Saturday, March 25, 2017

America Second

Trump’s budget laments that we do not have the money we need to address the problems facing America, such as health care, education, climate change and the infrastructure. That’s why he says his proposed budget puts “America First”. Yet, he seems to have vast sums for Israel. Money for Israel is not on the chopping block. His proposal for deep cuts in foreign aid  are not to effect Israel.

According to the Los Angeles Times:

The budget plan from the White House calls for slashing the State Department’s $50 billion budget by about 28%, cuts that would mostly target climate change, democracy promotion, health programs, and numerous foreign aid projects.  Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, said U.S, aid to Israel, which totaled about $3.1 billion this year, would not be touched under the Trump plan. Israel gets more U.S. aid than any other nation.

Aid to every other country will come under review.[1]

Israel has a population of about 7.7 million, far less than the state of New Jersey. It is one of the most affluent nations on the globe. Its unemployment rate is less than the U.S., Yet, we neglect our problems and borrow money to send billions every year, about $8.5 million every day, to help Israel deal with its problems.

There’s still more to the story, because parts of U.S. aid to Israel are buried in the budgets of various US agencies, mostly the Department of Defense. For example, since 2006, the American Defense Budget has included between $130 and $235 million per year for missile defense programs in Israel.[2]

Add it all up and Israel,  with less than 8 million people gets more “foreign aid” than all the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean combined – which have a total population of over a billion people.[3]

There are also hidden costs to our blind support of Israel, such as the oil boycott of 1973, and 9/11.  
According to Harvard professor Steven Walt:

The 9/11 Commission reported that 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s  “animus toward the United States stemmed from his violent disagreement with US foreign policy favoring Israel”. Other anti-American terrorist – such as Ramza Yousef, who led the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center – have offered similar explanations for their anger toward the United States.[4]

And, of course, the biggie. Would we have ever invaded Iraq if it were not for the pressure from Israel?

Conclusion: The only reason I give a little money to a homeless beggar on the street is because I think he needs it. I support a shelter for battered woman because the mothers and children there are hurting and hope for a better life. I even give to my church because it reaches out to suffering people in dozens of ways. But, to give vast sums to Israel which obviously does not need it, but uses it to oppress Palestinians, build settlements on what is left of their shrinking land, confiscate their water, imprison their children and exploits them as cheap labor, among many other oppressive practices, does not make sense to me.

Oh, how I wish Mr. Trump really would put America, and American ideals, first.

Thomas Are
March 25, 2017

[1] Trump’s ‘America First’ Budget puts Israel right up there, Too, Mondoweiss, March, 17, 2017
[2] Jeremy Sharp, U.S. foreign aid to Israel, Congressional Research Service, March 12, 2012. Cited in Newsobserveronline, The Staggering Cost of Israel to Americans. , May 8, 2013.
[3] Richard Curtiss, “The Cost of Israel to the American People”, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, 1998.
[4] Stephen Walt, Whiff of Desperation, Foreign Policy, April 25, 2011.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Children are Innocent

Children are innocent, but many of them are in Israeli prisons.

Shidi is 13 years old. He was 12, on December 30, 2015 when Israel arrested him, forced him to stand naked in a freezing cold prison cell for hours. No parent, no lawyer. His mother saw him across the court room at his “trial,” his hands and feet in shackles. He will spend the next two years in an Israeli prison because Israel says, “He would have stabbed an Israeli, if he had a knife.”[i]

Gideon Levy said, “There is nothing more Israeli than a court that gives a soldier who killed a Palestinian in cold blood a sentence fit for a bicycle thief.”[ii]

An 18-month jail sentence handed down to an Israeli Defense Force (IDF) recruit for the killing of a wounded Palestinian has prompted for widespread criticism for its apparent leniency in light of the severity of his crime…Yet, the ruling was a landmark case insofar as no member of the IDF has been prosecuted for actions carried out in over 12 years... The sentence he received is less than a Palestinian child gets for throwing stones.[iii]

Dr. Jess Ghannam, professor of psychiatry and global health sciences at the University of California School of Medicine notes:

Palestinian children in Gaza are exposed to more violence in their lifetime than any other people, any other children anywhere in the world. If you look at children right now who are 10 years old, they’ve been through Cast Lead in 2008 and 2009, the invasion in 2012 and the invasion and destruction in 2014. In addition to the siege, if you look at the statistics, even before Cast Lead, 80 percent of Palestinian children in Gaza have witnessed some sort of violence against them, a friend or a family member. And now they’re getting to the point where probably close to 99 percent of children in Gaza are being exposed to a level of violence where they have seen family members be killed, murdered, burned alive. There’s nothing like the levels of traumatic exposure that any child in the world has ever been exposed to on a chronic and daily basis.

According to Middle East Children’s Alliance, “Palestinian children are subject to attacks by the Israeli occupation forces and Jewish settlers on an almost daily basis, 1,518 have been killed since the outbreak of the second intifada in September 2000 up to April 2013, that’s one every three days for thirteen years. Almost 250 Palestinian minors, like Shadi, are being held in Israeli prisons.

Shadi’s friends described him as full of life, loved by family, neighbors, friends and classmates. They said that he loved to dance and sing and swim. He excelled in math. Shadi sounds like a delightful kid. But, I wonder what he will be when he is released after years in an Israeli prison?  How much hate can Israel control by force.  Children do grow up.

Thomas Are
March 19, 2017

[i] Farihan Farah,  I am a Proud Woman and a Humanitarian. I am also the Mother of the Youngest Palestinian Prisoner in an Israeli Jail.  Mondoweiss, March 8, 2017.
[ii] Haaretz, Who Needs the Hague when you have Israeli Army Justice, February 23, 2017

[iii] Bethan McKernan, Five Children Get Longer Sentences for Throwing Stones than Israeli Soldier who Shot Incapacitated Palestinian Dead.  The Independent, February 22, 2017.