Graphic Design: A. Golden, eyewash design – c. 2009.
Illustration: Carlos Latuff, c. 2002 – latuff2.deviantart.com/
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US Aid: The Lifeblood of Occupation
By: Matt Bowles, www.wrmea.com/html/usaidtoisrael0001.htm
Israel has maintained an illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip (Palestinian territories) for 35 years, entrenching an apartheid regime that looks remarkably like the former South African regime.
Palestinians into small, noncontiguous bantustans, imposing closures and curfews to control where they go and when, while maintaining control over the natural resources, exploiting Palestinian labor, and prohibiting indigenous economic development.
The Israeli military (IDF)—the third or forth most powerful army in the world—routinely uses tanks, Apache helicopter gunships, and F-16 fighter jets (all subsidized by the U.S.) against a population that has no military and none of the protective institutions of a modern state.
All of this, Israel tells its citizens and the international community, is for "Israeli security." The reality, not surprisingly, is that these policies have resulted in a drastic increase in attacks on Israel. These attacks are then used as a pretext for further Israeli incursions into Palestinian areas and more violations of Palestinian human rights which makes Israeli civilians more secure; all of which further entrenches Israelÿs colonial apartheid regime. Most Americans do not realize the extent to which this is all funded by U.S. aid, nor do they understand the specific economic relationship the U.S. has with Israel and how that differs from other countries.
The aid pipeline
There are at least three ways in which aid to Israel is different from that of any other country. First, since 1982, U.S. aid to Israel has been transferred in one lump sum at the beginning of each fiscal year, which immediately begins to collect interest in U.S. banks. Aid that goes to other countries is disbursed throughout the year in quarterly installments.
Second, Israel is not required to account for specific purchases. Most countries receive aid for very specific purposes and must account for how it is spent. Israel is allowed to place US aid into its general fund, effectively eliminating any distinctions between types of aid. Therefore, U.S. tax-payers are helping to fund an illegal occupation, the expansion of colonial-settlement projects, and gross human rights violations against the Palestinian civilian population.
A third difference is the sheer amount of aid the U.S. gives to Israel, unparalleled in the history of U.S. foreign policy. Israel usually receives roughly one third of the entire foreign aid budget, despite the fact that Israel comprises less than .001 of the world’s population and already has one of the world’s higher per capita incomes. In other words, Israel, a country of approximately 6 million people, is currently receiving more U.S. aid than all of Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean combined when you take out Egypt and Colombia.
This year, the U.S. Congress approved $2.76 billion in its annual aid package for Israel. The total amount of direct U.S. aid to Israel has been constant, at around $3 billion (usually 60% military and 40% economic) per year for the last quarter century. A new plan was recently implemented to phase out all economic aid and provide corresponding increases in military aid by 2008. This year Israel is receiving $2.04 billion in military aid and $720 million in economic aid there is only military aid.
In addition to nearly $3 billion in direct aid, Israel usually gets another $3 billion or so in indirect aid: military support from the defense budget, forgiven loans, and special grants. While some of the indirect aid is difficult to measure precisely, it is safe to say that Israel’s total aid (direct and indirect) amounts to at least five billion dollars annually.
On top of all of this aid, a team from Israel’s finance ministry is slated to meet with U.S. government officials this month about an additional $800 million aid package which the Clinton administration promised Israel (and the Bush administration later froze) as compensation for the costs of its withdrawal from Lebanon. The U.S. also managed to find another $28 million in the 2001 Pentagon budget to give Israel to purchase "counter terrorism equipment."
According to the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE), from 1949-2001 the U.S. has given Israel a total of $94,966,300,000. The direct and indirect aid from this year should put the total U.S. aid to Israel since 1949 at over one hundred billion dollars. What is not widely known, however, is that most of this aid violates American laws. The Arms Export Control Act stipulates that US-supplied weapons be used only for "legitimate self-defense."
