Column: Reexamining a ‘beneficial relationship’

With the ongoing discourse on mutually beneficial relationships between the United States and foreign nations, I find it fitting to throw in my two cents on the matter. I, for one, wholeheartedly support the continuation of a mutually beneficial relationship with the Jewish state of Israel.

The largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid in the world, Israel has received a mere $90 billion in military and economic aid since its founding. The nearly $10 million a day of American taxpayers’ money that have gone to Israel exceed those sent to the nations of sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean combined, with their collective population of 1.054 billion.

Our relationship with Israel has given us the concept of leaving the emergency lights on D.C. Metropolitan Police cruisers on, and in this nation similarly stricken with almost ceaseless urban terrorism, it is difficult to overestimate the impact of such ingenuity. They have also given us the pop music styling of international singer-sensation, Ishtar. Their dual-citizens make full use of our political freedoms to establish themselves as America’s second most powerful political lobby, according to Fortune magazine.

Certainly, as all this demonstrates, this relationship can extend beyond the unilateral offering of economic and military support into more everyday elements and ideas transmitted to the United States. After all, as the only democracy in the Middle East, surely Israel’s policies are compatible enough to warrant their application here in the States.

Of course, there is the minor issue of our outdated Constitution standing in the way of a truly compatible system. Their confiscation of land and fatal attacks on Palestinians by army soldiers and settlers undermine our Fifth Amendment, and despite their high court’s ban, Shin Bet’s ongoing practice of torture violates Amendments four, five, six and eight. Both their bulldozing of Palestinian homes (2,650 homes between September 2000 and March 2003 alone) and policies of administrative detention violate Fourth, Eighth and Sixth Amendments. Israel’s policies may pose an issue on this front, but judging by the gradual movement of this country toward gun control, violation of civil liberties and due process, tip-toeing around the U.S. Constitution may not pose an issue after all.

We Americans tolerated racial segregation for the first 200 years of our own existence as a nation. But Israel is merely on year 55, and we cannot reasonably expect all nations to develop simultaneously. The network of Jewish only “bypass roads” in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as segregated neighborhoods within Israel Proper take “separate but equal” to its limits. Their ubiquitous alienation of their 1.2 million Arab Israeli citizens is compatible with our own past alienation of minorities, especially now that Israelis have been barred from running “Jews only” job ads since 1988, some 20 years after the last “Whites only” signs existed here in America.

Upon closer examination, it may be that Israel indeed lacks the ability to transmit back to us anywhere near what the United States bestows upon it, in tune with a conventional “mutually beneficial relationship.” In fact, Israeli use of American arms and funds to occupy Arab lands has alienated the United States not only from the 200 million Arabs in the Middle East, but also from our European allies and the international community. This is reflected in over 65 United Nations resolutions condemning Israel’s policies since 1955 and the fact that Israel was protected from 29 United Nations Security Council resolutions that have been vetoed by the United States. All this in addition to the spreading anti-American violence and terrorist attacks that claim the Palestinian issue as their motivation, as well as the mounting costs to American companies of Arab boycotts launched in reaction to U.S. support of Israel.

Frustratingly eminent, however, is that this American debate on mutual benefits is futile in its entirety, for our counterpart in the relationship maintains its own ideas on the subject. As Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon explained to Shimon Peres, according to several Palestinian news sources, on Oct. 3, 2001, as reported on Kol Yisrael radio, “I want to tell you something very clear: don’t worry about American pressure on Israel. We, the Jewish people, control America and the Americans know it.”

Perhaps instead of strengthening a blind asymmetrical relationship that threatens American interests and violates American values, placing instrumental conditions on our support of Israel may actually allow their government to deal rationally with its neighbors and pursue policies of peace, not war. That I believe will facilitate American feelings of security far better than flashing emergency lights.
-The writer, president of the Islamic Alliance for Justice, is a junior majoring international business.

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