In an Oct. 8 column entitled “Getting to Know Our New Buddy: OPEC,” Wall Street Journal opinion writer Holman Jenkins overstated U.S. aid to Israel by almost a trillion dollars. He wrote: “By one count, Americans have spent nearly $1 trillion on this cause since 1973 (and another $1.7 trillion in defense of Israel)” (emphasis added).
According to statistics available in the U.S. Agency for International Development U.S. Overseas Loans and Grants annual (also called the “Greenbook”), total U.S. economic and military expenditures on Israel (including loans and grants) were $79.1 billion from 1973 to 2001. Military expenditures alone (loans and grants) were $49.7 billion in the same period. This source is available on-line at http://qesdb.cdie.org/gbk/index.html.
When presented this information, Mr. Jenkins responded by citing a Spring 2003 Middle East Policy article by an economist named Thomas Stauffer to back up his $1.7 trillion figure (“The Cost of the Middle East Conflict, 1956-2002: What the U.S. Has Spent”). But, as economist Howard Fienberg noted in the Washington Times (Dec. 22, 2002), Stauffer’s data “present[s] half the story,” because while “inflating the costs of American support for Israel, he ignored the discounts and many benefits.” Thus, while Stauffer considers all the ostensible costs that Israel is heaping on America (including such far-fetched items like aid to Egypt and Jordan), he neglects the savings that America received in return. For example, Fienberg writes that “thanks to Israel’s pre-emptive action in 1981, Mr. Stauffer does not have to consider one more frightening cost–that of an Iraqi nuclear bomb.”
In addition, Fienberg wrote that Stauffer included any loan or loan guarantees as costs, predicting–without evidence–that Israel would default on its loans and the U.S. would have to cover the principal and interest.
According to Fienberg, Stauffer also “counts ‘economic damage’ inflicted on the United States. He blames Israel for the Arab oil embargo, because the United States came to Israel’s aid when Arab states tried to destroy it in 1973.” Stauffer blames the recession on the oil embargo, despite the fact that many factors–such as reduced American productivity–played a role.
Among other deceptions, Stauffer also outrageously counts private contributions from American Jewish individuals and organizations–totaling as much as $60 billion in grants or bonds. He complains that those donations are a “net drain” on the U.S. economy.
In fact, U.S. annual aid to Israel is about the same as what we spend to defend South Korea, and far less than what we have spent annually to defend Western Europe since 1945. If money is at issue here for Jenkins and Stauffer, why are they harping on aid to Israel and ignoring the far larger amount of money spent to subsidize the defense of South Korea, Japan and Western Europe, including our less-than-stalwart French allies?
Given that Stauffer’s figures are controversial at best and outright deceptive at worst, CAMERA urged the Wall Street Journal to print a clarification regarding Mr. Jenkins’ article. However, an editorial page editor declined to run a clarification, stating: “This looks to me like a case of dueling statistics, and both sides can make a fair claim to being accurate.”
How can these “dueling statistics” both have a “fair claim to being accurate” when Stauffer absurdly adds aid to Arab countries as part of aid to Israel?
The usually fair Wall Street Journal missed the boat this time.