"The Price We Pay" seeks to counterbalance influence of Jewish lobbies on US policy in Middle East, questions morality of American aid to Jewish state
by Yasmine Ryan - August 3, 2007
BEIRUT: Israel was once reprimanded by the United States for its use of cluster bombs in civilian areas. In 1984, The New York Times credited Franklin P. Lamb's first book with gathering the evidence that spurred former President Ronald Reagan's administration into cutting off Israel's supplies of US cluster bombs. A quarter-century on, Lamb returned to update "Israel's War in Lebanon" (South End Press, 1984) in the wake of last summer's war. The result is the substantial report "The Price We Pay: A Quarter-Century of Israel's Use of American Weapons Against Civilians in Lebanon (1978-2006)."
Extensive documentation from a wide range of sources has been compiled, alongside photographic evidence and personal testimonies. "The Price We Pay" is a well-researched and comprehensive historical record of the damage inflicted on Lebanon by its southern neighbor in the summer of 2006.
The report is written with a clear objective in its sights and makes no bones about it. Lamb is director of Americans Concerned for Middle East Peace (ACMEP), an organization based in Washington which aims to counterbalance the influence of the pro-Israel lobby on US policy in the Middle East. It is particularly concerned with the provision and subsequent use of American weapons by Israel. Last Friday, Israel officially banned "The Price We Pay."
Above all, "The Price We Pay" questions the morality and legality of the $15.1 million per day in US aid that Israel receives, more than half of which Israel spends on arms and munitions. Beyond this, Israel receives military technology and training and additional grants and special considerations.
For Lamb and ACMEP, the monetary aid would be better spent domestically, and they seek to demonstrate in their report where that cash is going. They condemn the US government's "foreknowledge, acquiescence and complicity in Israel's pre-planned invasion." The war began last July 12 when Hizbullah launched a cross-border raid in which eight Israeli soldiers died and two were captured by Hizbullah, after which Israel responded with air strikes.
One of the most significant points made in the report is the impunity with which Israel has historically deployed US weapons in stark breach of US laws and bilateral agreements between the two allies.
Lamb proposes that aid sanctions be imposed upon Israel for its improper use of American weapons, in accordance with the 1976 US Arms Export Act, the Foreign Assistance Act and the 1996 Interference with Humanitarian Relief Act.
Historical precedence, from the administration of former President Gerald Ford onward, makes this an unlikely possibility, Reagan's ban on cluster bombs excepted. Lamb told The Daily Star that he hoped to complement the increasing momentum of the international campaign to ban cluster bombs. The tome will also be made accessible to members of the US Congress, as was its predecessor.
Given its strong political bias, the work's tone of moral outrage - and at times bitter sarcasm - is not too surprising. For instance, playing ironically upon a headline used by an Israeli tabloid (on American policy during the summer war), the author writes "Take your time, a majority of our Congress repeated as they stumbled over each other jockeying for a good position in line for Israel-lobby cash to fund their next elections."
Potent information is underlined with powerful colors and photographs. A man in Qana appears in a photograph with pictures of his children, who were killed by an Israeli Army attack. "1,250 CIVILIANS KILLED, 416 ARE CHILDREN" reads the capitalized text on the opposite page. A pie chart underlines the assertion that 83 percent of Israel's weapons come from America.
The report also disputes claims that the destruction was simply inevitable collateral damage. Rather than a military strategy which targeted the Hizbullah-led Lebanese resistance, Lamb asserts that "the extensive destruction of public works, power systems, civilian homes and industry was deliberate and an integral part of the military strategy."
The appendix includes a list of attacks on Lebanese civilians, a list of some of the unexploded American weapons in civilian areas of South Lebanon and a list of Lebanese factories damaged by US weapons. There is also a list of US companies which contribute significantly to Israel's arsenal - often courtesy of the American taxpayer.
One chapter focuses on the psychological-operations campaign against the Hizbullah-led resistance, conducted last year by the Israeli Army with US aircraft, propaganda and artillery shells. Lamb suggests that the primary psychological target was the Israeli population rather than the Lebanese, because the leaflets were presented widely on Israeli television and some of those dropped on Lebanese soil were in Hebrew.
Lamb is no newcomer to Lebanon. He first came here in 1982 as a member of a US Congress fact-finding mission and has returned many times since. It was on this initial visit that he and another US citizen, Janet Stevens, founded ACMEP at the American University of Beirut on August 12, 1982.
This date has been labeled by some as Black Thursday because of Israel's 11-hour bombardment of Beirut that left more than 500 Lebanese and Palestinian civilians dead. Outraged by what they were witnessing, ACMEP's founders began a campaign to end their country's role in such attacks. They sought to halt the sale of American weapons and military aid to Israel.
Stevens, a fixer for The Washington Post at the time, was killed in the US Embassy bombing on April 18, 1983.
Twenty-five years later, Lamb has returned to Lebanon to author another installment in their campaign. "The Price We Pay" is available in Lebanese bookstores, and an Arabic version is due out soon, as is the second English edition in the US.
Not all Americans, then, are content to continue the alliance with Israel or to accept justifications like the one made by Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon last July 27 that "all those now in South Lebanon are terrorists who are related in some way to Hizbullah." Whether this is enough to put an end to America's frequently loading Israel's gun is another matter.
Source: The Daily Star