Op-Ed: Why Do We Support Israel? - Part I
Patrick D. O'BrienPatrick D. O'Brien is an American who became acutely aware of Israel's struggle with Arab/Islamic terror in the wake of the horrific 9/11 jihad attacks on his nation. He now supports the Jewish state of Israel as a Zionist, a friend, and a person of conscience.
I do love Israel, and I am proud that my nation is Israel's best friend, but I know that it's not for purely noble reasons. Geopolitical manoeuvring and backroom deals are part and parcel of the international political landscape. However, so long as such practical matters of utility are necessary, I am very glad that such a fortuity has brought our two nations and peoples together.
As an average citizen, I don't need to understand in great detail every facet of our complex relationship with Israel, but I've learned that the Jews of Israel have much in common with us culturally, politically, and economically. I consider them to be my brothers and sisters, and I can't imagine not having Israel as our friend. Sadly, not all Americans understand this special bond.
I've noticed over the years how many of Israel's most ardent critics here in the US decry the amount of foreign aid that the United States gives to Israel (this year's estimate is about $2.7 billion, down from last year's $3.7 billion). It seems to be their favorite point of criticism because it is a hard, established number. One also notes how a lot of these same people are of the opinion that the "Palestinians" are engaged in a legitimate conflict against an aggressive occupying force, and so they take issue with the fact that much of the assistance provided to Israel from the US is in the form of military aid (about 80% this year). I have heard on more than one occasion the mournful plaint, "I don't know about you, but I don't like knowing that my tax dollars are being used to fund the military of a country that kills children." Of course, the fact that Israel is only trying to protect its own children - all too often from these same Arab children - is wholly lost on these people. I won't comment right now on the implicit value judgments in such selective affinities.
Personally, I would support Israel no matter what. It's abundantly clear to me that it is only just to do so. Not all of my fellow citizens get that, though. So I'd like to make a more practical and compelling case for why the United States should and must support Israel.
To begin with, we are both democratic states trying to maintain order and stability in a disorderly world, which sometimes has all the stability of a drunkard on stilts. Interestingly, many of Israel's American detractors don't seem to consider just how little the United States gets in return for its aid to other states in the same region as Israel. Jordan, Egypt, Turkey and the Palestinian Authority together receive US aid comparable to that of Israel, which is, in large part, to placate them. Egypt is basically paid not to attack Israel. If one looks into the matter at all, it becomes clear that Israel actually earns its US foreign aid, and then some. The double standard employed by Israel's American critics in this matter is somewhat disturbing. This article is an appeal to my fellow Americans who do not understand why it is not only moral, but also imperative for the United States to do its part to ensure Israel's welfare, and indeed, survival.
Among the most important assets that Israel provides the US with in return for financial assistance are:
Invaluable intelligence information
The war on terror is a euphemistic title, which really means "the war on Islamofascism." Israel is on the front lines of this war every day, and has been for some time now. Rabid anti-Semitism is more or less de rigueur in Arab/Muslim society, accounting for some of the hatred fuelling the terror. Israel is also despised for bringing democracy, success and the rule of law to an area that knows very little about such things. In the hate-polluted and culturally stagnant waters that are modern Arab/Muslim affairs, Israel has been the local target of choice for the irrational fury of Islamic terror. As a consequence, Israel has excelled at combating terror like no other nation on Earth.
A crucial part of neutralizing Islamic terror is having good, actionable intelligence. Useful and current data needs to be gathered and properly analyzed before it can be acted on. Since Arabic is one of Israel's official languages, Israeli agents are on the ball with electronic, on-the-ground, and print intelligence. They've got agents all over the Arab world. And since 9/11, US intelligence agents and special operations soldiers have begun to pay especial attention to the Israeli play-book, because Israel knows better than anyone how to fight fourth generation warfare. We've participated in joint exercises with Israel in spheres of warfare that are somewhat alien to us, since we haven't had to deal with vicious criminals trying to blow up our kids every day. To be frank, we are pretty damn fortunate to have Israel's expertise to help guide us in these matters. Now more than ever, America needs this sort of tutelage and intelligence support. In my book, that's worth about a billion.
Not only does Israel easily rank among the world's elite in intelligence gathering and analysis, but also its citizens are brilliant and highly educated. Beyond the cultural Jewish spirit for excellence, they have the incentive to succeed in unique ways economically because of Israel's scant natural resources. So, Israelis have tapped into their greatest and most reliable resource: themselves. In fifty-six short years, Israel has accomplished what many nations haven't been able to do in centuries. With a driving demand for survival and success against all odds, Israelis developed an energetic and ambitious entrepreneurial enthusiasm.
This attitude has helped to propel Israel to world leadership in the fields of medicine, scientific research (many disciplines), agriculture, telecommunications, high-tech electronics and software (the country's leading industrial sector), and more recently, the biotechnology industry.
To quote industrialist Efi Arazi, "Israel now has a critical mass in high technology that is far ahead of anything in Europe."
The United States is deeply involved in many of these enterprises and derives enormous benefits from Israel's unrivalled supremacy in many of these fields. And of course, many American businesses will be given preferential treatment in securing joint venture contracts for Israeli projects.
Many Americans have no idea how many Israeli contributions are part of our life. The drug Copaxone, which gives hope to those suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, was developed by Israelis at the Weizmann Institute. ICQ instant messaging was invented by four young Israelis in their twenties, and bought by AOL. Israel's drip irrigation systems save between 40-50% of water usage, while giving a 300% return in crop increase. Israel's innovation and supreme industrial feats confer massive benefits to their economy and to America's. Another billion here, I'd say.
A democratic presence in the Middle East
I think it's pretty hard to put a price on this, especially when considering the totalitarian states in that area whose people hate America and the West. Having moved past its strategic role as America's democratic foothold in the Middle East against the "Red Menace" of Soviet Russia, Israel is now viewed by some to be our bulwark against the area's "Green Menace" of militant Islam.
I don't personally believe that Islam will ever be an insuperable threat to Western civilization. I optimistically like to think that we'll (all) eventually deal with it, if for no other reason than to save ourselves and our freedoms (not to mention the millions of Muslims who might not be averse to a departure from grinding misery, repression and poverty). However, until the rest of the free world gets its tolerant and multicultural head out of la-la land, it's a good idea for both Israel and the United States to have a strong and defensible secular democracy in the region. The Middle East is hardly the most stable place in the world, and poses severe, if not long-term challenges to democracy. With the psychotic mullahcracy of Iran, the oil-drunk Saudi terror sponsors, and various other erratic and violent regimes in its immediate neighborhood, Israel has some experience dealing with this sort of thing. We can only gain from this experience.
Below the strata of our governments, I see a mutual affinity among American and Israeli citizens with regard to shared values like: freedom of speech, the rule of law and due process in court, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, equality between sexes, and all of the other worthy advantages of democracy. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing if hateful Muslim Arabs look at Israel and its democratic principles with scorn and enmity. Israel is a reminder of what sort of governance truly works for its people, offering freedom and happiness.
It's high time the Arab world got beyond its visceral rejection of innovation based upon a backward and anachronistic amalgam of religion, tribal values, entrenched statism and xenophobia. There are other considerations of security, which make having a democratic ally in the Middle East an idea that behooves the United States. Cha-ching! There's another billion.
Israel's US foreign aid has now more than paid for itself. But wait, there's more.
[The above article originally appeared on IsraPundit.com. Part 1 of 2.]