Moreover, the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act prohibits military assistance to any country "which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights." The Proxmire amendment bans military assistance to any government that refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and to allow inspection of its nuclear facilities, which Israel refuses to do. To understand why the U.S. spends this much money funding the brutal repression of a colonized people, it is necessary to examine the benefits for weapons manufacturers and, particularly, the role that Israel plays in the expansion and maintenance of U.S. imperialism.
A very special relationship
In the fall of 1993, when many were supporting what they hoped would become a viable peace process, 78 senators wrote to former President Bill Clinton insisting that aid to Israel remain at current levels. Their reasons were the "massive procurement of sophisticated arms by Arab states." Yet the letter neglected to mention that 80 percent of those arms to Arab countries came from the U.S. itself.
Stephen Zunes has argued that the Aerospace Industry Association (AIA), which promotes these massive arms shipments, is even more influential in determining U.S. policy towards Israel than the notorious AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) lobby. AIA has given two times more money to campaigns than all of the pro-Israel groups combined. Zunes asserts that the general thrust of U.S. policy would be pretty much the same even if AIPAC didn’t exist: "We didn’t need a pro-Indonesia lobby to support Indonesia in its savage repression of East Timor all these years."
The "special relationship" between the U.S. and Israel must be understood within the overall American imperialist project and the quest for global hegemony, beginning in the late 1960s and early 1970s. For example, 99% of all U.S. aid to Israel came after 1967, despite the fact that Israel was relatively more vulnerable in earlier years (from 1948-1967). Not coincidentally, it was in 1967 that Israel won the Six Day War against several Arab countries, establishing itself as a regional superpower. Also, in the late 1960s and particularly in the early 1970s (this was around the time of the Nixon Doctrine), the U.S. was looking to establish "spheres of influence"-regional superpowers in each significant area of the world to help the U.S. police them.
The primary U.S. interest in the Middle East is, and has always been, to maintain control of the oil in the region, primarily because this is the source of energy that supplies the industrial economies of Europe and Japan. The U.S. goal has been to insure that there is no indigenous threat to their domination of these energy resources. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the U.S. made the strategic decision to ally itself with Israel and Iran, which were referred to as "our two eyes in the middle east" and the "guardians of the gulf." It was at this point that aid increased drastically, from $24 million in 1967 (before the war), to $634 million in 1971, to a staggering $2.6 billion in 1974, where it has remained relatively consistent ever since.
Israel was to be a military stronghold, a client state, and a proxy army, protecting U.S. interests in the Middle East and throughout the world. Subsidized by the CIA, Israel served U.S. interests well beyond the immediate region, setting up dependable client regimes (usually military-based dictatorships) to control local societies. Noam Chomsky has documented this extensively: Israel was the main force that established the Mobutu dictatorship in Zaire, for example. They also supported Idi Amin in Uganda, early on, as well as Haile Selasse in Ethopia, and Emperor Bokassa in the Central African Republic.
Israel became especially useful when the U.S. came under popular human rights pressure in the 1970s to stop supporting death squads and dictatorships in Latin America. The U.S. began to use Israel as a surrogate to continue its support. Chomsky documents how Israel established close relations with the neo-Nazi and military regimes of Argentina and Chile. Israel also supported genocidal attacks on the indigenous population of Guatemala, and sent arms to El Salvador and Honduras to support the contras. This was all a secondary role, however.
The primary role for Israel was to be the Sparta of the Middle East. During the Cold War, the U.S. especially needed Israel as a proxy army because direct intervention in the region was too dangerous, as the Soviets were allied with neighboring states. Over the last thirty years, the U.S. has pursued a two-track approach to dominating the region and its resources: It has turned Israel into a military outpost (now probably the most militarized society in the world) that is economically dependent on the U.S. while propping up corrupt Arab dictatorships such as those in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. These regimes are afraid of their own people and, thus, are very insecure. Therefore, they are inclined to collaborate with the U.S. at any cost.
