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Netanyahu Was Right: Israel Acts Like a US Aircraft Carrier

Netanyahu likened Israel to a mighty American aircraft carrier. That is how Israel, as a military colony, serves its imperial master

A Palestinian resident walks amid near the rubble of buildings after Israeli bombings of the al-Zahra neighborhood in Gaza Strip on October 19, 2023, (photo: Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Although it may seem puzzling why the United States supports and provides cover for Israel’s most outrageously authoritarian, lawless, and even brutal actions, the reason is hiding in plain sight. It is not, as many speculate, primarily because of AIPAC. It is because Israel is a military colony of the United States.

From its inception, Zionism viewed a Jewish state as the handmaiden of colonialism. The founder of the Zionist movement, Theodor Herzl, described his proposed Jewish state in his 1896 book, Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State) as “a wall of defense for Europe in Asia, an outpost of civilization against barbarism.” (Astute readers will find echoes of this racism in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent justifications for Israel’s conduct in Gaza; one can decide for oneself if the echo is intentional.)

Some argue that Zionism was not a colonial project because Jews had lived in Palestine for thousands of years. This ignores the fact that the Jews who had been living in Palestine for the nearly 2,000 years prior to the European Zionist intrusion into Palestine often were at least as loyal to their Palestinian identity as to the incoming Zionist colonizers.

In the two current wars being fought with American weapons but without congressional appropriations for those weapons, only one state is running out of ammunition.

In 1947, the United Nations—controlled by European colonial powers such as France and England and their ally, the United States—voted to create a Jewish state. The new state was surrounded by victims of European colonialism: Jordan, which became independent from Britain in 1946; Syria and Lebanon, which became independent from France in 1946 and 1941, respectively; and Egypt, which did not become independent from Britain until 1952. In 1956, when Egypt dared to declare itself the owner of the Suez Canal, which ran entirely through Egyptian territory, Israel joined its colonial sponsors France and England in making war on a country which had been a former colony of both, fulfilling Zionism’s promise to be “a wall of defense.”

U.S. military aid to Israel was almost never more than about $13 million annually until after the Six-Day War and,in the early 1970s exploded into the hundreds of millions and then multiple billions of dollars. Almost all of the aid had to be spent on weaponry from U.S. defense manufacturers. In an era when the U.S. dared not engage directly with the Soviet Union, Israel made war on Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt, pitting U.S. advanced military hardware against Soviet hardware. This made Israel the only actor who could use American weapons against Russian weapons without risk of provoking world war, essential for testing American weapons under battlefield conditions.

Israel also developed its own defense industry, specializing in selling arms to dictators that U.S. presidents wanted to support but could not. The Guatemalan Army used Israeli weapons and training from Israeli advisers to carry out its genocide against its Indigenous Mayan population in the 1980s. Guatemalan rightists called it “Palestinianization.”

By the mid-1980s, just about everyone in the world except then-President Ronald Reagan and Israel had cut military relationships with apartheid South Africa. U.S. aid stopped when Congress overrode Reagan’s veto of the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986. But Israeli aid only stopped when the U.S. threatened to end military aid to Israel.

Today, with interstate warfare increasingly rare, the real need of power elites is to control civilian populations. Israel is a major exporter of civilian control weaponry. According to Eran Efrati, speaking on behalf of the Israeli organization Breaking the Silence at a private home in Albuquerque on February 6, 2014, highly trained, Arabic-speaking Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers (“musta’ribeen”) infiltrate peaceful Palestinian demonstrations to provoke violence. IDF troops then deploy multiple types of tear gas or weapons to see which works best. After the IDF reports the results, these products are marketed internationally as “battle-tested”—including to American police.

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The chickens are roosting here. Israeli technology is turning the U.S. into a surveilled state. Israeli defense manufacturer Elbit Systems sells so much advanced surveillance technology for use at our southern border that Elbit has opened a subsidiary in El Paso. But this goes beyond desperate immigrants: A network of surveillance cameras modeled on Israeli technology blankets Atlanta, making it virtually impossible to go anywhere or do anything in the city without being seen and watched by an unblinking eye.

NSO Group, a private Israeli company, developed Pegasus, a software that, once introduced into a cellphone, makes every bit of data inside the phone available to the software operator. Unlike most of the malware we all receive, no click is necessary. License to use the software can only be sold with Israeli government approval. Who gets to buy a license? Dictators around the world have it. The Saudi government installed it on the phone of the fiancée of Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post journalist murdered and dismembered by Saudi agents. FBI Director Christopher Wray has admitted to Congress that, yes, the FBI has purchased Pegasus but would never use it. How’s your cellphone?

Finally, in the two current wars being fought with American weapons but without congressional appropriations for those weapons, only one state is running out of ammunition. Unlike Ukraine, Israel has no shortage of bombs or ammo. Given the scale of the devastation visited upon Gaza, how is this possible?

The United States used its military colony to cache billions of dollars’ worth of munitions, ready for deployment against any real or perceived enemy of the U.S. As an unforeseen “benefit,” President Joe Biden has been able to release those bombs and bullets to Israel without a congressional appropriation. Now, in addition to vetoes at the U.N., Israel is being serviced with tangibly destructive assets. The restocking costs will no doubt be buried in next year’s trillion dollar defense appropriation.

It is no accident that on July 3, 2017, standing aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush, Benjamin Netanyahu likened Israel to a mighty American aircraft carrier. That is how Israel, as a military colony, serves its imperial master. America repays its military colony, Israel, in kind.

Alan Wagman is a retired public defender and long-time advocate for human rights, social and economic justice, and peace. He is a member of Jewish Voice for Peace, a former treasurer of one New Mexico synagogue, former president of another, and a former board member of a national Jewish spiritual organization.

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