When you know the facts on Israel’s relationship with the US, you might start looking at “our closest ally” in a whole new way. Presidents Eisenhower, Reagan, and Bush Sr. each had moments of clarity, and called out Israel for its abuses.
by Kathryn Shihadah
The National Review, a venerable voice in American conservatism, recently published an article that was filled with inaccuracies, half-truths, and omissions.
In today’s hyper-polarized America, conservative media regularly attack President Joe Biden, and liberal media regularly attack former President Donald Trump.
Such reporting – when it is rooted in facts – can be valuable, and is at the heart of the First Amendment. Free speech is of supreme importance to a democratic republic. It is essential that voters be fully informed.
However, when media attempt to make their case through inaccurate statements or selective omission, they do our country and its voters a profound disservice.
Many factual criticisms could be made about Biden administration policies, including its policies on the Middle East. The National Review article in question, however, bases its criticisms on erroneous and/or decontextualized statements.
In support of best practices in journalism, we provide below the full text of the article by politician Skip Roy (R-TX-21) and Victoria Coates (art historian turned political consultant) along with corrections and context that will enable the reader to understand the issue accurately.
(The following is not a defense of President Joe Biden (or the person likely directing these policies, Secretary of State Antony Blinken). Its purpose is to correct media misinformation about one of the most important issues facing our country. Politicians from both parties have voted to give Israel over $10 million per day, and expend an additional $10 million per day on behalf of Israel; it is essential that Americans be fully and accurately informed on this issue.)
By CHIP ROY & VICTORIA COATES, National Review, July 31, 2023 6:30 AM
As terror spikes in Israel, President Biden is getting what he paid for.
The article references the Palestinian city of Jenin, but offers little context, which is essential to an accurate understanding of the situation. Below are some key facts about the city, and about the situation in Israel and Palestine:
- Jenin has been under Israeli military operation for over 50 years. Entrances and exits are controlled by armed Israeli soldiers. In essence, it is a prison, with Israel holding the keys.
- The city includes a crowded, poverty-stricken refugee camp with a population of 18,000, established in 1953 for Palestinians who had been forced out of their homes and off their land during Israel’s 1948 founding war.
- Jenin has become a hub for Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupation and theft of Palestinian land – what Israel calls “terrorism.”
- In the past year, at least, Israeli forces have invaded Jenin nearly every night, beating and arresting Palestinians, blocking ambulances and shooting at medics trying to help the wounded. Some inhabitants fight back and/or protest these invasions (see daily reports here).
- While residents most often respond with peaceful demonstrations and protests, a small number of individuals use armed resistance, which is considered legitimate under international law (making the “terrorist” label highly questionable). Meanwhile, Israel’s occupation and discriminatory system are illegal.
- Some of the deadliest raids include July 3-4, when Israel attacked Jenin, which left 12 Palestinians and 1 Israeli dead; and January 26, when 10 Palestinians were killed; no Israelis were killed (see this). (Read here about the 2002 Israeli invasion of Jenin.)
- In total (as of this writing), 212 Palestinians and 27 Israelis have been killed in 2023. 21 of the 27 Israelis killed were illegal settlers who lived on land stolen from Palestinians (see details here) – a few of the 750,000 Jewish Israelis living, not in Israel, but in colonies (“settlements”) on Palestinian land – and 2 were soldiers.
NR: After opining that the terrorist attacks against Israel were carried out by “extremist” elements among the Palestinians, the president added an interesting caveat — that the terrorism was to some extent provoked by Israel’s “extreme” right-wing government.
In other words, the president of the United States created a moral equivalence between Palestinian terrorists murdering Israeli civilians and the duly elected government of Israel trying to defend them, simply because Israeli politics are not to his liking.
- The current Israeli administration is considered the most extreme in the state’s history – not just by liberal Western politicians. For example, Israeli Holocaust historian Daniel Blatman said, “there are neo-Nazi ministers in the government today…ministers who, ideologically, are pure racists”; Moshe Ya’alon, former Israeli military chief of staff, described the administration as “criminal, fascist, homophobic, and corrupt.”
- President of the Union for Reform Judaism, the largest Jewish movement in the US, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, said of Netanyahu’s administration, “these are among the most extreme voices in Israeli politics.” The highly influential Anti Defamation League (ADL) declared that extremists in Israel’s government “[run] counter to Israel’s founding principles.” (For examples of what radical Israelis get away with under the current administration go here and here.)
