Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

FDD’s Cliff May Misses the Irony

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Clifford May conveniently criticizes China for creating “facts on the ground” in the South China Sea while ignoring similar Israeli moves in the Occupied West Bank.

Print Friendly

LobeLog

“’Creating facts on the ground’ means changing reality through actions rather than diplomacy.”

That opening line in a Washington Times op-ed, by the long-time president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), Clifford May, gave me a classic double take when I read it last week.

According to Wikipedia, the origin of the phrase “facts on the ground” lies with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “where it was used to refer to Israeli settlements built in the occupied West Bank, which were intended to establish permanent Israeli footholds in Palestinian territory.” That’s ordinarily the context in which the phrase is used. In fact, Wikipedia says the phrase is “a calque of the Hebrew term ‘Uvdot Ba’Shetach’” A calque is a word-for-word translation.

But that’s not what May was referring to in his op-ed, which made it clear that he strongly disapproved of “changing reality through actions rather than diplomacy,” aka “creating facts on the ground.”

That’s because he wasn’t referring to the Jewish settlement movement in West Bank (and East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights). May was instead referring to …China and specifically its recent efforts to build and build up islands across the South China Sea.

What makes this real estate so valuable? Location, location, location. The South China Sea is home to some of the world’s busiest and most strategic shipping lanes, a rich fishing area, and possibly large undersea oil and natural gas reserves. China apparently intends to assert its sovereignty and control over all this [area]—and maybe over the airspace above as well.

May went on to cite with approval Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s recent characterization of the Chinese actions as “’out of step’ with international norms.” May himself suggested that Chinese actions violated “international maritime law,” which “[t]he US Navy has the muscle to enforce.”

Of course, May was citing the Chinese construction activity to push the larger Republican—remember, he was once a spokesman for the Republican National Committee—and Likudist narrative that the Obama administration is spineless in dealing with challenges to U.S. regional (read Middle East) and global hegemony.

(Indeed, May went on to argue that if China gets away with defying U.S. demands to halt the island construction, “precedents will be set” that “Iran’s rulers” could use to assert their territorial claims over the Strait of Hormuz and beyond.)

But, the question that goes begging in the op-ed is: how are China’s actions in the South China Sea different from Israel’s actions in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights?

True, China may “intend” at some future date to assert its sovereignty and control over most of the South China Sea in ways that could, potentially, challenge or even violate “international norms” and “international maritime law.” But Israel has not only actually annexed East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights (which takes care of the sovereignty issue), it also continues to exercise de facto “control” over the West Bank and Gaza, including their “borders” and, as May called it, the “air space above.” And, of course, its settlements in the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and East Jerusalem continue to constitute actual violations of international law, not least the Fourth Geneva Convention, according to numerous UN resolutions, the International Court of Justice, all but a tiny handful of international legal experts, and every government except Israel’s. (The U.S. has never revoked a 1979 State Department legal opinion that found the creation of Israeli settlements in occupied territories “inconsistent with international law. Wikipedia actually has quite an exhaustive discussion of the settlements’ legal status.)

So you may indeed strongly object to China’s “changing reality through actions rather than diplomacy,” but if you’re going to use a phrase as evocative of Israel’s illegal actions as “creating facts on the ground,” particularly when your organization’s entire raison d’être consists of defending Israel and its actions, shouldn’t you feel somewhat obliged to try to distinguish between the two situations? Are you so lacking in self-consciousness, so oblivious to irony? Help me out here, Cliff.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Established in Baltimore in 1897, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is the oldest Zionist organization in the United States—and also among the most aggressively anti-Arab ones.


U.S. Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis is a retired U.S Marine Corps general and combat veteran who served as commander of U.S. Central Command during 2010-2013 before being removed by the Obama administration reportedly because of differences over Iran policy.


Mike Pompeo (R-KS) is a conservative Republican congressman who was voted into office as part of the “tea party” surge in 2011 and chosen by Donald Trump to be director of the CIA.


Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas and an evangelical pastor, is a 2016 Republican presidential candidate.


David Albright is the founder of the Institute for Science and International Security, a non-proliferation think tank whose influential analyses of nuclear proliferation issues in the Middle East have been the source of intense disagreement and debate.


The former GOP presidential candidate and Speaker of the House has been a vociferous proponent of the idea that the America faces an existential threat from “Islamofascists.”


Billionaire investor Paul Singer is the founder and CEO of the Elliott Management Corporation and an important funder of neoconservative causes.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly

President Trump and his Iranophobe supporters are itching for a war with Iran, without any consideration of the disastrous consequences that will ensue.


Print Friendly

The war of words and nuclear threats between the United States and North Korea make a peaceful resolution to the escalating crisis more difficult than ever to achieve.


Print Friendly

The new White House chief of staff, retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, is anything but non-partisan or apolitical. For the deeply conservative Kelly, the United States is endangered not only by foreign enemies but by domestic forces that either purposely, or unwittingly, support them.


Print Friendly

The prospects of Benjamin Netanyahu continuing as Israel’s prime minister are growing dim. But for those of us outside of Israel who support the rights of Palestinians as well as Israelis and wish for all of those in the troubled region to enjoy equal rights, the fall of Netanyahu comes too late to make much difference.


Print Friendly

Rich Higgins, the recently fired director for strategic planning at the National Security Council, once said in an interview on Sean Hannity’s radio program, that “more Muslim Americans have been killed fighting for ISIS than have been killed fighting for the United States since 9/11.”


Print Friendly

This is how the Trump administration could try to use the IAEA to spur Iran to back out of the JCPOA.


Print Friendly

President Trump seems determined to go forward with a very hostile program toward Iran, and, although a baseless US pullout from the JCPOA seems unlikely, even the so-called “adults” are pushing for a pretext for a pullout. Such an act does not seem likely to attract European support. Instead, it will leave the United States isolated, break the nuclear arrangement and provide a very reasonable basis for Iran to restart the pursuit of a nuclear deterrent in earnest.


RightWeb
share