Saturday, April 12, 2008

Can the US Afford Unqualified Support for the Zionist State?

Apri1 4, 2008
Should the U.S. End Aid to Israel?

Funding Our Decline

April 1st [2008] I participated in a debate in San Francisco that raised the question of US aid to Israel.

It was highly appropriate that this debate was held two weeks before tax day, since in Israel's sixty years of existence, it has received more US tax money than any other nation on earth.

During periods of recession, when Americans are thrown out of work, homes are repossessed, school budgets cut and businesses fail, Congress continues to give Israel massive amounts of our tax money; currently, about 7 million dollars per day.

On top of this, Egypt and Jordan receive large sums of money (per capita about 1/20th of what Israel receives) to buy their cooperation with Israel; and Palestinians also receive our tax money (about 1/23rd of that to Israel), to repair infrastructure that Israeli forces have destroyed, to fund humanitarian projects required due to the destruction wrought by Israel's military, and to convince Palestinian officials to take actions beneficial to Israel.

These sums should also be included in expenditures on behalf of Israel. When all are added together, it turns out that for many years over half of all US tax money abroad has been expended to benefit a country the size of New Jersey.

It is certainly time to begin debating this disbursement of our hard-earned money. It is quite possible that we have better uses for it. To decide whether the US should continue military aid to any nation, it is essential to examine the nature and history of the recipient nation, how it has used our military aid in the past, whether these uses are in accord with our values, and whether they benefit the American taxpayers who are putting up the money.

1. What is the history and nature of Israel?
Describing Israel is always difficult. One can either stay within the mainstream paradigm, or tell the truth. I will opt for the truth. Drawing on scores of books by diverse authors, the facts are quite clear: Israel was created through one of the most massive, ruthless, and persistent ethnic cleansing operations of modern history. In 1947-49 about three-quarters of a million Muslims and Christians, who had originally made up 95 percent of the population living in the area that Zionists wanted for a Jewish state, were brutally forced off their ancestral land. There were 33 massacres, over 500 villages were completely destroyed, and an effort was made to erase all vestiges of Palestinian history and culture.

The fact is that Israel's core identity is based on ethnic and religious discrimination by a colonial, immigrant group; and maintaining this exclusionist identity has required continued violence against those it has dispossessed, and others who have given them refuge.

2. How has Israel used our military aid in the past?
In all of its wars except one, Israel has attacked first. In violation of the Arms Export Control Act, which requires that US weapons only be used in "legitimate self defense," Israel used American equipment during its two invasions of Lebanon, killing 17,000 the first time and 1,000 more recently, the vast majority civilians. It used American-made cluster bombs in both invasions, again in defiance of US laws, causing the "most hideous injuries" one American physician said she had ever seen, and which, in one day in 1982 alone, resulted in the amputation of over 1,000 mangled limbs.

It has used US military aid to continue and expand its illegal confiscation of land in the West Bank and Golan Heights, and has used American F-16s and Apache Helicopters against largely unarmed civilian populations.

According to Defense for Children International, Israel has "engaged in gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. "Between 1967 and 2003, Israel destroyed more than 10,000 homes, and such destruction continues today. A coalition of UK human rights groups recently issued a report stating that Israel's blockade of Gaza is collective punishment of 1.5 million people, warning: "Unless the blockade ends now, it will be impossible to pull Gaza back from the brink of this disaster and any hopes for peace in the region will be dashed."

In addition, Israel uses US military aid to fund an Israeli arms industry that competes with US companies. According to a report commissioned by the US Army War College, "Israel uses roughly 40 percent of its military aid, ostensibly earmarked for purchase of US weapons, to buy Israeli-made hardware. It also has won the right to require the Defense Department or US defense contractors to buy Israeli-made equipment or subsystems, paying 50 to 60 cents on every defense dollar the US gives to Israel."

Israel has used US aid to kill and injure nonviolent Palestinian, American and international activists, as well as American servicemen. Israeli soldiers in an American-made Caterpillar bulldozer crushed to death 23-year-old Rachel Corrie; an Israeli sniper shot 21-year-old Tom Hurndall in the head; Israeli soldiers shot 26-year-old Brian Avery in the face. In 1967 Israel used US-financed French aircraft to attack a US Navy ship, killing 34 American servicemen and injuring 174.

