With international conflict between Israeli and Palestinian forces reaching a new head on what over the decades has become a Cerberus-like monster standing guard at the gates of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, many Arab-Americans are seeking a voice through local political representation.
“We feel their pain,” said Adam Soltani, Executive Director of CAIR-OK, speaking to the plight of Palestinian community in Israel. Soltani was a speaker at the recent “Peace Rally for Palestine” at the Oklahoma State Capitol.
According to the most recent American Community Survey conducted by the Arab American Institute, a domestic policy and research organization based out of Washington, D.C., and in conjunction with the U.S. Census Bureau, Oklahoma’s Arabs constitute just 0.3 percent of Oklahoma’s population.
California, Michigan, New York, Florida, and Texas rank in the top five for Arab-American inhabitants, and nationally the Palestinian population constitutes 5 percent of the total number of Arab-Americans.
Despite their definitive minority status, members of both the Arab and Muslim community have reached out to Oklahoma government, receiving in return a categorical denial of their status as having a right to land in Israel.
In a recent correspondence between U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and an Oklahoma resident and U.S. citizen seeking representation for the Palestinian plight, Inhofe unequivocally stated, “That land belongs to Israel – period.”
Continuing, Inhofe told his constituent: “Israel is a strategic ally to the United States that acts as a roadblock to terrorism.”
Inhofe, like many of his fellow Senate Republicans, draws heavily on the argument for Israel as a key U.S. ally, a sentiment dating back to the founding of Israel as a nation. In fact, he was a speaker at the recent Christians United for Israel Washington Summit.
Headed by David Ben-Gurion, Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization and President of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, Israel was established after the British Mandate for Palestine was terminated in May of 1948.
According to the Congressional Research Service’s April 2014 report to Congress and its committees, U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel, the total amount of monetary aid received by Israel far outstrips the amount of aid we afford other nations.
Casting a longitudinal and monetary-oriented view into the history of one of America’s deepest pockets, we have provided $121 billion in aid to Israel, to date.
The research fleshes out the state of relations between Israel and the States, openly recognizing discrepancies between the quantities of financial aid received, as well as the manner in which the aid is paid out.
Both the Egyptian Military as well as the Israeli military receive financial support from the U.S., and are the only two fiscal aid recipients allowed cash flow financing for the purchase of U.S. made arms and ammunition.
Thomaira Babbit, Development Coordinator for CAIR-OK, shifted her academic focus to the issues affecting the region, as well as her perspective on the conflict, after visiting the area.
“We give upwards of $3 billion a year to Israel alone,” said Babbit. “We are propping this government up.”
Inhofe addresses none of the more technical aspects of the U.S.’s heavy financial involvement with the nation of Israel, but sums up a stance in keeping with the congressional documentation and historical American dictates.
“I believe as a nation we should support and promote freedom and democracy in the region, but we should not do so at the expense of Israel,” said the “unabashed conservative” from Tulsa.
Inhofe supports his claim regarding the superior rights of the non-Arab Israeli population, citing historical claims and archaeological findings.
“Based on archeological evidence and historical right, that land belongs to Israel,” said Inhofe.
It remains unclear what chapter of the land’s long and changeable history is intended to be referenced by the term “historical right.”
“That region has been one of the most continuously inhabited on earth,” said Babbit.
The Israeli Antiquities Authority has come under continuous fire in regards to allegations of discriminating against Palestinians in regards to archaeological findings and research.
“The IAA ultimately are the determining factor into which areas can be dug,” Babbit said.
The organization has consistently claimed innocence in regards to accusations of discrimination against non-Jewish archaeological finds.
Inhofe explicitly states that he opposes terrorist activity, but does not seek to exercise a prejudicial view against Palestinians themselves.
“I believe many of them want only peace and hope for a better future and are not bent on Israel’s destruction,” the senator said.
“There are two options,” said Babbit, “the one-state solution, or the two-state solution.”
Inhofe has historically opposed the idea of a two-state system, referencing the failure of President Obama’s 2011 proposal that the borders of a Palestinian state derived from within the land of Israel be modeled after pre-1967 borders.
“The President’s 1967 border proposal is a slap in the face of our friend and democracy’s only ally in the Middle East: Israel,” said Inhofe.
Meanwhile, the death toll in the region has skyrocketed since Israel invaded Gaza three weeks ago.
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, as of July 30, 2014, there have been 1,328 deaths.
Meanwhile, Israel has suffered 59 casualties thus far.
“Put an end to this, let them exist,” said Soltani, expressing the fervent wish of so many on either side of a struggle that hits close to home for some, and for others, hits it directly.
“While some in the U.S. question our alliance with Israel, I feel that our support is vital to maintaining a strategic ally in the Middle East that is committed to democracy and freedom,” Inhofe said.
So far, U.S. military and fiscal support of Israel in the conflict has failed to give substance to either democracy or freedom.
“We have to start thinking about the human aspect,” said Babbit. “That’s how the Palestinian issue is going to be related to Americans.”