It certainly wasn’t the only time calling a perceived ally of DC a democracy became a tradition with India. While India could have been the first non-European “ally” to receive such treatment since the heydays of the Cold War, the immense support India currently enjoys despite a litany of human rights violations will never outclass the kind of prowess Tel Aviv has from the grassroots and political elite in the Beltway. Between the dying enthusiasm for nation-building on the right and the militant demand for greater involvement in the world on the left, support for Israel occupies a sweet spot.
Without a doubt, the massacre or kidnapping of innocent civilians Hamas initiated during the surprise offense in southern Israel should be condemned. People are right to be outraged about such atrocities regardless of political affiliation or thinking, but whether intervention is warranted is another question. Many (including myself) have already gone to the arena and brawled with one another on the issue. When news of the atrocities hit the front page, reluctant Republicans suddenly sounded like they had been cheering throughout the war for nation-building with bombs two decades ago, engaging in a competition with the Democrats to see who could defend the Holy Land and the “only democracy in the Middle East.”
From a glance at the Freedom House Index, the answer would be, “Yes, Israel is a democracy.” Compared to neighboring countries, the Gulf states, and Iran, Israel appears as a bright spot that even rivals Western countries. Remember, Freedom House is not a conservative institution saddled somewhere in Texas or Florida but funded by progressives of the Beltway. Even as far away as Thailand, progressives of the country often cite Freedom House as an indicator of how their country is doing.
Hamas: The Creature Israel Created and Financed
But it’s a bad summary. Between Israel and the broader Arab world after more than seventy years, nobody stands right. Politics in the Middle East is complicated, but one word summarizes the situation perfectly: sectarianism. I can’t do much justice to Arab-Israeli history here, so I’ll advance to recent events. When Hamas launched its blitzkrieg into southern Israel and committed atrocities there, people didn’t think much about the organization other than merely another terrorist group dedicated to wiping the Jewish state off the map. By any decent person’s definition, Hamas is a terrorist organization.
But there’s a plot twist not many are aware of: Hamas is a creation of Tel Aviv intended to further Israeli interest in annexing the Gaza Strip by dividing the Palestinians into factions. It wasn’t a conspiracy theory but a full-fledged project in the 1980s by Tel Aviv to destabilize Palestine by dividing the more secularist Palestine Liberation Organization with what would become Hamas through funding radical mosques. It was a classic divide-and-conquer move, with the end goal being annexing the remainder of Palestinian territory. Even though Israeli funding for the group ended years ago, Tel Aviv still lobbied Arab states to fund it until 2020.
The initial divide-and-conquer campaign partially did what it intended to do. The move split Palestinian territory and helped Israel to an extent in annexing territory. But the price was paid by thousands of Israeli and Palestinian lives through the years as Hamas’s grip on Gaza continues, at least for the time being. Pro-Israel conservative figures are correct that Hamas does hide among civilians. But as more casualty mounts in Gaza and Israel, the guilt falls too upon successive governments in Tel Aviv. Even though Hamas senses that its recent surprise attack could bring Gaza down with it through a blockade and constant artillery strikes, Israel prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is uncompromising.
But the worst is yet to come. Two million Gazans are deprived of access to energy and water with no way out of the blockaded region, which has greater implications than Tel Aviv would like to think. Tel Aviv has recently struck Syria and has vowed action on Iran as radicalized, equally tribalistic Arabs watch with fear that what’s happening to Gaza may lead to a more serious raid on Al-Aqsa, a site they consider holy. While Arab governments may privately shake their heads toward their citizenry’s sentiments, ignoring them is a grave political mistake they certainly won’t make.
Chinese Surveillance with Israeli Characteristics
While neoconservatives and Zionist evangelicals could care less about increasing regional tension and potential war, justifying it through the notion that Israel is the only democracy in the region and can play a role in democratizing the world, they ought to think again. Take, for instance, domestic surveillance. With how Eric Garland reacted to school board protests, the bizarrely lenient sentence Ray Epps received, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation demanding Twitter and Facebook censor the Hunter Biden laptop story, many conservatives are rightfully suspicious of national security agencies.
So why aren’t they questioning what the Israelis are doing? At first glance, the intrusiveness and totalitarian nature of China’s monitoring in Xinjiang and Israel’s surveillance during the pandemic are eerily similar, but it might be a coincidence.
Or is it? While specifics remain blurry at best, and with a tighter export control to China than DC on dual-use and military technology, “commercial” technology could have been utilized by companies known to have engaged in surveillance, like Huawei. While activities are low-key, China prizes technology concerning security from Israel, and Beijing can obtain them through companies. While many specifics remain scant, autocrats worldwide prefer Israeli surveillance technology, given Israel’s tech world has a heavy lean on security (many of the startups and development processes are headed by veterans of Unit 8200, dubbed the Israeli version of the National Security Agency).
In a more exhaustive report by the RAND Corporation, many “private” and government-owned Chinese firms invest in Israeli companies that concern themselves with cybersecurity. Beijing offers preferential regulation and subsidies to companies that invest in those sectors as those sectors are in line with many of the goals set by the regime. Xiaomi, ZTE, Huawei, etc., have invested billions in them for technology transfer, the setup of R and D centers, or the acquisition of such firms.
Without a doubt, the matter of how much Israeli technology is incorporated into the surveillance apparatus of China remains an open question. But it would be difficult to imagine that China established an apparatus that was 100 percent homemade, as Huawei’s Mate 60 utilized South Korean memory chips while carrying a processor with an unspecified chip that may or may not be 7nm.
Of course, libertarians, as I am, won’t want to get involved abroad and impose sanctions as they do nothing or often backfire (China utilizes “private companies” with state funding as a way to bypass direct state-to-state dealing to avoid a reaction from D.C. to Tel Aviv). But if neoconservatives are adamant about defending Israel to “defending democracy around the world,” remember that the same Netanyahu has no issue with Israeli technology being used to monitor dissidents of “enemies of the state” in China. He encouraged more Chinese investments in the country and knows what those investments mean to China.
After all, the world doesn’t rely on pure ideology to conduct diplomacy, including Israel. Despite being labeled as an “unfriendly country” by autocratic Moscow, Taiwan trades billions with autocracies in the Indo-Pacific through the New Southbound Policy. Russia didn’t attack Ukraine because it was anti-Russian when countries close to it in Central Asia, like Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, implemented harder de-Russification policies, but because of the fear of North Atlantic Treaty Organization expansion. Neocons should stop pretending that Israel is an exception when it goes against the grain of a liberal-progressive international order.