Israel has used US aid to imprison without trial thousands of Palestinians and others, and according to reports by the London Times and Amnesty International, Israel consistently tortures prisoners; including, according to Foreign Service Journal, American citizens.

3. Are these uses in accord with our national and personal values?
Not in my view.

4. Do these uses of US aid benefit American taxpayers?
While some Israeli actions have served US interests, the balance sheet is clear: Israel's use of American aid consistently damages the United States, harms our economy, and endangers Americans.

In fact, this extremely negative outcome was so predictable that even before Israel's creation virtually all State Department and Pentagon experts advocated forcefully against supporting the creation of a Zionist state in the Middle East. President Harry Truman’s reply: "I am sorry gentlemen, but I have to answer to hundreds of thousands who are anxious for the success of Zionism. I do not have hundreds of thousands of Arabs among my constituents."

Through the years, as noted above, our aid to Israel has not resulted in a reliable ally. In 1954 Israel tried to bomb US government offices in Egypt, intending to pin this on Muslims.

In 1963 Senator William Fulbright discovered that Israel was using a series of covert operations to funnel our money to pro-Israel groups in the US, which then used these funds in media campaigns and lobbying to procure even more money from American taxpayers. In 1967 Israeli forces unleashed a two-hour air and sea attack against the USS Liberty, causing 200 casualties. While Israel partisans claim that this was done in error, this claim is belied by extensive eyewitness evidence and by an independent commission reporting on Capitol Hill in 2003 chaired by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Thomas Moorer.

In 1973 Israel used the largest airlift of US materiel in history to defeat Arab forces attempting to regain their own land, triggering the Arab oil embargo that sent the US into a recession that cost thousands of Americans their jobs.

During its 1980s Lebanon invasion, Israeli troops engaged in a systematic pattern of harassment of US forces brought in as peacekeepers that created, according to Commandant of Marines Gen. R. H Barrow, "life-threatening situations, replete with verbal degradation of the officers, their uniform and country."

Through the years, Israel has regularly spied on the US. According to the Government Accounting Office, Israel "conducts the most aggressive espionage operations against the United States of any ally." Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger said of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard: "It is difficult for me to conceive of greater harm done to national security," And the Pollard case was just the tip of a very large iceberg; the most recent operation coming to light involves two senior officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Israel's powerful American lobbying organization.

Bad as the above may appear, it pales next to the indirect damage to Americans caused by our aid to Israel. American funding of Israel's egregious violations of Palestinian human rights is consistently listed as the number one cause of hostility to Americans. While American media regularly cover up Israeli actions, those of us who have visited the region first-hand witness a level of US-funded Israeli cruelty that makes us weep for our victims and fear for our country. While most Americans are uninformed on how Israel uses our money, people throughout the world are deeply aware that it is Americans who are funding Israeli crimes.

The 9/11 Commission notes that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's "animus towards the United States stemmed from his violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel." The Economist reports that " the notion of payback for injustices suffered by the Palestinians is perhaps the most powerfully recurrent theme in bin Laden's speeches."

The Bottom Line
In sum, US aid to Israel has destabilized the Middle East; propped up a national system based on ethnic and religious discrimination; enabled unchecked aggression that has, on occasion, been turned against Americans themselves; funded arms industries that compete with American companies; supported a pattern of brutal dispossession that has created hatred of the US; and resulted in continuing conflict that last year took the lives of 384 Palestinians and 13 Israelis, and that in the past seven and a half years has cost the lives of more than 982 Palestinian children and 119 Israeli children.

By providing massive funding to Israel, no matter what it does, American aid is empowering Israeli supremacists who believe in a never-ending campaign of ethnic cleansing; while disempowering Israelis who recognize that policies of morality, justice, and rationality are the only road to peace. It is time to end our aid.

