Another 50 Years of Mideast Strife

by | Dec 31, 2016


One of my favorite literary expressions is the term “Parthian shaft.” It refers to the favored tactic of the Parthians, a Persian people, of turning while on horseback and firing arrows while retreating.

The Roman consul Crassus, who defeated Spartacus, may have died from such a Parthian shaft after his defeat at the battle of Carrhae in 53 BC.

This week, outgoing President Barack Obama loosed his own Parthian shaft at Israel’s leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, by refusing, for once, to veto a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s ongoing expropriation of Arab land on the occupied West Bank.

There was no mention of similar expropriation and ethnic cleansing on the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights which legally belongs to Syria.

For the past eight years, the Obama administration has discreetly argued with Israel over its settlement building on the West Bank and Jerusalem. In public, the Obama government maintained the ludicrous but convenient fiction that fruitful talks were under way that would lead to creation of two states in historic Palestine.

No one really believed this nonsense: not Israel, not Mahmoud Abbas, the US and Israeli-installed Palestinian Quisling, not the UN, not America’s allies, including its client Arab states. But keeping this lie going meant that no one would have to do anything to block Israel’s in-you face expansion.

When Barack Obama and his feminist foreign policy cadre made occasional public peeps of protest, he and VP Joe Biden were slapped down and abjectly humiliated. It mattered not that the Obama administration pledged to give Israel $38 billion of US taxpayer’s money to buy arms, vetoed an endless series of UN resolutions condemning Israel for illegal expansion and massive violations of human rights, Israel made clear who was really boss in Washington, and it wasn’t Barack Obama.

When Netanyahu did an end run around Obama by coming to address Congress, US congressmen and senators, made giddy by Netanyahu’s presence and its promise of lavish political donations caused these yes-men to jump up and down in crass adulation of the “King of Israel.”

America’s media, no less adoring, lauded Netanyahu and blasted Obama for trying, however feebly, to assert America’s interests in the Mideast and slow down Israel’s quest for lebensraum. As the wise Voltaire observed, “TO LEARN WHO RULES OVER YOU SIMPLY FIND OUT WHO YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO CRITICIZE.”

Obama should have taken action eight years ago, not in the last minutes of his administration. Now, the specter of bumptious Donald Trump hangs over the moribund administration, accentuated its manifest failures abroad. If we believe Trump’s Tweets this week in response to the US refusing, for once, to veto a mild UN resolution on Palestine, the Mideast is in for a rougher time than usual.

Trump does not know much about the Mideast. He will rely on a tight circle of extreme Zionists he has named to deal with the issue. That’s crazy and utterly deluded – unless Trump somehow hopes to push Israel into a real two-state peace deal by somehow using his cohorts of Greater Israel expansionists.

Mideast peace hardly seems in the offing. Israel’s hardline far right, increasingly ascendant, appears bent on further expanding Israel’s “temporary” borders into parts of Syria. Some ultra-Zionists even talk about Iraq’s oil in Kurdistan. Why not? The feeble Arab states are collapsing. Egypt is run by a ferocious dictator funded by Saudi and Israeli money. The Saudis are useless and crazed by childish dreams of power. The US is now safely in Israeli hands. There’s oil and gas off in the Mediterranean (Palestinians will get none, of course.)

What to do with all those Palestinians? The late Gen. Ariel Sharon had the answer: shove them into the barren wastes of Jordan, a US-Israeli protectorate, and call it Palestine.

If the world does not like it, too bad. Israel may look small on the map but it’s a giant of a country, filled with very smart people who know just what they want and how to get it.

But that’s a very short-sighted victory. By thwarting a UN peace deal that would have ended nearly a century of strife, Israel guarantees endless more years of violence, growing anti-Semitism, and its continued estrangement from the rest of the world. A new apartheid state is being born. All of President Obama’s perfumed orations about Mideast peace have come to nothing.

Reprinted with permission from


  • Eric Margolis

    Eric S. Margolis is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune the Los Angeles Times, Times of London, the Gulf Times, the Khaleej Times, Nation – Pakistan, Hurriyet, – Turkey, Sun Times Malaysia and other news sites in Asia.

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