I Help Pay for Israeli Settlements
By Mike Odetalla
As an American tax payer and a Palestinian, I help pay for the oppression of the Palestinian people and the illegal settlements that are built on their lands. How could I? Doesn’t that make me a traitor to my people? Well not directly of course, but never the less, I do, in fact, help keep the occupation and oppression of the Palestinians alive.
You see, I am an American Citizen who works hard in this country and dutifully pays his taxes like all good Americans. I, like most Americans, used to think that my tax money was being used to help out Americans and American interests. This, as you will see, is not the case at all. My tax money is used in areas I would never agree with.
I could not help but write after watching Thomas Friedman’s documentary, “Straddling Fences,” on the Discovery Channel on December 10th. What he showed was really nothing new for me as a Palestinian. In fact, the worst parts of the wall and its effects on the Palestinians were never really explored. He merely glossed over them as he bent over backwards to be accommodating the Israelis and their concerns.
The problem I have is not so much with Mr. Freidman as he pandered to the Israelis. The problem was with the mayor of the illegal Jewish settlement of Ariel. Ron Nachamn, the mayor of this settlement, which was built on stolen Palestinian lands, came out, greeted Mr. Freidman as an old friend, and proudly proclaimed his accomplishments. Mr. Nachman stood on a ridge overlooking this vast settlement, which is built deep in the heart of the occupied West bank, and boasted rather proudly, “Look what I have done. I came here with a dream and two trailers and built this sprawling city of 18,000 Jews. This is not a settlement, but a vibrant city with schools, hospitals, and infrastructure. The only thing lacking is a McDonalds. This city is like any other American city in Orange County.”
The main problem I have with Mr. Nachman is the same one I have with EVERY single settler in Palestine. He conveniently neglects to mention that his “vibrant city” could not have been possible if it were not for the “free land” and the generosity of the American tax payers such as me. Ariel, like all of the other settlements, is built on Palestinian land, which was confiscated from its owners so that Jews could live in these settlements.
More than 3 billion NIS is spent annually from the Israeli treasury to subsidize the settlers and the settlements. In fact, Jewish settlers are given monetary grants, low interest loans, as well as preferential treatment, all done as an effort to encourage them to move into the occupied territories. Settlers and settlements are a very heavy burden on the Israeli people and economy (http://www.emjournal.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/sept109.html).
The total unusual expenditure since 1967 has reached at least NIS 45 billion. The two main components of these expenditures are some NIS 10 billion for roads and NIS 11 billion for housing. The cost of this unusual civilian spending - the average amount of extra money spent on settlers compared to an ordinary Israeli citizen - is more than NIS 10,000 per individual and more than NIS 40,000 per family. The security costs in the territories during the intifada years are already estimated at NIS 4 billion but it is impossible to determine how much would be saved by a withdrawal. Lengthening the "separation fence" because of the settlements will cost NIS 3 billion.
What is “hidden” in all of these numbers is the “contribution” of the overburdened American tax payer. We, the American people, do in fact subsidize and pay for all of these settlements. While our cities decay and our schools lack, our hard earned tax dollars are used by the Israeli government to build these settlements, complete with swimming pools and other amenities which some Americans can only dream of.
The United States of America shells out about $5 billion a year in aid to Israel, far more than any other country in the world. This does not include the many “loan guarantees” that end up coming out of our pockets in the end. All of these “generous contributions” by the American tax payers do, in fact, help “free up” Israeli government money so that it can be spent on the illegal settlements, which are by far the biggest obstacles to peace in the Middle East. If it weren’t for the American tax payer, Israel could not afford to do what it is doing to the Palestinians and their land.
Thus, the American tax payer has been enlisted as an “unknowing and unwilling” ally in the oppression and destruction of the Palestinian people and society. I doubt that for a brief moment, the American people would stand silent if they knew how their money was being used. It is high time that the complicity of the American government be made public to average Americans so they can make up their minds about how their hard earned tax money is being spent. I seriously doubt this will ever be allowed to happen, BUT we, as Americans, living in a free and open democratic society, should at least have a say in how our money is being spent.
Mike Odetalla, a Palestinian/American businessman and a father of 3, was born in 1960 in the Palestinian village of Beit Hanina, a suburb of Jerusalem. He lived through the 1967 War and moved to the US in 1969. Although he has lived in the US since then, he has made numerous trips to his homeland where he still has many family members as well as his family’s lands and orchards. Visit his website at www.hanini.org