US President Barack Obama has awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Israeli President Shimon Peres, the man who has overseen the killing of Palestinian women and children by Israeli forces in the occupied territories for decades.
Obama awarded the 88-year-old Israeli president the highest civilian honor in the United States during a dinner ceremony in the White House on Wednesday.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Bruce Katz, co-president of Palestinian and Jewish Unity in Montreal, to further talk about the issue.
The video offers the opinions of two additional guests: Paul Larudee, from the Free Palestine Movement in Berkeley, and Michael Santomauro who is a freelance journalist and blogger in New York. What follows is an approximate transcript of the interview.
Obama praised President Shimon Peres as the "essence of Israel itself" as he awarded Peres the highest civilian award the United States government can bestow upon an individual. Much of the international community might disagree with Obama as seeing the essence of Israel worth rewarding, don't you think?
I think that, first of all, when we talk about the international community, it seems to me that the international community has simply become an exclusive club of Western democracy. When I hear the term ‘international community’, essentially it is almost referring to NATO countries now.
To me, what is obvious is the extent to which the strength of the Israeli lobbies such as its impacts on domestic politics in the United States through AIPAC and the Anti-Defamation League.
I really do not think that there is any Israeli politician today who is worthy of any medal, certainly not the highest medal that can be awarded to by the United States of America. But as was mentioned, this is the price you pay for being president of the United States and having to deal with a lobby that can make or break you.
Peres presided over the 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon and the 2008 assault on Gaza and going even further back, he had a role in helping apartheid South Africa procure weapons when it was under an international embargo.
Is that really the kind of criteria the US wants to advocate for its highest award bestowed upon an individual?
I think that the problem is the foreign policy is never based on or hardly ever based on ethical considerations and certainly not in this case. Were it based on ethical considerations, Israel would have been blacklisted a long time ago.
But I think it is very interesting that you mention the case of South Africa. It should also be remembered that not only did Israeli help South Africa militarily; Israel was also the very last country to recognize the African National Congress government which replaced the apartheid regime and that is basically because Israel recognized itself in South African apartheid.
What you have is a society that is based on the notion of ‘racial purity’ and basically what the history of Israel has been essentially has been a white European settler society that has displaced an indigenous people.
Were it not for the fact that in the United States political parties depend to such an extent on private funding and basically the Supreme Court has passed a judgment on the side of private funding, that makes it essentially impossible to avoid the strength of the pro-Israel lobby in the United States.
So you basically have a Catch-22 situation. And that is the major reason, in my opinion, why Israel continues to act with impunity and basically disregards the whole question of international law.
Six years on and the Gaza siege still continues, which has effectively turned Gaza into the largest open air prison on the planet, how come there has been no rock hard action to get the Israelis to stop the blockade which is resulting effectively in the direct deaths of Gazans on a daily basis?
This is where you see the blatant hypocrisy of the so-called ‘Western democracies’ and their vision of freedom for all. They choose which regimes to prop up, which regimes to demonize.
There has been no greater culprit on the question of what has been done to the Palestinians in Gaza in the government of Canada, especially the present government of Canada which [complies] with anything that as a matter of fact, I think, they have even gone passed the United States for pandering to Israeli lobby and again that is part of Canadian domestic politics.
The Harper government is very largely subsidized by organizations like the Canadian Institute for Israel and Jewish Advocacy which is putting millions into Conservative coffers.
We have the very same problem here; it is the same problem that exists in other countries. It is politically convenient for these governments to pander to pro-Israel lobby by demonizing Gaza, calling the people there terrorists and essentially allowing them to slowly starve to death...