Thursday, October 27, 2011

In Defense of U.S. Aid to Israel

David Meir-Levi

As demonstrated in the present writer’s two previous articles (here and here) regarding US aid to Israel, the USA, in return for its aid and political support, receives from Israel very profitable financial and political reciprocity and significant benefits in the areas of military intelligence, ordnance and operations. On the other hand, America’s aid to Israel’s enemies actually supports America’s enemies, underwrites in part their terrorist actions against our soldiers and civilians, funds the very countries that openly seek our destruction, and pays the salaries of Arab terrorist mass murderers. Why then do some scholars, journalists and political commentators devote so much time and energy to arguing that American aid to Israel is excessive, a waste of the American taxpayers’ money, and a political liability to the USA?

Take for example, one among many, the Washington D.C. economist Thomas Stauffer who warned us in 2002 that Israel is bankrupting America, having received more than $1.6 trillion in foreign aid since 1973. Stauffer upped the ante a year later with the assertion in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (WRMEA) that the cost to the US taxpayer of our government’s support of Israel is actually $3 trillion!

The real numbers are actually rather easy to ascertain. The Congressional Research Service provides annual reports for Congress on a wide variety of issues, among them the total cost of American aid to Israel. Their analysts do not seem to be especially pro- or anti-Israel. The most recent report, for 2010, indicates that the total US aid to Israel for military, economic and immigrant resettlement costs from 1949 to 2010 was $109 billion dollars or, on average, less than $2 billion per year. As is apparent from the 2010 report, US aid to Israel was zero or negligible until 1967 (after the 6-Day War​), and did not reach the current annual sums of $2.5 billion to $3 billion or more until 1997 (following the Oslo Accords). $3 billion per year is not chump change; but it is hardy an amount that would “bankrupt” the USA, and it is not much more than America’s annual aid to Egypt.

Moreover, as explained in the present writer’s two previous articles, American support for Israel is a very profitable investment for the USA rather than a gift to Israel.

Compare $109 billion to Stauffer’s $3 trillion! Recall that a million million, or one thousand billion, equals one trillion. Stauffer has inflated his numbers by a factor of 30!

How does he come up with his trillions? – by throwing in the proverbial “kitchen sink.”

Stauffer reaches his enormous sums by adding to the bona fide aid his utterly irrational but self-serving assertion that Israel is to blame for post-1973 rises in oil prices and thus bears the onus of culpability for America’s energy costs after the 1973 Yom Kippur war and the 1974 Arab oil embargo. He never mentions that this embargo was imposed by our so-called ally Saudi Arabia, nor does he venture to suggest what Israel should have done when Egypt and Syria invaded — not defend itself? In which case there would have been a very short Yom Kippur war and no oil embargo, but also no Israel?

He throws in as well the cost of American trade restrictions on Libya, Iraq and Iran; but never explains how these restrictions, a function of decisions made by our President and Congress, are Israel’s fault. He even decries American Jews’ charitable gifts to Israel and to pro-Israel charities in the USA – after all, if that money did not go to Israel it would instead benefit the US economy. One cannot but wonder whether he has ever expressed similar animus toward American citizens of the Catholic faith contributing to the Vatican.

Perhaps most confusing, he even lumps into his astronomic estimate the aid that the USA has given to Egypt (c. $117 billion) and to Jordan (c. $22 billion) in return for peace treaties with Israel. Aside from the obvious fact that this USA money went to Egypt and Jordan but not to Israel, it is also quite rational to suggest that our government wisely saw these treaties as foundation blocks of peace in the Middle East, and therefore well worth the investment. In short, Stauffer pulls into his calculus anything and everything that he can possibly think of to inflate the numbers. Contrary to the popular adage, he does not throw in everything but the kitchen sink, he tosses that in too.

