The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives” (Section 0.85).
The US Foreign Assistance Act explains that “no security assistance may be provided to any country, the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights” (Section 502B).
In other words, it’s wrong to support state terrorism with money.
When the U.S. gives over $3 billion in financial aid each year to Israel, it violates international laws which prohibit giving aid to countries with nuclear weapons or countries that repeatedly abuse human rights (Israel fits both of those criteria). For all his achievements in other areas, Barack Obama always plays the outraged bystander in press conferences, when in fact it is his federal government that props up the Netanyahu regime with weapons, votes before the UN, and financial aid. The public speeches of the United States government do not match their private actions, and have not for a long time. While this is true throughout all of U.S. foreign policy, let’s specifically look at Israel.
When George Bush Sr. was an ambassador in the 1970’s, he publicly condemned Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, while in private he promoted their occupation. Former President Bill Clinton supplied Israel with additional military helicopters even after Israel used them against civilians, and offered a total of $350 million to support Israel’s anti-terrorism efforts. Obama’s term has been no different – while Israel was facing almost universal condemnations, accusations of terrorism, and accusations of war crimes, President Obama quietly approved a $225 million support package for Israel’s Iron Dome stockpiles, while in speeches and public record meetings, he was often keen to look at odds with Benjamin Netanyahu’s actions. Obama is also the first U.S president to sell bunker buster bombs to Israel, continuing a long Presidential tradition of selling nasty weapons to a country that has no hesitation about using them on civilians.
U.S. policy on Israel, for the last 70 years at least, has always been one of playing the false peacemaker, of the outraged bystander who cries “Enough!”, swiftly followed by more financial, political, and military aid. If you’re truly outraged by civilian deaths, you don’t sell the bombs that cause them. Meanwhile, the U.S. actively rejects a two-state solution through its UN Security Council vetoes, protecting Israel from legal sanctions.
Up until 1967, U.S. policy towards Israel was somewhat cold. Of course, Christian Zionism had become a permanent part of American political discourse, and the U.S. was content to let Israel become a Jewish state, but for all intents and purposes, Israeli-U.S. relations were not significant.
So what happened in 1967?
Israel did the United States a huge favour by destroying Gamal Abdel Nasser, the President of Egypt. A nationalist and a secularist, Nasser tried to take back foreign-owned assets like the Suez Canal, and became a leading figure of Arab nationalism in the run up to the Six Day War. Nasser openly supported the Palestinian cause for statehood, and rejected the legitimacy of the Jews claim to the land. Fearing an Arab invasion by Nasser and his allied states, Israel rocked the region by performing huge pre-emptive strikes against Egypt’s military, decimating their capacity for a takeover.
Nasser was a threat to Israel because of his virulent anti-Semitism and his seemingly endless political muscle, but he was also a threat to the U.S., who feared he would continue to antagonize foreign Western powers and put the Egyptian people ahead of profit (an unforgivable crime in the eyes of American capitalists). With Israel’s overwhelming victory in the face of being out-numbered and out-gunned, the U.S. was impressed, and it found more and more reason to support an Israel which had just demoted a powerful nationalist figure to a disgraced anti-Semite. Thanks to Israel, Arab nationalism had no leader. Alongside this, American foreign policy was becoming increasingly unpopular throughout the Middle East, with the Saudis not playing ball and Iran undergoing a violent regime change, and the U.S realized it was quickly losing its grasp on the oil-rich region.
The reasons for unequivocally supporting Israel just seemed to present themselves on a silver platter as political events unfolded in the coming decades.
- The wars in Indochina meant the U.S. had turned most of its attention to carpet bombing large swathes of Asia, leaving its military hands too tied up to deal with any troubles in the Middle East. Israel could take care of that.
- The threat of 80’s Soviet intervention, coupled with the Arab states complicity with Soviet goals, made the U.S. realize it needed a bulwark against the spread of Middle Eastern communism. Israel could take care of that.
- The threat of a new imperial power in the region, post-1979 revolution Iran, made the U.S. realize it needed a bulwark against Islamic fundamentalism and Iranian imperialism. Israel could take care of that.
- The swiftly changing Middle Eastern political landscape meant that age-old U.S. allies like Turkey, Iran (see immediately above), Saudi Arabia and Pakistan were not playing ball any more, to differing degrees. Israel could take their place.
Consequently, Israel is now what Nixon’s Secretary of Defense called a “cop on the beat” for American interests, fighting off political ideologies or military moves that may threaten American imperialist goals, in a sort of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” agreement. And indeed it did perform further great favour for the U.S., such as when Reagan was facing enormous internal opposition to South African apartheid. Israel lent a helping hand by publicly denouncing apartheid whilst privately propping it up with trade.
Why does the U.S. still support Israel today?
The Soviet threat has gone, U.S. has normalized relations with most Middle East states, and Iran is isolated, so what’s so important about Israel now? Well, that’s where I defer to an explanation by Noam Chomsky:
There’s a lot of high-tech investment in Israel. [Our] military industry is very close to Israeli military industry. There’s a whole network of interactions. Intel, for example, is building its next facility for construct development of the next generation of chips in Israel. But, altogether, the relations are very tight, very intimate, quite natural. And it’s not surprising that the main business journal in the country would be supporting Israeli expansion and power. Take a look at the two political parties. Most Jewish money goes to Democrats and most Jews vote Democratic. But the Republican Party is much more strongly supportive of Israeli power and atrocities than the Democrats are. Then again, I think that reflects their closer relations to the business world and to the military system. There is, of course, also a Jewish lobby – an Israeli lobby — AIPAC, which is a very influential lobby. And so there are many… and there’s Christian Zionism, which is a huge element. Well, you know, all of these combined to provide a background for U.S. support for Israel, and they’re facing virtually no opposition. Who’s calling for support of the Palestinians?
In short, whenever the U.S. announces support packages for the State of Israel, they’re earmarked for a return in investment. The U.S. provides weapons and financial aid so that Israeli companies and government forces invest in U.S. technology, U.S. defense manufacturers, and other U.S. companies like SodaStream.
In summary: Changes in the geo-politcal landscape throughout the 20th century provided ample opportunity for Israel to prove itself worthy of the U.S. unquestioning backing. As of now, the U.S. and Israel jointly profit from the brutal repression of the Palestinian people. It is a shared economy based on violence.