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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