Palestine: September 15th Countdown

Written by: Mya Guarnieri & Sarah Weatherbee
Edited by: Mehrunisa Qayyum

Editor’s Note: PITAPOLICY recognizes the political, economic, cultural, and institutional significance of the UN vote on Palestine. PITAPOLICY also believes in the discussion of all sides of the parties involved and invites other points of view to submit a perspective based on facts and events.

On September 21st, Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, is set to address the United Nations and call for full membership for the “State of Palestine.” If the United States uses its veto in the Security Council as promised, then Palestine’s full membership in the UN will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. Therefore, on September 15th, the authors of the piece below are co-organizing and sponsoring a Washington, DC event commemorating Palestinian human rights and the refugee crisis. This effort is nationwide, so they ask that you visit their site for details, programming, and times: Check out their Facebook page for nationwide information at:!/pages/September-15/107402499282182.

The American economy is in a crisis. Suburbs are declining into poverty. Schools are struggling. Cities teeter on the edge of bankruptcy. And 81 U.S. Congressmen are off in Israel when they should be here, dealing with the mountain of problems facing the American people — you know, the men and women who elected them.

Of course, Congressmen deserve a break. They need to relax and spend time with their families just like any other working stiff. But those 81 Congressmen aren’t exactly on vacation. They’re on a junket funded by the American Israel Education Foundation, a supporting organization of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Since AIPAC is a special interest group — pro-Israel hardliners who support expansionist policies — it is unlikely that the Congressmen will be getting a clear-eyed view of the country.

With perks like all-expenses-paid trips for government employees, it’s no surprise that Israel is the largest single foreign recipient of U.S. aid. Israel receives 3 billion dollars in aid annually from the United States. Moreover, America has committed to giving Israel a whopping 30 billion from 2009-2018.
In the fiscal year 2011, alone, American taxpayers are giving 8.2 million each day (3.09 billion for the entire year) to support Israel’s military initiatives. (2nd Source reference:
It’s worth adding that Israel is not using these dollars to build schools or help the needy.

It’s worth adding that Israel is not using these dollars to build schools or help the needy.
The Congressional Research Service’s report, “U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel,” indicated that, in the past 20 years, the US had transitioned from funding Israel’s economy to funding the military. The aid that the US provides Israel will supplement 18.2 percent, or nearly one-fifth of their defense budget from 2009-2018.

This massive amount of military aid and weapons are used to maintain the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. The military actions of Israel from 2000 to 2009, a period in which the US gave 24.099 billion dollars in military aid, resulted in the deaths of 2,969 unarmed Palestinian civilians (Source reference:

What are American taxpayers gaining from funding Israel?

In his article, “Friends Without Benefits,” Matthew Yglesias gives a succinct answer: “Israel does us no favors and is no use to us.”

The Congressmen’s trip to Israel illuminates this point. Not only is it useless to the American people, it’s a distraction during a time when taxpaying U.S. citizens need and deserve the full attention of the representatives they elected.

As Josh Ruebner, National Advocacy Director of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, puts it:
This August break is for Members of Congress to be at home, meeting with constituents to hear about our concerns. They should be listening to our anxiety about the economy and thinking through ways to dig us out of the financial mess they’ve created with their corporate giveaways, tax breaks for the wealthy and lax regulation of unscrupulous banks that are forcing people out of their homes with fraudulent mortgage documents.

The 30 billion earmarked for Israel could, over the course of 10 years, be used to give 900,000 American school children a head start in school or to equip 500,000 American workers with new job skills.

While the disappearing act these 81 Congressmen have pulled is reprehensible, it’s not surprising.

After all, this is the same Congress that showered Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with standing ovations as he stood and spoke one half-truth after another. This is the same Congress that took the unusual move of breaking its own rules to pass a resolution about foreign policy — wasting time and energy that could have been spent on pressing domestic issues.

So, no, this trip isn’t shocking. It’s just one more outrageous example of American politicians putting special interest groups ahead of the dire needs of the American people.

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