Aid to Israel is Out of Hand
By George Bisharat
Capital-Journal" -- -- American and Israeli
diplomats have recently revived discussions over our potential
financial support of Israel's August withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
Last summer, Israel sought $2 billion, but suspended its request
following the Katrina disaster. With popular and congressional
attention to New Orleans now dissipating, Israel is again asking
American taxpayers for help, although it has scaled back to $1.2
million in light of popular sentiment and signals from Congress.
This amount is supplemental to Israel's share of our regular foreign
aid that has run $3 billion to $4 billion annually for decades.
Our officials have not publicly responded to the Israel request.
When they do, their answer should be a polite but firm "No". It is
reason enough to deny Israel's request that its settlements in the
West Bank and Gaza Strip are illegal. The U.N. Security Council has
held so, as has the International Court of Justice. As part of its
non-binding but authoritative judgment on Israel's wall, the
International Court of Justice concluded last year that Israeli
settlements in the Palestinian territories violate international
law. While the dollars Israel now seeks would fund housing and
infrastructure for new communities in Israel for the settlers,
paying for these, in effect, compensates Israel for giving back its
illegal settlements. Some 94 percent of Americans polled by CNN in
July opposed the Israeli request, even before Katrina and heightened
public awareness of our own acute domestic needs.
Still, there are times when principle must surrender to pragmatism.
$1.2 billion would be a bargain were it to yield momentum toward a
genuine Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Every indication, unfortunately, is to the contrary. Since the
decolonization of the Gaza Strip, Israel has only intensified its
colonization of the West Bank, including Jerusalem.
There, 430,000 Israeli settlers live in settlements built on land
seized from Palestinians -- and they are expanding every day. A city
holy to three great religions is being transformed into the
exclusive capital of one group -- Jews. Meanwhile Palestinian
Christian and Muslim families are slowly squeezed out of
neighborhoods they have inhabited peacefully for decades if not
centuries. A European Union study released last week determined that
Israeli policies toward Jerusalem are not motivated by security, but
by demographics, violating international law and Israel's
obligations under the Roadmap to Peace.
Israel touted the Gaza disengagement as a step forward. Yet in
October 2004, Dov Weisglass, advisor and close confidant of Israeli
prime minister Ariel Sharon, admitted in an interview in Israel that
withdrawal was a way to avoid peace negotiations with Palestinians,
consolidate control over the West Bank, and foil the creation of a
Palestinian state. No such pronouncements are necessary, however, to
the Palestinians. They witness Israel's continuing relentless
seizures of Palestinian lands, demolition of Palestinian homes,
construction of the separation wall, and expansion of Jewish-only
settlements. Palestinian Christians and Muslims are rendered
homeless, stripped of their property, and deprived of any semblance
at equal rights with their Jewish counterparts.
Historically, politicians of both major American parties have been
extremely generous to Israel, a country with a per capita income
equal to some in Europe. Its annual $3 billion to 4 billion often
exceeds a third of our total foreign aid -- more than all of
sub-Saharan Africa combined. Will our leaders, this time, honor the
apparent sentiments of the majority of Americans, or pursue the
electoral benefits that seemingly generate their knee-jerk support
As American taxpayers, we must assert ourselves. Our one-sided
support of Israel is a key reason for global enmity against us. When
we aid and abet Israel's continuing take over of Palestinian lands,
we only deepen our culpability, and frustrate our ambition to
restore American credibility in a crucial region of the world.
Fostering a genuine Middle East peace -- one based on justice and
equal rights for Jews, Christians and Muslims throughout the Holy
Land -- would greatly advance our national interests. Such a
resolution may cost well more than $1.2 billion, but will be worth
every penny. We should save our hard-earned tax dollars to support
that peace, not the entrenchment of Israeli colonialism, and the
future of conflict and violence it guarantees.
Professor George Bisharat teaches at Hastings College of Law in San
Francisco. He specializes in the Middle East. Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2006 Topeka Capital-Journal
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