World

4 Ways America Is Complicit In Israel’s War Crimes

Israel is using American weapons and money to pound Gaza.

A Palestinian woman mourns during the funeral for those killed in heavy Israeli bombardment of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 21, 2014
Photo Credit: AFP

America’s unstinting support for Israel is a key reason why the assault on Gaza continues unabated.

As the death toll climbs to over 500 Palestinians, mostly civilians, there is no immediate end in sight. There is little reason for Israel to stop when it can count on the backing of the world’s superpower. “No nation should accept rockets being fired into its borders,” President Obama said when Israel’s ground invasion begun.

There was a tiny crack in America’s wall of support for Israel over the weekend. A live television camera caught Secretary of State John Kerry mocking Israel’s claims that its attack on Gaza would be precise and limited. “It's a hell of a pinpoint operation,” Kerry said sarcastically. But when he was confronted with the clip on Fox News, Kerry backed off, and pivoted to full-throated support for Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge.” The tiny crack was shored up.

Rhetorical support isn't all Israel can count on; the state is also using American weapons and money to pound Gaza. Here are four other ways the U.S. is deeply complicit in Israel’s assault on Gaza and the war crimes that accompany it.

1. Military aid. This is the bread and butter of the U.S.-Israel alliance. Since 1948, when Israel was created after expelling hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes, the U.S. has given Israel $112 billion. That makes Israel the largest cumulative recipient of American aid.

The vast majority of it comes in the form of military aid to beef up the Israeli army, one of the most powerful forces in the world. U.S. military aid makes up about a quarter of the Israeli military budget. And a quarter of American military aid is allowed to be spent on Israel’s own defense industry, a unique concession no other country receives.

In recent years, the U.S. has given Israel $3.1 billion in military aid and weaponry in the form of F16s, Hellfire missiles, and assault rifles, now being used to kill Palestinian civilians. In addition, the U.S. funds Israeli missile defense systems like the much-praised Iron Dome, which shoots rockets fired from Gaza out of the sky. In the midst of Israel’s attack, a Senate committee passed a bill that would give Israel an additional $620 million for missile defense, including $350 million for Iron Dome.

2. U.S. corporations. The military aid doesn’t only help Israel, it’s also a boon to the U.S. military industrial complex.

While Israel can spend a quarter of the military aid on its homemade armaments, it must spend 75 percent of the money on American-made weapons. In that sense, the money goes from the U.S. to Israel and then back to America again.

The companies reaping the profits from Israel’s blood-letting are numerous: corporations like Caterpillar, whose bulldozers are bought by Israel and then outfitted by the military to demolish Palestinian homes; Lockheed Martin, which makes the Hellfire missiles Israel uses; and Hewlett Packard, which helps power the Israeli army and navy’s information technology systems.

All of these companies are targets of the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which calls for boycotting Israeli goods, divesting from companies with links to Israel and its occupation and imposing sanctions on the country.

3. Diplomatic support. The U.S. government also enables Israeli attacks across occupied Palestine by shielding it in diplomatic forums.

On Sunday, the UN Security Council, which the U.S. is a member of, issued a statement calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. But a Jordanian-authored draft resolution that criticized Israel was not brought to the table—and you can bet the U.S. had a big role to play in that. On July 12, the Security Council issued a similar statement. Reuters reported that “The United States, a close ally of Israel, agreed to the statement after the Arab Group threatened to push for a resolution.” (A UN resolution would be a much stronger action that just a statement.)

America’s actions at the UN this time follow a pattern. In 2012, when Israel was fighting another war in Gaza, the U.S. blocked a Security Council statement  rom passing because it did not condemn Hamas.

And after the 2008-09 assault on Gaza, the U.S. made sure that a UN-authored report harshly criticizing Israel for war crimes did not make its way to the Security Council, allowing Israel to commit violations of international law with impunity.

The U.S. has also vetoed Security Council resolutions that criticize Israel’s illegal settlement project in the occupied West Bank.

4. Money to tax-exempt organizations. This aspect of U.S. support for Israel is different than the others. Instead of the U.S. government providing the cash, private U.S. citizens fork over money that help Israeli groups. There are a wide array of private, not-for-profit groups that support the Israeli army and the West Bank settlement project. Since they’re non-profit, donations to the groups can be written off on individual tax returns, meaning that U.S. taxpayers are indirectly subsidizing groups that support Israel no matter what it does.

Friends of the Israel Defense Forces directly supports the Israeli army. Its fundraisers typically bring in tens of millions of dollars. In its latest tax return, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces reported over $62 million in income, with over $43 million going to support the Israeli military.

A network of U.S.-based non-profits funnels millions of dollars to illegal West Bank settlements, which the U.S. itself condemns. As a New York Times report on the phenomenon put it: “As the American government seeks to end the four-decade Jewish settlement enterprise and foster a Palestinian state in the West Bank, the American Treasury helps sustain the settlements through tax breaks on donations to support them.”

The issue of American taxpayer support for Israel received more attention earlier this month when ProPublica published a piece by Israeli journalist Uri Blau on the cash flowing to a legal group providing defense to the alleged killers of a Palestinian teenager. The organization, Honenu, is the defense team for six men who are allegedly behind the kidnapping and burning alive of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir, an incident that fueled tensions in Israel/Palestine.

The American group that funds Honenu is called the Central Fund of Israel, which also gives cash to many other extremist Israeli groups and settlements. In 2012, the Central Fund of Israel gave Honenu $120,000.

Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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