The United States sends at least $3.1 billion in military aid grants to Israel every year, more than the amount given to all the rest of the world combined, and although Americans oppose this excess, their opinion has had no effect: Officials are now in talks to raise the yearly amount by as much as 50 percent.
If you missed that news in The New York Times, there is no reason for surprise. The issue has essentially remained out of sight, glossed over in a smattering of news stories, where readers find murky references to US aid and no enlightening details.
Thus we have a story by Jodi Rudoren this month, a look at how Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made a “pivot” after losing his battle against the nuclear agreement with Iran. Several paragraphs into this piece she writes, “Washington is expected to deliver a huge new military aid package to Israel…to appease Mr. Netanyahu and Democratic supporters of Israel who reluctantly backed the nuclear deal.”
This begs for explanation. How much is “huge”? Why is this “expected”? But nothing more is forthcoming.
Times readers have to look elsewhere for a fuller story. Other sources tell us that Israel has been asking for up to $4.5 billion a year in military aid and that talks have been going on “away from the spotlight.” Observers expect announcement of an aid agreement in November, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits Washington.
The Times did manage to work in the $4.5 billion price tag, in the last paragraph of a story that ran in July. The US has guaranteed Israel $31 billion in military aid grants over 10 years ending in 2017, and Israel now wants a new deal guaranteeing up to $45 billion over another 10 years. The article states that officials will frame the deal that finally emerges as an effort to bolster Israel’s defenses in the face of a resurgent Iran. Thus they will try to defuse the charge that the new deal is a way of “appeasing” Israel.
Since this story appeared, the Times has avoided the subject, except for Rudoren’s reference to a “huge” new package, and brief comments elsewhere about “compensation” for defying Israel on the Iran nuclear deal.
US aid to Israel is a subject that the Times would like to avoid. On many fronts it is difficult to defend and shines a harsh light on the actions of both the US and Israeli governments. For instance:
- Congress has been willing to maintain and even increase military aid to Israel even as it cuts programs for education, food assistance and tax relief for working families in the United States.
- Israel receives US aid even though it is one of the most economically advanced countries in the world.
- US military aid makes up a full 20 percent of the Israeli military budget.
- Israel, a small country, is so well supplied with arms that it is the tenth largest purveyor of weaponry in the world. In other words, Israel receives military aid from the US, and then makes money by selling arms to other nations.
- US aid to Israel amounts to $10.2 million per day or $450 per year for each Israeli citizen.
- Israel receives special perks that other aid recipients are denied, such as the right to use some of the funds to buy weapons from Israeli manufacturers instead of being required to purchase American products.
- Israel spends more on military expenditures than any other country in the world, based on percentage of gross domestic product.
- The annual U.S. military aid package for Palestine is $0.00.
- In addition to the $3.1 billion in direct military aid guaranteed each year, Israel receives other gifts, such as economic grants and immigration assistance, raising the total aid well beyond the stated amount. (Vice President Joe Biden recently cited $7.18 billion for a one-year package.)
- Sixty percent of Americans polled in a survey said the United States “gives too much aid to Israel.”
In addition, human rights organizations and other observers have raised ethical concerns over supplying arms to Israel in view of its deadly attacks on civilians in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Last year, during the assaults on Gaza that left some 2,200 Palestinians dead, Amnesty International called on the United States to stop transferring arms to Israel, citing “growing evidence of war crimes.” In June of this year, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) asked the State Department to review the legality of military aid to Israel in light of evidence that security forces abuse child prisoners and have killed nonviolent demonstrators.
This past week a coalition of 10 organizations—American Muslims for Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, Code Pink, Defense for Children International and others—sent out a petition asking President Obama to stop supplying Israel with arms. In particular the petition targets the 50 percent increase in direct aid from $3.1 to $4.5 billion now under consideration.
Within days, by Sept. 21, the petition had reached its goal of 50,000 signatures and reset its sights on 60,000.
The Times, however, has had nothing to say about these protests, although they have been reported elsewhere. Rep. McCollum’s letter, which garnered the signatures of 18 additional members of Congress, was featured in US and Israeli media but found no mention in the Times.
The subject of military aid to Israel demands a fuller treatment in the Times. Readers should know the actual cost to U.S. taxpayers; they should be told of ethical concerns raised by organizations and officials; they are entitled to know more about the lethal effects of Israel’s weaponry; they should find Times analysts willing to discuss the contrast between congressional largess for Israel and the efforts to cut domestic programs.
It is not too much to say that US military aid to Israel is scandalous in light of the devastating effects it has had on innocent Palestinians and also on Americans deprived of basic needs. The failure of the Times to address the issue also amounts to scandal, making it fully complicit in this sordid affair.