Giving Israel $1 billion in fungible money for a weapon system will only encourage further war crimes.
ISRAEL’S IRON DOME SYSTEM INTERCEPT ROCKETS LAUNCHED FROM THE GAZA STRIP TOWARDS ISRAEL, AS SEEN FROM GAZA STRIP, ON MAY 19, 2021. (PHOTO: BASHAR TALEB/APA IMAGES)
STEPHEN R. SHALOM, Mondoweiss, SEPTEMBER 24, 2021
Like Nora Berman (“I’m a leftist. Progressives’ move to strip Iron Dome from spending bill smacks of ignorance,” Forward, Sept. 22, 2021), I am a leftist. But unlike her, I think the attempt to remove Iron Dome from the spending bill was the moral thing to do.
Let me stipulate at once that I consider intentional or reckless attacks on civilians to be war crimes, violations of international humanitarian law, and of just war principles.
How can I oppose attacks on civilians and still support cutting funding from a program designed to protect civilians?
The first point to note here is that money provided to the Israeli government is fungible. That is, Washington is not sending technology to Israel, but dollars, and by reducing the amount of money that Israel needs to spend on Iron Dome, we are correspondingly increasing the amount of money that Israel gets to spend on the rest of its military budget, on its attack planes, tanks, rockets, and artillery that have slain so many Palestinian civilians. (Keep in mind, that according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, in its various assaults on Gaza since 2008, Israel has killed 2,685 Palestinian civilians, while Palestinian rockets and mortars have killed 29 civilians in Israel – almost a 100:1 ratio.)
Many point out that any government has to prioritize the protection of its citizens. But consider what the Israeli government would do if the United States did not provide $1 billion in funds for Iron Dome. It could reduce its other military spending – spending on those attack planes, etc. – by $1 billion and transfer that money to Iron Dome spending. If it did that it would provide its population with a higher level of protection while reducing its own capacity to endanger Palestinian civilians. A win-win. If it did not transfer the money, well, that suggests that protecting its own citizens might not be its top priority.
How can we refuse to provide funding to protect civilians? Ms. Berman asks. But does this concern apply to all civilians, or only to Israeli civilians? For a lot less than $1 billion, we could protect the lives of many civilians by sending bomb shelter construction materials to Gaza, not to mention shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles.