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The case for US government sanctions on Israel


United States government diplomatic, economic, and military support has been critical for Israel to maintain its post-1967 occupations of Gaza, East Jerusalem, and West Bank, and to transform these occupations into a permanent apartheid state.

The role of the U.S. government in facilitating Israeli apartheid, however, will eventually fade for multiple geopolitical reasons, and that development will create opportunities to turn an apartheid state into as an equitable democratic state or two separate states. The sooner United States government for Israeli apartheid ends, the sooner this transformation could occur.

The waning of U.S. government support for Israel may take the form of conditions on military aid or comprehensive government sanctions, even though either development strikes many people as unimaginable. Nevertheless, a December 2016 Brookings public opinion poll reveals that nearly half of the U.S. public supports sanctions on Israel – including a majority of self-identifying Democrats. This increased support for U.S. government sanctions indicates that now is the time for political groups committed to a just resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict to lead public opinion, not follow or ignore it. They need to become advocates for official U.S. government sanctions on Israel, such as an update to the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986. Instead of sanctioning South African apartheid, this updated legislation’s new goal should be to end Israeli apartheid.

While there have previously been short-term, minor sanctions on Israel, like President G.H.W. Bush’s withholding loan guarantees in 1991, and there are several groups calling for partial sanctions, this is not enough.  Full sanctions are needed, and its case rests on three principles:

  • Despite differences with South Africa, Israel has become an apartheid state, and apartheid is a war crime according to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. As a signatory to this statue, the United States is compelled to act against Israeli apartheid.
  • Israel, along with Saudi Arabia and Egypt, uses U.S.-supplied weapons to attack civilians. These actions conflict with the U.S. Arms Export Control Act, which limits the use of U.S.–supplied weapons to “legitimate self-defense.” It is also a violation of the Foreign Assistance Act, which prohibits transferring U.S. weapons to any country that has a consistent pattern of human rights violations. Furthermore, the Leahy Law, which prohibits U.S. government assistance to foreign militaries with a record of gross human rights violations, amends both acts. The enforcement of these U.S. government laws would end the sale of U.S. arms to Israel (i.e. partial sanctions), as well as Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
  • The official call of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement includes government sanctions on Israel. Two years ago we called for the BDS movement to concentrate on sanctions ( Based on changes in public opinion, now is surely the time for the BDS movement to fulfill its mission statement by forcefully calling for official U.S. government sanctions on Israel.

Emerging Trends: Advocacy of U.S. sanctions on Israel will be aided by many emerging geopolitical trends, several of which we previously described in a Countercurrents article.

  • To construct an apartheid state between the Mediterranean and Jordan, Israel must make ever-growing demands on the United States government for additional diplomatic, political, and military support. President Trump’s decision to comply with Israeli government requests to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem is a boost to Israeli apartheid, despite worldwide opposition. The enactment of anti-BDS laws and repression of U.S. citizens who criticize Israel are other aspects of U.S. support for Israeli apartheid that also conflicts American democratic traditions.
  • The U.S. is a rapidly declining as the hegemonic power in the Middle East because of its losing, costly, endless, unpopular, and counter-productive wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. As a result, the U.S. government will eventually have less capacity and/or willingness to support repressive regimes in the region, including Israel.
  • Israel is increasingly aligned with anti-immigrant and neo-fascist personalities and movements in Europe (Viktor Orban of Hungary) and the United States (Steve Bannon, Steven Miller, Robert and Rebekah Mercer) that run counter to the liberal values of most Americans, including most Jewish-Americans. These actions further erode Israel’s standing in U.S. public opinion, making it easier to lobby for government sanctions on Israel.
  • Israel has aligned itself with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies to oppose Iran throughout the Middle East, including calls to scrap the Joint Powers Agreement limiting Iranian nuclear weapons. This places Israel in direct opposition to the U.S. foreign policy establishment, undermining an important bi-partisan leg of the Israel lobby. As the Trump Administration attempts to withdraw from this agreement, conflicts among the U.S. foreign policy elites, the Trump administration, and the Israeli government will increase.
  • The U.S. government has already withheld military sales to Egypt, and some Members of Congress, like California’s Ted Lieu (CA-33), have called for an end of U.S. military aid to Saudi Arabia. These actions both set precedents for U.S. government sanctions against Israel.
  • Independent of the United States, anti-occupation and anti-apartheid boycotts of Israel from European countries and the United Nations are growing.
  • Continued Israeli public support for Israel’s apartheid project cannot be counted on, as evidenced by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin’s recent speech to the Knesset calling for an indirect end to Israeli apartheid by granting full citizenship to all Palestinians living in occupied territories.
  • The possibility of increased Palestinian opposition to apartheid, such as another Intifada, and/or the possibility of a second and successful Arab Spring, remain unpredictable wild cards.

While some of these trends are beyond our control, we can play a role in advancing others. Especially effective may be calls for U.S. government sanctions on Israel and anti-apartheid political mobilizations by the U.S, Israeli, and Palestinian publics for a viable and just one- or two-state solution.

