COVERT ACTION QUARTERLY, Spring 2002, No. 72
Title: “Palestine in the Crosshairs: U.S. Policy and the struggle for Nationhood”
Author: John Steinbach,
LEFT TURN, 3/4/02
Title: “U.S. Aid Lifeblood of the Occupation”
Author: Matt Bowles
WARTIMES, April 2003
Title: “Israel Erecting ‘Great Wall’ Around Palestine”
Author: Bob Wing
Evaluator: Rabbi Michael Robinson
Student Researchers: Kathleen Glover, Josh Sisco, Lindsey Brage, Dana Balicki,
Allyssa Speaker, Colin Umphryes
U.S. aid to Israel over the course of its fifty-four years of nationhood has fueled the illegal occupation of Palestinian land superceding Palestinian rights to self-government.
Jimmy Carter raised the ire of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and other Zionist pressure groups when he expressed support for a “Palestinian Homeland” and criticized Israel’s settlement policies. However, he never favored the creation of a Palestinian State and did nothing to slow the settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. U.S. support of Israel was greatly increased during the Reagan era, which represented “a quantum leap in efforts to promote Israel and delegitimize the Palestinians in the United States.” Illicit arms technology transfers to Israel resulted in a greatly enhanced Israeli military.
Under the Clinton administration even while the “peace process” and the Final Status Talks were ongoing between the Palestinians and Israel U.S. economic and military aid to Israel continued to accelerate. U.S. aid to Israel (pop. 4.8 million) from 1949 to 1997 totaled over $134 billion. The total US foreign aid to Israel for the same period exceeded the total aid to all of Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean combined (pop. 486 million).
During the last 25 years U.S. aid to Israel has been about 60% military aid and 40% economic aid. There is a new plan to phase out all economic aid by 2008 in order to have all the aid going to military. Israel receives about $3 billion a year in direct aid and $3 billion a year in indirect aid in the form of special loans and grants. Under the Arms Export Control Act the U.S. can only supply weapons that are used “for legitimate self defense”. The US 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 inspections of its nuclear facilities. All three of these laws are currently being broken with aid to Israel.
Since 1982 the aid to Israel has been transferred in a one lump sum at the beginning of each fiscal year. Aid to other countries is distributed in quarterly installments throughout the year and they must account for specific purchases. Israel is not required to account for the specific purchases that the aid is being used for; it can be spent on anything – including expansion of colonial settlement projects.
It is with this aid that Israel has been able to continue the comprehensive and unrelenting occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Today, Israel is bulldozing Palestinian farmers’ olive trees in order to build an encompassing 30-foot high cement wall with gun towers and electric fencing to imprison Palestinians and the entire West Bank. Israeli forces have commandeered the Western Aquifer (which constitutes 50% of the West Bank water supply) and thousands of acres of Palestinian agricultural land. The wall around Jerusalem will bring the now divided Holy City fully under Israeli control and effectively strangle West Bank economy and agriculture. The wall includes a 15-foot deep, 20-foot wide trench (Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! reported it would be filled with raw sewage), a dirt path that will be a “killing zone” for Palestinians who try to access it, an electrified fence, and a two-lane Israeli patrol road.
Since Israel barred most Palestinians from working inside Israel, unemployment in the West Bank has soared to over 50 percent. Agriculture is therefore more important than ever. Square foot by square foot, olive tree by olive tree, village by village, Israel is relentlessly taking over Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza with the full support of the American taxpayer.
UPDATE BY BOB WING: The story is a monumental example of the illegality and brutality of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the numerous but unreported non-violent attempts by Palestine to resist, and of U.S. silence/complicity with Israel.
Since publication of my article, the Israelis continue building the wall, taking over more and more Palestinian land, destroying or stealing olive trees and snatching the Palestinian water supply. Resistance by the Palestinians, especially olive growers and by residents between East Jerusalem and Bethlehem has also been constant, but still ineffective at halting the building of the separation barrier.
None of the mainstream press carried my story. A few, like the NY Times, carried stories about the wall buried deep in their papers. Even the alternative press failed to carry the story in any significant way. Although a deputy editor supported my story, the main editor of The Village Voice rejected it, telling her that the NY Times had already said all their needed to be said on the subject.
UPDATE BY MATT BOWLES: Since the writing of this article, conditions have worsened for Palestinians and for international solidarity activists working to support the Palestinians. Ariel Sharon has continued construction of the ‘Apartheid Wall’, demolishing entire villages along the way. Israeli policies of economic strangulation and collective punishment have become more severe, making Palestinian survival a daily struggle for many. And the Israeli military has taken aim at the nonviolent peace activists who have come to support the Palestinians via the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and other organizations. Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old college student from Olympia Washington, was murdered by the IDF on March 16, 2003, as she was intentionally run over by an Israeli driven Caterpillar bulldozer. Two other ISM activists were shot in the head, and many more injured, beaten, and deported.
On the upside, however, the resistance is mounting. The International Solidarity Movement- a Palestinian led movement that uses nonviolent direct action to resist Israeli occupation – is refusing to be intimidated by the Israeli crackdown, and continues to organize activists to go to Palestine. SUSTAIN (Stop US Tax-Funded Aid to Israel Now) – a nonhierarchical grassroots organization committed to popular education and nonviolent creative/direct action in America – has had a surge in chapter start-ups, and has begun organizing regional strategy summits. SUSTAIN is currently focusing on a campaign against the Caterpillar Corporation who supplied the bulldozer used to kill Rachel and bulldozers used for the destruction of civil society, private property, and other war crimes against the Palestinian people. SUSTAIN has occupied Caterpillar offices across the country, issuing them ‘demolition orders’ by activists dressed up in IDF costumes. SUSTAIN also organizes street theater, as in January of 2003 when 200 people re-enacted the Israeli invasion of Jenin in a popular nightspot-area of Washington, DC. And SUSTAIN promotes the Palestinian arts as a means of cultural resistance and survival.
You can get involved with a SUSTAIN chapter in your area or start up a new one. To learn more about SUSTAIN, read our seasonal newsletter, or find a chapter near you, please visit the website at http://www.sustaincampaign.org. You can also participate in the ISM and go to Palestine. Visit the ISM website at http://www.palsolidarity.org/>www.palsolidarity.org. Both organizations are in desperate need of money, as we are grassroots organizations with no funding or sponsors. Please contribute financially through the websites.
And finally, analytically speaking, other SUSTAIN activists have written articles in Left Turn Magazine since mine was published and have drawn out other nuances in the US-Israel relationship. Topics such as the right wing Zionism of the Neo-Conservatives, who now wield huge amounts of power under the Bush Administration, are timely topics to study, especially as Washington, DC just hosted an “Interfaith Zionist Leadership Conference” that was the convergence of Christian fundamentalism, white supremacy and Zionism. It has also been noted that the total U.S. Aid to Israel since 1948, if adjusted for inflation and interest, becomes $247 billion (Left Turn, May/June 2003).