Prospects for activism
Since the end of the Cold War, the nuclear threat associated with direct intervention in the Middle East has disappeared and the U.S. has started a gradual and direct militarization of the region. This began with the Gulf War—putting U.S. military bases in Saudi Arabia (the primary source of oil), among other places—and has continued through the current ‘war on terrorism.’
Although U.S. aid has not decreased yet, there have been other observable shifts. The first obvious one is the mainstream media reporting on the conflict. Although there is still, of course, an anti-Palestinian bias, the coverage has shifted significantly in comparison to ten years ago. This has been noticeable in both journalistic accounts of Israeli human rights abuses and the publication of pro-Palestinian op-eds in major papers such as the Washington Post and the Boston Globe.
There are also some stirrings in the U.S. Congress. Representative John Conyers (D-MI) requested that President Bush investigate whether Israel’s use of American F-16s is violating the Arms Export Control Act. Further, Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) recently complained about giving aid without conditions: "There are no strings on the money. There is no requirement that the bloodshed abate before the funding is released." Other elected representatives are slowly starting to open up to the issue as well, but there is a long way to go on Capital Hill.
The most important development, however, has been the rising tide of concern and activism around the Palestinian issue in the US left. The desperate plight of the Palestinians is gaining increasing prominence in the movement against Bush’s "war on terrorism," and it is gradually entering into the movement against corporate globalization.
For years the Palestinian cause was marginalized by the left in America. Since this intifada broke out 17 months ago, that began to shift significantly and has moved even further since September 11. With the new "anti-war" movement, there has come a deeper understanding of U.S. policy in the Middle East and how the question of Palestine fits into progressive organizing.
In Durban, South Africa last September, at the UN Global Conference Against Racism, one of the most pressing issues on the global agenda was the Palestinian struggle against Israel’s racist policies. 30,000 people from South Africa and around the world demonstrated against Zionism, branding it as a form of apartheid no different than the system that blacks suffered through in South Africa. Shortly after, the U.S. and Israel stormed out of the conference.
In Europe and America, a range of organizations have risen in opposition to Israeli apartheid and in support of Palestinian human rights and self-determination. Just over the last year or two, organizations such as Students for Justice in Palestine, based at the University of California at Berkeley, have begun organizing a divestment campaign, modeled after the campaign that helped bring down South African apartheid. SUSTAIN (Stop U.S. Tax-funded Aid to Israel Now!) chapters in a number of cities have focused their efforts on stopping U.S. aid to Israel, which is the lifeblood of Israeli occupation and continued abuses of Palestinian rights.
Many Jewish organizations have emerged as well, such as Not in My Name, which counters the popular media assertion that all Jewish people blindly support the policies of the state of Israel. Jews Against the Occupation is another organization, which has taken a stand not only against the occupation, but also in support of the right of Palestinian refugees to return. These movements, and particularly their newfound connection with the larger anti-war, anti-imperialist, and anti-corporate globalization movements, are where the possibilities lie to advance the Palestinian struggle.
The hope for Palestine is in the internationalization of the struggle. The building of a massive, international movement against Israeli apartheid seems to be the most effective and promising form of resistance at this time. The demands must be that Israel comply with international law and implement the relevant UN resolutions. Specifically, it must recognize that all Palestinian refugees have the right to return, immediately end the occupation, and give all citizens of Israel equal treatment under the law.
We must demand that all U.S. aid to Israel be stopped until Israel complies with these demands. Only when the Palestinians are afforded their rights under international law, and are respected as human beings, can a genuine process of conflict resolution and healing begin. For all the hype over peace camps and dialogue initiatives, until the structural inequalities are dealt with, there will be no justice for Palestinians and, thus, no peace for Israel.
Matt Bowles is a member of SUSTAIN—Stop US Tax Funded Aid to Israel Now.
(The above article was originally published in the March/April issue of Left Turn magazine.)