We should have no illusions about the intensity of Israeli opposition to any campaign to finally implement U.S. government sanctions. And, even when U.S. sanctions are enacted, Israel’s democratic transformation will be lengthy, contested, and could face many setbacks, including new expulsions and atrocities. Furthermore, we must also learn an important lesson from South Africa and address the economic equity issues that have undermined that country’s efforts to end apartheid.

The battle of ideas is at the core of the political struggle for government sanctions on Israel. To that end we must carefully describe how the Israeli occupations have transformed into an apartheid state, how apartheid violates international laws, and how Israeli apartheid could, in turn, be transformed into a democratic state or states.

This intellectual effort must be coupled with political organization since even the most carefully drafted anti-apartheid proposals will become shelf documents unless a well-organized and strategic movement supports them.  To succeed that movement needs to be fully aware of both local and global geo-political trends because these, and only these, will create openings for a successful campaign to impose U.S. government sanctions on Israel.

Once sanctions finally take their toll, the chances that either a viable and democratic one- or two-state solution will emerge dramatically increase.

About Jeff Warner and Dick Platkin

Jeff Warner and Dick Platkin are members of LA Jews for Peace.  They welcome comments and questions at [email protected]

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18 Responses

  1. mcohen..
    mcohen.. on December 20, 2017, 3:50 pm

    Jeff and dick……. [email protected]

    La jews for peace.

    shouldn’t it be….. Le jews for peace

  2. gingershot
    gingershot on December 20, 2017, 4:39 pm

    ‘To succeed that movement needs to be fully aware of both local and global geo-political trends because these, and only these, will create openings for a successful campaign to impose U.S. government sanctions on Israel’

    The US has now entered it’s Transition State phase prior to America’s Schism from Kahanist/Apartheid Israel. America will soon be all in on 1P1V1S as the One State Solution to Apartheid, once Jareds explosive testimony/exposure/charges of encryption/conspiracy with Netanyahu over UN 2334 hit American consciousness, with Netanyahu’s removal followed by Trump’s removal

    Trump/Haley/and the Nearly-Indicted Netanyahu are now not only all in on dispositive Jerusalem disaster, but all in on the now mortally stung (‘stung’ as in Netanyahu busted by Mueller and removed from leadership of the Clean Break Drive as the incredible Netanyahu-Kushner encryption/conspiracy over UN 2334 is already central to Mueller’s Charges/Trump Impeachment) Clean Break Drive on Iran

    America’s Schism from Israel is a foregone conclusion because the Schism from Israel has already been anticipated by Diaspora Jewry’s Schism from Israel, Israeli Judaism’s Schism from Diaspora Judaism, and other existential internal Israeli divisions

    The Diaspora was trying to stick Adelson/Bannon’s Alt Right/and other Evangelicals with the Kahanists and Exit Stage Left

    Didn’t work and now Jstreet and everyone to their right is just one big bag of Kahanists, one big bag of JudeoChristian Kahanists like Sarah and Nikki combined with all the usual NeverTrumper, Neocon, Hillary Kahanists, etc

    Being a Kahanist is like being a little bit pregnant – if you want to attack Iran and keep the Settlements – you’ve got your Kahanist Party Card in your pocket, like Hillary and Richard Haass, the ‘Velvet Glove over the Raised Fist within the Star of David-Kahanists’

    Hillary and Cheney have the same foreign policy – Kahanism

    • Maghlawatan
      Maghlawatan on December 20, 2017, 8:46 pm

      The final Trump video before the election was all about draining the swamp and standing up for the little guy.

      There were a few antisemitic mêmes thrown in by Bannon. Using the veto at the UN in defence of the settlers doesn’t put any food on tables in Arkansas.
      Trump is a con .
      He was elected because he plugged into public anger and he promised change.
      It turned out to be another opportunity for the plutocrats including Adelson and friends to loot the Republic..

      There will be a backlash

      BTW it’s like ancient history

      Gaiseric and his nobles expected to clash with the imperial fleet somewhere at sea. Theugh when they sailed along the coast of Italy they found themselves unopposed and sighted the port of Rome, Ostia, on 31 May 455.  For the fourth time in less than half a century, a barbarian stood at the gates of Rome. Fearing for the safety of Rome, Pope Leo I decided to speak with the leader of the barbarians on the behalf of his city. He was met by King Gaiseric and persuaded him not to burn and slaughter. Gaiseric decided to give certain promises: there would be no killing, no torturing to discover the location of hidden treasure and no destruction of buildings, public or private.  On these terms the gates of Rome were wide open to him allowing him to enter th e city with no ressistance. The Vandals plundered for two weeks. While Gaiseric stayed at the Imperial palace, his men took all the treasures, statues, Solomon’s Temple (menorab), even part of the gilded roof of the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus was removed. Yet his greatest prize were Empress Eudoxia, her two daughters, Eudocia and Placidia, and Gaudentius, the son of Aetius. Everything was carted to Ostia, loaded into the waiting ships, from where he and his men departed in good order and sailed back to their stronghold in North Africa. 

