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US and Israel: Reevaluating a Toxic Relationship

Photo by zeevveez | CC BY 2.0

In 2014, Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old boy was shot six times in the back and head by police officer, Darren Wilson, while fleeing a confrontation in Ferguson, Missouri. The young boy was then left to bleed out in the street. The police officer claimed that he feared for his life. The officer was acquitted.

In 2015, Mohammed al-Kasbeh, an unarmed 17-year-old boy was shot several times in the back and head by Israeli Colonel Yisrael Shomer, while fleeing a checkpoint in Ramallah. The young boy was with a group of other youth who were allegedly throwing stones at an Israeli military vehicle. When the windshield broke, the soldiers exited the vehicle in their gear, fired several shots, then walked up to Mohammed’s body which was bleeding out on the ground, and proceeded to kick the dying boy. The solider claimed that he feared for his life. The soldier was acquitted.

The world is now looking to the United States and the state of Israel as a tightly-bound couple whose mutual commitment is poignantly reflected in the recent gesture made by President Donald Trump and his decision to relocate the American embassy to Jerusalem.

The United States and Israel are not an unlikely couple in their provocative union. Coming from similar beginnings, they have allied themselves in the fight to maintain their national aspirations to uphold racism, classism and colonialism/neocolonialism. Manifest Destiny and Zionism have become one and the same.

The most apparent manifestation of this is the two nations’ shared practices regarding militarized policing and borders, their shared attitudes and policy towards immigration, and the expansion of their carceral states. In 2013, Israeli Deputy Minister of Defense, Eli Ben-Dahan stated that: “[Palestinians] are beasts, they are not human”. Racist ideologies within Israel’s criminal justice system and military are transferred on to third parties like the US. This transfer takes place via the US military, police, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) training in the United States.

Police Training and Brutality

Beginning less than a year after 9/11, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs began fully sponsoring exchanges for various departments within the US government. US police, ICE officials, border agents, and FBI personnel would receive “counter terrorism” training in Israel by the Israeli Army, Border Patrol, national police, and the country’s secret service. Israeli military personnel also travel to the United States to collaborate with American police departments and government agencies.

Along with tactical training, shared ideologies of militarism, brutality and racism are exchanged.

This can be seen not only through their policing practices, but the attitude towards national security and immigration. During these trips, US officials visit Israeli checkpoints in the occupied Palestinian territories, prisons and airports. These spaces all have something in common; human rights abuses, torture, executions and other forms of vile brutality.

This exchange doesn’t only include training, but it involves the sharing of weaponry in a mutual effort to secure the US monopoly of power in the Middle East. The United States provides Israel with 3.8 billion dollars a year. The majority of those funds are funneled straight into military expenditures – to purchase tanks, guns, ammunition, and the exact same tear gas that was used against the protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, which is also used against the indigenous people of Palestine.

Walls and ‘Security’

When American ICE officials and border agents train in Israel, they visit Israeli checkpoints in occupied territories as well as the Apartheid Wall that divides historic Palestinian territories and annexes others. On January 28, 2017, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted his approval of Trump’s Mexico-US border wall proposal: “President Trump is right. I built a wall along Israel’s southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea”.

This “solidarity” surpasses ICE and border agent training, for the Israeli company who built the Apartheid wall in Gaza and the West Bank is one of the companies being vetted to construct the proposed wall on the Mexican border. Not only that, but Elbit systems, an Israeli “defense electronics company”, has already been operating on the Mexican border, while further developing their security experiments in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  

Immigration  

The conversation of “illegal immigration” looks nearly identical in the United States and Israel. Yisrael Katz, a leading figure in the Israeli right-wing Likud party who heads both ministries for transportation, intelligence and atomic energy posted on Facebook: “Europe is having a difficult time dealing with the migrants, and with creating solutions for this difficult issue. While there are differences between us (the migrants traveling to Europe must cross a sea while those heading for Israel have a direct overland connection), you can see the rectitude of our government’s policy to build a fence on the border with Egypt, which blocks the job-seeking migrants before they enter Israel..”.

This language clones that of the United States’ right-wing party, specifically comments made by Trump in his joint address to Congress on February 282017: “To any in Congress who do not believe we should enforce our laws, I would ask you this one question:  What would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or their loved one because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?”

Solidarity Struggles

Solidarity campaigns for the Palestinian people have surfaced around the globe, and it is no surprise that these cries for justice are strongly voiced by the Black and Latino communities in the United States and Latin America.

Daniela González López, the International coordinator with the People’s Human Rights Observatory and organizer for the International Caravan Against Walls, which organizes grassroots activist groups from Latin America, Palestine and the United States “with the aim of building common strategies against U.S. military intervention” was interviewed by Telesur.

She drew connections between settler colonialism and the occupying forces which for Mexicans and Palestinians alike repress their right to freedom of movement, making the indigenous and historic land inaccessible to the original inhabitants:

“Fundamentally, it is very important for us to unite with indigenous peoples,” explained Daniela González López, “We understand that the policies of colonization, occupation, and apartheid carried out by Israel against [the Palestinian people] are the same ones that have affected and continue to affect the peoples of Latin America”.

The Black Lives Matter movement has also been connected to the Palestinian struggle. As stated in their manifesto:

“Israel is an apartheid state with over 50 laws on the books that sanction discrimination against the Palestinian people. Palestinian homes and land are routinely bulldozed to make way for illegal Israeli settlements. Israeli soldiers also regularly arrest and detain Palestinians as young as 4 years old without due process. Every day, Palestinians are forced to walk through military checkpoints along the US-funded Apartheid Wall.”

The toxic US-Israel relationship has profound consequences that affect all Americans, especially those of who are already socio-economically disadvantaged and marginalized.

Only through solidarity among civil society can these ties be severed, pushing the US government to reconsider its alliance with Apartheid Israel, not only for the sake of oppressed Palestinians, but for oppressed Americans as well. 

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Zarefah Baroud is a Media and Communications student at the University of Washington.

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