Alison Weir is Executive Director of If Americans Knew. For more information on the US-Israel relationship she especially recommends the books by Donald Neff, Paul Findley, Kathleen Christenson, Stephen Walt, John Mearsheimer, Grant Smith, Stephen Green, George Ball, and John Mulhall.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Settlements as Obstacles

The Settlements Are The Biggest Impediment To Security

By Yossi Alpher
In Bitterlemons,
April 4, 2008

At the very heart of the roadmap phase I issues that dominated US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit a week ago are security and settlements. The West Bank-based Palestinian leadership that Israel is negotiating with has little to brag about in terms of improving security. But at least it is sincerely trying. The Olmert government is not trying as hard, particularly with regard to settlements. And settlements are the biggest impediment to security.

On the occasion of Rice's visit, Defense Minister Ehud Barak yielded to American pressure and offered a series of modest security concessions. These included the deployment of 25 Palestinian security force APCs in the West Bank and of some 700 Palestinian policemen in Jenin, the removal of a checkpoint near Rimonim east of Ramallah and the opening of 50 earth roadblocks preventing transportation between villages and main roads. These represent the minimum that Barak apparently believes the IDF [Israeli Defense Force] can implement without risking security damage.

Looked at in terms of the security status quo, Barak's and the IDF's hesitations are understandable. Take Nablus (biblical Shechem), a city of close to 200,000 that is controlled largely by Hamas and is considered the West Bank's biggest terrorism base, with bomb factories rooted deep in the subterranean warrens of the old Roman city and the city's four refugee camps. Because it is set amid high and imposing hills, a few checkpoints enable the IDF to control vehicular and nearly all pedestrian traffic into and out of the city. Vehicles using mountain paths to try to bypass the checkpoints are fairly easily spotted by lookouts and patrols. So high is the terrorist alert around Nablus that even every pedestrian leaving town is checked for ID and by a metal detector--whereas pedestrians leaving Qalqilya, another Hamas-controlled city that borders on the green line, are not checked.

The IDF officers in charge of the checkpoints around Nablus and other Palestinian towns in the West Bank are fully aware of the huge international controversy that surrounds the checkpoints and roadblocks they maintain. They are also proud of their excellent record in intercepting terrorists headed for Israel proper and are loath to jeopardize it by reducing the network of security barriers that they believe, when coupled with highly sophisticated intelligence, does the job. They realistically recognize that the checkpoint system is so demoralizing to the population that it creates new terrorists. But they believe it helps eliminate an even larger number. And they and the Israeli public recognize that a series of suicide bombings inside Israel, which almost certainly would trace their origins to Nablus, would totally unravel the modest accomplishments of the peace process thus far.

What, then, can be done to reduce the disastrous effect of checkpoints on Palestinian lives, freedom of movement and commerce? The introduction of technological improvements like biometric identity checks is beginning to speed checkpoint passage and ease the humanitarian burden imposed by Israel's restrictions. The deployment of Palestinian police in Nablus and, soon, Jenin, can improve the security atmosphere, though the IDF is convinced they will fight crime but not terrorism. And the IDF should consider replacing particularly intrusive checkpoints like Hawara south of Nablus, which blocks the all-important route 60 to Ramallah, with teams erecting mobile checkpoints at will, as a number of security experts have recently proposed.

But the biggest impediment to removing or streamlining the checkpoints and roadblocks has nothing to do with the IDF. The settlements are far and away the primary factor keeping all those checkpoints and roadblocks in existence and hindering the Palestinian and international effort to develop a viable West Bank economy and polity. According to senior IDF officers, some 50 percent of all terrorism in the West Bank is directed against the settler presence beyond the security barrier. Further, the weakest element in the entire West Bank security network is settler commuter traffic passing through security barrier passages to and from jobs inside Israel proper. There is no way the IDF can seriously check the thousands of Israeli-licensed cars making this trip daily; any driver of such a car, whether Israeli Arab or Jew, can transport illegal workers into Israel almost at will. Among these workers there is eventually and inevitably a terrorist or two.

In other words, removal of the settlements beyond the security fence and completion of that fence (which has been delayed precisely because of settlements) would make the IDF's security task dramatically easier and render many of the checkpoints and roadblocks superfluous. Until that happens, Barak and the IDF establishment will fight tooth and nail to maintain the present West Bank security network in place.