- Christians in Israel and the Palestinian territories report growing persecution at the hands of Jewish Israeli settlers. According to the head of the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy Land, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, extremists feel emboldened by the new government: “The frequency of these attacks, the aggressions, has become something new…These people feel they are protected … that the cultural and political atmosphere now can justify, or tolerate, actions against Christians.”
- A Benedictine brother reported: “Now we monks have to live under a government, one of whose members is an extreme Christian hater.” At the end of May, Jewish extremists led by Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Arieh King attacked a pro-Israeli group of Evangelical Christian pilgrims who were holding a “prayer for Jerusalem” at an archaeological park.
- The vast majority of Palestinians are either uninvolved in the conflict or protest peacefully. A number of Palestinian villages have hosted peaceful protests every week for years (for example, this and this), only to meet with violence at the hands of Israeli military (examples here and here); in Gaza, Palestinians held massive peaceful protests every Friday for 20 months – Israeli snipers killed over 200 and injured over 35,000 demonstrators.
- Since the beginning of Netanyahu’s new administration, he has endorsed radical policies by his radical new ministers, including the confiscation of Palestinian property, Israeli police incursions into the Al-Aqsa mosque (one of Islam’s holiest sites), and increasing Israeli civilian weapon ownership.
- Netanyahu’s national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir (a follower of Meir Kahane – whose racism got him banned from the Israeli legislature), has made clear his supremacist views and his desire to subjugate or get rid of Palestinians. Finance minister Bezalel Smotrich has used explicit language declaring that Palestinians do not exist, and calling for their ethnic cleansing. Both Ben-Gvir and Smotrich live on illegal Jewish-only settlements built on Palestinian land.
- Orly Noy, chairperson of the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, writes
from Israel’s standpoint, any resistance, even nonviolent resistance, to its occupation and oppression poses a danger to security that is easily recognized as terror…
This is a two-way distortion by Israel. Just as it treats every Palestinian action, even those directed against soldiers, as acts of terrorism, so too does Israel paint any Israeli action taken against Palestinians as legitimate, even when those Palestinians are civilians.
- While Israeli politicians call Palestinians “terrorists,” Israeli forces have, since 2000, killed thousands of Palestinian children and civilians, injured 100,000, and maimed thousands. (Doctors Without Borders report 152 amputations due to injuries from Israeli weapons.)
NR: The president would do better to face the grim reality that the over $1 billion in taxpayer-funded foreign aid that his administration has poured into the Palestinian Authority (and the United Nations programs propping it up) over the last two and a half years has done nothing to improve the lives of the Palestinian people and has instead been diverted to fund the very terrorism for which he blames Israel.
- The fact that Palestinian lives need “improvement” stems directly from Israeli policy: since 1948, Israel has appropriated Palestinian wealth (especially land), blocked exportation of Palestinian products, demolished homes, destroyed crops, and more – sending the Palestinian economy into a downward spiral.
- $1 billion in 2.5 years hasn’t fixed the problem, not because the Palestinian Authority is funneling money to terrorists – but because Israel has held Palestinians in an unrelenting chokehold for decades. A few recent human rights reports include:
- Save the Children: July 2023 report: Injustice: Palestinian children’s experience of the Israeli military detention system.
- Committee to Protect Journalists: Deadly Pattern: 20 journalists died by Israeli military fire in 22 years. No one has been held accountable. (May 9, 2023).
- Amnesty International: Automated Apartheid: How facial recognition fragments, segregates and controls Palestinians in the OPT (May, 2023).
- Defense for Children – Palestine: 2022 Year-in-review: A deadly year for Palestinian children (At least 41 Palestinian children were killed).
- Red Cross: ICRC says Israel’s Gaza blockade breaks law
- Christian Aid report: Where is Palestine? A story of loss, inequality and failure
- Save the Children: Stripped, beaten, and blindfolded: new research reveals ongoing violence and abuse of Palestinian children detained by Israeli military
- Many more such reports are here.
- Roy and Coates tout the $1 billion in aid to Palestinians over 2.5 years as though it is a massive sum. In reality, Israel received about 10 times as much aid during the same time period – not including billions more that Congress expends in additional programs that benefit Israel. (Our aid to Israel is almost exclusively earmarked as military aid, and much of it used to develop advanced weapons, test them on Palestinians, and market them worldwide as “battle-tested,” including to rogue nations.)
NR: If Biden refuses to recognize this fact, Congress will have to act to protect the American people from inadvertently funding attacks on one of our closest and most critical allies.
