US Senate Bill S.720 should have been a wake-up call. The legislation drafted by the Israel lobby group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), would punish any individual or company that boycotts Israel with a fine of up to $1 million and up to 20 years in jail. Although political boycott has been sanctioned by the US Supreme Court, the Congress wants to make a boycott of Israel the exception, even it means the subversion of US democracy.
Nevertheless, protests are muted. Hundreds of elected representatives have endorsed the Bill, but the mainstream US media has not taken them. Criticizing Israel is taboo in the US, where the Congress is beholden to lobby pressures and kickbacks, and where the media’s script on the illegal Israeli military occupation of Palestine is even less critical than Israel’s own media.
However, the infiltration of the US government is not new. It is only becoming more emboldened, because there are too few critical voices capable of creating a semblance of balance or a serious debate.
For years, ordinary US citizens were far removed from the discussion on Israel and Palestine. The subject felt alien, marred by Hollywood propaganda, religious misconception and the lack of any understanding of history. But in recent years Israel has become an integral part of American life, even if most people do not spot the Israeli influence.
“In the aftermath of 9/11, Israel seized on its decades-long experience as an occupying force to brand itself as a world leader in counter-terrorism,” Alice Speri wrote in the Intercept. This has earned Israeli security firms billions of dollars, exploiting American fear of terrorism while presenting Israel as a successful model for fighting it.
Groups such as AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs are involved in turning US police forces into militarized units similar to the Israeli police.
As an occupying power, Israel has blurred the lines between the police and the army. In areas such as occupied East Jerusalem, both behave in a similar way. They shoot to kill on the slightest provocation or suspicion, sometimes for no reason at all.
In the past two decades, hundreds of US federal agents and thousands of police officers have received training in Israel or through seminars and workshops organized on Israel’s behalf. Alex Vitale, an author and a Brooklyn College professor of sociology, said: “A lot of the policing that folks are observing and being talked to about on these trips is policing that happens in a non-democratic context.”
This “non-democratic context” involves the humiliation and often outright murder of Palestinians. Instead of pressuring Israel to end its occupation, the US government is bringing Israeli “expertise” to its own cities. Indeed, many US police officers look more like an occupying force than one sworn to protect the public.
Occupied Palestine is a giant laboratory where Israeli police, soldiers and defense companies test the technology of repression — and then sell it to the US.
Israel is exporting its occupation tactics to the US, with Israeli military contractors opening subsidiaries across the country, promoting their surveillance technologies, walls, border monitoring equipment and violent tactics.
An Israeli-owned defense company, Elta North America, was paid $500,000 to produce a prototype for the wall that President Donald Trump wants to build along the US-Mexico border.
It was one of his main pledges during the election campaign, and Israel was the first to support it.
“President Trump is right. I built a wall along Israel’s southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. His support of Trump angered Mexico and many Americans, but Netanyahu knew only too well that there was money to be made in the years ahead.
Indeed, US border security is already a major source of revenue for Israeli companies. For example, Elbit Systems was awarded a $145 million contract by the Obama administration to provide surveillance equipment and build towers along the Arizona/Sonora US-Mexico border.
Elbit was also a subcontractor to Boeing in 2006 for the Department of Homeland Security’s initiative to secure US land borders.
Magal Security Systems, the Israeli company that has helped the Israeli military to tighten the siege on Gaza, is also involved in the burgeoning US security industry, and was one of the first companies to pitch building Trump’s wall.
Israel’s oppression is now the model through which the US plans to police its cities, monitor its borders and define its relationship with its neighbors. But the fact is that Israeli walls are not meant for defense, but rather to annex Palestinian and Arab land, while feeding its own national phobia of threats all around.
While the imprudent and violent US response to the 9/11 attacks has contributed to American fears of the rest of the world, Trump’s isolationist policies pave the perfect ground for further Israeli infiltration of American government and society.
The evidence of all of this can now be found in US cities, along its borders and in the surveillance systems that have the potential to monitor every US citizen.
• Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His forthcoming book is “The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story” (Pluto Press, London). Twitter: @RamzyBaroud