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CJ Werleman

No-questions-asked aid to Israel insults all Palestinians

The US gives Israel a whopping US$3.8 billion per year [AFP]

Date of publication: 26 January, 2018

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Comment: Trump demands 'respect' from Palestinians in exchange for aid, while doling out billions of dollars to the apartheid state of Israel, writes CJ Werleman.
He might be the world's most powerful man, occupying the world's most powerful office, but US President Trump is a tiny, little man. This much we know.

We know this by the manner in which he can't resist the urge to belittle or attack anyone who fairly criticises his words or policy. We know this by the way in which he crudely mocks disabled journalists, families of slain Muslim American soldiers, the appearance of female political rivals, and non-white majority countries that Trump considers "shitholes".

Insulting and offending immigrants, foreigners, minorities, and the disadvantaged is what Trump does. It's who he is, and his political base loves him for it, and so long as he's attacking anyone and everyone they hate, he remains their dear leader.

But words, even off-the-cuff taunts, scorn, and ridicule made by a terribly insecure and narcissistic president have consequences, particularly when those words translate into policy vis-a-vis Trump's ban on Muslim immigration, and ramped up efforts to deport law abiding, tax paying, and non-violent undocumented immigrants.

On Thursday, Trump's never-ending slide into the moral abyss took an even more rapid descent when he reiterated his intention to withhold aid to the Palestinian Authority, accusing the Palestinians of failing to afford him and his administration the level of "respect" he believes its entitled to.

Trump said the Palestinian Authority had "disrespected" Vice President Mike Pence during his recent visit to the region, emphasising that "respect has to be shown to the US or we're not going any further," adding that he may use his power as president to withhold "hundreds of millions" in aid for the Palestinians if they refuse to "sit down and negotiate peace".

Israel is the only US beneficiary that doesn't have to account for how it spends the US taxpayer dollars it receives

"We give them hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and support, tremendous numbers, numbers that nobody understands - that money is on the table and that money is not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace," Trump said on Thursday.

This threat coming on the heels of Trump's decision last week to freeze nearly US$65 million in pledged humanitarian aid to United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the agency that provides critical aid to desperate Palestinian refugees.

If there's anything more morally reprehensible than withholding critical humanitarian aid from some of the world's most vulnerable people in order to create a gun-at-the-head bargaining position or, more likely, sate your Muslim hating political supporters, then I haven't seen it.

"More than 5.3 million Palestinian refugees are registered at UNRWA," a Palestinian journalist and resident of Gaza told me. "It provides education, health, relief, social services, microfinance, infrastructure and refugee camp improvement… Tens of thousands of kids grow up in Gaza knowing UNRWA is their safe world, offering them full education, then training skills workshops, then employment opportunities and healthcare."

Trump threatening to pile further suffering and humiliation upon an already besieged and downtrodden people not only speaks to Trump's lack of empathy and decency, but also to his inability to negotiate anything but a one-off fiscal transaction.

Moreover, if Trump is such a great "deal maker", which he boastfully claims to be, and if he is genuinely devoted to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a would-be achievement he dubbed the "deal of the century", then show me the bargaining pressure he has applied to Israel?

I mean, last month Trump the self-proclaimed "deal maker" recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a recognition that stands in stark violation of international law, and in return, asked for nothing of the Israelis. Of course, nothing is what he received.

Not a single demand of Israel to halt settlement construction, show restraint, or ease the blockade of Gaza. Nothing!

Now let's compare apples with apples. The US is withholding urgently required humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, amounting to a mere US$65 million, because the Palestinian Authority "disrespected" the US vice president by refusing to meet with him in occupied Palestine. But the US gives Israel a whopping US$3.8 billion per year, no questions asked.

When Israel defies US demands to halt settlement construction and expansion, Israel receives its aid.

When Israel refuses US demands to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Israel receives its aid.

When Israel sells secret US missile and electro-optics technology to China, a potential US adversary, Israel receives its aid, and when Israeli leaders humiliate and intentionally undermine the policies of a sitting US president, as Netanyahu did to Obama for eight years, well, you guessed it, Israel receives its aid.

In fact, not long after Netanyahu took to the lectern of the US Congress in an attempt to scuttle the Obama administration's Iran Deal - a move decried by many as an act of treason by the opposition party - Obama rewarded Israel with a record $38 billion aid package over ten years.

But this is only part of the story. It gets worse. Much worse.

This US$38 billion not only makes Israel the greatest recipient of US aid, but also Israel is the only US beneficiary that doesn't have to account for how it spends the US taxpayer dollars it receives.

Read more: Trump's UNRWA cuts hold Palestinians hostage

Whereas other countries must specify specific projects and developments, Israel can spend the money any way it pleases.

"Because US economic aid is given to Israel as direct government-to-government budgetary authority without any specific project accounting, and money is fungible, there is no way to tell how Israel uses US aid," says Clyde Mark of the Congressional Research Service.

It gets worse, still. Israel is the only country to receive US economic aid up front and in lump sum payment.

When Israel refuses US demands to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Israel receives its aid

Other recipients of US aid receive monthly or quarterly instalments, allowing the US to generate interest revenue on the money it has set aside for foreign aid. But Israel not only gets it all up front, thus depriving the US government of deriving interest on the balance held in trust, but also takes the money and parks it back in the US Treasury, so that it, and not the US, derives interest income from money that belongs to the US.

In other words, US taxpayers are paying interest on the money they lend to Israel, which turns the logic of banking and investing completely on its head.

And what does the US get in return for all this? Nothing! Not one tangible or measurable benefit.

Ask any American the following question: What does America get in return for its unconditional and exorbitant aid to Israel, and you will receive an answer that pretty much sounds like this, "Oh, but they're our ally, and Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East."

Not only does the all too predictable answer above fail to answer the question, but also, and for starters, Israel isn't a democracy. It's a racist, ethnocratic, apartheid state, whereby there are two laws for two peoples.

Israel is the only country to receive US economic aid up front and in lump sum payment

Secondly, the US has plenty of allies, and many that are far more powerful and dependable than Israel, and thirdly, most prominent international relations scholars argue the alliance with Israel is actually a strategic liability.

But Americans are, for the most part, denied knowledge of these realities. The US political class is beholden to the Israel lobby. The media class parrots pro-Israel talking points, and denies Palestinian voices. Pro-Israel billionaires such as Sheldon Adelson backed Trump to the tune of $25 million in the 2016 election.

To demand everything of the Palestinians, including withholding humanitarian aid to the most needy, but yet demand absolutely nothing of Israel is precisely why Palestinians no longer view the United States to be an honest broker for peace.

The jig is up, and the Palestinian Authority refused to meet with Pence when he visited earlier this month, and who could blame them?

Meanwhile, Palestinians continue to suffer a brutal and never-ending occupation, forced to beg for crumbs from their co-oppressor's table. Their humiliation knows no end.


CJ Werleman is the author of 'Crucifying America', 'God Hates You, Hate Him Back' and 'Koran Curious', and is the host of Foreign Object.

Follow him on Twitter: @cjwerleman


Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.

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