Dr. Leahy covered a multitude of specific topics pertaining to the relationship between the United States and the Middle East in her lecture. She started by pointing out that the main focal point of conflict between the U.S. and the Middle East lies in the U.S.’s support of Israel. As long as the United States supports Israel, there will be resentment towards the United States in the Middle East. This resentment has great merit. Israel receives roughly 40% of all U.S. aid. They continue to receive this aid despite the immorality the state portrays on a daily basis. The murder of Rachel Corrie, an American who was working at Rafah Refugee Camp, at the hands of the IDF was not even enough to get the U.S. to relinquish some of its aid. Furthermore, in conflicts such as the Battle of Jenin in 2002, the United States allowed Israel to kill civilians and destroy homes, leaving 4,000 people homeless. The United States also rejected the idea of a cease fire in 2006 when Lebanon was invaded by Israel. Israel was withstanding rocket attacks on military sites by Hezbollah, and responded by attacking innocent Lebanese civilians rather than military targets. By delaying the ceasefire, the United States actively endorsed Israel’s actions and allowed them to bomb infrastructure, set up a naval blockade, and kill 1,200 Lebanese. Israel’s response was not proportional to the threat displayed by Hezbollah. More recently, in May of 2010, the IDF boarded the vessel of the Free Gaza Movement from Turkey who were bringing aid such as food, medicine, and building materials to the Gaza Strip. The IDF ended up killing 9 Turkish civilians that day for simply trying to help those in need.
As for the U.S.’s future with Israel, it is still to be determined. President Obama hoped to reestablish the borders to what they were in 1967, however he was unable to accomplish this feat. All of the major U.S. presidential candidates, other than Bernie Sanders, spoke at AIPAC, a pro-Israel organization, and vowed to stand unconditionally with Israel. Ted Cruz went as far as to say, “Palestine has not existed since 1948.”
Outside of Israel, there are many other factors that lead to the conflict between the United States and Middle East. First, the United States has supported Middle Eastern dictators throughout history, no matter their behavior. The United States, a democratic state, supports dictators while crushing democratic elections like they did in 2006 in Palestine. In January of 2006, Hamas won legislative elections in Palestine, only to have the United States, Russia, the European Union, and United Nations cut funding to Palestine because they were not happy with the election results. Hamas was what the people wanted, proven by the fact that there was a 74.6% voter turnout, an astoundingly high number for any election. Second, the United States placed sanctions against Iraq, failing to recognize that those sanctions hurt the common man rather than the political regimes. Those sanctions lead to poverty among youth-heavy populations, attracting extremists to the country to recruit the marginalized for their organizations. Third, the United States broke their promise by leaving U.S. military bases in Mecca following the Gulf War. Finally, oil is another reason for U.S. and Middle Eastern conflict.
Hence, I fully agree with everything Dr. Leahy said today. The United States fails to recognize its role in their conflict with the Middle East. I hope that our next U.S. President can find a way to make amends with the Middle East and pave the road for a prosperous future in the region.