US Congressman Jamaal Bowman of New York has defended his support for a bill that aims to regulate military aid to Israel. Bowman called for greater transparency over the way in which US tax dollars are being used by the occupation state.
He is one of eighteen Democratic members of the House of Representatives who have co-sponsored a bill introduced by Congresswoman Betty McCollum of Minnesota prohibiting Israel from using US tax dollars to target children.
A staggering $3.8 billion of American taxpayers' money goes to Israel every year, making it the world's leading recipient of US aid since the Second World War. Such largesse has continued even while unemployment and poverty levels in the US have skyrocketed as a result of pandemic lockdowns. Washington found it "necessary" to provide Israel with $3.3 billion in "security assistance" and $500 million for US-Israel missile defence cooperation under the Covid-19 relief package.
"My decision to sign on to this bill was not in a vacuum, Bowman told Rabbi Michael Miller, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of New York, in an interview posted on YouTube on Monday. "It was made in consultation with many within the Jewish community in the district who also supported the bill."
Bowman said that the US needs to have an "honest conversation" about what's happening on the ground to achieve US policy in the Middle East, and to ensure the long term safety and security of Israel, of the Jewish community and of the Palestinians there.
"I think honest conversations about what's happening, transparency around how our aid is being used will take us one big step closer to a true two-state solution, which we've been far apart from for my entire life," he added.
Miller told Bowman that the JCRC was "dismayed to learn" that he was supporting a bill that would place restrictions on aid to Israel. Bowmen replied by saying that, "The bill doesn't seek to condition aid outright" but calls for "more transparency in terms of how the aid is being used."
The politician distanced himself from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and said that he is looking forward to visiting Israel once the Covid-19 lockdown is lifted. Suggesting that he was under pressure not to travel to Israel, he asked how there can be real conversations if he's never been there.
Bowman's interview came as Human Rights Watch joined other reputable organisations in concluding that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid and persecution of the Palestinians. In January, Israeli rights group B'Tselem described Israel as an "apartheid" state that "promotes and perpetuates Jewish supremacy between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River."