It all boils down to the settlements. Here, rather than fulfilling its international obligations to cease settlement construction and dismantle outposts or unauthorized settlements, the Olmert government is caught in the familiar pattern of maintaining the very coalition stability that is ostensibly required in order to move ahead with the peace process by fueling the settlement dynamic that obstructs and sabotages a two-state solution.

There can be no better demonstration of the futility of the current peace process than the Olmert government's failure to begin seriously rolling back the settlement movement. Given Olmert's clear understanding that the settlers' excesses constitute a genuine danger to Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic state, this is in many ways even more troubling than Palestinian leadership and security failings and the absence of a genuine American commitment to this process.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Letter by Religious to Sec. Rice

National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East
Web site:
March 20, 2008
The Honorable Dr. Condoleezza Rice Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State 2201 C Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20520

Dear Dr. Rice, We write to commend your active support for current diplomatic efforts led by Egypt to turn what was for several days an informal, temporary and fragile cessation of hostilities between Palestinian forces in Gaza and the Israeli Defense Force into a formal, permanent and comprehensive ceasefire covering Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.

Violence over the last several months, including continuous Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza against civilian areas in southern Israel, Israeli military attacks and closures in Gaza and the West Bank, and the attack on Yeshiva students in Jerusalem, have killed and wounded many persons, added to the suffering and fears of both peoples, and seriously jeopardized chances for the Administration’s initiative to help Israelis and Palestinians achieve a negotiated peace agreement by the end of this year.

We believe an effective, comprehensive ceasefire is an essential first step among several that both sides must take to renew people’s hopes that peace is possible. Achieving this will help restore positive momentum in peace negotiations between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas. The split in governance between Gaza and the West Bank is incompatible with a durable peace agreement.

A comprehensive ceasefire would also provide a context in which the United States could support efforts, possibly led by Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to help form a new unified Palestinian government capable of representing the West Bank and Gaza, and committed to rejecting violence and negotiating a two-state solution with Israel.

We pledge our support for active, fair and firm U.S. leadership for Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace. As may be appropriate and timely, we would welcome an opportunity to meet with you and the President to express visibly our support for a two-state solution to the conflict. Respectfully, (List of Religious Leaders endorsing the letter follows.)

Religious Leaders Endorsing March 20, 2008 Letter to Secretary of State Rice

Christian Religious Leaders:
His Eminence, Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus, Archdiocese of Washington*
His Eminence Francis Cardinal George, OMI, Archbishop of Chicago
and President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops*
Archbishop Vicken Aykasian, Diocesen Legate and Exec. Dir., Ecumenical Office,
Armenian Orthodox Church and President, National Council of Churches of Christ USA*
Bishop Mark Hanson, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America*
Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop, Episcopal Church*
Bishop Ann B. Sherer, United Methodist Church*
The Reverend Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (USA)*
John H. Thomas, General Minister & President, United Church of Christ*
The Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister & President, Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ)*
The Rev. Michael E. Livingston, Executive Director, International Council of Community Churches*
The Rev. Leighton Ford, President, Leighton Ford Ministries*
David Neff, Editor and Vice-President, Christianity Today*

Jewish Religious Leaders:
Rabbi Peter Knobel, President, Central Conference of American Rabbis*
Rabbi Paul Menitoff, Executive Vice President Emeritus, Central Conference of America Rabbis*
Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism*
Rabbi Elliot Dorff, Rector, American Jewish University (formerly University of Judaism)*
Dr. Carl Sheingold, Executive Vice President, Jewish Reconstructionist Federation*
Rabbi Toba Spitzer, President, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association*
Rabbi Brant Rosen, Immediate Past President, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association*
Rabbi Amy Small, Past President, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association*
Rabbi Alvin M. Sugarman, Vice President, A Different Future*

Muslim Religious Leaders:
Dr. Sayyid Muhammad Syeed, National Director, Islamic Society of North America*
Imam Mohammed ibn Hagmagid, Vice President, Islamic Society of North America*
Naim Baig, Secretary General, Islamic Circle of North America*
Dawud Assad, President, Council of Mosques, USA*
Eide Alawan, Director, Office of Interfaith Outreach, Islamic Center of America*
Imam Yahya Hendi, Chaplain, Georgetown University*
Iftekhar A. Hai, Founding Director, United Muslims of America*