Should America stop foreign aid to Israel?

This question is prone to immense controversy, yet remains relevant in an age of U.S. economic decline. Photo: Associated Press

OCALA, Fla., October 25, 2013 — Today, fewer policies generate more controversy in America than foreign aid.

Some claim that our country should only support allies who have stood the test of time in backing U.S. interests abroad. Others say that the federal government doesn’t provide near enough to developing nations. Yet more claim America should cease foreign aid across the board until domestic problems — such as the sluggish economy — are dealt with.

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Whatever one’s view might be, it seems safe to note that America’s lavish support of Israel stands out among aid given to any other country.

Quite often, people say that the U.S., along with other Western powers, is financing a neo-apartheid state due to Israel’s ethnocentrically Jewish policies. If Israel were to end these policies, might Islamist militants then hold less of a grudge against the Western world?

“The question looks at the problem in the wrong way in at least two respects,” says Jonathan Cook to The Washington Times Communities. He is a British-born journalist who has been covering the Israel-Palestine debacle for several years. Cook lives in Nazareth and calls the fight as he sees it, something which is prone to immense controversy.

“First, Israel’s ethnocentrism – its exclusivity and its aggressiveness, for example – is one of the reasons it is useful to Western, meaning US, imperialism,” he continues. “Reforming Israel will indicate a change in Western priorities in the region but it doesn’t necessarily mean the West will stop interfering negatively in the region. Reforming Israel is a necessary but not a sufficient cause for a change in attitudes that dominate in the region.

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“Second, many Islamists, certainly of the fanatical variety, are not suddenly going to have a Damascene conversion about the West because Israel is reformed. But that should not be the goal. Good intentions towards the region will be repaid in a change in attitude among the wider society – and that’s what’s really important. 

“When George Bush and his ilk talk about ‘draining the swamps’, they are speaking only in military terms. But actually what we should be doing is draining the ideological swamp in which Islamic extremism flourishes. If the Islamists have no real support, if they do not address real issues faced by Arab societies, then they will wither away.”

Of course, not everybody feels this way. Many adamantly believe that America should continue to fund Israel in order to protect its own interests.

In a 2011 article for FrontPage Magazine titled “U.S. Aid to Israel: Why It’s a Must”, academic David Meir-Levi wrote that “(t)he U.S.–Israel ‘special relationship’ grows in part from the resonance of a common Bible and a host of Judeo-Christian features. As western democracies, Israel and the USA have shared strategic interests, shared civic and political values, and the personal, cultural, and political bonds that exist naturally between free peoples.   

“The supreme commander of NATO operations in Europe and head of the U.S. European Command (EUCOM), General John Craddock, speaking before the U.S. House Armed Services Committee in 2007, called Israel a ‘model state’ and America’s closest ally in the Middle East.  He noted that Israel consistently and directly supports U.S. interests and U.S. policy in the region.

“In fact, Israel is among the few countries in the world, and the only Middle Eastern state,  to consistently stand alongside the United States on strategic issues in the UN and in other venues for international cooperation. Israel votes with the USA in the UN about 94% of the time.  No other nation holds that record.”

Among the biggest problems that some have with providing aid to Israel is the nation’s treatment of Palestinians, who live in far more impoverished socioeconomic conditions than Israelis do.  

Can such a thing be attributed to Israeli aggression? 

“In essence, it is difficult to imagine it could be attributed to anything else, unless one makes the racist assumption that Palestinians or Arabs are naturally lazy or incompetent,” Cook explains.

“In terms of Israel’s greater economic success, there are several factors to take into account. It receives massive subsidies from the US taxpayer – billions of dollars in military aid and other benefits. It has developed very lucrative hi-tech and homeland security industries, often using the occupied territories as laboratories for it to test and showcase its weapons and surveillance systems. It also benefits from the financial connections it enjoys with worldwide Jewry. 

“Just think of the property market in Israel, which is artificially boosted by wealthy US and European Jews who inject money into the economy by buying an Israeli condo.

“But equally importantly – as a just-published report from the World Bank concludes – it has prospered by plundering and exploiting Palestinian resources. The Bank argues that Israel’s de facto annexation of 62 per cent of the West Bank, known as Area C in the Oslo Accords, has stripped any nascent Palestinian state of almost all its resources: land for development, water for agriculture, quarries for stone, the Dead Sea for minerals and tourism, etc. 

“Instead these resources are being stolen by more than 200 settlements Israel has been sewing over the West Bank.

“The World Bank doesn’t mention it, but Israel also exploits a captive, and therefore cheap, Palestinian labour force. That both benefits the Israeli economy and crushes the Palestinian economy.” 

Jonathan S. Tobin of Commentary has a different perspective on relations between Israelis and Palestinians. Last year, in an article titled “Who’s Mistreating the Palestinians Again?”, he wrote that “(t)he standard cliché of Middle East reporting is the notion of Israeli mistreatment of the Palestinians. But as anyone with even a minimal grasp of the history of the region knows, the real victimizers of the Palestinians have always been the Arab nations who refused to absorb or resettle them after 1948 but instead preferred to keep them homeless as props to use in the war to destroy Israel. 

“That this is an ongoing story rather than merely a chapter of history is demonstrated anew on the border between Jordan and Syria where Palestinians fleeing the chaos and violence of the revolt against Bashar al-Assad have been left stranded. But as has been the case with the exploitation of the Palestinians in the past, the world isn’t paying much attention.”

Far-left? Far-right? Get realRead more from “The Conscience of a Realist” by Joseph F. Cotto 


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Joseph Cotto

Joseph F. Cotto is a social journalist by trade and student of history by lifestyle choice. He hails from central Florida, writing about political, economic, and social issues of the day. In the past, he was a contributor to Blogcritics Magazine, among other publications. He is currently at work on a book about American society.

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