- A few things that “closest and most critical allies” shouldn’t do – but Israel has done to the US: spy on Americans and government buildings, attack a Navy ship, meddle in our elections and economy, target an American president for assassination, kill and torture American citizens and expect impunity, steal technology (including nuclear technology) and trade secrets, make trouble for US Marine peacekeepers, and much more (for more examples, see this and this).
- Despite Israel’s abuse of US good will, Congress members (funded by Israel partisans – see this video) continue to give Israel more military aid than any other country in the world – even though it has one of the highest GDPs and one of the most powerful militaries on the planet. Many analysts believe this aid should end – see this and this and this, for example.
- A look at congressional records shows clear evidence of Israel’s power on Capitol Hill: Congress members have introduced hundreds of bills benefitting Israel, and have been well received (see this and this, for example); the tiny number of bills offered to support Palestinian rights – even the rights of Palestinian children – have been generally rebuffed (see this and this).
NR: Contrary to the Washington establishment’s preconceived notions of what works in Israel, Trump-era policy proved that defunding the Palestinians for their venomous anti-America rhetoric and abuse of American funds to reward terrorists and their families does not in fact result in a significant spike in violence.
This despite the theoretically incendiary corollary policies such as moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and recognizing the Golan Heights as sovereign Israeli territory.
Rather than stoking Palestinian violence, Trump’s policies led to the first peace deals between Israel and Arab states in 25 years.
- While the authors are correct in their assessment that Palestinians did not become violent as Trump-era policies rolled out, Palestinians did protest – and were killed in large numbers. For example, on the day that the US embassy move was announced, Israel killed at least 8 Palestinian protesters; on the day the embassy opened in Jerusalem, Israeli snipers killed 58 Palestinian protesters at the border with Israel.
- The “peace deals” with Arab states consisted of the United States offering enticements – for example, permission to buy US-made weapons, and removal from the American list of state sponsors of terrorism (these are in addition to “treaties” that Israel has had with Egypt and Jordan for years – treaties bought with of billions of dollars in US aid) – in essence, the US paid for countries to normalize relations with a state that persecutes its neighbors and part of its own population.
In 1995, the US Congress passed a law requiring America to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Every President since (from both parties) has signed a presidential waiver to avoid making the move – citing national security interests. Such a move would “overturn 70 years of international consensus, and, many argue, would effectively signal the end of moves to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians.” Trump’s decision made clear that the U.S. government is not an objective, honest broker for peace.
NR: Nonetheless, a top foreign-policy priority for the Biden administration was to reverse this progress and restore Palestinian funding, starting with $15 million in emergency Covid relief in March 2021.
- Unlike Roy and Coates, few Americans would begrudge one of the world’s most impoverished populations Covid relief – especially after Israel responded to the pandemic by enacting apartheid-like policies.
- Physicians for Human Rights spoke up on this very topic in an article entitled, “Israel’s vaccine discrimination against Palestinians must end.”
- The $15 million referenced here was to support efforts by Catholic Relief Services in healthcare facilities in the Palestinian territories (some of which Israel demolished – also see this video).
NR: This down payment was swiftly followed with larger sums, such as $235 million in April 2021 to fund the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which President Biden proudly announced had ballooned into $316 million by July 2022.
By the end of 2023, the administration will have provided more than $650 million to the Palestinians, with another $250 million requested for fiscal year 2024. (While this funding was recently stripped out of the State and Foreign Operations bill by the House, Democrats in the Senate will almost certainly add it back in.)
All this money is supposedly intended to bolster the Palestinians’ quality of life, which would then reduce violence and increase the possibility of getting to the two-state solution to the conflict that Biden has long pursued.
- Under the Geneva Conventions, Israel, as the occupier of the Palestinian territories, is responsible for the health and wellbeing of the Palestinian population.
- Because Israel refuses to fulfill these obligations, and refuses to end the occupation, the US continually steps in to support essential services, including the Palestinian healthcare system and critical assistance to refugees – yet another expense that Americans are paying on behalf of Israel.
- Most US funding earmarked for Palestinians is actually intended to benefit Israel, and is proposed by and/or receives support from Israel partisans such as former Congresswoman Nita Lowey.
- Even with aid from the US, UNICEF reports that 126,000 Palestinian children under the age of 5 (35%) “are at risk of not meeting their full developmental potential due to poverty, poor nutrition, lack of access to basic services, and high levels of family and environmental stress and exposure to violence.”
NR: In reality, Biden’s misguided policy has achieved almost the opposite of its aims. The last year has been the deadliest for both Israelis and Palestinians in decades.