Israel’s fait accompli in Gaza
By: Eric S. Margolis, Al Jazeera
UPDATED ON: Monday, January 05, 2009, 12:43 Mecca time, 09:43 GMT
There are two completely different versions of what is currently happening in Gaza.
In the Israeli and North American press version, Hamas – ‘Islamic terrorists’ backed by Iran – have in an unprovoked attack fired deadly rockets on innocent Israel with the intent of destroying the Jewish state. North American politicians and the media say Israel "has the right to defend itself".
True enough. No Israeli government can tolerate rockets hitting its towns, even though the casualty totals have been less than the car crash fatalities registered during a single holiday weekend on Israel’s roads.
The firing of the feeble, home-made al-Qassam rockets by Palestinians is both useless and counter-productive.
It damages their image as an oppressed people and gives right-wing Israeli extremists a perfect reason to launch more attacks on the Arabs and refuse to discuss peace.
Israel’s supporters insist it has the absolute right to drop hundreds of tonnes of bombs on ‘Hamas targets’ inside the 360sq km Gaza Strip to ‘take out the terrorists’.
Civilians suffer, says Israel, because the cowardly Hamas hide among them.
Actually, it is more like shooting fish in a barrel.
As usual, this cartoon-like version of events omits a great deal of nuance and background. While firing rockets at civilians is a crime so, too, is the Israeli blockade of Gaza, which is an egregious violation of international law and the Geneva Conventions. According to the UN, most of Gaza’s 1.5 million Palestinian refugees subsist near the edge of hunger. Seventy per cent of Palestinian children in Gaza suffer from severe malnutrition and psychological trauma. Medical facilities are critically short of doctors, personnel, equipment, and drugs. Gaza has quite literally become a human garbage dump for all the Arabs that Israel does not want. Gaza is one of the world’s most-densely populated places, a vast outdoor prison camp filled with desperate people. In the past, they threw stones at their Israeli occupiers; now they launch home-made rockets. Call it a prison riot, writ large.
Eyeing the elections
When the so-called truce between Tel Aviv and Hamas expired on December 19, Israeli politicians were in the throes of preparing for the February 10 national elections. Israeli politics are playing a key role in this crisis. Ehud Barak, the defence minister and leader of the Labour party, and Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister and leader of the Kadima party, are trying to prove themselves tougher than Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-line Likud party – and one another. Israel’s elections are only six weeks away, and Likud was leading until the air raids on Gaza began. Kadima and Labour are now up in the polls. The heavy attacks on Gaza are also designed to intimidate Israel’s Arab neighbours, and make up for Israel’s humiliating 2006 defeat in Lebanon, which still haunts the country’s politicians and generals.
A fait accompli
When the air raids on Gaza began, Barak said: "We have totally changed the rules of the game." He was right. By blitzing Hamas-run Gaza, Barak presented the incoming US administration with a fait accompli, and neatly checkmated the newest player in the Middle East Great Game – Barack Obama, the US president-elect – before he could even take a seat at the table.
The Israeli offensive into Gaza now looks likely to short-circuit any plans Obama might have had to press Israel into withdrawing to its pre-1967 borders and sharing Jerusalem.
This has pleased Israel’s supporters in North America who have been cheering the war in Gaza and have been backing away from their earlier tentative support for a land-for-peace deal.
Israel’s successes in having Western media portray the Gaza offensive as an ‘anti-terrorist operation’ will also diminish hopes of peace talks any time soon.
Obama inherits this mess in a few weeks. During the elections, Obama bowed to the Israel lobby, offering a new US carte blanche to Israel and even accepting Israel’s permanent monopoly of all of Jerusalem.
As he concludes forming his cabinet, his Middle East team looks like it may be top-heavy with friends of Israel’s Labour party.
Obama keeps saying he must remain silent on policy issues until George Bush, the outgoing US president, leaves office, but his staff appear happy to avoid having to make statements about Gaza that would antagonise Israel’s American supporters.
