In May of 2021, Israel created an international controversy because of their treatment of the Palestinian people. Days of violent conflict broke out as a result of Palestinian protests against an anticipated decision by the Supreme Court of Israel to evict 6 families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah region.
According to an article published by The Guardian on May 10th,
“the latest clashes around the compound on Monday … left over 300 injured. The latest violence came after Israeli police stormed the compound early on Monday firing stun grenades and tear gas and clashing with Palestinians inside following days of worsening clashes.”
From here the violence only escalated, with Hamas firing rockets into Israel from Gaza, and Israel responding with many bombings, including an airstrike on an office building that contained journalists from the Associated Press and Al Jazeera with only a few minutes warning. Israel claimed that Hamas was using the building as a “Military Intelligence” base as justification for leveling it, but no evidence for this claim has been provided to the public. Despite these events, the Biden Administration did not support a ceasefire until May 17th, days after the aforementioned building was destroyed. The administration has also not given any indication that they are reconsidering the $735 Million arms deal to Israel. More recently, the IDF even admitted to the extra-judicial killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, an American-Palestinian journalist who was shot and killed by Israeli fire on May 11, 2022. The United States ruled it as accidental, despite mounting investigations proving otherwise. The soldier was not charged and the name was concealed from the public.
So this begs the question, why is America so supportive of the state of Israel, and why do they turn a blind eye to their offenses?
Every year, the United States provides Israel with billions of dollars in foreign military aid. In 2020 alone, the United States gave $3.8 Billion to Israel as part of a long term commitment signed by former president Barack Obama which stated that the United States would provide Israel with $38 Billion in foreign military aid over the ten year period of 2016 to 2026; the largest foreign aid agreement in American history. The agreement precludes any US president from withdrawing from the agreement until 2026. This agreement is not a departure from the normative policies of the US since the 1970s, and, to a lesser extent, going back to the late 1940s as the US has given Israel a total of approximately $147 Billion since 1949.
The money given to Israel by the US is primarily used to purchase military equipment to ensure their strength in the region. Israel has a highly advanced military and boasts having one of the most sophisticated missile defense systems in the world called the “Iron Dome,” top notch combat aircrafts, and other advanced military technology.
The relationship between the US and Israel extends beyond the foreign aid that the US has been sending to Israel for decades. The US consistently supports Israel and their actions through diplomatic means such as constantly blocking UN resolutions that would condemn Israel for their military actions taken against civilians and call for a peaceful resolution to the ongoing conflict. According to Al-Jazeera, the US has blocked at least 53 UN security council resolutions critical of Israel since 1972.
All of this support from the US is in spite of the fact that Israel has been called an apartheid state by many reputable human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in the year 2020 alone, Israel demolished 848 residential structures, displacing 996 people, and killed 31 Palestinians, 9 of which were children. These numbers do not account for the violence and damage that occurred in 2021 which drew a lot of attention and condemnation from the International Community.
According to the Adalah-The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, there are over 65 Israeli laws that discriminate against Palestinians.
According to Amnesty International,
“For the 13th consecutive year, Israel continued its illegal air, land and sea blockade of the Gaza Strip, restricting the movement of people and goods in and out of the area, which continued to have a devastating impact on the human rights of Gaza’s 2 million inhabitants.”
This blockade was especially detrimental for the Palestinian people in 2020 due to them having a lack of access to hospitals and specialty clinics.
Despite all of these humanitarian concerns and calls from progressive activists, the policy objectives of supporting Israel monetarily, politically, and militarily have been upheld in a bipartisan fashion for decades. As noted above, the US has been heavily supporting Israel since the late 1940s. This means that the vast majority of both Democratic and Republican political figures have supported and implemented these policies.
Protecting Her Interests in the Region
President Biden has a long history of supporting the state of Israel as a state whose existence is vitally important to the interests of the United States within the region.
In his own words,
“Were there not an Israel the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interests in the region.”
Many politicians have made similar statements over the years, and very few have strayed from the spirit of these statements made by President Biden.
The argument being made here by President Biden is that the US needs to support Israel because Israel acts in accordance with the objectives of the US in the middle east. Meaning that even completely excluding any arguments for why the state of Israel requires any sort of support, the US should still support Israel the way they do, purely for the interests of the United States itself.
Presumably one of the objectives of the US that Israel fulfills is the objective of having a military presence in the Middle East to counteract the presence of their adversaries like Iran, Syria, and Russia in the region. This would also explain why the US publicly commits to maintain Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME). An example of this was as the IDF chief admitted in 2019, Israel supplied weapons to Syrian Rebels during the seven year civil war.
The Military-Industrial Complex
Israel purchases expensive military equipment with the money they receive from the US. Some of their primary weapons suppliers are Lockheed Martin and Boeing, both of which are based in the US. These companies greatly benefit from these arms sales, and this is seen as being of great benefit to the US economy as the “Defense” industry employs many Americans. So when the US provides military aid to Israel, they see it as an investment in their own weapons manufacturing industry.