Essays of a similar ilk, by Stephen Zunes, Scott McConnel, and various writers for the transparently anti-Israel Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (WRMEA), have employed similar mendacious and misleading tactics to exponentially inflate the cost of American support for Israel and condemn the US-Israel special relationship as a liability for the USA.
More detailed rebuttals of these “kitchen sink” arguments can be found here, here, and here; but the critique summarized above demonstrates the sheer irrationality and galactic exaggerations of the “kitchen sink” approach to assessing US aid to Israel.

The most comprehensive condemnation of the US government’s support for Israel comes from the article and book by Stephen M. Walt and John J. Mearsheimer, who insist that “Since the October War in 1973, Washington has provided Israel with a level of support which “dwarfs that given to any other state. It has been the largest annual recipient of direct economic and military assistance since 1976, and is the largest recipient in total since World War Two​, to the tune of well over $140 billion.”

A long list of distinguished scholars, commentators, journalists, congressmen and government representatives have discredited Walt and Mearsheimer, highlighting their egregiously inflated numbers, incorrect history, frequent decontextualization of quotes and facts, and misrepresentation of the underlying dynamics of the Arab-Israel conflict. Moreover, Walt and Mearsheimer stooped to such unprofessional depths as to draw some of their “facts” from neo-Nazi and other anti-Israel hate websites. Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government distanced itself from the paper, and insisted that its logo be removed from all publications of the article, despite the fact that Steven Walt is a professor there. Consensus among critics is that the paper utterly fails to meet academic standards and promotes anti-Semitic myths.

It is correct to state that Israel was for many years after 1973 the largest individual recipient of direct U.S. aid. But for many of those years Egypt came in as a very close second; and after the onset of US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the American-supported governments of these two countries each received tens of billions more annual aid than Israel. Iraq alone has received in excess of $58 billion since 2003 for reconstruction and “state building.” So if there is a risk of American largesse “bankrupting” the USA, why pick on Israel?

US military support worldwide totaled 630 billion in 2008, approached 800 billion in 2009, and continues to rise. Let’s keep in mind that these hundreds of billions spent on maintaining military bases and deploying troops in Europe and the Far East are US aid to the countries that host our bases. Were the USA to withraw these military deployments, the host countries would need to shoulder more of the burden for their own defense. The billions that the US spends on our military presence in the world free those same billions in the host countries’ economies for their own domestic use.

How then can anyone argue that US aid to Israel “dwarfs” American aid to other countries when the USA spends from three to five times that amount in Iraq, and when US aid annually to Israel is less than one-half of one percent (0.5%) of American total military and other aid world-wide? Why do acclaimed scholars and other widely respected professionals need to “throw in the kitchen sink?” Why do they need to make spurious and demonstrably false claims about the amount of American aid? They lie because the truth does not support their agenda.

Walt and Mearsheimer are explicit about their agenda in their paper and their book: they seek to demonstrate that the American government is in the grip of a Zionist conspiracy, the head of which is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and evidence for which is the enormous amount of US aid to Israel; hence their need to insist that US aid to Israel dwarfs the aid given to any other state. Since the real numbers are too small to support such an extreme proposition, Walt and Mearsheimer must resort to culling their “facts” from Neo-Nazi Jew-hatred websites. Since the benefits to the USA are so great that the actual aid dollars are more than justified, then these erstwhile scholars and others of their ilk must fabricate astronomic numbers, and minimize or deny the benefits of this aid to the USA.

The purpose of all of these “kitchen sink” exercises is obvious: discredit Israel and Israel’s supporters by making Israel look like a liability rather than an asset and thus justify anti-Israel animus, legitimize hatred of Israel, and influence governments and individuals to reduce or eliminate support for Israel. This type of mendacity is akin to Holocaust denial and Israel denial. All three turn history upside down, distort reality, and deny the patently undeniable with palpable lies and transparent fabrications. The ultimate goal of all three is support for those forces seeking Israel’s destruction.

In sharing this ultimate goal with Hamas, Hezbollah, a dozen other genocidal Muslim terrorist organizations, and Iran, the purveyors of the “kitchen sink” assessment of US aid to Israel have joined the ranks of the 21st century’s version of Hitler’s little helpers.

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