A Prescription for Mideast Peace: Get Tough With Israel

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A just solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict can only be achieved if U.S. policy is based upon American moral principles and a strict adherence to international law, which run counter to the continued Israeli occupation of Arab territory and the denial of basic rights and freedoms to Palestinians under Israeli military rule.

No peace initiative will ever succeed if it denies the Palestinians the liberty to which all people are entitled. Unfortunately, the U.S. has always been silent in the face of Israel’s continuing occupation, obediently providing military, political and financial support which only strengthens Israel’s belligerent posture towards its neighbors.

The confiscation of Arab land in order to build more Jewish settlements, the expulsion of Palestinians, their arrest and imprisonment, the systematic torture in the prisons, the assassination of political leaders, the total absence of due process, the demolition of homes, the uprooting of thousands of olive trees, the diversion to Israel of scarce water resources and the often indiscriminant killing of men, women, and especially children are violations of international law and moral standards. Americans have a special responsibility to put a stop to these abuses because these abuses are unjust and because they are being carried out with our resources and with the military and political support of our government.

The United States has a responsibility to intervene in order to prevent hostilities from occurring anywhere around the world or whenever human rights are being violated. But, it must do what is right based upon moral principles and not upon influences from special interest groups, political action committees or influential lobbyists. No rational dialogue is possible when those who dare to speak out are subjected to such intimidation that they fear for their political or professional lives.

A major obstacle to the establishment of such an American policy is the political influence wielded by the Israeli lobby. Supplementing the lobby’s efficient pressure, pro-Israeli political action committees give more money to the campaigns of senators, congressmen and presidential candidates than any other single-issue lobby. Aggregate contributions by pro-Israeli individuals are even greater.

U.S. policy in the Middle East has been a failure. Its lopsided support of Israel is the main reason. It is not good for Israel to live beyond its means and be immune from criticism because of American protection. This unquestionable protection of Israel and our refusal to condemn this Jewish State no matter what violations of international law and human rights it commits only breeds terrorism. We Americans now see this terrorism on our own soil.

Israel receives over $5 billion dollars annually in both military and economic aid from the American taxpayer. Israel is one of the richest countries in the world, with a per-capita income of $21,000, yet receives $1,200 per person from the United States with no strings attached. America needs the money for its own people and for the starving people of less fortunate Third World countries. The $5 billion in annual foreign aid to Israel has got to stop.

Israel continues to occupy lands that were seized from its neighbors in 1967. Continuing the occupation with all its inhumanity and exacerbating it by expelling the original inhabitants and creating new settlements is immoral and illegal and in no one’s interest. This is particularly galling when the settlements are funded by the U.S. taxpayer, who was not asked if he approved of his money being used in this fashion. It has got to stop.

Israel has been given free access to U.S. technology, which it has been illegally re-exporting to the People’s Republic of China, India, and others. This technology is going into weapon systems that one day might be used against us. This misuse of our military technology has got to stop.

Israel has nuclear weapons that were developed with the technology and materials stolen from the United States. According to federal law, aid to countries who build nuclear weapons is illegal. Until Israel joins the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty to permit inspection of its facilities, all military aid or assistance from the United States should stop.

Israel continues to spy on the United States to obtain civilian and military technology. After China, it is the most active country spying against the United States, even though it calls itself an ally and a friend. The espionage has got to stop.

The Israeli lobby has effectively blocked American business relations with countries that Israel considers enemies, like Iran and Syria. That has cost tens of thousands of American jobs. This interference in our commercial affairs must stop.

Whenever Israel invades one of its neighbors or kills innocent civilians, the United States is prompt to veto any United Nations resolutions that criticize Israel. The U.S. could not even bring itself to condemn the Qana Lebanese refugee camp massacre in which over 100 civilians, including two American boys from Michigan, were killed. Shielding Israel is an international embarrassment and places U.S. citizens in danger around the world, including our own soil, as we recently experienced with the Pentagon and the WTC attack. Israel must begin taking responsibility for its actions, and erosion of our national prestige in order to protect Israel must stop.

Israel discriminates against the Christians and Muslims who live within its borders in numerous ways, most notably by forbidding them to buy, lease, or rent 92 percent of the land in the country, which is earmarked for “Jews only.” Israel must decide whether it wants to be a democracy, or a state in which only Jews have civil rights. If it is to be the former, it must offer all citizens equally before the law.

The influence of Israel’s lobby and its political action committees has turned Congress and the White House into “yes men” for Israeli interests. Israel should get out of our politics and stay out. The promiscuous use of the label “anti-Semitic” to tar and feather any critic of Israel must also stop.

All of Israel’s vocal supporters and those who do its bidding in Congress and the White House should remember that when Stephen Decatur said “my country, right or wrong…” he was referring to the United States. Israel is a foreign country which, rightly, has interests and concerns that are different from ours. It should react to those concerns in light of its own national interests. We should do likewise.

The situation in the Middle East will not and cannot improve until American aid to Israel is either phased out or brought under control. That is the key to peace.

Israel is a wealthy country, sixteenth among all countries in per-capita income. Thanks to American support and protection, Israelis and their government have been living beyond their means and snubbing international law since recognition of Israel. Massive American aid only encourages the right wing in Israel and spreads settlements on Arab Lands.

But just mention Israel’s foreign aid program to your congressman and most likely you’ll get the canned response. “Israel is our strategic asset in the Middle East.” You’ll know that answer was bought and paid for. As former Senator James Abzourek once pointed out, to call Israel a strategic asset in the Middle East is like thanking the arsonist for calling the fire department that put the fire out.

Donald Bergus, a former ambassador to Sudan and retired diplomat, has written: “At the State Department we used to predict that if Israel’s Prime Minister should announce that the world is flat, within 24 hours Congress would pass a resolution congratulating him on the discovery.” Is it any wonder he would write such a thing?

James J. David is a retired Brigadier General, and a graduate of the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College, and the National Security Course, National Defense University, Washington DC. He served nearly 3 years of Army active duty in and around the Middle East from 1967-1969.

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