Another aspect of the Military-Industrial complex that encourages the US to spend massive amounts of money in foreign military aid to Israel, is the corruption that exists in the political system in the form of campaign contributions. The Defense Industry pays millions of dollars in campaign contributions to US politicians, both Republicans and Democrats. These contributions clearly affect the decision-making process in Washington because the politicians are aware that if they make decisions that are unfavourable to the defense industry, they may not receive the campaign contributions they need in the next election cycle to maintain their political position.
Speaking of corruption in the political process, the Pro-Israel lobbies in the US are quite substantial in size and have a lot of influence on the political system.
“One of, if not the most, powerful international issue lobby is that of the pro-Israel crowd. Well-financed and politically powerful, the pro-Israel lobby is a major force on American foreign affairs that looks to continue America’s military and fiscal support of the Jewish nation-state… The lobby has had recent policy success with the Trump administration moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from the internationally-recognized capital of Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move long advocated by some in the pro-Israel lobby… Even with the policy victories coming under a Republican president, the lobby still remained staunch Democratic contributors, giving more than $14.8 million in the 2018 midterms to mostly Democrats.”
Aside from the money they give politicians in the form of campaign contributions, the Pro-Israel lobby is able to pressure politicians into favoring their agenda in many ways. One of these ways is through the connections that these lobbies are able to provide to politicians who favour their interests. For example the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is known for being a conduit for American politicians to garner support from other elite members of society within the AIPAC network. Every year AIPAC holds a large policy conference filled with politicians, journalists, business leaders and other elite members of society, all of which share broadly the goals of promoting Israel and not criticizing it for the offenses mentioned earlier in this article.
Evangelical Christian Support
The Only Democracy in the Middle East
Throughout the years, the US media and political apparatus have been spreading support for the state of Israel by using its democratic system to deflect any criticism from it. The narrative they try to create is that all the Arab countries are backwards authoritarian regimes and that Israel is the only shining example of liberal democracy in the region. This narrative however is not universally agreed upon. In an article published in 2019 by
The Intercept, the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, is cited as having stated on social media that
“Israel is not a state of all its citizens.” He later explained to his cabinet that Israel is “the nation state not of all its citizens, but only of the Jewish people.”
Many Palestinians are not able to attain citizenship and are thereby unable to vote.
According to the article by Ben White,
“Just last year a draft law by legislators representing Palestinian citizens was disqualified from even being debated in the Knesset plenum. Why? In calling for Israel to be a state of all its citizens, as opposed to ‘the state of the Jewish people’ , the bill violated parliamentary regulations. Thus, the significance of the Jewish Power party and Netanyahu’s racist rhetoric is in the way it makes the claim that Israel is a liberal democracy that much tougher to make. Netanyahu did not say anything groundbreaking on Sunday: but he is making it harder to maintain an illusion.“
Despite these reasons for why the US is so adamant in its support of Israel, in May of 2021, Israel’s military actions taken against Palestinian civilians caused several prominent progressive political figures in the United States to come out in severe condemnation of their actions. They demanded that the United States threaten to withhold further military aid from Israel unless they agreed to several demands that would include respecting the human rights of the Palestinian people. These lawmakers are known as being some of the few vocal critics of the extreme militaristic attitude of the US, the Military-Industrial Complex, many common Christian Conservative attitudes, Pro-Israel Lobbying groups, and all other lobbying groups for that matter.
Responding to a report that Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was preparing to introduce legislation that would block a planned arms sale from the US to Israel, she tweeted:
The United States should not be rubber-stamping weapons sales to the Israeli government as they deploy our resources to target international media outlets, schools, hospitals, humanitarian missions and civilian sites for bombing.
We have a responsibility to protect human rights. https://t.co/OctBNYFpwp
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 19, 2021
Ilhan Omar, another progressive lawmaker in the House of Representatives said in a statement
“The United States should not stand idly by while crimes against humanity are being committed with our backing. The violence in Israel and the Gaza Strip is spiraling out of control… It would be appalling for the Biden Administration to go through with $735 million in precision-guided weaponry to Netanyahu without any strings attached in the wake of escalating violence and attacks on civilians. If this goes through this will be seen as a green light for continued escalation and will undercut any attempts at brokering a ceasefire. We should be standing unequivocally and consistently on the side of human rights—holding all state and non-state actors accountable for their crimes and using every tool at our disposal to end the violence and bring about peace.”
Senator Bernie Sanders wrote as part of an opinion piece published in the New York Times,
“In the Middle East, where we provide nearly $4 billion a year in aid to Israel, we can no longer be apologists for the right-wing Netanyahu government and its undemocratic and racist behavior. We must change course and adopt an even-handed approach, one that upholds and strengthens international law regarding the protection of civilians, as well as existing U.S. law holding that the provision of U.S. military aid must not enable human rights abuses.”
These statements show that with enough political pressure and with more politicians who reject some of these core factors that influence the US to support Israel the way they do, and with some shifts in the American populations opinions on the matter, progress can be made in terms of how much support the United States supplies to the state of Israel.
If you value our journalism…
TMJ News is committed to remaining an independent, reader-funded news platform. A small donation from our valuable readers like you keeps us running so that we can keep our reporting open to all! We’ve launched a fundraising campaign to raise the $10,000 we need to meet our publishing costs this year, and it’d mean the world to us if you’d make a monthly or one-time donation to help. If you value what we publish and agree that our world needs alternative voices like ours in the media, please give what you can today.