End the US-Israel Occupation

Israel is not alone in its military occupation of Palestine and blockade of the Gaza Strip. While the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) confine and represses Palestinians on the ground, the US government provides both the military aid and the international political support that allows the illegal occupation to endure in the face of broad international opprobrium. The US has become complicit in the Israeli occupation.

Without US backing, Israel would be hard pressed to maintain its apartheid walls and checkpoints in the West Bank, its ethnic cleansing policy in Gaza and its settlement building in East Jerusalem. The Obama administration has even thwarted Palestinian efforts to seek lawful redress through UN agencies.

US taxpayers provide Israel with $3.1 billion a year in military aid. Now the Israelis want the grant increased to $5 billion, presumably as “compensation” for having to live with the Iran nuclear deal. While Israeli officials cite their perceived loss of security vis-à-vis Iran and Iran’s proxies, the most likely targets for new arms will be Palestinians, not Iranians.

Israel doesn’t merit any “reward.” In its 2014 war on Gaza, the IDF used US-provided weaponry to kill more than 1,500 civilians, including more than 500 children. Any further US aid should be conditioned on concrete steps to end the occupation and respect legal norms.

Israel is a serial violator of international law. A five-page listing of its violations may be found on the website of the DC-based Israel Law Resource Center. The list includes collective punishment, apartheid barriers, illegal acquisitions of land by force, ethnic cleansing, settlements in Palestinian territory and disregard of some 28 UN Security Council resolutions (legally binding on Israel as a member nation).

While US politicians hail Israel as “our best friend in the Middle East,” Israeli governments have regularly thumbed their noses at their American counterparts.

For example, during the long run-up to the Iran deal and beyond, Israel focused its energies on scuttling the agreement. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress last spring and his $20 million lobbying campaign showed more than gross disrespect to the White House – these moves amounted to blatant interference with US foreign policy.

Israel’s unfriendly actions are long standing. Recall the 1967 sinking of the USS Liberty, the bulldozer murder of Rachel Corrie and thespying of Jonathan Pollard. It was not surprising that Netanyahu pulled the rug out from under John Kerry during the secretary of state’s last peacemaking effort.

So why would US taxpayers want to reward or compensate Israel with increased military aid? Answer: because Israel’s supporters inthe US, including the media and members of Congress, keep most Americans in the dark through denial and one-sided reporting.

It appears unlikely that US policy toward Israel and Palestine will change unless – and until – sufficient numbers of US citizens begin to demand that their representatives in Congress acknowledge Israel’s apartheid policies, disregard of international law and human rights abuses. Yet Americans won’t easily abandon their rosy image of Israel from the 1960 film Exodus until the US media begin to projectthe real nature of Palestinian subjugation and Israel’s ethnic cleansing mission – one that extends from the country’s birth in 1948 to thepresent.

In the face of strong opposition by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and lobbyists for the defense industry, change is in the air. Professors John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt exposed the Israel lobby and its heavy hand on USlawmakers. University students across the US have begun to embrace the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), while nonprofit organizations such as Tree of Life and Jewish Voice for Peace are speaking out for Palestine in local communities. Alison Weir’s website, If Americans Knew, provides a treasure trove of information on Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

On November 14, Massachusetts Peace Action and Jewish Voice for Peace will co-host a half-day conference in Cambridge on “Organizing to Change US Policy on Israel and Palestine.” The ideas that come out of that and similar meetings around the country could help build a new constituency for Palestinian rights and a peaceful solution to the core conflict in the Middle East.