This is not an article arguing the pros and cons of the State of Israel’s right to defend itself against outside enemies that might want to do it or its people harm. Nor am I writing this to plead for or against the US Government’s decision to recognize the whole city of Jerusalem as the legitimate capital of Israel. And, I’m certainly not going to pontificate that I have a solution to problems of coexistence in that region of the Middle East that date back millennia.
This is, however, a plea for the American people to speak out and demand that the US Government continue providing humanitarian aid for the neediest Palestinians at a time when the world is definitely paying attention and questioning almost every aspect of American leadership.
In case you haven’t heard or read about it, here’s what I’m referring to:
The US Government is withholding humanitarian aid to more than 5 million Palestinians across the Middle East as leverage to force the Palestinian Authority into a new round of peace talks.
The aid money–$355 million in 2017—is for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), one of the largest organizations providing funds for services and infrastructure to Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
While sitting opposite Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week, US President Trump proclaimed, “That money is on the table and that money’s not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace.”
This amount pales in comparison to the average $3.8 billion in aid the US Government provides to the Israeli Government each year. Remember the aid to Israel’s government is primarily directed towards the Zionist State’s military apparatus whose fury has all too often been unleashed on marginalized Palestinians.
While I realize that the topic of ‘peace in the Middle East’ in regards to Israeli positions is a highly emotional topic for discussion, it’s one Americans should prick up their ears and become more aware of. Despite the obvious human rights issues involved, it’s of infinite importance to any future peace deal between the various stake holders in the region.
Israel (2001) showing the West Bank and Gaza Strip as disputed territories.
Source–US Library of Congress: https://www.loc.gov/item/2001626219/
Inhumane and Immoral Treatment
In my view, withholding promised US aid for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip for purely political reasons is profoundly immoral! A policy that further punishes the poorest of the poor is completely incompatible with being a country that claims to believe in humane and ethical treatment for those who are in need.
I realize that Donald Trump’s White House is ‘extraordinary’ in almost every way, but with Trump’s announcement it appears that US government policy has hit a new and unprecedented low, exploiting the region’s most vulnerable and using them as pawns in a game where the rules are being made by Israel’s current hard-line government.
The Land of Milk and Honey
Anyone who believes that economically deprived Palestinian refugees are somehow less deserving of American aid than the rich Israeli government needs to travel to Israel and the wider region to see the realities on the ground.
When I visited Jordan and Israel in 2009, I witnessed the glaring disparities between Palestinian living conditions and those of Israeli ‘settlers’ in the West Bank.
Approaching the West Bank over the brown Jordanian hills from the east, the rich and highly productive agricultural lands of the Jordan River Valley spread below, like a green jewel when seen in contrast to its barren desert mountain surroundings.
This is where Moses stood atop a ridge on Jordan’s Mt. Nebo and proclaimed the territory stretching before him to be the “Promised Land.”
It’s easy to stand at this same vantage point today and see why this name was chosen for such productive land in an otherwise vast desert. It seems clear why Israel decided to take this land (along with East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights in the north) during the Six Day War of 1967.
A Classic Case of the Haves and Have-nots
It’s also well-documented that Israel uses its military might to forcibly take control of the most desirable former Palestinian lands in the West Bank and build settlements for Israelis of Jewish ancestry.
The typical Israeli settlement is usually situated on an area’s best agricultural land and the water resources once used by the Palestinians in these areas are then firstly allocated for use by the new settlement. In many cases, Palestinians are left with water that isn’t potable.
These modern Israeli settlement homes, built on what the UN agrees is land taken illegally by Israel according to international law, are a far cry from the modest Palestinian houses in West Bank towns or the institutionalized poverty seen in Palestinian refugee camps in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Isn’t life already hard enough in refugee camps?
Surely, we’ve all seen video footage of daily life in a refugee camp. These camps are in many ways a lifeline for the most marginalized people on the planet, but in reality, they can also become prisons of poverty.
Here’s a video which provides a good statistical breakdown of Palestinian refugees in the region presented by Latin America’s Telesur network.
Who will make up the shortfall in funds that supply basic family needs (plus services such as education and healthcare for children) for Palestinians who have been forced to live this way because of fleeing Israeli military invasions? In past Israeli/Palestinian conflicts, the US Government has at the very least been an aider and abettor because of US Government funding to Israel’s military.
