Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory has now gone on for more than 50 years. Israel has systematically deprived Palestinians of their lives, land, and rights. The United States has largely abetted this process — and Israel could not continue what it is doing without U.S. support. It’s time for the United States to stop supporting Israel.

If all one does is casually watch any of the news networks regarding this issue, one will probably have significant misunderstandings of the causes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One may believe that Israel is being picked on by Islamic radicals bent on its destruction or that “both sides” are to blame in some kind of thousand-year-old religious conflict.

It’s true some Palestinians have committed crimes against Israel. However, such incidents are usually a reaction to the greater crimes Israel commits against Palestinians on a regular basis. They should be viewed in context of the larger conflict, which is over land and territory.

Since the conclusion of the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel has occupied the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza. (Although Israel disbanded its settlements in Gaza in 2005, it maintains control over virtually all aspects of life in Gaza and is recognized as the occupying power by most international bodies and human rights organizations.)

Israel’s acquisition of these territories is illegal, and its occupation is the root cause of the conflict. The United Nations Security Council passed its first resolution against Israel’s occupation in 1967 by 15–0, in which it recognized “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war” and called for “withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.”

Most recently, the Security Council passed another resolution in 2016 by 14–0 (with the United States issuing a rare abstention) reaffirming that “the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.”

Israel ignores international law and has chosen expansion over security. Obviously, Palestinians don’t enjoy being occupied, and some resort to violence as a way of resisting the occupation. If Israel were serious about establishing a lasting peace, it would cease building settlements and end its illegal occupation. Instead, Israel continues to build more settlements in Palestinian territory.

Credit: Vox

The whole point is to slowly chip away at the prospect of any future Palestinian state until such an entity becomes impossible to establish. Israel’s ultimate goal is the annexation of Palestinian territory. “We are here to stay, forever,” as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told West Bank settlers last year.

Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory is extremely brutal. As Amnesty International’s latest report on Israel and the Occupied Territories for 2016/2017 explains:

Israeli forces unlawfully killed Palestinian civilians, including children, in both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), and detained thousands of Palestinians from the OPT who opposed Israel’s continuing military occupation, holding hundreds in administrative detention. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees remained rife and was committed with impunity. The authorities continued to promote illegal settlements in the West Bank, including by attempting to retroactively “legalize” settlements built on private Palestinian land, and severely restricted Palestinians’ freedom of movement, closing some areas after attacks by Palestinians on Israelis. Israeli forces continued to blockade the Gaza Strip, subjecting its population of 1.9 million to collective punishment, and to demolish homes of Palestinians in the West Bank and of Bedouin villagers in Israel’s Negev/Naqab region, forcibly evicting residents.

The latest report from Human Rights Watch likewise states that throughout 2017, “The Israeli government continued to enforce severe and discriminatory restrictions on Palestinians’ human rights; restrict the movement of people and goods into and out of the Gaza Strip; and facilitate the unlawful transfer of Israeli citizens to settlements in the occupied West Bank.”

The leading Israeli human rights organization, B’Tselem, explains that in the Gaza Strip, “Israel applies a callous policy and assumes no responsibility for the devastating effects it has on the lives of the local residents. Israel denies Gaza residents any possibility of independent subsistence, yet is willing to meet only their barest needs, even on essentials such as water and electricity.”

In the West Bank, B’Tselem says, Israel “treats the West Bank as if it were part of its sovereign territory: grabbing land, exploiting natural resources for its own needs and building permanent settlements designated for Israelis only. At the same time, for the past 50 years, Palestinian West Bank residents have been living under rigid military rule that primarily serves the interests of the State of Israel and Israeli settlers.”

Occasionally, open conflict erupts between the two sides. The last such incident was in 2014, in what Israel called Operation Protective Edge. Usually, some form of violence by Hamas or another Palestinian faction is used as a pretext by Israel to engage in what amounts to a systemic massacre. Israel refers to this as “mowing the lawn.”

According to the UN report on the 2014 conflict, 72 Israelis were killed, as opposed to 2,271 Palestinians— a ratio of about 1:31. The majority of the Palestinians killed were civilians — 1,462 — while six of the Israelis killed were civilians. More than 11,000 Palestinians were injured, including more than 3,400 children. About 1,600 Israelis were injured.

As the UN report describes, “as Palestinians struggled to find ways to save their own lives and those of their families, they were confronted with intense attacks, with no way of knowing which locations would be hit.” The “enormous destruction of civilian infrastructure” included 18,000 housing units “destroyed in whole or in part,” “much of the electricity network and of the water and sanitation infrastructure,” as well as “73 medical facilities and many ambulances.”

Often, Israel justifies its incursions into Gaza — as it did in 2014 — because of rocket attacks emanating from there, and therefore Israel says it has a “right to defend itself.” This doesn’t make sense because, as Jerome Slater writes for Mondoweiss, “aggressor states have no ‘right of self-defense’ when it is their criminality that has provoked violent resistance.” If Israel were to end its illegal occupation and accept a political settlement, then it would have a right to defend itself.

The political settlement that would solve the conflict is well-known and accepted by virtually the entire world: the two-state solution on the pre-1967 borders. The relevant Palestinian factions accept it — including Hamas — but Israel rejects it by building more and more settlements. The United States officially supports it, but through its actions and support for Israel effectively opposes it.

Israel could not do what it does to Palestinians without U.S. support. The United States provides diplomatic cover for Israel at the United Nations, and the United States also supplies Israel with most of its weapons and military hardware.

Since 1972, the United States has vetoed more than 40 resolutions critical of Israel at the UN Security Council — usually being the only one of the body’s 15 members to vote against the resolution. Most recently, the United States vetoed a resolution in December 2017 condemning the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The vote was 14–1.

In the UN General Assembly, the United States is routinely only one of a few countries in the world to vote against resolutions regarding Israel and the Palestinians. In 2012, the General Assembly voted 138–9 to admit Palestine to the United Nations as a non-member observer state. The countries opposed were the United States, Israel, Canada, the Czech Republic, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Panama, and Palau.

The United States heavily arms Israel through foreign aid. In fact, “Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II,” according to a report from the Congressional Research Service, to the tune of $127 billion. In 2016, the Obama administration concluded a new $38 billion military aid package for Israel.

Washington’s military aid to Israel includes everything from fighter jets, helicopters, bombs, and missiles to tear gas canisters and white phosphorus munitions (which can burn skin to the bone).

Israel then uses these weapons to kill Palestinian civilians. During the 2014 conflict, Amnesty International called on the United States to “immediately end its ongoing deliveries of large quantities of arms to Israel, which are providing the tools to commit further serious violations of international law in Gaza.” The United States ignored this. (Actually, during the middle of the conflict, Congress voted to supply more aid to Israel.)

Even if we were to put aside the moral issue, the longstanding support for Israel makes the United States less safe. The oppression of Palestinians by Israel and the United States has long been one of the grievances driving recruitment to jihadist groups. Osama bin Laden cited U.S. support for Israel as one of Al Qaeda’s primary reasons for “fighting and opposing” the United States.

Beyond this basic self-interest, however, the main reason the United States should stop supporting Israel is because Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is a moral disgrace. It’s time for the United States to cease sending aid and weapons to Israel, and for the United States to join the rest of the world in supporting a two-state settlement.