04.17.09 Not Another Dime for Israel

US Aid to Israel serves nobody’s interests – especially not the Jews’.

Let’s start with the obligatory I’m-not-an-anti-Semite defensive statements:

I’m Jewish.  The Holocaust was real.  It was certainly among the greatest crimes of human history.  The Jewish people (as a religion and a nationality) need a homeland.

It is not my intent to revisit the question of whether the Jewish homeland should have been established when, where, and how it was. (What land belongs to whom depends entirely on the historical moment one chooses to start with, after all).  Rather, it is to identify the truth that has prevailed at least since the 1980s: Israel is a racist, hegemonist state, significantly financed by American tax dollars and by the contributions of misguided Jewish-Americans and right-wing Christians.  Without this country’s support, Israel never would have made the transformation from international victim to international pariah.

Israel embarked on that catastrophic transformation the minute it began to settle civilians on occupied territory.  Though many Arabs (and some leftists) may disagree – I would have had no quibble with Israel’s continuing a military occupation of territory conquered in 1967, as long as the surrounding powers were unwilling to make peace and adjust borders.  But once it began to pursue a religiously and ideologically inspired “Greater Israel,” purposely expanding its borders and stealing others’ land, it no longer had any claim to justice or international support.

It is important to note (as seldom is noted in the US media) that Israel continued rapid expansion of its illegal and immoral settlements during the entire Oslo Peace Process and under Labor governments.  There is no doubt that the PLO blew an historic opportunity (one of their favorite hobbies) by refusing to consummate a peace agreement in the 90s.  But the fact that the Palestinians are stupid does not mitigate Israeli guilt for ongoing theft and oppression.

Of course, it gets worse.  Israel has been quietly mistreating its Arab minority all along.  Most countries mistreat their minorities.  But not all countries show rapidly increasing support for apartheid-like policies and calls for expulsion (aka “ethnic cleansing”).  And that’s the key point: a majority of the Israeli public — expressing free will through democratic elections — has now declared explicit support for aggression, oppression, and racism.

When the Austrians voted overwhelmingly for Kurt Waldheim (and then continued to show huge support for right-wing extremist politicians), I decided I would never set foot in that deeply racist and anti-Semitic country.  By the same token, if I were not a US citizen and resident, I would have boycotted the US once W won a clear majority in 2004, because the American people freely chose torture, aggressive war, and contempt for the rest of the world.

When democratic countries thumb their noses at international law and moral norms, they deserve to be renounced and isolated.  I think the US should have begun to reduce funding for Israel in the 1980s, once the latter’s hegemonistic aims became apparent.  In 2009, there can no longer be any doubt of the correct moral course.

But, this is not just about morality.  The perpetual claim that the US shares strategic interests with Israel is a bald-faced lie, perpetrated by the infamous pro-Israel lobby and its amen corner among Christian fundamentalists.  (The latter see Israeli aggression as the necessary precursor to Christ’s return, at which point – ironically — Jews won’t be allowed into heaven.)  Trade with Israel is minute.  Military and intelligence ties would hardly be necessary, if the US weren’t alienating the rest of the world through its alliance with Israel.  There is no realist argument that the US-Israel alliance makes Americans wealthier or safer.

Just as the US is held hostage by the NRA to a never-ending plague of gun violence, so is it held hostage by AIPAC & Co.  This evil (and, dare I say, anti-American) lobby shuts down any honest public discourse and perpetuates the misappropriation of US tax dollars to undermine US interests and prevent Israel from dealing with reality.

That last point is the ultimate irony.  If the US had begun making aid to Israel conditional on that country’s behavior 25 years ago, Israel would have had to choose then between morality and immorality, between enlightened, long-term self-interest and national suicide.  No better than any enabler, the US chose – and chooses today – to help make Israel’s survival untenable.

For those of us who are not anti-Semitic, who acknowledge and feel deeply the history of the Jews as a hated, oppressed people, this is a fundamental part of the outrage: a conspiracy of right-wing extremists oceans apart has come close to making a just, democratic, safe haven for Jews an impossibility for the indefinite future.  That outcome is at hand.

Meanwhile, the pro-Israel lobby’s persistent conflation of criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism adds to the tragedy, by muddying the vital distinction between that which is Israeli and that which is Jewish.  The just cause of Palestinian and Arab rights – the righteousness of anti-imperialism – is thus turned into a crusade against Jews, the very thing that AIPAC and the ADL claim to be working against.

For those of us who believe that being Jewish is equivalent to being humanist – compassion for the oppressed, commitment to peace and justice – the Israeli moral nightmare is very hard to bear indeed.

Final thought: if ending aid to Israel requires some act of balance, cut loose the horrific dictatorship in Egypt at the same time!

©2009 Keith Berner

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9 Comments on “04.17.09 Not Another Dime for Israel”

  1. Ann Dorough Says:

    Right you are. Intriguing to speculate where Obama’s “common sense” approach to foreign policy will lead him in this area. Talk about strolling through a field of cowpies.

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  2. Seth Berner Says:

    Many people deserve a homeland. For instance the Gypsies, who lost a greater percentage of their population in WWII than did the Jews and who are still persecuted relentlessly. The Palestinians were stripped of their homeland by the creation of Israel, and are still relentlessly persecuted. If Israel had not taken to imitating its oppressors many well-intentioned people would be supporting Israel’s continued domination of land acquired by force, at the cost of Palestinians who, as a people and not a nation, were largely blameless for the 1967 conflict. But that all depends on one’s historical perspective, yes? The real reason for this post is to contest Keith’s premise. The arming of Israel most certainly does benefit someones – those with oil interests. Israel serves the important functions of keeping OPEC unstable and, when called upon, punishing those in the region who would question global capitalism’s interests. As oil in South America becomes more important the US and IMO will start throwing similar “aid” to a bully in that region, to serve the same purpose. You didn’t really think that money was being spent on Israel to help Jews, did you?

