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An Iron Triangle

“To qualify for self-determination, a people must show some kind of national identity….What political organizations, social institutions, literature, art, religion, or private correspondence express any ties between the Palestinian people to the Land of Israel?”

–Adam Cherrill, Manager of Business Development, Raytheon Business Systems, November 18, 2002

I travel around this country speaking about the need for the United States to support a balanced foreign policy toward the Israel-Palestine conflict. At these events, inevitably I encounter staunch defenders of Israel’s military occupation of Palestine who refuse to question the morality of Israel’s policy of denying another people their fundamental human rights to live in freedom and dignity.

It is difficult to become anesthetized to the shock of encountering people who view Palestinians as being less deserving of universally recognized human rights than others. Normally, I just take these types of statements to be representative of a hate-filled fringe, refute them, and move on.

However, the remarks above, delivered in response to an address I gave at the University of Arizona, were different. Adam Cherrill is not a member of a shadowy, millennial cult busily preparing for the building of the Third Temple in Jerusalem. If he were, then it would be easy enough to dismiss what he had to say. No, Cherrill is a person of considerable clout-the program manager for Raytheon’s joint marketing of the Black Sparrow ballistic target missile with the Israeli weapons manufacturer Rafael.

I wondered why would Raytheon-one of the largest U.S. weapons makers, employing 77,500 people worldwide and generating $16.9 billion in revenues in 2001-place an advocate of the expansionist notion of “Greater Israel” in such a prominent position in the U.S.-Israeli military relationship? What does it say for U.S. foreign policy to have an American responsible for marketing Israeli missiles who believes that “Israel has a far stronger claim to Judea and Samaria, which is considered the West Bank, than the Arabs”?

The answers to these questions become clear when one examines the business perks that Raytheon and other defense contractors enjoy thanks to a U.S foreign policy which unconditionally bankrolls Israel’s military occupation of Palestine. For FY2003, Congress has earmarked more than $2.1 billion for Israel in foreign military financing. Israel will use this money to purchase the American-made weapons it needs to entrench its military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the U.S. arms industry will get a lump-sum of guaranteed business-a sweetheart deal for all involved.

Unsurprisingly, Raytheon has been a beneficiary of this American taxpayer largesse in recent years. Since 1998, Raytheon has sold to Israel through foreign military sales more than 200 AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles for more than $100 million, 14 Beech King B200 fixed-wing aircraft for $125 million, and a Patriot missile system for $73 million, according to the Federation of American Scientists.

But the export of weapons to Israel can take place only if Congress is willing to turn a blind eye to the U.S. Arms Export Control Act which bans such weapons from being used against civilians. Unfortunately, Israel has used U.S.-provided weapons on several occasions to kill innocent Palestinian civilians. The most egregious example of this happened in July 2002 when U.S.-made F-16s reduced to rubble an apartment building in Gaza City, killing 17 Palestinians civilians in what Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon termed “a great success.” Even White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer was compelled to acknowledge that it was “a deliberate attack against a building in which civilians were known to be located.” However, to admit that Israel is in violation of this law would jeopardize future U.S. arms exports to Israel and present the defense industry with a nightmarish scenario in which their $2 billion yearly subsidy would dry up.

To prevent this from happening was one reason why the defense industry doled out a whopping $13 million in total contributions in the 2002 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Raytheon Co. PAC alone gave $523,725 to federal candidates. It is no coincidence that stalwarts of the deadly U.S.-Israeli military relationship-such as Martin Frost ($4,000), Dick Gephardt ($3,000), Jane Harman ($12,500), Anne Northup ($6,000), Ed Pastor ($8,000), and Mitch McConnell ($6,000)-were rewarded quite handsomely by Raytheon for turning a blind eye and acting unaccountably, while the few Members of Congress who have called into question Israel’s violations of the U.S. Arms Export Control Act-Robert Byrd, John Conyers, John Dingell, and Nick Rahall-received a grand total of $0.

Of course Israel is not sole determinant in the calculations of how the defense industry dishes out its hush money. But the $2 billion subsidy that it receives from the American taxpayer isn’t exactly chump change either and creates interests that are surely worth protecting.

JOSHUA RUEBNER is co-founder of Jews for Peace in Palestine and Israel (JPPI) and a former Analyst of Middle East Affairs for Congressional Research Service (CRS). He can be reached at: He can be reached: jruebner@hotmail.com

 

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