Hastings’ Mideast Expert Wrong on U.S. Aid

George Bisharat, a professor at UC Hastings College of the Law, is listed on the college’s Web site as having an expertise in criminal law and Middle East affairs. Indeed, Prof. Bisharat is a prolific writer on Middle Eastern affairs, and his Op-Eds frequently appear in mainstream media large and small, ranging from the Los Angeles Times to the Star News of Wilmington, NC.

But quantity does not necessarily come with quality, and a Jan. 7 Op-Ed published on-line by the Topeka Capital-Journal (Kansas) is a case in point (“Aid to Israel is Out of Hand”).

First, Bisharat vastly overstates the amount of U.S. aid to Israel, claiming the total is an: “annual $3 billion to 4 billion [which] often exceeds a third of our total foreign aid –– more than all of sub-Saharan Africa combined.” In fact, according to the Congressional Research Service, in 2004 Israel received $2.62 billion in U.S. aid. This amount is 12.6 percent of the $20.673-billion total foreign-aid budget that year. (See http://usinfo.state.gov/usa/infousa/trade/files/98-916.pdf, including page CRS-13, figure 4.) The New London Day has recently printed a correction about the very same error. The Oct. 11 correction stated: “Mazin Qumsiyeh’s Oct. 8 column said that Israel gets 30 percent of U.S. foreign aid. In fact, Israel receives 12.6 percent of America’s foreign aid budget.”

Moreover, Bisharat is wrong to state U.S. aid to Israel is “more than all of sub-Saharan African combined.” According to the Brookings Institute, U.S. aid to all of sub-Saharan Africa in 2004 was $3.399 billion, or nearly $800 million more than Israel received the same year. (The Institute’s numbers are culled from the US Department of State, US AID, US Peace Corps, and US Treasury –– Budget Tables.)

Likewise, Bisharat’s claim that “Israel’s share of our regular foreign aid has run $3 billion to $4 billion annually for decades” is false. There were many years over the last three decades in which the amount of aid was far less than Bisharat maintains. Statistics compiled from Clyde R. Mark’s “Israel: U.S. Foreign Assistance,” Congressional Research Service, (April 26, 2005); the U.S. State Department and USAID show that in 2002 total U.S. aid to Israel was $2.848 billion, in 2001 it was $2.876 billion, in 1981 it was $2.413 billion; in 1980 it was $2.146 billion; in 1978 it was $1.822 billion; in 1977 it was $1.787 billion; in 1976 it was $2.362 billion; and in 1975 it was $823 million.

Second, the facts again contradict Bisharat when he contends that “A city holy to three great religions is being transformed into the exclusive capital of one group ––Jews. Meanwhile Palestinian Christian and Muslim families are slowly squeezed out of neighborhoods they have inhabited peacefully for decades if not for centuries.” Demographic statistics completely disprove Bisharat’s claim that the Palestinian Christian and Muslim population in Jerusalem is decreasing. In actuality, the city is becoming proportionally more Arab and less Jewish. According to the Statistical Yearbook of Jerusalem, the city’s Arab population has grown steadily from 2001, when it was 215,000, or 32.1 percent of the city’s total population. In 2002, that figure jumped to 221,900 (32.6 percent); in 2003 it increased to 228,700 (33.0 percent); and in 2004 it again grew to 237,100 (33.6 percent.) By comparison, in 1967, when Israel gained control of the eastern half of the city, there were 68,600 Palestinians (Christians and Muslims) in the city, constituting just 25.8 percent of the total population.

In contrast, the percentage of the city’s Jewish population has slowly decreased over the last few years–hardly an indication of Jerusalem being “transformed into the exclusive capital of . . . Jews.” In 2001, the city was 67.9 percent Jewish. In 2002, that figure dropped to 67.4 percent, further decreased to 67 percent in 2003, and fell to 66.4 percent in 2004. In 1967, the city was 72.4 percent Jewish.