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  3. Seth Berner Says:

    My first comment was woefully incomplete. When OPEC is unstable and not working together oil prices are kept lower than they might be with a united OPEC. This boosts the profit margin of every business dependent directly or indirectly on oil. As the de facto home of global capitalism the US has taken on the role of destablizing OPEC. At this time that means arming a local representative, Israel. The second part of the answer is that there are Americans with money who reflexively and uncritically support Israel, by financially supporting politicians who do so. Seriously regulate campaign finance, cutting off the almost unrestricted flow of money to candidates, and many politicians will rethink their allegiance to the homeland for people they instinctively dislike. These officials do not care about Jews, they care about their own power, and helping Israel helps them.

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  4. Keith Berner Says:

    My brother is right, and not just about US policy on Israel. Almost all US policy, foreign and domestic, is driven by corporate interests. To that extent, campaign finance reform is the first order issue in US politics: get the money out of politics and suddenly myriad heretofore intractable problems become solvable.

    But corporate interests do not explain everything. Examples of exceptions are:

    — US policy toward Cuba has cost US corporate interests a ton of money; it is driven by the stranglehold that Cuban-Americans have had on Florida’s electoral votes and by anti-Communism

    — The NRA’s fanaticism comes from a completely misguided frontier mentality that is deeply intertwined with American self-identity. (Campaign finance reform surely would end the NRA’s power, though.)

    — Religion: Homophobia, school prayer, reproductive control, etc.

    Finally, though Seth is right about the oil industry and Israel, this does not mean that my points about the power of right-wing Jews and fundamentalist Christians are invalid. These two groups are driven by ethnicity and religion respectively, not by corporate profit. Of course, they welcome the alliance with the oil companies — anything to reach their goals.

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  5. Seth Berner Says:

    Taking money out of politics is not certain to end the NRA’s power. The NRA has a large membership, they vote, and many of them care about gun issues above all else. States with large gun lobbies will still be subject to NRA influence over who runs on what issues in those states and what the winners do in office.

    Incidentally, Maine amended its constitution a decade ago to make explicit the right of individuals to own guns. Mainers are not single-issue gun nuts on the whole, but the population as a whole wants its guns. Statewide candidates who want votes must be careful about how gun issues are handled.

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  6. Jerry Berner Says:

    The Israel lobby has held the US government hosatage for many yeasrs. Because of their influence it is difficult to see how our Administration might play an even-handed role in that region. I agree that the Palestinians need to have their own state and they have to be dealt with humanely. However, it is important that the two Paletinian factions try to reconcile their differences. Even then, it will be a stretch for the present Israeli government to develop a more humanitarian attitude toward the Paletinians. I have been impressed with some of Obama’s new approaches to some international sticking points, e.g. Cuba. However, I’m afraid that the Isreli/Palestinian situation may be beyond their reach
    I am pessimistic that our government will change its too long held intransigent position.

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  7. Leon Morse Says:

    One thing you forgot to mention is that some of the most damaging cases of espionage against the US have benefited Israel. It blows my mind that these seemed to have little repercussion (maybe they did, but it was not publicized), other than the guilty (the ones caught, anyway) being sent to jail.

    However, I don’t think it is correct to characterize Israel as a “racist state.” That’s Ahmadinejad talking. It is a lot more complicated. There are racists there, including in the government, and many policies are in fact racist. But Israel does not need to be racist. I suspect that even some who support the racist policies do so not out of racism but other motivations. Yes, I am arguing semantics, but there are also many Israelis who disagree with the current state of affairs there. In other words, it could be a lot better there and Israeli internal politics has a lot to do with it. I also don’t believe that deep down you believe that, either.

    US support no doubt bolsters those who push and support such policies. In that sense you are absolutely correct that US support is hampering those in Israel who might push for a more sustainable peace.

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  8. Keith Berner Says:

    Response to Leon:

    It’s in the eye of the beholder, of course. One person’s racist state is another person’s protector of all that is holy!

    I never meant that the majority of Israelis is actively racist. Probably a good half are only passively so: they don’t really care if Arabs are treated justly or not. Then there is an ever-dwidnling minority who are actively anti-racist — the humanists. The final group is the lynch mob that currently controls Israeli policy.

    Unlinke Ahmadinejad, I hardly think Israel is unique in being racist. Most countries are (including our own). Amadinejad and the mullahs certainly are.

    The unique thing about Israel’s racism is that our tax dollars underwrite it.

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  9. Keith Berner Says:

    Response to Leon:

    It’s in the eye of the beholder, of course. One person’s racist state is another person’s protector of all that is holy!

    I never meant that the majority of Israelis is actively racist. Probably a good half are only passively so: they don’t really care if Arabs are treated justly or not. Then there is an ever-dwidnling minority who are actively anti-racist — the humanists. The final group is the lynch mob that currently controls Israeli policy.

    Unlike Ahmadinejad, I hardly think Israel is unique in being racist. Most countries are (including our own). Amadinejad and the mullahs certainly are.

    The unique thing about Israel’s racism is that our tax dollars underwrite it.

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