When is it time to walk away from Israel?

I had other plans for tonight’s post. I had wanted, of all things, to write about Johnny Cash’s appearance in a 1974 episode of Columbo entitled Swan Song. It’s been one of my favorites for a long time, and I thought that a nice discussion of it would make a welcomed detour from all the ranting about Glenn Beck and our country’s descent into madness. But, as is often the case, I got distracted. A friend of mine wrote to tell me that an Israeli military court yesterday ruled that the man referred to as “Captain R” was found innocent of all charges brought against him. Captain R, as you might recall, is the Israeli army officer who, a few years ago, shot a defenseless 13 year old girl to death, knowing full well that she was terrified, unarmed and not at all a threat. And, now, all I can think about is how ashamed I am of our continued support of a country where something like this could happen. Here, by way of background, is a clip from the Guardian:

An Israeli army officer who fired the entire magazine of his automatic rifle into a 13-year-old Palestinian girl and then said he would have done the same even if she had been three years old was acquitted on all charges by a military court yesterday.

The soldier, who has only been identified as “Captain R”, was charged with relatively minor offences for the killing of Iman al-Hams who was shot 17 times as she ventured near an Israeli army post near Rafah refugee camp in Gaza a year ago.

The manner of Iman’s killing, and the revelation of a tape recording in which the captain is warned that she was just a child who was “scared to death”, made the shooting one of the most controversial since the Palestinian intifada erupted five years ago even though hundreds of other children have also died…

A recording of radio exchanges between Capt R and his troops obtained by Israeli television revealed that from the beginning soldiers identified Iman as a child…

In the recording, a soldier in a watchtower radioed a colleague in the army post’s operations room and describes Iman as “a little girl” who was “scared to death”. After soldiers first opened fire, she dropped her schoolbag which was then hit by several bullets establishing that it did not contain explosive. At that point she was no longer carrying the bag and, the tape revealed, was heading away from the army post when she was shot…

In case it’s not clear from this excerpt, this military officer not only shot the girl, whom had been identified beforehand as a terrified ten year old, but he went out to where she lay wounded, and put two more bullets in her head. And, as if that weren’t enough, this officer later said that he would have done the same thing if it had been a three year old. It’s absolutely unconscionable.

I don’t know how much a year we, the tax payers of the United States of America, send to Israel in form of foreign aid, but I know that it’s a lot. A few years ago, if you had asked me, I probably would have said that it was warranted, seeing as how they’re a democracy in an incredibly inhospitable part of the world. Now, though, I’m not so sure that I’d be of the same mind. While I’m certainly sympathetic to their situation, I’ve seen too many videos of Palestinian families being harassed and escorted at gunpoint from their homes, and I’ve read too many stories like the one above.

Maybe the people of Israel can’t see it. Maybe living under the constant threat of terrorism, surrounded by nations of people that want to see you dead, takes its toll. Maybe this is just what happens over time. Given our experience here, in the wake of 9/11, I can see that. Maybe this is what we’re headed toward as a nation. And maybe that’s what terrifies me the most. I don’t want for this to be our future. And it concerns me that some in our country would defend this soldier’s actions. What this officer did, though, seems truly evil to me. And it’s hard for me to reconcile that my tax dollars are going to a country that not only would find this man without fault, but reward him with a promotion. This, again, is a man who said that he would put two bullets into the head of a wounded, unarmed Palestinian toddler. So, while I love my Jewish friends, and appreciate the work of many peace activists in Israel today, I have to wonder if it’s really in our best interest to keep enabling the increasingly cruel, sadistic and racist behavior that we’re seeing.

Here, on a much, much happier note, is the Johnny Cash video I’d set out to play for you before all of this happened.

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  1. Brackinald Achery
    Posted August 30, 2010 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    Non-interventionism (not synonymous with isolationism, by the way). Means no $$$ for Israel. Or anybody. If they ain’t a State in the United States, then they’re their own country, and their own responsibility. Not our jurisdiction. That’s why all those countries on a political map are different colors. The boundaries denote the end of political jurisdictions. Respect the boundaries. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

  2. dragon
    Posted August 30, 2010 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    “Some things in life need to be mysterious,” Peggy Noonan said about the release of the torture memos. “Sometimes you need to just keep walking. …

  3. Edward
    Posted August 31, 2010 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    I’m conflicted. They’re a good strategic ally, and they’re willing to do things in the middle east that we’re not, like taking out Iranian nuclear facilities, if and when the time comes. I do feel, however, as though we’re reaching a point where our paths might diverge. At least I hope that we don’t choose to go down the path they’re headed down. I don’t see how any good can come of it.

