Julio Noboa: Israel gets billions while Americans tighten belts
All the states are feeling the impact
of our devastated economy this year, with more than $70 billion in budget shortfalls.
The Democrats are calling for only $30 billion to assist the states, the Bush budget calls for zero. Here in Texas, funds for higher education, public schools and a host of other social services, which our state is infamous for underfunding already, are being cut.
We are all being asked to make sacrifices in this time of war, crises and insecurity. However, as usual, there are a privileged few who invariably get what they want, regardless of the circumstances.
Among those is the state of Israel, by far, the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid, receiving nearly $3 billion annually. Yet, the total costs extend beyond direct foreign aid. In 1997, for example, direct aid along with grants and loan guarantees to Israel amounted to $5.5 billion. That is over $15 million a day for an entire year!
But this exorbitant state welfare is no recent phenomena. Between 1949 and 1998, Israel, a country the size of Maryland, received more U.S. foreign aid than all the countries of Latin America, the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa combined. With more than a billion people, these vast areas of the world contain more than 175 times the population of Israel.
If more of my tax dollars went to desperately poor nations for much needed food, housing, infrastructure, medical care or education, I would feel less burdened by what Uncle Sam takes every year. But why should Israel get it?
Israel is a modern, industrial and powerful state whose average citizens enjoy a standard of living higher than many millions of our own fellow citizens, let alone those in the Third World.
Now, Israel wants up to $4 billion in direct aid and an additional $8 billion in loan guarantees. The Israelis will probably get all or most of what they want thanks in great part to the power and money of the Israeli lobby. Still, our tax money is only half the story of how an Israeli-centered policy is costing us as a nation.
The other half has to do with how we are viewed in the world, and how this affects our relations with key Middle Eastern, European and Asian allies.
In violation of U.N. resolutions, Israel continues to build illegal settlements in occupied territories with impunity. Moreover, Israel has for decades trampled the most basic human rights of Palestinians, including those specified by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Articles of that declaration dealing with torture, personal security, property rights and equal protection under the law are among those violated by Israel.
The entire world knows that Israel has used our donated weapons to kill innocent civilians. Our unconditional support of these policies does incalculable harm to our national interests, international credibility and vital security in the Middle East region and worldwide.
Certainly Israel has a right to security and self-defense, but so do Palestinians. While the deplorable and desperate suicide bombings are a recent phenomena, international human rights organizations have documented the death and destruction Israeli forces have inflicted upon innocent Palestinian citizens for more than 50 years.
I don't want my tax dollars to continue supporting Israeli state terrorism.
To receive our aid, Israel should remove its illegal settlements, welcome a U.N. peacekeeping force and accept a viable Palestinian state. The profoundly influential Israeli lobby will prevent any of these conditions from gaining support in Congress. Still, it is important to note that according to a February 2003 opinion poll by Zogby International, 57 percent of Americans oppose this latest Israeli aid request, while 29 percent support it.
Can you imagine how much greater the opposition would be if our media coverage were actually fair and balanced on this issue? We aren't there yet, but as the saying goes, the truth will eventually come out.
Julio Noboa is a teacher, educator and free-lance writer. E-mail him at jnpapraol.com.