- Roy and Coates’ statement, “The last year has been the deadliest for both Israelis and Palestinians in decades,” is simply false. In fact (as the chart below illustrates), often in recent years, Palestinian deaths have been much higher. Israeli deaths – while invariably much lower than Palestinian, have also been higher. For example, in 2014, over 2,200 Palestinians were killed; 84 Israelis were also killed.
- In total, as of this writing, 212 Palestinians and 27 Israelis have been killed in 2023. The assertion that “the last year has been the deadliest for both Israelis and Palestinians in decades” is disingenuous and whitewashes the disproportionate number of Palestinian fatalities.
- The suggestion that these deaths are a result of “Biden’s misguided policy” is unfounded, and grants Israel impunity to continue killing Palestinians. In fact, as the chart below shows, every year in this century has been deadly for Palestinians – some Israelis have been killed almost every year as well.
- Beyond a discussion of statistics, these are human beings with families and aspirations.
NR: In Jenin, for example, which was the direct beneficiary of much of the UNRWA funding, the Palestinian Authority has lost security control and ceded space to Iranian-backed militants who packed the camp with fighters and weapons until the Israel Defense Forces moved in to clean them out.
This intolerable threat, not the presence of Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, is what prompted the biggest Israeli military action in the West Bank in 20 years and the corresponding loss of life.
- Israeli websites report that Palestinians in Jenin have rifles, pistols, and some homemade explosives. This “intolerable threat” caused the Israeli military to attack the city using helicopter gunships, reconnaissance drones, snipers, and 150 armored vehicles carrying 1,000 elite special forces.
- In the 2-day attack, Israeli soldiers killed 12 Palestinians (3 of them teenagers), destroyed roads, residential neighborhoods, a mosque, 2 hospitals, and water, electricity, and phone lines. Israeli forces attacked journalists, leveled homes, and prevented ambulances from reaching injured Palestinians.
- United Nations officials declared, “Israeli forces’ operations in the occupied West Bank, killing and seriously injuring the occupied population, destroying their homes and infrastructure, and arbitrarily displacing thousands, amount to egregious violations of international law and standards on the use of force and may constitute a war crime.”
- The Associated Press reports that the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), strapped for cash, has had to suspend services to 200,000 of the 330,000 Palestinians who have been receiving food vouchers. “Thousands of [Palestinian] families…go through the day not sure where they will get their next meal.”WFP is counting on other assistance – including the Palestinian Authority – to help those who were cut from the program. Jenin was hit hard by these cuts.
- AP adds that Jenin residents face particularly hard times because many also have to repair damage to their homes from Israel’s attack, or pay medical bills (or loss of income, or funeral expenses) for loved ones injured or killed. Some laborers must pass through Israeli military checkpoints, and can not get to work when Israel closes the roads.
- While it is possible that Iran is financing some of the resistance in Jenin, the fact remains that Palestinians have access to only light weaponry, and are no match for Israel’s military force.
- Bobby Ghosh of Bloomberg (and former world editor of Time magazine) suggests that if Iran is involved with the Palestinian resistance,
Iran’s greatest ally in the cause has been Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose long encouragement of the appropriation of West Bank territory by Israeli settlers — and his indulgence of their aggressive, often violent conduct toward Palestinians — has for years provided Islamic Jihad with propaganda gold. If his policies have allowed Iran to infiltrate the West Bank, that in turn has furnished Netanyahu with convenient cause to send the IDF into places like Jenin, as well as a useful distraction from his political troubles, such as the strong resistance to his proposals to reform the Israeli judiciary.
- In fact, in 2023, radical Israeli settlers have been carrying out an average of 95 attacks against Palestinians a month (as reported by Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz), including what some Israeli military leaders called “pogroms” – during which Israeli soldiers stood by and watched.
- Palestinians in Jenin (and elsewhere) are organizing in resistance against the unlawful occupation and apartheid-like rule of Israel – a situation that has gotten much worse since the new radical government took over.
- The “state of affairs” in Israel includes a number of highly respected human rights organizations offering meticulously documented reports showing that Israel is practicing apartheid. Not hyperbole – they make clear that Israel’s policies and practices do indeed match the internationally recognized definition of apartheid. The organizations include Israeli human rights groups B’Tselem, and Yesh Din, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the United Nations. A number of Christian denominations (for example, this, this, and this) support the conclusions of these groups.
- Other groups have used the word “apartheid” for years – including the Human Sciences Research Center of South Africa.
- Labels like “apartheid” and “fascist” and “terrorist” may or may not matter. What does matter is the fact that Israel has for generations subjected Palestinians – including many children – to cruelty and violence. Israel’s actions fly in the face of not only international law, but also humanity itself.
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