Reassessing U.S. aid to Israel

Reassessing U.S. aid to Israel

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With Israel's position toward Palestine, is there any rationale to continue U.S. aid?

Palestine - Israel flags; You Tube screenshot - under Fair Use doctrine

WASHINGTON, May 14, 2015 – The new Israeli government is taking an extreme stance regarding a possible Palestinian state. Prime Minister Netanyahu, during his campaign for re-election, said that a Palestinian state would never be established while he was in power.

Those in Israel and in the American Jewish community who seek peace with the Palestinians and want Israel to represent democratic values, as well as the moral and ethical Jewish tradition, now believe that the majority of Israeli voters have turned their backs on both.

In the new government, what Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun, calls “the overtly racist party, HaBayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home),” will control the justice department, the education department and almost all important government offices concerned with the occupation of the West Bank.

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The new justice minister, Ayelet Shaked, who promises to limit the role of the Supreme Court, became notorious for justifying the burning alive of a Palestinian teenager by Israeli youths in East Jerusalem. She published on Facebook what Rabbi Lerner termed “in effect, genocide for Palestinians.” The posting declared that “the entire Palestinian people are the enemy” and justified its destruction, “including the elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.” She also called for the slaughter of Palestinian mothers who give birth to “little snakes.”

Nachman Shai, a member of Knesset from the Zionist Union, said giving Shaked the Justice ministry “would be like appointing a pyromaniac to head the fire department.” But Shaked is hardly alone.

The new government is filled with like-minded men and women. Rabbi Eli  Ben-Dahan, the new deputy defense minister, responsible for the army’s “civil administration,” on Aug. 1, 2013. declared: “(Palestinians) are beasts, they are not humans.” On Dec. 27, 2013, he said:  “A Jew always has a much higher soul than a gentile, even if he is a homosexual.” The deal between Netanyahu and the Jewish Home party was negotiated by Ze’ev Elkin, a West Bank settler and Knesset chair of the foreign affairs and defense committees. He is a member of Netanyahu’s own Likud party and supports annexation of the West Bank into Israel. Like Netanyahu, he rejects any form of Palestinian sovereignty.

Also part of the new government are two ultra-Orthodox parties, United Torah Judaism and Shas. They favor expanding settlements on the West Bank, reject any form of Palestinian sovereignty and oppose any liberalization of Israel’s theocratic government. Non-Orthodox Jews have less religious freedom in Israel than any place in the Western world. Israel has no civil marriage. Jews and non-Jews cannot marry. Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist rabbis have no right to perform weddings, funerals or conversions.

Discussing the new government in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz (May 10, 2015), Gideon Levy writes:  “The 34th government will deserve Israel: Israel will deserve the 34th government. This is an authentic and representative government, the true manifestation of the spirit of the times and the deepest feelings of most Israelis. It will be a true government without pretense…They won’t talk haughtily and they won’t spout hollow slogans. Not about peace and not about human rights; not about international law, justice or equality.”

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Instead, declares Levy, “The truth will be thrust in the faces of Israelis and the world. And the truth is this: The two-state solution is dead (it was never born), the Palestinian state will not arise, international law does not apply to Israel, the occupation will continue to crawl quickly toward annexation, annexation will continue to crawl toward an apartheid state; ‘Jewish’ supersedes ‘democratic,’ nationalism and racism will get the government stamp of approval, but they’re already here and have been for a long time.”

Discussing the election results, Professor David Shulman of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem reports, “the Israeli electorate is still dominated by hyper nationalist, in some cases proto fascist, figures.  It is in no way inclined to make peace. It has given a clear mandate for policies that preclude any possibility of moving toward a settlement and that will further deepen Israel’s colonial venture in the Palestinian territories, probably irreversibly.”

Beyond this, argues Shulman, “I think that deeper currents are also at work…for example, the ongoing, ultimately futile effort to squeeze Jewish civilization, in its tremendous variability
and imaginative range, into the Procrustean confines of the modern nation-state with its flag and postage stamps and proclivity to violence. Modern nationalism always makes a distorted, very limited selection of the available cultural repertoire, flattening out the potential richness;  fanatical atavistic forces tend to take the place of what has been lost…Netanyahu was actually speaking the truth, a popular truth among his traditional supporters. He explicitly renounced his pro forma acceptance of the notion of a two state solution…He made it clear Israel would make no further territorial concessions anywhere…Israel has, in effect, knowingly moved further toward a full-fledged apartheid system. Those who don’t like the word can suggest another one for what I see each week in the territories and more and more inside the Green Line.”

More and more American Jews are expressing concern about the support for Israel’s occupation policies by many American Jewish organizations. The late Professor Tony Judt of New York University, an active Zionist in his youth, says such support has eroded Judaism’s moral integrity.

He argued that, *If there is one cast-iron law of history, it is probably that occupations and other forms of colonial rule are sooner of later resisted, and when that point comes, the occupier has a straightforward choice between leaving and allowing the native population to exercise its independence and self-determination—or staying.  When the time came, Israel made the disastrous decision to stay.  The rest was predictable.”

If Israel rejects U.S. policy, perhaps they should reject U.S. aid

When it comes to those who blindly support whatever Israeli governments have chosen to do, Judt asked, “How…does a reputably intelligent people, with traditionally strong humanistic values, manage constantly to delude itself about what is going on, what lies in store and what needs to be done?  And how has it allowed the Jewish Star of David, and by implication, the Jewish religion and Jewish people, to become associated in the eyes of growing numbers of people with repression?”

All Americans, regardless of their religion, are implicated in Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. America is, after all, helping to finance it. Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. taxpayer dollars in our history. From 1949 to 2008, the U.S. government provided Israel more than $103.6 billion of total official aid, making it the largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance in the post-World War II era. In 2007, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding providing for $30 billion of U.S. military aid from 2009 to 2018. Between fiscal years 2000 and 2009, the U.S. gave Israel $24.1 billion of military aid. With this taxpayer money, the U.S. licensed, paid for and delivered more than 670 million weapons and related equipment to Israel, including almost 500 categories of weapons.

The U.S. has, under both Republicans and Democrats, supported a two-state solution. Under both Republicans and Democrats, the United States has viewed the occupation of the West Bank as in violation of international law.

Israel now has a government that rejects the establishment of a Palestinian state, supports expanded settlements and looks forward to outright annexation. Its ministers include unequivocal racists who have supported virtual genocide for the Palestinian people.

Under what rationale can continued massive  U.S. aid be justified?  If ever there was a time to reassess our relationship with Israel, clearly that time is now.

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Allan C. Brownfeld
Received B.A. from the College of William and Mary, J.D. from the Marshall-Wythe School of Law of the College of William and Mary, and M.A. from the University of Maryland. Served as a member of the faculties of St. Stephen's Episcopal School, Alexandria, Virginia and the University College of the University of Maryland. The recipient of a Wall Street Journal Foundation Award, he has written for such newspapers as The Houston Press, The Washington Evening Star, The Richmond Times Dispatch, and The Cincinnati Enquirer. His column appeared for many years in Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. His articles have appeared in The Yale Review, The Texas Quarterly, Orbis, Modern Age, The Michigan Quarterly, The Commonweal and The Christian Century. His essays have been reprinted in a number of text books for university courses in Government and Politics. For many years, his column appeared several times a week in papers such as The Washington Times, The Phoenix Gazette and the Orange County Register. He served as a member of the staff of the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, as Assistant to the research director of the House Republican Conference and as a consultant to members of the U.S. Congress and to the Vice President. He is the author of five books and currently serves as Contributing Editor of The St. Croix Review, Associate Editor of The Lincoln Review and editor of Issues.