  3. Citizen
    Citizen on December 20, 2017, 4:40 pm

    Where is the US congress Black Caucus on this? I ask because they have a lot more political clout in USA than, say, the Palestinian Americans living in Detroit.

    • annie
      annie on December 20, 2017, 5:46 pm

      citizen, i recommend Black Agenda Report’s Congressional Black Caucus: Deep in the Israel Lobby’s Pocket by Jeffrey Blankfort

      • on December 20, 2017, 11:59 pm

        Thanks Annie for that link. The article shocked me and only hope it makes its rounds in the black community. Wondering if the Black Lives Matter group has digested this report. I’ll check now.

      • Citizen
        Citizen on December 21, 2017, 8:19 am

        THANKS, Annie

    • Atlantaiconoclast
      Atlantaiconoclast on December 22, 2017, 1:36 pm

      BLM does not care about Palestine. Grow up people.

      • Emory Riddle
        Emory Riddle on December 24, 2017, 7:11 pm

        They most certainly do and fully understand their shared circumstances.

        You may be thinking of the Black Congressional Congress; every current member of Congress is a lapdog to the Jewish Lobby (although protection of Israel may be their main aim, it is far from their only one).

      • echinococcus
        echinococcus on December 25, 2017, 2:52 am


        You may want to replace the first (only) “Congress” by “Caucus”: Congressional Black Caucus

  4. just
    just on December 20, 2017, 5:05 pm

    How I wish that all Americans, Europeans, Arab States, India, etc. would wake up and smell the grotesque and foul apartheid that they support.

    This article and all of MW should be required reading for everyone who is willfully and/or blissfully blind and complicit (Congress, the White House, the MSM, preachers and pastors and rabbis, too!) to the atrocities visited upon indigenous Palestinians of Palestine and those that were/are expelled to refugee camps and imprisoned in Gaza! I wonder why you don’t mention the ethnic cleansing and genocide that Israel has been employing since day one and before. I also wonder why you don’t mention the horrific incarceration without trial of Palestinians and the murders of so many Palestinians and the lack of punishment for those Israelis that commit these crimes~ IOF and settlers, etc. Why no mention of the constant incitement from the Israeli government and members of the Knesset?

    I’ll stop there, but there is more to be said and written.

    BDS, BDS, Boycott, Divestment and SANCTIONS!

  5. Maghlawatan
    Maghlawatan on December 20, 2017, 9:43 pm

    Israel is wrong on so many levels. It all goes back to the original sin with the treatment of the Palestinians. There is no such thing as a free country.

    Interesting that Israel is in the nihilist camp with Hungary and Bannon. Israel is an Eastern European country in the Levant.
    None of the prophets imagined this.

    Systems tend to collapse rather than reform. Poor Israel.

  6. JosephA
    JosephA on December 21, 2017, 12:25 am

    Jeff and Dick,

    Thanks very much for the well thought out article.

  7. James Canning
    James Canning on December 21, 2017, 1:08 pm

    The US, very stupidly, has steadily encouraged Israel to undermine its own democracy. Israel, in turn, is trying to suppress free speech in the US, to facilitate its own further erosion of its own democracy.

  8. JWalters
    JWalters on December 22, 2017, 1:21 am

    At the same time, the case for sanctions against Israel has always been clear. But it has been forcibly silenced. And that is another charge to be leveled against Israel.

  9. Atlantaiconoclast
    Atlantaiconoclast on December 22, 2017, 1:35 pm

    The fact that liberal media is mostly silent about Jared’s actual collusion with Israel makes it hard for me to believe anything will change. Finally, we have evidence of actual collusion, and relative silence. So much for Resist!

  10. JLewisDickerson
    JLewisDickerson on December 24, 2017, 2:19 am

    After virtually obsessing to various degrees over the two-state option/scenario/paradigm since the mid-70s, I recently concluded that not only was there little likelihood of it coming to fruition any time soon (as I had come to fear/suspect years ago ), there was little or nothing to be gained from the “peace process” that had somehow been accepted as the only/obvious/reigning means of achieving a “resolution” of “the problem(s)/issues”. As I began to sense what might be in the works (Sharon, 2004+or-) now that Mad Crown Prince ObS was strategizing with the U.S. and Israel, I realized that the “peace process” was really a ‘process of submission’ that, if successfully concluded, would provide little of benefit to the Palestinians beyond perhaps a few colorful beads and other trinkets (3G?).

    I feel like such an f’ing idiot/fool/nitwit/jackass. I should have suspected what was up when the US kept insisting that the solution could ONLY be a “peace agreement” (that we couldn’t possibly want more than the parties themselves) achieved through negotiations between the parties. That was the magic formula; there were no alternatives! Forget about things like the Harvard Negotiation Project, and Getting To Yes. Don’t be crazy, we’re talking about the Middle East!

    How could I have been so clueless over all those decades? Well, let me go consult with W.C. Fields and see if I can come up with an answer. I have the vague feeling I’ve seen some relevant quotations.

    • annie
      annie on December 24, 2017, 2:30 am

      sorry dickerson — about those lost decades. i came into it much much later and it didn’t take me very long to smell the scent of deception.

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