Monday, January 23, 2012

U.S Foreign Aid Support to Israel - A Sociological Analysis

U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel:

A Sociological Analysis

The current event chosen for sociological analysis is the annual U.S. foreign aid program to the nation-state of Israel. This particular current event has not only been occurring for the last three months, it has been occurring annually for over 60 years. In a recent radio interview on NPR radio, Republican Congressman Ron Paul (2011) from Texas, a GOP presidential hopeful for 2012, provided his political position that all foreign aid should be cut and that the top annual U.S. foreign aid recipient, Israel, has become too economically and militarily dependant on the United States while the United States is in poor position to continue supporting other nation-states. Foreign analyst specialist Jeremy Sharp, in his Congressional Research Service report stating U.S foreign aid to Israel statistics (2010), illustrate the average U.S. foreign aid at over 3 billion dollars a year to Israel since 1947. The argument to cease foreign aid to Israel certainly has merit considering the facts that the United States is over 14 trillion dollars under debt and making domestic cuts across the board on education, law enforcement, medical care, and many other vital domestic areas while continuously battling high unemployment, poverty, dilapidating education and an epidemic of crime. Another troubling factor to consider when looking at irrationally high annual U.S foreign aid amounts to Israel are accusations of Israel’s human rights record against the Palestinians. Actions in Bahrain, Iran, Egypt and Syria have all received verbal and economic condemnation by the United States, while Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people has went reprimand for decades. While mass media reports and uneducated assumptions view Israel as being victimized by the Palestinians, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (2007) reported that for every Israeli killed there were twenty-five Palestinians killed in 2007. So why is the American government borrowing money to provide Israel U.S foreign aid and why is the American population quiet on the subject?

Before we can provide a sociological analysis of why, and how, this irrational foreign policy is maintained in the United States, we must look at the facts of the origins of modern Israel, and U.S.-Israeli foreign policy in order to understand the insanity of such a relationship from an American perspective and sociological reasoning for why this political phenomenon is able to exist at all.

The 1947 Creation of the Nation-State of Israel

On the modern international stage, the nation-state of Israel is a phenomenon itself because it is a Jewish state. The Zionist political movement worked for many decades to buy up land and set the political stage for the creation of Israel, a Jewish state, during the last decades of Ottoman rule over Palestine leading into World War I and during the British rule of Palestine emerging out of World War I. It is with the creation of the Jewish state of Israel that we will look at our first two sociological terms, race and ethnicity, and how they apply to the Jewish people. The Henslin text (2010) defines race as a people sharing physical qualities and ethnicity as sharing a cultural bond. The Jewish people seem to possess the attributes that allow them to be considered both, if we go by the textbook. The modern Jewish people certainly are considered a race by most Americans, even though there are actually two races within the Jewish people, those of the Ashkenazi and the Sephardic. The Jewish people are also an ethnicity, if we go by the textbook definition, due to their shared religion of Judaism and their long history of Diaspora, migrations, and direct and indirect population transfers. While it is difficult to gauge unbiased scholastic evidence of an indirect population transfer in the case of the Jewish people, Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union could be argued as a case. An example of direct population transfer can easily be seen in Spain during the Spanish Inquisition which peaked during the 16th century when Jewish people were expelled from Spain. The long stemming problem in the region of modern Israel, or as many people still refer to it as Palestine, stems from the withdraw of Britain and the establishment of the modern national state of Israel by United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 in 1947 directly on top of a native Palestinian population that had lived and farmed on that land for centuries. The Palestinians were pushed into refugees like Gaza after the creation of Israel, and the 1967 expansion of Israel, and in recent years have watched all humanitarian supply routes sporadically cut off as Israel ensured that the Gaza borders were kept sealed tight on the weak pretense that the Palestinians were aggressors. Searching through the sociology terms in the Henslin text (2010), I was unable to find a clear definition or description to categorize the creation of the nation-state of Israel and the displacement of the Palestinian people. Colonization is not what occurred. There was no assimilation. The most industrialized nations in the world cast their vote in the United Nations General Assembly to create a new sovereign nation-state; a nation-state based on race and ethnicity, and then partitioned the land away from the native Palestinian people of a different race and ethnicity, pushing them into refugee camps. The closest term I can use would be apartheid, which is defined in the Henslin text (2010) as the separation of racial-ethnic groups.

