For some time now the anti-Israel lobby in Washington, DC has been trying to use provisions from the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA), and other national security and foreign affairs laws as bludgeons to force reductions in U.S. foreign and military assistance to Israel. They allege that Israel has violated these laws by improperly using U.S.-made defense articles in defending herself from terrorists and terrorists organizations.
With regards to the AECA, in January 2009 Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice alleging that Israel may be violating the AECA. Focusing on Israel’s Operation Cast Lead aimed at stopping Hamas attacks, and other things, Kucinich requested a report from the Administration about Israel’s activities in Gaza with U.S. defense articles and said:
“While neither the AECA nor the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA) define “internal security” and “legitimate self-defense,” I believe that Israel’s most recent attacks neither further internal security nor do they constitute “legitimate” acts of self-defense. They do, however, “increase the possibility of an outbreak or escalation of conflict,” because they are a vastly disproportionate response to the provocation, and because the Palestinian population is suffering from those military attacks in numbers far exceeding Israeli losses in life and property.”
Hamas is a political party in name only, and Israel has not violated the AECA by any stretch. Quite the opposite. Hamas has not changed. It has been, and shall remain, a terrorist organization that is now using the political processes to cleanses its public image while continuing to destabilize the region in the background. The destruction of Israel remains its long-term goal. It considers the U.S. an enemy, has a large presense in the U.S. which it uses for fund-raising and serving as propagandists. While its focus remains Israel, if it needed to do so, Hamas cells can be activated to support or carry out terrorist attacks in the U.S.
While U.S. should closely monitor how U.S. defense articles are used by all of our allies, a complete reading of the AECA, judged against the realities of the Middle East, U.S. national security, and related interests, will show that Israel has done what it needs to do to protect Israel and her people. Using the AECA in the manner is a distraction that is used by radicals in the Middle East as a propaganda tool. And calling out Israel in this manner is not just limited to the United States.
Efforts to use export control laws against Israel has also been popular in Europe as well. Just two weeks ago, U.K. Foreign Secretary David Miliband stated that the U.K. was going to undertake a review of various export licenses “to see whether any of these need to be reconsidered in light of recent events in Gaza.” Miliband was, in part, responding to pressure from more than 100 Members of Parliament who had written the Foreign Office earlier this year (just at about the same time as the U.S. Congress raised concerns). In addition, the U.K. Ministry of Defence has been sued by Al Haq – a Palestinian human rights organization – on this very matter.
One wonders why none of these groups or Members of Congress never make the argument or take similiar action against Iran for violating an arms embargo by arming and assisting terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas? That could be, in part, because Iran has not export control laws of any kind. Quite the opposite – it runs an arms trafficking network used to support terrorism. Iran was and remains in the thick of the Palestinian conflict and will continue to support terrorist groups to keep Israel in check. Dr. Walid Phares penned a good short piece on the matter, “Shadow of Iran Looms Large in Gaza.”
Rep. Kucinich’s letter was notable, however, for what it did not say. You see under the AECA, blocks assistance where there has been a “substantial violation (either in terms of quantities or in terms of the gravity of the consequences regardless of the quantities involved)”. Kucinich’s letter, and later statements, make so no references because, likely, he realizes that it is not possible if one take a sober and balanced view of what is taking place in that part of the world.
Accusing a trusted ally in the war against terrorism of violating the AECA in this manner is akin to what liberals do when they accuse gun manufacturers of murder. People kill, guns, when used in the commission of a crime, are just a tool. Rather than use our laws to beat up on our allies – in this case the most stable partner and democracy in the Middle East – Members of Congress should be looking at ways to pass or improve laws aimed at punishing terrorists and state sponsors of terrorism.