Right Web

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

FDD’s Cliff May Misses the Irony

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

The brainchild of Sears-Roebuck heiress Nina Rosenwald, the Gatestone Institute is a New York-based advocacy organization formerly chaired by John Bolton that is notorious for spreading misinformation about Muslims and advocating extremely hawkish views on everything from Middle East policy to immigration.


Conrad Black is a former media mogul closely connected to rightist political factions in the United States who was convicted in July 2007 for fraud and obstruction of justice and later pardoned by his friend President Trump.


David Friedman is U.S. Ambassador to Israel under Donald Trump. He is known for his extreme views on Israel, which include opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state and support for Israeli settlements.


Jason Greenblatt is the Special Representative for International Negotiations for President Donald Trump primarily working on the Israel-Palestine conflict.


The neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies has re-established itself as a primary driver of hawkish foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, during the Trump administration.


Rupert Murdoch is the head of News Corp, the parent company of Fox News, and a long-time supporter of neoconservative campaigns to influence U.S. foreign policy.


Shmuley Boteach is a “celebrity rabbi” known for his controversial “pro-Israel” advocacy.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

A series of escalations in both word and deed have raised fears of U.S.-Iranian military confrontation, either direct or by proxy. It is urgent that cooler heads prevail – in European capitals as in Tehran and Washington – to head off the threat of a disastrous war.


Vladimir Putin excels at taking advantage of mistakes made by Russia’s adversaries to further his country’s interests. Donald Trump’s Iran policy has given Putin plenty of opportunity to do that.


The Trump administration’s claims about purported Iranian threats have been repeated by credulous reporters and TV news programs far and wide.


This is the cartoon that the international edition of the New York Times should have run, at least as regards U.S. policy toward Iran.


The assault on Tripoli by Khalifa Haftar, Libya’s renegade general and leader of the self-anointed Libyan National Army (LNA), has forced an indefinite postponement of key UN peace efforts in the country even as the Trump White House announced that the president recognized Haftar’s “important” role in fighting terrorists.


With all eyes focused these days on Donald Trump and his myriad crimes, John Bolton’s speeches are a reminder that even worse options are waiting in the wings.


Advocates of cutting U.S. aid to Israel rather than using it as leverage must understand how this aid works, how big a challenge it represents for advocacy, and how to make a potentially successful argument against it.


RightWeb
share