Mon | Dec 10, 2018

Orville Taylor | Caution with Israel’s covenant

Published:Sunday | September 23, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (left) walks alongside Rabbi Yaakov Raskin, co-director of Chabad of Jamaica, during a February 2017 visit to Israel.

In a book written by them about them, they describe themselves as the people chosen by God. The historical occupants of Israel might not be the current residents. However, the Jamaican prime minister is exploring greater cooperation with them, thus raising the question of their being the chosen once again.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in Parliament last week, indicated that he was pursuing greater levels of assistance from the state of Israel and is apparently on the verge of signing an intelligence-sharing memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Israelis. Indeed, in the face of the resilience of crime - in particular, violent ones - it makes sense to find expertise and technical assistance, wherever it exists. Thus, according to him: "One of the leading nations in the world in cybersecurity is Israel. So I want to be absolutely clear that we are cooperating with any country around the world to build our capacity in all kinds of areas, which, when put together, forms part of the plan to secure Jamaica."

The sea between the USA and Jamaica is a sea of green and sometimes blue. But Holness is no Moses, and there is no rod to part it. In fact, a flag has been raised, and it is not just a red one. It is a red, white, and blue one with 50 stars. The lone star of Israel is hardly a substitute. The USA is Israel's closest partner, and it is particularly bothersome that Uncle Sam is uncomfortable with this nation being so deeply involved in security issues in its frontyard. Something is very strange here. We know that America is the biggest backer of Israel. Almost 30 per cent of Israel's exports go to the USA. This has a value of more than US$17 billion. Total trade between the two countries is worth some US$47 billion, with the Americans importing almost $29 billion.

America was the nation that laid the groundwork for the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. One of the two original non-NATO foreign allies, Israel has had consistent support from the Americans even when the UN voted for sanctions against it. Indeed, the Americans and Israelis also have mutual cooperation arrangements on matters of security. Therefore, why would America be perturbed over a closer relationship between one of its oldest and most consistent hemispheric allies and its other offspring in the Middle East?

 

History

 

Perhaps the explanation lies in history. Since the days of President James Monroe in the 1820s, the doctrine of the USA has been that the Americas and, especially, the Caribbean, whose sea washes the south coast of America, are considered its sphere of influence. It is one of the reasons why it quietly is keeping a CHEC on Chinese activities in the region and won't take a blow on the chin lightly. As was revealed in the 1960s when the Russians attempted to set up ballistics in Cuba, or when Jamaica did a rent-a-tile salsa with the Cubans in the 1970s, or when Grenada attempted to go communist in the 1980s, this is part of America.

Furthermore, as was revealed during the Manatt-Dudus enquiry in 2011, Jamaica has in place an inviolable security cooperation and information-sharing agreement with the big brother up north, who has the capability of sending vessels to our assistance without having to travel literally from half the world away. Point is, any security-sharing agreement with powerful, nuclear-capable nations, friend or foe, rightfully is seen as flying in the face of our historical alliances.

However, that is only half of the concern. We have a Jamaican saying about fish warning about sharks being at 'water bottom'. We do know that Israel has major technological capabilities, and I wouldn't be surprised if they actually have agents reading this column as I write it. My concern is, what are the lessons that we can learn from the Israelis, and what will we be attempting to implement here?

Given the angst regarding the National Identification System, we understand that the Government will have its finger on the pulse of every Jamaican, and from a national-security perspective, this could help in the fight against crime.

However, Israeli policing activities have been accused of being inhumane and in serious violation of human rights, especially against their opponents, and, in particular, the Palestinians who abide there. Human Rights Watch has documented that "Israeli security forces have routinely used excessive force in policing situations, killing or grievously wounding thousands of demonstrators, rock throwers, suspected assailants, and others with live ammunition when lesser means could have averted a threat or maintained order".

Notably, an Israeli human-rights organisation, B'Tselem, has lamented that scores of Israeli civilians have been killed by the security forces while "Israeli official investigations into alleged security force ... failed to hold the abusers accountable ...". Amnesty International has had similar complaints over the decades. Just last week, it reported, "Israeli forces killed four Palestinian men in the Gaza Strip using live ammunition ... ." And according to its deputy director for the Middle East, "... such crimes are rarely, if ever, punished. That allows unlawful killings and other violations of the right to life to continue in shameless disregard of international law."

What we also might not know is that the increasing violence and police's use of excessive force against American residents, of all races, has been indexed to the importation of such techniques from Israel and the training of American law enforcement officers by Israelis. Many times in the past 30 years, the UN has voted to sanction Israel for its human-rights breaches but America vetoed it. America knows what its adopted child is capable of and does not necessarily want it living in its household.

The same USA that punished us for impunity of our own law officers for doing less than what Israel has done. Puss and dog don't have the same luck.

- Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at the UWI, a radio talk-show host, and author of 'Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets'. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and tayloronblackline@ hotmail.com.