Ordinary Americans have a right to have a say over aid to nuclear weapon-armed Israel, according to the latest legal exchange in the ongoing Federal court action initiated by the Institute for Research: Middle East Policy (IRmep).
IRmep director Grant Smith this week submitted a countermotion to the Department of Justice’s motion to dismiss, which claimed that the public had no say over the $3.8 billion per year “aid” to Israel.
Smith initiated the suit earlier in 2016, arguing that the billions given every year in “aid” to Israel from the U.S. taxpayers violates a Congressional ban on giving foreign aid to clandestine nuclear powers.
This ban is known as the Symington & Glenn Amendments, which were designed to preclude U.S. taxpayer subsidization of nuclear states that refused to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NNPT).
Israel’s nuclear weapons program is one of the Jewish ethnostate’s worst-kept secrets, and that state has refused to sign the NNPT, making American “aid” to that country illegal.
A Department of Justice (DOJ) rejoinder issued on December 12 refused to address any of the issues, and instead only said that Smith lacks evidence and standing, had not suffered any “particularized” injury stemming from the government’s provision of foreign aid to Israel, and that decisions on aid were the preserve of the president and not individual members of the public.
The IRmep countermotion, submitted December 18, argued that the combination of improper government classification and threatened prosecution creates a de facto gag order.
This in turn creates a policy of “willful ignorance,” which means that the government deliberately mutes Smith’s efforts to tell the public how Israel’s nuclear program destabilizes the Middle East.
“When all information about a particular domain of government activity suddenly dries up, is no longer reported on, and uncommented by any government official, the public assumes there is no longer anything worth reporting,” Smith’s reply brief states.
“Such a state is inimical to democracy,” he added. Smith said the gag order stopped public-interest research on Israel’s nuclear program, and it effectively “deputized and turned into an accomplice” anyone who had worked on this issue.
In his reply brief, he also refuted the claim that he had no more standing to sue than any other generally aggrieved American.
“The plaintiff as a recognized information provider in this field, therefore decidedly does not concede only generalized grievances that he shares with ‘all Americans’ as contended by the defendants,” the brief states.
“No president has determined that Israel has engaged in the conduct specified in the statute since the relevant amendments were first enacted in the late 1970s,” the brief states. “During this time, moreover, Congress has continued to appropriate funds for foreign assistance to Israel,” it continues.
In an interview with the Courthouse News service, Smith pointed out the holes in the DOJ’s argument.
“They’re saying that the president can be willfully ignorant,” he said. “The president is supposed to know who has nuclear weapons and who doesn’t.”
Drawing a parallel to drug prosecutions, Smith noted that willful-ignorance arguments do not hold up, such as when a drug trafficker claims to have no idea about drugs in his car. “You’re supposed to know they’re in the car,” Smith said.
Smith also finds support for his argument in the Supreme Court’s recent rejection of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration—Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents.
The Supreme Court’s 4-4 split left in place a ruling that blocked the executive actions. Smith said that shows a limit to the president’s authority.
When the president becomes aware of Symington and Glenn violations, federal law requires him to submit a report to Congress outlining the violations, followed by commensurate action.
“Where the activities are most egregious, the maximum response under the law—aid cutoff—is required,” the brief stated.
“We’re telling the judge that these are not discretionary items like the Justice Department claims they are,” Smith told Courthouse News.
“They should in fact be under the very clear provisions of an aid cut off because that’s the most drastic possibility under these amendments,” he added.
But Smith also rejected the DOJ’s argument that no U.S. president has ever determined that Israel has a nuclear weapons program. He said that the Carter administration concluded that Israel had conducted a nuclear test with South Africa on September 22, 1979, known as the Vela incident.
Documents available on the nuclear vault of George Washington University’s National Security Archive indicate that conclusion was later whitewashed for political considerations.
“It’s just simply incorrect for the Justice Department to say that they did not find Israel had a nuclear weapons program,” Smith said. “They did find that, and they decided to whitewash that.”
The case continues.