- 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 billion 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 of Israel?
- 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
- 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