The US and Israel

Behind Israel stands the richest and most powerful nation on earth. Without material support from the US, the onslaught on Gaza would not be possible, writes Mike Marqusee

February 1, 2009
2 min read


Mike MarquseeMike Marqusee 1953–2015, wrote a regular column for Red Pepper, 'Contending for the Living', and authored a number of books on the politics of culture, on topics ranging from cricket to Bob Dylan.

About one third of the entire US foreign aid budget is spent assisting Israel, to the tune of at least $7 billion a year. In the past ten years, direct military aid alone amounted to $17 billion; over the next decade, it will be $30 billion. Unlike aid given to other nations, aid to Israel is unrestricted by human rights conditions and paid in an annual lump sum.

More than $1.5 billion in private US funds also go to Israel every year, comprising some $1 billion in tax-deductible donations and around $500 million invested in Israeli bonds. The US treatment of Israel as a charity of tax-deductible status is not granted to any other state.

Among the major donors to the Israeli cause are US trade unions. Some 1,500 US labour bodies have ploughed at least $5 billion of union pension funds into Israeli bonds. The AFL-CIO affiliate pension funds alone have more than $300 million invested.

In their staunch support for Israel, US unions are now anomalous in the global labour movement. This is a product of the shameful history of US labour leaders walking lock step with the State Department, the Pentagon and US imperialism. In July 2007, top officials of the AFL-CIO and Change to Win issued a statement condemning British unions for even considering the nonviolent campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

Although US union activism for Palestine is increasing, as yet no labour bodies have opposed the Gaza massacres. This delights Jewish Labor Committee president Stuart Appelbaum, who recently boasted that ‘American [union] leadership is fundamental to challenging Israel bashing within the labour movement globally.’

It was not always this way. The US did not begin selling arms to Israel until 1962. The big shift came with Israel’s demonstration of military capacity – and the ability to tame Arab nationalism – in the 1967 war. Thereafter, aid increased by leaps and bounds.

Zionist hegemony in US politics has been forged by the intersection of various forces. Among them is an American-Israeli ideological affinity, including similar origin myths: ‘A land without people for a people without land.’ The pro-Israel lobby could never have succeeded if their lies about Palestine had not sounded so comforting to so many Americans.

Mike Marqusee is the author of If I Am Not for Myself: Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew


Mike MarquseeMike Marqusee 1953–2015, wrote a regular column for Red Pepper, 'Contending for the Living', and authored a number of books on the politics of culture, on topics ranging from cricket to Bob Dylan.


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