On December 21, 2020, the US Congress passed the COVID-19 Relief Package as part of a larger $2.3 trillion bill meant to cover spending for the rest of the fiscal year. In this bill, Congress found it essential to provide Israel with $3.3 billion in ‘security assistance,’ and $500 million for its US-Israel missile defense cooperation. Although a meager $600 dollars to help struggling families was the subject of several months of intense debate, there was little discussion among American politicians over the large funds handed out to Israel at a time when American families were lined up for hours to get a bag of groceries. The mere question of how Israel uses the funds—whether the military aid is being actively used to sustain Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine, financing illegal Jewish settlements build on Palestinian lands, funding proposed annexation of Palestinian land or violating Palestinian human rights—is a major taboo. Support for Israel is considered a bipartisan priority and has, for decades, been perceived as the most stable item in the US foreign policy agenda. Why? One only needs to follow the money. Congress rewards the Israeli-linked billionaires who bought them their seats in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
According to data provide by the US Congressional Research Service, as of November 2020, Israel had received $146 billion dollars in US taxpayers’ dollars. Since 2008, most of the money has been allocated for military purposes, including the security of Israel’s illegal Jewish settlement enterprise.
As of February 2019, the US has withheld all funds to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, in addition to cutting aid to the UN Palestinian Refugee Agency (UNRWA), the last lifeline of support needed to provide basic education and health services to millions of Palestinian made refugees when Israel declared itself a state in 1948.
Israel was one of the first countries in the world to begin rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine to its population, that is, anyone who holds Israeli nationality. Israel defines ‘Jewish’ as a nationality. The purpose of this is to reserve exclusive national rights to Jews only in the Nation State of the Jewish People. According to Netanyahu, Israel is a nation state of Jews alone. So, when we read recently in the national headlines that 400,000 Israelis had already been vaccinated against the coronavirus, and tens of thousands of other were on track to do the same in the coming week, this number will not include the more than five million Palestinians who live in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip under illegal Israeli occupation and have done so for the last fifty years. They will not be eligible to receive the vaccine because they are not Jewish while the half million Israelis settlers living illegally in the West Bank and East Jerusalem will be vaccinated.
Israel is obligated by international law to provide for Palestinians’ healthcare needs. As the military occupier, Israel is mandated to provide the COVID vaccine to Palestinians under occupation. Israel, instead, puts the responsibility on the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority’s inability to procure and store vaccines in its flailing healthcare system is indicative of the decade of damage the Israeli occupation has done to the Palestinian infrastructure. Palestinians have been forced to rely on outside help and have been prevented from being self-sufficient by the Israeli occupation with the complacency of the international community.
To expect Washington’s policy toward Israel to change reflects not only an indefensible naivety but willful ignorance. Just follow the money.
All of Cathy Sultan’s book, including Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with Both Sides, are available on Amazon.