Israel receives a lot of unwelcome attention from the U.S., the UN and the EU. As others in the region see it, however, that makes Israel the most important country in the world, and Palestinians the world's luckiest "refugees." While withdrawing security and political assistance from most of the Middle East and Africa, the Obama Administration has increased its visibility in the "peace process" and announced a $4 billion investment plan for Palestine. To other countries, this attention shows who, in America's eyes, is important.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, on his 10th visit in the past year to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, stands at a press conference with PA lead negotiator Saeb Erekat in Ramallah, on Jan. 4, 2013. (Image source: State Department)
Through Syrian eyes:
The Syrian civil war has killed more than 200,000 people, including more than 1,500 by poison gas. More than 11,000 children have died; both children and adults have died by starvation. The Assad regime refused to let relief agencies into villages unless they surrendered and flew the government flag. Starving a population into surrender is a war crime. The government is using "barrel bombs" -- barrels filled with nails and metal shrapnel and thrown from airplanes. Twenty-one people died last week from a barrel bombing of the Aleppo market. There are more than 2 million refugees both internally displaced and in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.
Israel and Palestine, by comparison, are oases of coexistence and economic development. The U.S. Administration, however, sent Secretary of State John Kerry on his 10th visit to make peace for Israel as if peace is more important for them than it is for us – and as if Palestinian "refugees" are in more immediate need of help than we Syrians are.
Through Lebanese eyes:
After a generation of unrelenting sectarian violence, the Lebanese people found a tentative peace in 1991. Yes, it vested a lot of unearned power in Hezbollah, which used it to bait Israel. But among ourselves, we were figuring it out, more or less, give or take. Now the Syrian war has landed on us. Hezbollah fighters are fighting not only in Syria, but also in Lebanon; Sunni militias are doing the same. We share the agony of Syria, we are terrified, and we are powerless.
But the U.S. Administration sent John Kerry to make "Palestine" -- to obtain security for Israel, and avoid a "third intifada." How does potential violence against Israel command more American diplomatic attention than the actual descent of Lebanon into chaos?
Through Iraqi and Afghan eyes:
The American war against Saddam removed the boot of a dictator from our necks, even as it unleashed sectarian trouble that Saddam's boot had kept in check. American troops helped us through a civil war, but left before we had figured out what to do with the peace, open government and materiel they gave us.
Our deterioration picked up steam in 2012 after the Americans left. In 2013, more than 7,000 people died in bombings and shootings. We Iraqis see the agony of Syria and know it was us -- and it is us again; Ramadi and Fallujah are again held by the same Islamists we ousted with American help only a few years ago. We Afghans know it will be us when the Americans leave. We are terrified, and we're not ready to do this on our own.
But the U.S. Administration, which apparently thinks it "ended the war" in Iraq by removing U.S. troops, and plans to do the same in Afghanistan, sent John Kerry to offer Israel "security guarantees" -- meaning troops -- to replace Israeli soldiers in the Jordan Valley. What makes Israel more worthy of American troops than we are?
Through Egyptian eyes:
The Muslim Brotherhood is our Taliban, and its dominance would have precisely the consequences that the Taliban had, and will have again, in Afghanistan. Periodically, the government shoves the Muslim Brotherhood back into a box and tries to keep it there. Such behavior may not be "democratic," but we are at war. At the same time, the government is trying to produce a new constitution and hold new elections. We could use American support for having only secular political parties -- like your separation of Church and State -- and for strengthening the legislature against the presidency -- like your separation of powers. We could use American support for destroying the Hamas smuggling tunnels, for working with Israel, for maintaining security in the Suez Canal (and keeping the U.S. Navy at the top of the priority list for passage through the canal). We could use help.
Instead, the U.S. Administration sent Secretary Kerry to Israel and "Palestine" to figure out how to give Hamas -- the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood -- an independent country.
From South Sudan and the Central African Republic:
The Americans rejoiced in the independence of South Sudan. Today, in five of its ten states, there is fighting, raping, pillage, and refugees. There are reports reaching the West of the killing of scores of young (ethnic) Nuer in a secret detention facility, their bodies buried in shallow graves: "Witnesses said that Nuer men have been rounded up across Juba and that many were thrown in prisons for days, beaten with rifle butts or killed on the spot."
Nearly one million people are displaced in the Central African Republic, more than 60% of them children. Medecins Sans Frontières has been reduced to treating only the most severe cases reaching refugee camps, but they fear many civilians are hiding in the bush, afraid to come into refugee centers. Earlier this week, the UN warned the violence had sunk "to a vicious new low" as children were mutilated and beheaded in revenge attacks.
Violence in Israel and "Palestine" is handled by local authorities, and Palestinian "refugees" live in heaven compared to us, but the world spends untold billions on them, probably because they are "occupied" by Jews. We should have such luck in enemies.
From Iranians, Libyans, Kurds, Turks, Tunisians, Chechens, Russians, Uyghurs, Saudis:
We live under severely repressive governments, denied basic human rights -- women's rights, minority rights, the right to our own history and language. We can be thrown in jail for using the Internet, for having a contrary opinion, for being of the "wrong" ethnicity, for leaving the house without permission, like slaves. Our friends and family are "disappeared." We are desperately afraid we will be next.
Where is the American beacon of hope for us?
Shining on what must be the "most important country in the world," and the world's luckiest "refugees."
Shoshana Bryen is Senior Director of the Jewish Policy Center.