FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Cut Aid to the Poor, Not Israel

by MEDEA BENJAMIN And CHARLES DAVIS

With the U.S. economy in the tank and governments at all levels facing massive budget shortfalls, politicians left and right are seeking ways to curb spending. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wants to eliminate collective bargaining rights and the decent pay that goes with them. President Barack Obama’s budget includes halving the home-heating oil subsidy poor households depend on.

As Republicans and Democrats propose cuts in programs that actually benefit their increasingly impoverished constituents, though, they agree there’s one area of the budget that’s not to be touched: the annual $3 billion subsidy U.S. taxpayers provide to the Israeli military.

One of the biggest defenders of the handout is House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. “There will be no cuts to security assistance to the Jewish State of Israel,” her chief of staff declared in a recent letter to House Republicans. The rest of the U.S. foreign aid budget, including assistance for Iraqi refugees and food aid to the world’s poorest people, is fair game. But the Florida congresswoman insists we must help Israel maintain its “Qualitative Military Edge.”

And congressional Democrats have her back.

Illinois Democrat Jan Schakowsky, for instance – a leading member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus – has drafted a letter, cosigned by California Democrat Anna Eshoo, warning that the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia “have the potential to add to the very real security challenges faced by Israel.” Reducing or “otherwise endangering aid to our ally” would be “unproductive,” she adds, encouraging her colleagues to tell Obama they “strongly support … providing $3.075 billion in assistance to Israel.” (For those shivering at home, that’s more assistance than Obama is proposing to offer Americans trying to keep their houses warm.)

This liberal appeal for Israeli military aid, meanwhile, is being sent out under the auspices of J Street, a group that positions itself as a left-leaning answer to AIPAC. But J Street staff we spoke with at their recent conference were hard-pressed to explain why U.S. taxpayers should fund a right-wing Israeli government that continues to build settlements and maintains an inhumane siege of Gaza.

So it’s left to folks like libertarian Congressman Ron Paul and his son, Kentucky Senator and Tea Party favorite Rand Paul, to call for ending aid to Israel. In a February 4 interview with ABC News, Rand Paul said of Israel, “I think that their per capita income is greater than probably three-fourths of the rest of the world. Should we be giving free money or welfare to a wealthy nation? I don’t think so.”

Indeed, Israel has the 24th largest economy in the world, and ranks 15th among 169 nations on the UN Human Development Index, which makes it a “very highly developed” nation.

Yet what thanks did Senator Paul get for his call to save the U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars? A torrent of criticism, even from J Street, which called on Republicans – and their donors – “to repudiate his comments and ensure American leadership around the world is not threatened by this irresponsible proposal.”

Paul’s fellowTea Partiers aren’t any better. Of the 87 freshmen House Republicans elected on platforms of cut-baby-cut, at least three-fourths have now signed a letter declaring that, “As Israel faces threats from escalating instability in Egypt” – where have we heard that line of argument before? – “security assistance to Israel … has never been more important.” Subsidies are for militaries, you see, not poor people.

But even without U.S. funding, Israel would still spend $11 billion-plus on its military, more than all but 20 other nations in the world spend on their armed forced – and hundreds of millions of dollars more than the Islamic Republic of Iran, despite having just 1/10th the population. Throw in a couple – as in, couple hundred – little things called nuclear weapons, and, for better or worse, the Jewish state’s “Qualitative Military Advantage” isn’t going anywhere.

But you wouldn’t know that listening to the folks at J Street or to liberals like Jan Schakowsky, who hysterically cite the specter of Arab democracy to advocate billions in subsidies for a government that openly flouts international law. So much for their concern about human rights. And so much for being progressive. Indeed, with liberals like these, the Netanyahu government and its allies at AIPAC are likely asking themselves: who needs the Tea Party?

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of CODEPINK and Global Exchange.

Charles Davis is a journalist.

 

Charles Davis is a writer based in Ecuador whose work has been published by outlets such as Al Jazeera, The Nation and Salon. He can be reached at charles@freecharlesdavis.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Destruction of Mosul
Norman Pollack
Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse
Steve Horn
What Do a Louisiana Pipeline Explosion and Dakota Access Pipeline Have in Common? Phillips 66
Brian Saady
Why Corporations are Too Big to Jail in the Drug War
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Peaceful Protest to Armed Uprising
Luke Meyer
The Case of Tony: Inside a Lifer Hearing
Binoy Kampmark
Adolf, The Donald and History
Robert Koehler
The Great American Awakening
Murray Dobbin
Canadians at Odds With Their Government on Israel
Fariborz Saremi
A Whole New World?
Joyce Nelson
Japan’s Abe, Trump & Illegal Leaks
Christopher Brauchli
Trump 1, Tillerson 0
Yves Engler
Is This Hate Speech?
Dan Bacher
Trump Administration Exempts Three CA Oil Fields From Water Protection Rule at Jerry Brown’s Request
Richard Klin
Solid Gold
Melissa Garriga
Anti-Abortion and Anti-Fascist Movements: More in Common Than Meets the Eye
Thomas Knapp
The Absurd Consequences of a “Right to Privacy”
W. T. Whitney
The Fate of Prisoner Simón Trinidad, as Seen by His U. S. Lawyer
Brian Platt
Don’t Just Oppose ICE Raids, Tear Down the Whole Racist Immigration Enforcement Regime
Paul Cantor
Refugee: the Compassionate Mind of Egon Schwartz
Norman Richmond
The Black Radical Tradition in Canada
Barton Kunstler
Rallying Against the Totalitarian Specter
Judith Deutsch
Militarism:  Revolutionary Mothering and Rosie the Riveter
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir Evoked a Lot More International Attention in the 1950s Than It Does Now
Adam Phillips
There Isn’t Any There There
Louis Proyect
Steinbeck’s Red Devils
Randy Shields
Left Coast Date: the Dating Site for the ORWACA Tribe
Charles R. Larson
Review: Bill Hayes’ “Insomniac City”
David Yearsley
White Supremacy and Music Theory
February 16, 2017
Peter Gaffney
The Rage of Caliban: Identity Politics, the Travel Ban, and the Shifting Ideological Framework of the Resistance
Ramzy Baroud
Farewell to Doublespeak: Israel’s Terrifying Vision for the Future
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail