Funding the New Apartheid

It’s been a while since we’ve heard the term apartheid.  Originally a term coined by white Dutch speaking settlers in South Africa to designate racial segregation (apartness), it was what Nelson Mandela stood against, ultimately prevailing over white supremacy there in the early 1990s.  And we have it again, in the words of a friend of mine who recently visited Israel.  Her description of a Palestinian market and how it was quarantined by Israeli soldiers was horrifying.  And it’s an example of what Palestinians deal with on a daily basis and have done so for years.

Israel receives more foreign aid from the US than any other country in the world, three billion dollars a year, followed by Egypt, at about half that, annually (though probably not for long).  And Israel has proved to be nothing more than a millstone around our neck.  Our longstanding association with them has tainted us to an extent that nothing else possibly could amongst the Muslim world (except maybe for the wars we’re currently waging in two Muslim countries trying to recast them in our image).  Israeli actions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have stood in the way of a meaningful peace for years.  That’s not to say that Palestinians are blameless, but it’s clear that Israeli actions, particularly the recent drive to ‘settle’ certain areas in which Palestinians already live are the biggest roadblock to peace in the region today.

So, Israel’s reviled and we’re footing part of their bill.  To the tune of three billion dollars a year, the majority of which goes to arms purchases.  In a day and age when our balance sheet looks like a vodoo priest made a sacrifice over it, conservatives are calling for the US to either end or significantly reduce foreign aid as we know it.  But the funny thing is, not to Israel.  They’re probably not going to lose any of their money.  Of 87 Republican House freshmen, 65 signed a vow from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) promising that they won’t make any cuts to the current levels of foreign aid to Israel.  At a time when Republicans insist that all options are ‘on the table,’ to exempt any country, particularly Israel, is just plain foolish.

This is bad politics.  This is bad foreign policy.  This is bad for the budget.  And this is bad morally.  Say what you will about the Palestinians, but what Israel has done in recent years is morally unacceptable in terms of blocking peace.  And we’re footing the bill.  You and I, indirectly, are partially paying for the new apartheid in the Middle East.


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