This year's "Lack of Balance Award" goes to the Christian Science Monitor, for its article, "Economist Tallies Swelling Cost of Israel to U.S." (December 9, 2002)
The article vastly overstates the size of American foreign aid to Israel, saying that Uncle Sam spends twice as much money backing Israel "in its drawn-out, violent dispute with the Palestinians" than it did on fighting in Vietnam. Charitable donations aren't spared the poison pen despite the fact that they're private, because the donations are a "net drain" on America's economy.
The Christian Science Monitor presents wildly exaggerated figures, supplied by economist Thomas Stauffer. The article claims:
- The U.S. has given Egypt $117 billion and Jordan $22 billion in foreign aid in return for signing peace treaties with Israel, and "those outlays are [considered] part of the total package of support for Israel."
- Stauffer tags Israel with the bill for rising oil prices (cost to U.S.: $450 billion), and a U.S. economic recession (cost: $420 billion).
- U.S. charities have supported Israel to the tune of $50-60 billion. Though private in origin, the money is "a net drain" on the United States economy, says Stauffer.
- U.S. policy and trade sanctions against adversarial regimes reduce U.S. exports to the Middle East about $5 billion a year, costing 70,000 or so American jobs, Stauffer claims. Not requiring Israel to use its U.S. aid to buy American goods, as is usual in foreign aid, costs another 125,000 jobs.
- Israel has blocked some major U.S. arms sales, such as F-15 fighter aircraft to Saudi Arabia in the mid-1980s, costing the U.S. $40 billion, says Stauffer.
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And how does the Christian Science Monitor balance these overblown claims? With one lone lukewarm sentence: "Many Americans would probably say it is money well spent to support a beleagured [sic] democracy of some strategic interest."
A beleaguered democracy of some strategic interest?! Consider the facts:
- Israel is America's most trusted and reliable ally in the Middle East, the only state in the Middle East that publicly declares support for the U.S. -- despite the fact that Israel may bear the brunt of Saddam's weapons when an American offensive begins.
- Israel is on the frontline in the battle against Islamic terrorists, and provides the U.S. with key intelligence information and frontline military operations. As opinionjournal.com notes: "In 1981 Israel destroyed Iraq's Osirak reactor, setting back Saddam Hussein's quest for nuclear weapons. How much money and how many lives did this end up saving America?"
- Israel is the sole democracy in the Middle East, a region dominated by authoritarian and military regimes. Israel upholds Western ideals of freedom of expression, a free market economy, equal opportunity, women's rights, judicial review, and minority representation in elected offices. The U.S. spends untold billions spreading the ideals of democracy around the world; in Israel, it comes for free.
- The first U.S. President to supply large-scale military aid to Israel was Richard Nixon in 1970, in order to balance against the radical Arab states being financed by the Soviet Union. The U.S.-Israel partnership served its purpose by forcing such East Bloc clients as Egypt's Anwar Sadat to break from the Soviet fold. Having Israel do the dirty work in one of the world's most dangerous regions has, financially for the U.S., been a bargain.
- Israel partners with the U.S. in technological development, medical research, agricultural innovations, and a wide range of cultural exchanges. In addition, many Israeli-developed technologies serve as integral components of the U.S. military arsenal.
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The United States gives out $13.3 billion in direct foreign aid annually. The vast majority of these recipients express animosity toward the United States in state-sponsored media, and routinely vote against the U.S. in international forums.
Below we contrast Israel's "value" to the United States, with that of other Mideast regimes like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Palestinian Authority.
For additional background information, we highly recommend AIPAC's overview of Israel's strategic value to the United States:
Also read "The $36 Billion Bargain: Strategy and Politics in U.S. Assistance to Israel" by A.F.K. Organski (Columbia University Press). Organski is a well-respected political scientist whose work has become textbooks for political science classes throughout the country.
