FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Coin of Empire

“The coin of empire is always bought dear” was an expression that emerged from the great Irish Tithe War of the 1830s, when the British taxed the Catholic Irish to support the Church of England. After three years of opposition, bloodshed, and financial chaos, one colonial officer glumly pointed out that it was costing the Crown, “a shilling to collect tuppence.”

That is a lesson the government of Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon might heed as it continues to occupy the West Bank and Gaza at a cost that threatens to destroy the Israeli economy, impoverishing both occupiers and occupied. The moral of the story also might encourage U.S. President George W. Bush’s administration to influence Israel’s economic policies.

For the second year in a row, Israel’s GDP has contracted. Unemployment overall is 10.8%; it is more than double that rate in Israeli Arab towns. Over 300,000 Israelis are jobless. According to government reports, 1.2 million Israelis–one-fifth of the population–now live in poverty. The official poverty line income is $934 a month for families with two children. The number of poor families has risen 30% in the past 14 years and the number of children in poverty 50%. Some 27% of Israel’s children are officially designated poor.

While poverty is growing among Israelis, it is definitive among the Palestinians. Over 50% of the West Bank and Gaza populations are jobless, and 75% of Gaza’s residents live on less than $2 a day. The U.S. Agency for International Development found that 13.2% of Gaza’s children and 4.3% in the West Bank suffer from what it called “body wasting” or inadequate nutrition. Almost one in five children has moderate anemia.

The settlements are a massive drain on the Israeli budget. Aside from the cost of deploying the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to guard the settlements, a vast network of special roads labeled for “settlers only” has been constructed, along with an enormous water and electrical power infrastructure. Tel Aviv also subsidizes the 220,000 settlers (plus the 200,000 in East Jerusalem). Mortgage rates in the occupied territories are one quarter of those in Israel, education is subsidized, and settlers receive a 10% break on their income taxes plus a 7% discount on their social security.

According to Peace Now, the occupation costs the Israeli government about $1.4 billion a year, a figure that will surely rise with the continued expansion of the settlements. According to the Associated Press, Sharon told his Cabinet ministers June 22 that despite the directives of the multilateral Road Map for Middle East Peace, construction would continue “quietly.”

The cost of occupation is partly borne by U.S. loan guarantees and outright grants. U.S. aid to Israel–the bulk of it military–amounts to some $3 billion a year. Several months ago the Sharon government asked for more, figuring the White House owed it for Israel’s staunch support of the Bush administration’s war on Iraq. Washington agreed to pony up $9 billion in loan guarantees and $1 billion in military aid, but with a catch: Israel must cut taxes, welfare, and public service jobs. In short, it must adopt a U.S.-style economic system.

It was that demand that put 700,000 public sector workers into the streets in April and sparked a scathing editorial in the daily newspaper Ha’aretz accusing the Bush administration of trying to force “a neo-liberal order in Israel.” The Sharon government’s response has been to try to limit the trade unions’ right to strike. Shortly after a bitter exchange between Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Israel’s labor organization, the Histadrut, Likud Party leader Ruhama Avraham introduced legislation restricting the right of public employees to strike.

The quid pro quo for U.S. aid has stirred up considerable debate in Israel, although the controversy has yet to show up in the mainstream of U.S. media.

The settlers, who make up only 5% of the Israeli population, have enormous clout with the Sharon government, but a recent Maariv poll found that 62% of Israelis support “ending the occupation of the territories,” with 32% “opposed” and 6% “undecided.”

While settlers claiming religious reasons for the occupation get the most press, a recent survey of the settler population by the Hopp Research Co. found that nearly 80% of the settlers were motivated solely by the subsidies, not by ideological or religious reasons. The same study also indicated that 68% of the settlers would return to Israel if ordered to.

According to Peace Now, transplanting the settlers back to Israel would cost $700 million, half the yearly cost of supporting them now.

Besides the drain on lives and treasure–the coin of empire–the occupation stokes rage, just as it did in Ireland. When the Tithe War broke out in 1831, the British responded by pouring thousands of troops and police into the countryside to crush resistance, which only deepened the anger of the Irish. The war came to a head in 1834 with the infamous “Rathcormack Massacre” near Cork. While attempting to collect a tithe of 40 shillings from a widow, British troops fired on a crowd of protesters, killing 17 and wounding 35. In the face of outrage over the incident, the British shelved the tithe.

The settlements in the occupied territories impoverish both Israelis and Palestinians, and the so-called security they create is an illusion. Instead, they foreshadow a time of reckoning: “All the injustices and evil perpetuated against the Palestinians will eventually blow up in our faces,” warns Gideon Levy, an aide to former Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. “A people that is abused in this way for years will explode one day in a terrible fury, even worse than what we see now.”

CONN HALLINAN is a provost at the University of California at Santa Cruz and a political analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus. He can be reached at: connm@cats.ucsc.edu

 

 

More articles by:

Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com 

April 24, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russia and the War Party
William A. Cohn
Carnage Unleashed: the Pentagon and the AUMF
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
The Racist Culture of Canadian Hockey
María Julia Bertomeu
On Angers, Disgusts and Nauseas
Nick Pemberton
How To Buy A Seat In Congress 101
Ron Jacobs
Resisting the Military-Now More Than Ever
Paul Bentley
A Velvet Revolution Turns Bloody? Ten Dead in Toronto
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Left, Syria and Fake News
Manuel E. Yepe
The Confirmation of Democracy in Cuba
Peter Montgomery
Christian Nationalism: Good for Politicians, Bad for America and the World
Ted Rall
Bad Drones
Jill Richardson
The Latest Attack on Food Stamps
Andrew Stewart
What Kind of Unionism is This?
Ellen Brown
Fox in the Hen House: Why Interest Rates Are Rising
April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
Ted Rall
Stop Letting Trump Distract You From Your Wants and Needs
Steve Klinger
The Cautionary Tale of Donald J. Trump
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Conflict Over the Future of the Planet
Cesar Chelala
Gideon Levy: A Voice of Sanity from Israel
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled Again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail