Mada al-Carmel hosted Dr. Joel Beinin, Professor of Middle East History at Stanford University, for a presentation entitled: The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict and US Political Discourse.
Dr. Joel Beinin discussed his view of the three major issues that determine US policy in the Middle East: oil and military interests, religious ideology, and Israel. Dr. Beinin began by exploring the complex relationship between Evangelical Protestantism and Zionist thought, seemingly opposing philosophies, that for the past century have intersected in the context of Jewish immigration to historic Palestine, which for Evangelicals signifies a necessary period in the process of the second-coming of Jesus Christ. This belief has stimulated pro-Israel sentiment among American Christians, who are the dominant group in the United States. As the Cold War progressed, the US found that Israel was an ideal strategic ally, as a proxy and weapons-supplier, and for its central location vis-à-vis oil-producing states in the region. As such, Dr. Beinin demonstrated how religious ideology and US foreign policy created a compatible relationship with the Zionist project that served both US and Israeli interests. Dr. Beinin discussed other cultural sentiments in the West that further maintained this relationship, such as guilt about the Holocaust, and the War on Terror. With the end of the Cold War, Israel’s strategic value decreased significantly; however, at this point the relationship between the two countries had been solidified and no longer needed justification. Dr. Beinin also emphasized the fact that oil-producing Arab states had never punished Israel or the US for their destructive foreign policy, which created an atmosphere whereby the two countries had no motivation to change these policies.
Dr. Beinin concluded that to understand the US-Israel relationship, and the way it dictates the terms of the Palestinian-Israeli and Arab-Israeli conflict, we must consider these historical processes that created the challenging contemporary circumstances that confront us. As the conflict intensifies, he encouraged those involved to listen to the ideas and strategies of Palestinians engaged in fighting for a just solution, as their efforts should not be underestimated.