And, please don’t try to tell me that American aid is given to Israel’s military in order to fend off Iranian aggression.
As embarrassing as this fact should be to every American citizen—US aid to Israel’s authoritarian regimes has been used repeatedly to fight and kill Palestinians, many of whom were innocent civilians. That’s right, including innocent women and children. Is that the way you’d like to see your tax dollars spent?
The Roots of the Conflict
It would take volumes to delve into the incredibly complicated and intertwined histories of the Jewish and Arab peoples, both of which have called this region home for thousands of years. If you’re interested, there’s a wealth of information out there to be discovered in order to better educate oneself on this topic.
The BBC documentary “The Birth of Israel” is a good place to start. After all, it was the British government that held the mandate over this area following WWI, and gave the initial green light allowing those of Jewish ancestry to claim land that had been in Palestinian hands for generations.
As critically thinking individuals in the year 2018, why can’t we begin from the premise that both sides—Jews and Arabs—have rights to this land. For far too long, the US Government has sided with and shown preferential treatment to the Zionist government of Israel at the expense of Palestinians.
Christians and Jews
Some Christians in the USA view the continuous conflict in this region as being a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. I’ve heard otherwise very gentle, loving people cite references to Armageddon and Christ’s Second Coming as some sort of excuse to give the Israeli Government tacit permission for military actions against the Palestinians, the sort we would normally label as crimes against humanity.
I see no evidence in the New Testament teachings of Jesus that would condone such prejudice against one group of people in favor of another. From my reading of the Gospels, Jesus would choose to work on behalf of those marginalized by an authoritarian government such as Israel’s.
And, please don’t forget that there ARE Palestinian Christians. After all, Israel’s barrier wall through the Palestinian city of Bethlehem now cuts off access to many Palestinian Christians to the town’s sacred places simply because they ended up on the wrong side of the massive and deliberately forbidding structure.
We also must admit that past American efforts to bring about a fair resolution to the stalemate between the Zionist government of Israel and the leaders of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank have proven fruitless.
Over the decades the US Government has continually supported Israel over the Palestinians in conflict after conflict. Even though Obama had harsh words for continued Israeli settlement building in the West Bank, military aid to Israel never ceased to flow during his administration.
David vs Goliath
Why has the US (along with many Americans) so often supported the Goliath Israel over the marginalized Palestinians? Have Americans lost their spirit of rooting for the underdogs in such a match-up?
The US Government clearly and forcefully supported a weaker Ukraine against a Russian invasion in 2014. Every Westerner (American or otherwise) I spoke with during that time agreed that Russia was the aggressor and should withdraw from Ukrainian lands ASAP.
So why do many Americans view the almost total control of the Palestinians by a clearly dominant Israel in a such a different light? Both of these conflicts have been running for decades. Are the Ukrainians more deserving of landownership and the pursuit of happiness than Palestinians?
The Palestinian university students I taught while living in the Middle East were some of the kindest, brightest and most amiable students I’ve had the opportunity to work with.
Unfortunately, they and their families had to leave their homes because the Israeli government has taken away their chances for a decent education and job prospects solely due to their ethnicity.
In my view, the Israeli government is cutting its own throat by continuing to maintain a collective boot firmly on the necks of Palestinians.
Surely such apartheid-like policies create exactly what the Israeli government pretends to be fighting—terrorism. After all, caged animals (and humans) either submit to their captors or fight for freedom and survival.
I tend to believe the Israeli government knows exactly what it’s doing. It seems clear after decades of marginalization of its Palestinian population that the Zionist State is betting on making life so difficult for this population that they will eventually flee to neighboring countries exacerbating the current refugee crises in Jordan and Lebanon.
We often talk about the Jewish diaspora wrought by anti-Semitism that goes back to the time of ancient Babylon, but we should also be talking about the Palestinian diaspora caused by the inhumane treatment of Palestinians due to the Israeli government’s policies.
A Call to Action!
It’s time for Americans to stand up and say “enough injustice”and bring an end to their hypocritical love affair with an Israeli state that commits abominable acts in the name of sovereignty.
To all Americans who may read this I ask just one thing. Please call your elected representatives in Washington, D. C. and express your outrage over the withholding of funds to pay for food, medicine and education for poor Palestinians, those living in refugee camps as well as outside!