  4. Mike Shecket
    Posted August 31, 2010 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    I say now, and I’m a Jew (though I hardly ever come out and say it primarily because of all the bullshit Israel pulls).

  5. Kim
    Posted August 31, 2010 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    The most important thing to do in the short term is set out to decouple the state of Israel from the Jewish people in our minds and foreign policy. They are two different things. The Jews are our friends and allies. The state of Israel is a monster.

  6. Posted August 31, 2010 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Waling away from Israel gives the green light to the Zionist government to bomb Iran which has the capacity to cause a regional war with a widespread ripple effect. Biblical apocalypse anyone?

  7. Jeremy
    Posted September 1, 2010 at 12:11 am | Permalink

    Worth noting (this is from the Guardian article quoted in this post)…

    “The army’s initial investigation concluded that the captain had “not acted unethically”. But after some of the soldiers under his command went to the Israeli press to give a different version, the military police launched a separate investigation after which he was charged.

    Capt R claimed that the soldiers under his command were out to get him because they are Jewish and he is Druze.”

  8. Posted September 1, 2010 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    On the question of the size of aid to Israel (and what kind of aid), this report http://bit.ly/1Y9cvb by the Congressional Research Service is pretty revealing. Here’s a key part.

    [Over the last 20 years, the U.S. has been slowly phasing out economic aid to Israel and gradually replacing it with increased military aid. Beginning in 2007, the U.S. has been increasing military aid by $150 million each year. By FY2013, we will be sending Israel $3.15 billion a year (or an average of $8.6 million a day) and will continue to provide military aid at that level through 2018. U.S. tax dollars are subsidizing one of the most powerful foreign militaries. According to the CRS report, “[current U.S. military aid] grants to Israel represent 18.5% of the overall Israeli defense budget.”

    Contrary to ordinary U.S. policy, Israel has been and continues to be allowed to use over 26% of this military aid to purchase equipment from Israeli manufacturers. According to CRS, “no other recipient of U.S. military assistance has been granted this benefit.” Thanks in part to this indirect U.S. subsidy, Israel’s arms industry has become one of the strongest in the world. “In 2007, it was the 8th largest arms supplier to the developing world.”

    In addition to military aid, the United States continues to provide Israel with additional aid and benefits. The numbers are not yet available for FY2009, but are likely to be significant.

    By all accounts the United States has given more money to Israel than to any other country. The Congressional Research Service’s conservative estimate of total cumulative US aid to Israel (not adjusted for inflation) from 1949 through 2009 is $106.1647 billion.

    A November 2008 Washington Report article “A Conservative Estimate of Total Direct U.S. Aid to Israel: $114 Billion,” by Shirl McArthur, puts the cumulative total even higher.”]

    As a related side note, the countries that receive the second and third highest amount of US dollars are Egypt and Jordan, both because they signed a Peace Treaty with Carter promising not to go back to war with Israel.

  9. roots
    Posted September 1, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    It’s time.

  10. Edward
    Posted September 2, 2010 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Hamas claimed responsibility for killing 4 settlers yesterday, on the eve of peace talks. The blame goes both ways.

    As for peace talks, I have no idea why Obama would attempt them now. Given how badly Dems are polling, it seems like it could only hurt. Of course, there’s the possibility that they’ll be successful, but that seems extremely remote.

  11. Kim
    Posted September 2, 2010 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Maybe he knows what he’s doing. Word is that Israel is willing to make historic concessions.

    Israel is willing to make a sweeping concession – dividing control of Jerusalem – as part of a historic final peace pact with Palestinians and drop its demand that Jerusalem would “remain the undivided capital of Israel”


  12. Painted Desert
    Posted September 4, 2010 at 1:55 am | Permalink

    Joel, we pay Israel as part of that same peace treaty so that they will not go to war with their neighbors.
    Rick C, I say we take our chances with the apocalypse.
    The Druze that live in Israel love the Israeli Army. Kim is right. It has nothing really to do with religion. People just love to kill each other. Especially in places where life is really cheap and you can get away with it.

  13. Meta
    Posted September 17, 2010 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    Watch: As Israel Slides Toward Fascism, Citizens and Supporters Swear Their Loyalty

    Swearing a loyalty oath to Israel as an ethnic state is gaining legitimacy,


  14. K Paul
    Posted October 9, 2010 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    “America pays Israel $3 billion/year. America gets attacked because of Israel. Israeli spies run wild collecting intelligence in America. Why is Israel considered an asset instead of the financial and national security liability it’s proven itself to be?”


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