and the US has done nothing to help them.
The word dual also impacts citizenship loyalty. Many Israelis have dual US-Israeli citizenship. Regardless of their origins, all Israelis over the age of 18 are required to serve in the Israeli military. In contrast, there is no mandatory military service for American citizens. So, Israeli Americans do not have to defend America, just Israel. When the US expresses concern for “American lives in Israel,” particularly those being held hostage, they do not address that issue.
As an American of Palestinian heritage who proudly served in the US military during the Vietnam War, I think Americans who wish to serve in the military should do so in the American armed forces, not those of a foreign country.
A question neither Biden nor Blinken will address is whether the American hostages being held by Hamas are actually Americans or if they are Israelis who enjoy dual citizenship and who serve in Israel’s military, but not America’s. Is it right to use the label “American?”
Finally, the US has a distinct dual policy when it comes to Americans killed in the conflict. If you are an Israeli American, your life is sacrosanct. Both Biden and Blinken have repeatedly and strongly expressed concerns for those Americans. But how has the US government responded when Palestinian Americans are killed? In nearly every instance, it has expressed weak concern for their tragic fate.
Last year, two Americans were killed by Israeli soldiers. In January 2022, a 78-year-old Palestinian American citizen, Omar Assad, was brutally beaten, hooded and abused during a nighttime raid on a Palestinian village in the West Bank. He was not involved in any terrorist activities and an embarrassed Israeli government said it would investigate and punish the soldiers involved. Many months later, Israel announced that, while the soldiers would face disciplinary measures, no charges would be filed.
In May 2022, an Israeli soldier shot and killed Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian American citizen who was working as a journalist covering an Israeli assault on the Palestinian city of Jenin. There has been no justice for that killing. Not even any tough words about wanting to get to the bottom of the case. The US merely accepted Israel’s assertion that she was shot accidentally.
Going back further, American activist Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer in 2003, but her killing was never investigated by the US government. In 2010, 18-year-old Turkish American Furkan Dogan was killed by Israeli soldiers on the Mavi Marmara during the Gaza flotilla raid. And, in 2016, 16-year-old Palestinian American Mahmoud Shaalan was killed by Israeli troops while crossing a checkpoint in the West Bank.
The unbalanced expressions of concern from the American government reflect a dual morality at every level — one that is higher for Israel and nearly nonexistent for Palestinians.
Many people recognize that the word dual, in the context of the Israel-Palestine conflict, really means hypocrisy.