By Richard Forer
In 2008 the United States and the government of Israel agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), in which the U.S. would “help Israel meet its security requirements.” The terms of the agreement provided Israel with, on average, three billion dollars in military assistance annually for a ten-year period to begin in 2009 and end in 2018. The three billion represents approximately twenty-five percent of Israel’s military budget, effectively making the United States a partner in Israel’s military enterprise.
In 1976 the U.S. Congress passed the Arms Export Control Act. Section 2754 of the Act requires that international governments use America’s military assistance “solely for internal security, for legitimate self-defense.”
The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FISA) prohibits the United States from providing assistance to “any country which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, including torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, prolonged detention without charges….” One of the factors that is considered when determining if a country is in violation of FISA is “the extent of cooperation of such government in permitting an unimpeded investigation of alleged violations of internationally recognized human rights by appropriate international organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, or groups or persons acting under the authority of the United Nations….”
Over the past few months the U.S. and Israel have been discussing an increase in the Jewish state’s military package to $4.0 to $4.5 billion dollars per year, for an additional ten years. It is a near certainty that Congress will approve the increase. When finalized, America’s stake in one of the world’s most powerful militaries will grow to about thirty-five percent. This increase is in addition to the compensation the U.S. has agreed to give Israel for the Iran nuclear deal. The deal frees up about $150 billion in Iranian assets, and Israel is worried that Iran will use some of those assets to boost its sponsorship of jihadist terrorism. To alleviate those concerns President Obama has promised to accelerate military aid to Israel for the development of anti-missile systems and tunnel detection technologies.
The United States government publicly advocates the rule of law, but its actions belie its rhetoric when it comes to Israel. Israel continuously disregards United Nations Resolutions, defies the Fourth Geneva Convention’s prohibition against an occupying power transferring parts of its own population into the territories it occupies, and obstructs investigations by U.N. agencies into its disproportionate use of force, collective punishment and other human rights violations, as it did after Operations Cast Lead (2008-2009) and Protective Edge (2014). The U.S. has not frozen assistance to Israel in accordance with the Arms Export Control Act and the Foreign Assistance Act; instead, Israel continues to receive assistance. It remains exempt from American laws meant to hold rogue nations accountable for acts of violence and discrimination against the most vulnerable of peoples.
The U.S. insists it wants peace between Israel and the Palestinian people; however, its non-compliance with its own laws arms Israel with the resources it needs to sustain its illegal occupation of the Palestinians.
Moshe Dayan, one of the most revered figures in Israel’s history (and, believe it or not, among Israeli commanders one of the friendliest to Palestinians) once said: “Let us approach them [Palestinians in occupied territory] and say that we have no solution, that you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wants to can leave – and we will see where this process leads.” He also said, “Your [Israeli Jews] duty is not to stop; it is to keep your sword unsheathed, to have faith, to keep the flag flying. You must not call a halt – heaven forbid – and say ‘that’s all; up to here. . .’ For that is not all.”
This year, Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated Israel’s commitment to violence: “I’m asked if we will forever live by the sword — yes.” Just this week, with tension and violence everywhere in Jerusalem, Israeli deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely told the Knesset that her “dream is to see the Israeli flag flying over the Temple Mount. This is the holiest place for the Jewish people.”
Israeli demagoguery is not empty rhetoric. Palestinians under occupation have no rights. Their freedom of movement is restricted; they are subject to imprisonment without charge; torture and sexual blackmail are common; their homes can be demolished at the whim of the Israeli government; and they have no protection from fanatical settlers who poison their wells, cut down their olive trees and harass their children, beat them and sometimes kill them, all with impunity. Palestinians have no recourse to the rule of law because the laws that govern them were specifically written to deny them their rights.
While the US enables Israel’s contempt for the rule of law, it is about to cut economic aid to the Palestinians by twenty-two percent, from $370 million to $290 million per year. A U.S. State Department official stated that the decision to cut aid was made this past spring and was because of “unhelpful actions” on the part of the Palestinian leadership.
What unhelpful actions? This last year Palestinians looked for the justice they’ve been denied for generations and joined the International Criminal Court, filing war crimes and crimes against humanity charges against Israel. The charges focus on Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Israel’s 2014 invasion of the Gaza Strip, in which seventy percent of the more than 2,100 people killed were civilians, including over 500 children. By bringing their case before the ICC, Palestinians challenged the pretense that the U.S. is an honest broker in search of a fair peace. Joining the ICC was an admission by the Palestinians of what the rest of the world has known for some time: The U.S. is the principle enabler of the occupation.
What about unhelpful actions by Israel? Israel has refused to arrest the sadists who burned to death eighteen month old Ali Dawabshe and his father, maiming the infant’s mother and brother in the process. The Israeli Defense Force has been on a rampage of arrests in the West Bank, rounding up and detaining hundreds of Palestinians. Last week Netanyahu made the accusation that the Palestinian people, not Adolf Hitler, were the cause of the Holocaust.
America’s use of punishments and rewards signals, at least with regard to the Israelis and Palestinians, that the oppressed must play the game according to the oppressor’s rule book, no matter how biased and dirty those rules are.
This last year, at the 29th regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the U.S. was the only country in the world to oppose a resolution calling for Israel to be held accountable for war crimes. The U.S. voted against “ensuring accountability and justice for all violations of international law in [the Occupied Palestinian Territories].”
When inhabiting Israel’s shadow world, basic fairness and the rule of law are turned on their heads. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) imposes a brutal occupation on a largely defenseless people – and all the while the President of the United States, whoever he is, repeats the mantra that Israel has the right to defend itself. The International Court in The Hague rules unanimously (including the American judge) that all of the West Bank and East Jerusalem belong to the Palestinians and must be returned to their rightful owners – and every month Israel announces new settlements and Palestinian home demolitions. The IDF unleashes nightmarish massacres on Gaza, five times in the last decade; it enforces a strangling blockade that has reduced Gaza to a virtual open-air prison – and American politicians make annual pilgrimage to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) to pledge their slavish support for Israel.
The Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza has lasted almost half a century. For the sake of fairness and justice, for the sake of the Palestinians and the end to their suffering, for the sake of the moral integrity of my country and Israel, it is time – it is long past time – for the lies and disinformation to cease and for the people of the world to insist that Israel end the Occupation and the United States end its enabling of that Occupation.
– Richard Forer is the author of Breakthrough: Transforming Fear into Compassion – A New Perspective on the Israel-Palestine Conflict. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit his website: www.richardforer.com