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November 05, 2001
Open letter to President Bush (from a US taxpayer)

By Ali Abunimah


Open letter to President Bush (from a US taxpayer)

By Ali Abunimah

The Jordan Times
November 1, 2001

FOR ANY American politician to win high office, political reality dictates that his or her campaign must be peppered with encomiums to the value of Israel as a "strategic ally". On these grounds we, taxpayers, are asked to provide Israel with enormous sums of money. Indeed, your 2002 budget request for economic aid for Israel is seven times greater than your request for the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, an anomaly that cannot be explained by a comparison of either the populations or objective economic needs of those regions.

We are told repeatedly that providing Israel with more than $2 billion in military aid annually will give Israel the confidence to "take risks for peace." The United States has given vastly more aid to Israel than it invested in rebuilding all of Western Europe after World War II. We are told that in a crisis, we can only trust Israel because it alone is a "democracy" in a region where democracy has not been permitted to flourish.

Yet you, Mr President, have now learned first hand that none of these things is true, if any of them ever were.

Since the vicious Sept. 11 attacks, America's Israeli "ally" has repeatedly defied your requests for cooperation and assistance. The thanks you got for continuing to ply Israel with unequalled billions of our treasure was to be compared by its prime minister with those who appeased Hitler and to be told that Israel "can only rely on itself." If that is the case, then do you really need to send Israel $2.7 billion in cash when the US may now run a budget deficit and unemployment is rising fast? On Oct. 23 you made a direct request to Israel that it withdraw immediately from the Palestinian cities it reoccupied since Oct. 18. Israel answered the request by seizing the village of Beit Rima the following day, sealing it off from the outside world, killing nine people and ransacking nearly every house. The dead and injured were left to lie in the streets for hours while ambulances and medics were forbidden from reaching them.

At least thirty Palestinians, most of them unarmed civilians and children, were killed since Israel began its latest incursions on Oct. 18, and the toll continues to mount. Israel's military superiority and unconditional American aid have given it the confidence not to take risks for peace, but rather to take risks with the future of the entire region and all its people, and with the interests of the United States.

Mr President, the United States cannot continue to have it both ways: You cannot declare that you support Palestinian rights and at the same time arm the government that is actively suppressing those rights through violent and illegal means. It is unreasonable to ask Palestinians and other Arabs to embrace US foreign policy while the United States does absolutely nothing to restrain Israel from using US military aid to colonise Palestinian and Arab lands and to crush all opposition to its absolute military rule by murdering unarmed civilians and sending death squads to dispatch their leaders.

Mr President, you have a clear choice. You can play it politically safe at home, as others before you have done, and avoid a confrontation with Israel's powerful and intransigent lobby. This will ensure that the Middle East suffers decades more bloodshed and instability. Or, you can follow the path of your predecessor and fellow Republican, President Dwight D. Eisenhower. When he was confronted with Israel's invasion of Egypt in 1956, and its adamant refusal to withdraw as both he and the United Nations had demanded, he told the people of the United States that, "we cannot consider that the armed invasion and occupation of another country are peaceful means or proper means to achieve justice and conformity with international law." He also said: "I believe that in the interests of peace the United Nations has no choice but to exert pressure upon Israel to comply with the withdrawal resolutions. Of course, we still hope that the Government of Israel will see that its best immediate and long-term interests lie in compliance with the United Nations and in declarations of the United States with reference to the future." The UN sanctions that President Eisenhower contemplated in his speech were not needed as his strong stand was enough to induce Israel to withdraw. Had even one of his successors shown the same determination to ensure that the dozens of UN resolutions dealing with Israel's occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and the rights of Palestinian refugees were implemented, the region might have enjoyed peace by now, and the United States would have been spared the opposition and ill-feeling that its support for Israel's transgressions generates.

You now have a unique but fast diminishing opportunity to move the Israelis and Arabs out of a confrontation that they have been locked in for decades. But vague references to "Palestinian statehood" are hardly enough when even Ariel Sharon uses such terminology to describe his grim vision of a future of permanent subjugation for the Palestinians. The United States must be specific in supporting a complete end to Israel's occupation in all its forms, and full guarantees for the rights and freedom of the Palestinian people. "The present moment is a grave one," President Eisenhower said at the height of the 1956-57 crisis, "but we are hopeful that reason and right will prevail."

Mr President, won't you now finish the work that President Eisenhower started and ensure that it does?

Ali Abunimah

The author is a contributor to `The New Intifada' (Verso Books, 2001) and is based in the United States. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.