Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Israel's Cynical Use of Soviet Jews to Justify US Loan Guarantees

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Israel's Cynical Use of Soviet Jews to Justify US Loan Guarantees

Article excerpt

Israel's Cynical Use of Soviet Jews to Justify US Loan Guarantees

By Rachelle Marshall

In the looking-glass world of Israeli spin artists, words have no connection with reality. Thus a country that reserves 93 percent of its land solely for the Jewish segment of its population, and has the highest number of political prisoners per capita in the world, becomes "the Middle East's only democracy." A government that steals US military secrets and barters them to the Soviets for the release of Soviet Jews becomes America's "vital strategic ally." That country's bombing and invasion of its Lebanese neighbor is called "Operation Peace in the Galilee."

Truth Turned Inside Out

The latest example of truth turned inside out comes with Israel's request for $10 billion in US loan guarantees. The funds are needed, say Israeli officials, to provide shelter, jobs and other facilities for the 350,000 Soviet Jews who have recently arrived in Israel and for those expected to follow. In fact, the reverse is true: Israel is not asking for money in order to take care of its new immigrants. It needs the immigrants as a rationale for acquiring more money.

Israeli officials, led by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Housing Minister Ariel Sharon, leave no doubt that their immediate priority is to make Israel's takeover of the occupied West Bank and Gaza irreversible by doubling the number of Jewish settlers on Palestinian land. This year the government allocated $500 million for new settlements, and Shamir has promised that in 1992 two-thirds of all publicly financed housing will be built in the occupied territories. Since last March, Israel has seized at least 46,000 additional acres on the West Bank. The loan guarantees will provide Israel with the means to continue this expansion, despite an economy weakened by bloated military expenditures and huge debts.

Shamir tells Israelis "we need the whole of Greater Israel in order to settle the wave of new immigrants from the Soviet Union." Meanwhile, backers of the loan guarantees tell Americans that since the US urged the Soviet Union to allow Jews to leave, it now must help pay for their survival in Israel. Both statements are grossly misleading. The influx of immigrants to Israel stems from the fact that the Israeli government does everything in its power to force Soviet Jews, however unwillingly, to come to the Jewish state rather than go elsewhere. And once they arrive it denies them passports to prevent them from leaving.

In the past, more than 90 percent of the Jews leaving the Soviet Union chose to migrate to the US or Europe until Israel pressured Washington to cut its admission quota and shut down its Vienna-Rome immigration center. Israel also demands that Soviet immigrants who do manage to leave Israel be forcibly returned. On Dec. 16, for instance, the Dutch government responded to Israel's urgings by refusing asylum to 43 Soviet Jews who had fled to Holland because they were disillusioned with Israel. Accompanied by 20 Dutch policemen, the refugees were returned to Ben-Gurion airport "protesting loudly," according to the Jewish Telegraph Agency.

Immigration to Israel has dropped by a third.

With an ominous echo of the past, Israel has asked Germany to admit only Soviet Jews with "German blood," saying all others belong in the "Jewish homeland." The head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany recently complained to a correspondent for the Northern California Jewish Bulletin: "We Jews here in Germany feel that Israel's argument is nonsense. …

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