And cheers to Howard Feinberg for this nice follow-up article refuting the claims in the Christian Science Monitor:
===== EGYPT =====
Egypt receives $2 billion annually in U.S. foreign aid, including some of the world's most advanced weaponry like F-16 combat planes, Patriot missiles, M-1A1 battle tanks, and Harpoon anti-ship missiles, more advanced than those used by Israel. And yet:
- The government-sponsored media in Egypt has spread disparaging remarks against U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell ("bird brain"), and against other American leaders. In an article entitled "Oh, No, Mr. Bush," the editor of the government-sponsored daily, Al-Akhbar, wrote: "I say to you, Oh Mr. Bush, that you alone are responsible for the feeble image of the U.S., whose name smacks of lack of credibility and lack of transparency, and has become a synonym for oppression and for abnegation of justice and international legitimacy..." (source: memri.org)
- The government-sponsored daily, Al-Akhbar, has perverted American history and threatened American landmarks with destruction. Columnist Mahmoud Abd Al-Mun'im Murad wrote: "The U.S. treats the [Arabs] as it treated the slaves inside the American continent... The real issue is the Arab-American conflict -- Arabs must understand that the U.S. is not 'the American friend' -- and its task, past, present, and future, is [to impose] hegemony on the world, primarily on the Middle East and the Arab world... The Statue of Liberty, in New York Harbor, must be destroyed because of following the idiotic American policy that goes from disgrace to disgrace in the swamp of bias and blind fanaticism." (source: memri.org)
- The Egyptian government recently rejected a U.S. request to cease anti-Semitic television programming ("U.S. Objects to 'Protocols' on Egyptian TV" - November 1, 2002, The New York Times).
- In international forums, Egypt stands in opposition to American interests. Figures show that in the United Nations, Egypt votes against the United States 79% of the time. Yet the flow of U.S. aid continues...
===== SAUDI ARABIA =====
The United States, through oil imports, pours about $10 billion annually into Saudi Arabian coffers. Here's what the U.S. gets back in return:
- A September 2002 cartoon in the Saudi Arabia-based "Arab News" depicts President Bush as an inflatable doll, with Donald Rumsfeld holding the pump and blowing him up into a likeness of Hitler.
- In an August 2002 editorial, the Saudi daily Al-Riyadh defamed the totality of American history: "If America wants to open up the issue of compensation for those who died in the two towers, it must agree to the establishment of an international court that will examine [its own] war crimes, plundering, coups, what American intelligence did with the drug barons, the policy of abductions and murder, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, the claims still pending regarding the black slave trade, and the deliberate annihilation of the Indians -- and apply all this to all countries, without statute of limitations, so that we feel we live on one planet that functions according to the same moral principles." (source: memri.org)
- Fifteen of the September 11 hijackers were Saudi nationals, causing direct and secondary economic damage in the hundreds of billions of dollars. The wife of a Saudi prince has funneled funds to al-Qaeda terrorists, and a report from the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations says: "For years, individuals and charities based in Saudi Arabia have been the most important source of funds for al-Qaeda; and for years, Saudi officials have turned a blind eye to this problem."
- The U.S. State Department reports that freedom of religion does not exist in Saudi Arabia. Only Muslims can be citizens. The government prohibits the public practice of non-Muslim religions. Non-Muslim worshippers risk arrest, imprisonment, lashing, deportation, and sometimes torture for engaging in overt religious activity that attracts official attention.
- Figures show that in the United Nations, Saudi Arabia votes against the United States 73% of the time. Yet the U.S.-Saudi alliance continues...
===== PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY =====
The United States gives over $100 million annually in foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority. And yet:
- In November 2002, PA legislator Nahed Munir Alrayis, writing in the official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, threatened the United States with suicide bombings. He wrote that U.S. policy will leave the Arab and Islamic world so hopeless that they will have no choice but to resort to "suicide attacks against the United States, its armed forces and its navy."
- Anti-American sentiment runs high in the Palestinian street. The U.S. flag going up in flames is a common site at Palestinian rallies in the West Bank, Gaza and Lebanon.
- In November 2002, the White House officially announced that the Palestinians are not in compliance with agreements signed with the United States and Israel. According to the State Department's semiannual report on Palestinian compliance, PA officials have supported violence "as a proper path towards an acceptable end to the conflict, even as they called for renewed negotiations... There is strong evidence that some members of the PA security forces were allowed to continue serving even though their participation in terrorist incidents was well known."
And yet the PA continues to receive its flow of U.S. aid...
===== THE FINAL WORD =====
If the Christian Science Monitor wants to criticize how U.S. aid is being spent, it is picking the wrong target. For in deep contrast to other Mideast recipients of U.S. foreign aid, figures show that in the United Nations, Israel votes with the United States 94% of the time.