The U.S Position on Israel and Why the Population Supports It

How is it that U.S Administrations, whether democrat or republican, place our nation in the position to blindly support Israel, regardless of accusations of human rights violations similar to the condemnations that we issue Iran, Syria or Bahrain? How is it that we find our U.S administrations, one after the other, standing on the international stage hypocritically claiming the ability to broker either a peace deal between the Palestinians and the nation-state of Israel or a two state settlement when at the same time our Congress ensures every year that U.S foreign aid and military aid to Israel is in the billions? How is it that Congress is allowed to funnel billions of American dollars to Israel in foreign aid every year while the United States is in debt over 14 trillion dollars and required to cut their own American children’s educational resources, law enforcement from their crime plagued streets and the nation continues to struggle with unemployment and poverty? Outside of apathy and ignorance on behalf of a majority of Americans, there are two major factors in American society that allow this to develop and to currently continue. The first factor is lobbyist pressure on Congressional votes. The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is one of the most powerful lobbyist organizations in Washington, D.C. It consists of many powerful Jewish people, with help from Christians, to lobby every congressional vote, especially on foreign aid, based on a world networking of Jewish ethnicity and race on behalf of the Jewish state of Israel. Israel plays on the Jewish identities of Jewish Americans to support Israel as a Jewish nation-state and in some cases this pressure is so great that an American citizen, or one of dual citizenship, will place the priorities of the foreign nation-state of Israel above those of the United States. While the Jewish people of the United States are a small but politically powerful group, I am unable to term them a minority group according to the Henslin text definition. Henslin (2010) defines a minority group as people singled out for unfair treatment. While Jewish people have certainly been singled out in history and certainly use the history of the holocaust to continue to appear as a minority group, they actually possess very high status in the United States and hold great amounts of political, banking and entertainment influence for such a small overall population percentage. There are ignorant people in America that simply hate Jewish people for racist reasons, but these examples are often sensationalized in the mass media. So how does the Jewish Lobby influence a majority of gentile Congressmen to vote in favor of sending the foreign nation-state of Israel billions of American dollars every year even in the face of a 14 trillion dollar deficit? One answer would be individual greed, political ambition and deal making on behalf of the individual congress representative. That is the easy one to see and has little to do with sociology. Not even Marx or Weber could have foreseen the political treachery that representative democracy would open up on society. The second answer is, as Henslin (2010) reported Karl Marx coining, the opium of the people, religion (531). A large majority of Congressmen and Congresswomen are Christian and it is taught early on in the Christian belief system based off writings in the ancient text of the Bible that the land currently home to the nation-state of Israel was promised to the Jewish people. While it is should be politically unjustified in modern world society to displace a people and create a new nation-state based off an ancient religious writing, it is apparently perfectly legal by United Nation standards. When questioning annual foreign aid to Israel, it is difficult to gauge the Congress to decipher which Congressional votes are swayed by political ambition or Christian beliefs toward Israel when the pro-Israeli lobby comes knocking for votes. What is not difficult to decipher is the way a majority of normal working class Americans view the subject. Shockingly, Americans do not seem to mind that Congress is handing billions of dollars to Israel every year while American children have their educational resources cut at the state levels. How can this possibly be? The dominant religion in the United States is Christianity and regardless of the branch, Christians are indoctrinated early on to consider Israel sacred. In the Henslin text (2010), Durkheim used the term sacred as meaning something set apart, reverence or holding deep respect for. The Christian American population who blindly support Israel falls into two categories. The first are Christian Americans who have never read biblical history and do not even understand the difference between the modern nation-state of Israel and the tribe of Israel that is wrote about in the ancient biblical scripture in which Zionist justify ownership of the land (where the modern nation-state of Israel sits). In fairness to our working class American people, the educational system in the United States candy coats issues and not many adults have the leisure time to read the Bible or text books full of political history. The second category are Christian Zionists who believe so devoutly every word of Christianity that they will support the Jewish people in establishing, and building up the current state of Israel, regardless of how it impacts non-Christian people, or how it impacts the American national debt, because they believe that the recreation of Israel will eventually usher in the return of Jesus. Are we high on opium, yet? Even though the United States was created under the pretense of separation between church and state, religion is still a massive influence in American society and American politics.

I will close by using and arguing against one last sociological term from the Henslin text (2010) that pertains to the subject of this sociological analysis on American foreign aid support for Israel and that is the term of anti-Semitism. It is listed in the Henslin text book (2010) that anti-Semitism is prejudice, discrimination and persecution aimed against the Jewish people. Even if Jewish people were all Semitic, meaning the entire group descended from the bloodline of the Shemites and Hebrews, vocal opponents against blind and irrational U.S support to the foreign nation-state of Israel in the form of massive amounts of U.S. foreign and military aid, along with United States vetoes in the United Nations on behalf of Israeli aggressions against the Palestinians, are often labeled anti-Semites for their objections. This is incorrect. If we accepted the popular belief that all Jewish people are indeed Semitic and we found a person who simply hated Jewish people for being Jewish, then correctly that person would be a hateful and shameful anti-Semitic. Yet, when an American cares about his children’s future and questions U.S. foreign aid policy to Israel, or perhaps disapproves of the crimes that Israel continues to commit against the Palestinian people on a regular basis, that person is indeed criticizing a nation-state and is not an anti-Semitic. They are only loudly categorized as such in order to be silenced.

Annotated Bibliography

Chaplin, Colin. (2009). Premilleimial Theology, Christian Zionism, and Christian Mission. International Bulletin of Missionary Resreach, 33(3). 137-143.

Henslin, James M. (2010). Sociology a Down to Earth Approach (10th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. Person Higher Education.

Peretz, Martin. (1999). Israel Irreversible. New republic, 220(22). 21-23.

Raim, Diane. (2011). Ron Paul Interview. National Public Radio. NPR. May 3, 2011.

Sharp, Jeremy M. (2010). U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel. Congressional Research Service.

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. (2007). Israeli-Palestinian Fatalities Since 2000 – Key Trends.

Works Cited

Henslin, James M. (2010). Sociology a Down to Earth Approach (10th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. Person Higher Education.

Raim, Diane. 2011. Ron Paul Interview. National Public Radio. NPR. May 3, 2011.

Sharp, Jeremy M. (2010). U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel. Congressional Research Service.

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. (2007). Israeli-Palestinian Fatalities Since 2000 – Key Trends.

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