Obama will take office facing a Middle East up in arms over Gaza and the entire Muslim world blaming the US for the carnage in Gaza.
Unless he moves swiftly to distance himself from the policies of the Bush administration, he will soon find himself facing the same problems and anger as the Bush White House.
Photo: jaffa48 -"Ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in Hebron"
Arab deal killed
Israel’s Gaza offensive is also likely to torpedo the current Saudi-sponsored peace plan, which had been backed by all members of the Arab League.
The plan, now likely defunct, had called for Israel to withdraw to its 1967 borders and share Jerusalem in exchange for full recognition and normalised relations with the Muslim world.
Arab governments will now be unable to sell the deal as they face a storm of criticism from their own people over their powerlessness to help the Palestinians of Gaza.
Egypt, in particular, is being widely accused of collaborating with Israel in further sealing off and isolating Gaza. It seems highly unlikely they will be able to advance a peace plan with Israel for now.
This is a bonus for right-wing Israelis, who have always been dead set against any withdrawal and strongly supported the attack on Gaza.
Other Israeli factions who were always lukewarm about the Saudi peace plan are now unlikely to reconsider it.
Israel’s security establishment is committed to preventing the creation of a viable Palestinian state, and refuses to negotiate with Hamas. Unable to kill all of Hamas’ men, Israel is slowly destroying Gaza’s infrastructure around them, as it did to Yasser Arafat’s PLO.
Israel’s hardliners point to Gaza and claim that any Palestinian state on the West Bank would threaten their nation’s security by firing rockets into Israel’s heartland.
Mighty information machine
Israel is confident that its mighty information machine will allow it to weather the storm of worldwide outrage over its Biblical punishment of Gaza. Who remembers Israel’s flattening of parts of the Palestinian city of Jenin, or the US destruction in Falluja, Iraq, or the Sabra and Shatilla massacres in Beirut?
Though the torment of Gaza is seen across the horrified Muslim world as a modern version of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising by Jews against the Nazis during World War Two, Western governments still appear bent on taking no action.
Though Israel’s use of American weapons against Gaza violates the US Arms Export Control and Foreign Assistance Acts, the docile US Congress will remain mute.
Israel’s assault on Gaza was clearly timed for America’s interregnum between administrations and the year-end holidays, a well-used Israeli tactic.
Hamas refuses to recognise Israel as long as Israel refuses to recognise Hamas and the rights of millions of homeless Palestinian refugees.
It calls for a non-religious state to be created in Palestine, meaning an end to Zionism. Ironically, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder and late leader of Hamas, had spoken of a compromise with Tel Aviv shortly before he was assassinated by Israel in 2004.
An inherited mess
Israel’s hopes that it can bomb Gazans into rejecting Hamas are as ill-conceived as its failed attempt in 2006 to blast Lebanon into rejecting Hezbollah.
The Fatah regime on the West Bank installed by the US and Israel after Yasser Arafat’s suspicious death will be further discredited, leaving the militants of Hamas as the sole authentic voice of Palestinian nationalism.
Hamas, the militant but still democratically elected government of Gaza, is even less likely to compromise.
The Muslim world is in a rage. But so what? Stalin liked to say "the dogs bark, and the caravan moves on," and as long as the US gives Israel carte blanche, it can do just about anything it wants.
The tragedy of Palestine will thus continue to poison US relations with the Muslim world.
Those Americans who still do not understand why their nation was attacked on 9/11 need only look to Gaza, for which the US is now being blamed as much as Israel.
Unless Israel can make 5 to 7 million Palestinians disappear, it must find some way to co-exist with them. Israeli leaders on the centre and right continue to avoid facing this fact.
The brutal collective punishment inflicted on Gaza will likely strengthen Hamas and reverse any hopes of a Middle East peace in the coming years.
Eric S. Margolis is an author, syndicated foreign affairs columnist, broadcaster, and veteran war correspondent. His latest book is American Raj: America and the Muslim world.