A comparison of the percentage of growth between the Arab (Christian and Muslim) population versus the Jewish population over the last few years again shows that the Arab population growth rate has greatly outpaced the Jewish rate.

Statistics from Palestinian sources also show a Palestinian population growth in Jerusalem. According to the Jerusalem Yearbook (No. 7), published by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the Palestinian population in Jerusalem (labeled J1, referring to the eastern parts of the city annexed by Israel), increased annually from 235,200 in 2001; to 239,100 in 2002; to 243,100 in 2003; and 247,100 in 2004 (Table 5-6, page 147). According to Table 5-3, the population growth in 2002 and 2003 represented 3.6 percent.

In addition, Bisharat misrepresents the European Union study that he cites to supposedly support his erroneous contention that Palestinians are being squeezed out of Jerusalem. (The report was not “released last week,” as Bisharat claims. It was completed and leaked in November 2005, but never released. See “Europeans Rebuke Israeli Jerusalem Policy,” New York Times, Nov. 25, 2005). The report—an unofficial, leaked copy is available here—speaks of Palestinians immigrating to Jerusalem, not leaving, as Bisharat claims. Namely, paragraph 19 states:

Between 1996-1999 Israel implemented a “centre of life” policy meaning that those with blue ID found living or working outside East Jerusalem, for example in Ramallah, would lose their ID. A wave of blue ID cardholders therefore quickly moved back to East Jerusalem. The residency of hundreds of Palestinians that lived for a prolonged period outside of Israel and the OTs was revoked, a policy that continues. Renewed application of this rule and the construction of the barrier around Jerusalem has led to a second wave of immigration of blue ID card-holders to the city. (Emphasis added.)

Thus, the Arab population of Jerusalem is increasing, not decreasing, and the city is becoming overall less Jewish, not more.

Finally, Bisharat completely distorts Dov Weisglass’ October 2004 interview with Ha’aretz. He writes: “Yet in October 2004, Dov Weisglass, advisor and close confidant of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, admitted in an interview in Israel that withdrawal was a way to avoid peace negotiations with Palestinians, consolidate control over the West Bank, and foil the creation of a Palestinian state.” Notably, Bisharat fails to provide any direct quotes. In actuality, Weisglass recapped the long established Israeli and American position, which states that there will be no nego tiating with the Palestinians — until such time as their leadership abandons terror. In line with President Bush’s formula for peace expressed on June 24, 2002, Weisglass explained, Israel insists that “the swamp of terrorism be drained before a political process begins.”

Because this abandoning of terror does not seem forthcoming and because the continuation of Palestinian terror has stalled the road map, Weisglass added, a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip is necessary to “preserve” this vision for a peaceful Palestinian state: “The disengagement plan is the bottle of formaldehyde within which you place the president’s formula so that it will be preserved for a very lengthy period.”

George Bisharat has a history of publishing Op-Eds filled with misinformation about Israel. The Los Angeles Times, for instance, was forced to correct on Feb. 1, 2004: “Israeli Arabs — A Jan. 25 Opinion article by George Bisharat, ‘Right of Return’ stated that Israeli citizens who are Palestinians cannot serve in the Israeli armed forces. In fact, although they cannot be drafted and most choose not to serve, Israeli Palestinians can enlist in the service.”
Minuteman Media
Bisharat’s Jan. 7 column in the Kansas Web site was distributed free of charge to newspapers across the country by Minuteman Media, a privately funded outfit which, according to its Web site, “distributes sound, progressive opinion to places where it is sorely needed — smaller newspapers nationwide.” In response to CAMERA’s concerns that the Bisharat Op-Ed contains serious factual errors, Minuteman director Bill Collins acknowledged that Minuteman “lacks the resources for that kind of fact checking.” It’s unfortunate, however, that he is not as candid with the many editors who trustingly subscribe to his so-called “sound” services.

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