5 Ways America Enables Israel's Atrocities
The American and Israeli flags.
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Israel’s assault on the besieged Gaza Strip has entered its sixth day. At least 58 civilians have killed, and the toll is likely to rise. Hundreds of Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, have been injured as well.
And if you’re an American, it’s your money that is being used to pay for these atrocities. As Glenn Greenwald wrote in The Guardian, “Israeli aggression is possible only because of direct, affirmative, unstinting US diplomatic, financial and military support for Israel and everything it does.”
So it’s no surprise that those outraged at the latest Israeli assault on Gaza would also blame the U.S.
Here’s a look at 5 ways the U.S. enables Israel to commit human rights abuses against Palestinians.
1. Green Lighting Military Operations
When Israel escalates in Gaza, the country can count on the U.S. to give it the greenlight to do what it feels it has to. This dynamic was on display the past week, as Israel conducted an assault of choice on the largely civilian population of Gaza--and the U.S. fully backed it.
The serious escalation in violence began after Israel decisively broke a tacit truce it had reached with Hamas. Israel assassinated a Hamas leader, Ahmed al-Jabari, and proceeded to pound the Gaza Strip for the next week. But despite the fact that it was Israel who decided to escalate, the U.S. had no interest in looking at the facts.
The supportive rhetoric from the U.S. began the day of the assault, when a military spokesman told reporters that “we stand by our Israeli partners in their right to defend themselves against terrorism.” Similar statements were used over the week, culminating in Barack Obama’s extremely supportive comments aired yesterday. “There's no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders,” said Obama, missing the irony and blatant hypocrisy in his statement. “Israel has every right to expect that it does not have missiles fired into its territory.”
2. Giving Israel Weaponry
Israel can’t carry out a decades-old, belligerent military occupation and siege without having the tools to do so. And the U.S. obliges Israel, day in and day out.
Every year, the American government delivers about $3.1 billion in military aid to Israel. That money is sent to Israel with the stipulation that they must use the money to buy American weaponry, so that aid gets recycled back into the U.S. military-industrial complex. These weapons include the F16s bombing Gaza; missiles raining hell on civilians there; and U.S.-made rifles. According to the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, over the past decade “the United States licensed, paid for, and delivered more than 670,903,390 weapons and related equipment to Israel, valued at $18.866 billion through three major weapons transfer programs during this same period.”
You can also see this dynamic being played out in Israel’s use of the Iron Dome system. This defense system is meant to protect against the rockets that Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups fire at Israelis. It was paid for by the U.S. government, to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. The Iron Dome system has been effective at knocking down some of the rockets fired during this latest escalation.
3. Diplomatic Protection
When Israel assaults the Gaza Strip, it can count on the U.S. to shield the country from meaningful diplomatic action by other countries to stop the aggression.
During this assault, dubbed “Operation Pillar of Cloud,” the diplomatic front has been largely absent. But there was one Security Council meeting, where the U.S. again defended Israel. As scholar Vijay Prashad points out, “Morocco and Egypt, on behalf of the stateless Palestinians, hastened to the UN Security Council, wanting to stop the violence and condemn Israel for its disproportionate use of force....The United States defended Israel. Susan Rice put the onus on Hamas.”
The Obama administration has also protected Israel from opprobrium over its illegal West Bank colonization policy. In February 2011, the U.S. vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that condemned West Bank settlements as illegal--despite the fact that U.S. policy is that settlements are illegitimate and an obstacle to peace.
And when there are credible accusations of war crimes committed by Israel against Palestinians, efforts at finding justice for those crimes fall short because of the U.S. Israel waged another, more deadlier assault on Gaza about four years ago, which killed about 1,400 Palestinians, the vast majority of them civilians. International outrage at Israeli actions reached a peak during this 2008-09 assault, and resulted in the formation of a UN fact-finding mission to investigate allegations of war crimes on both sides.
The result of this fact-finding mission was the Goldstone Report, written by South African Jewish Zionist Richard Goldstone. Despite his Zionist political beliefs, Goldstone went to Gaza and reported on the facts, and they were damning. Israel carried out a disproportionate attack that leveled civilian infrastructure in Gaza, the report concluded, and war crimes were likely committed. But the U.S. effectively blocked any international action on the report.
As WikiLeaks cables reported on by Foreign Policy show, “in the aftermath of Israel's 2008-2009 intervention into the Gaza Strip, Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, led a vigorous campaign to stymie an independent U.N. investigation into possible war crimes.”
4. The U.S. Political System
There are a couple driving forces people point to explain why U.S. policy is so pro-Israel. And there should be no doubt that one of the reasons, the Israel lobby, has helped push the U.S. towards such a blindingly one-sided policy in favor of Israel.
The Israel lobby works in myriad ways, but one way is its powerful role in the U.S. electoral process. Israel lobby-affiliated donors, some of them Jewish and others Christian Zionists, pour money into the coffers of politicians across the spectrum. These politicians, in turn, put out statements and make policy with the money the received from pro-Israel forces in mind.
And as Israel waged its assault on Gaza over the past week, the U.S. political system has followed this script. Both the House and the Senate passed unanimous resolutions expressing support for Israel’s “inherent right to act in self-defense.” As Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now wrote in The Daily Beast, the Senate resolution “contains no mention of any aspiration to see hostilities end and includes no exhortation for the President to in any way to engage to try to calm the violence or bring about a ceasefire.” Furthermore, Friedman writes, “the Gillibrand-Kirk resolution doesn't even pay lip service to, or offer even canned language feigning concern for, civilian life on both sides—or even on either side. This is bizarre, given that innocent civilians, including children, have already been killed and injured on both sides, and these numbers are almost certain to grow.”
5. U.S. Media Bias
Israel still enjoys fairly wide support among the U.S. population, though the discourse has slowly changed in recent years. Still, one reason why there remains little outrage among the U.S. population is that the American media they consume is heavily biased towards Israel.
The bias emerged during this latest assault. Many media outlets got the chronology of events wrong as to who started this latest escalation. For example, the Washington Post reported that “the latest round of fighting began Saturday, when militants from a non-Hamas faction fired an antitank missile at an Israeli jeep traveling along the Israel-Gaza border, injuring four Israeli soldiers.” But that ignores the fact that the escalation began when Israeli forces killed a teenage boy, and Palestinian armed factions responded.
CNN also repeated this wrong chronology. As the Arab American Institute pointed out, “CNN chose to begin the story of the latest round of violence in Gaza on November 10th, when 4 Israeli soldiers were wounded by Palestinian fire, and the IDF ‘retaliated’ by killing several Palestinians. But just two days before, a 13 year old Palestinian boy was killed in an Israeli military incursion into Gaza. And a few days before that, a mentally ill Palestinian man was killed and another man was seriously wounded due to Israeli fire. Is there any reason why those couldn't be the starting point of the ‘cycle of violence’?”