On April 23, 1984, American televisión viewers were stunned to learn that "the state of Israel, at Washington's urging, has armed a quarter of the rebel army" in Nicaragua, according to Fred Francis of NBC News on location in Honduras. NBC showed a U.S.-supplied C-47 cargo plane dropping weapons to the contras 110 miles from Managua. Contra commander Enrique Bermudez told Francis in an interview, "We received some weapons ...(the) Israeli government took from (the) PLO in Lebanon." Today we hear of the deep Israeli involvement in the Irancontra affair. Because conflicting repons are still coming from both Washington and Tel Aviv, an accurate assessment of who did what and when is nearly impossible. It is important to understand though, that the Israeli economy is a militarized economy. It relies on the export of arms and military services for more of its exports than any other country in the world. U.S. military and economie aid have enabled the Israelis to build up this military economy and U.S. interests determine who gets the arms. U.S. aid also shields the Israeli population from the consequences of militarization: unemployment, roller-coaster inflation (jumping from rates of under 100 percent to over 800 percent within a matter of a few years), and loss of purchasing power. Israeli military exports have become an important component of U.S. global strategy and go to regimes which the United States wishes to support, but feels politically constrained to arm because of world or American public opinión. The Israeli government, thus, becomes a key element in U.S. strategy to circumvent Congressional and public opinión in the United States. This is one of the reasons why the Israeli government receives more U.S. aid than any other country in the world (4 to 5 billion dollars per year and still rising), and explains why the Israelis are permitted to do almost anything they want in the Middle East without risking loss of U.S. support. In the seventies, Israel became "the major source of arms for the conflicts in Central America," according to Remer in the 29, June 1981 Los Angeles Times. In January 1983 a special meeting of the Nonaligned Nations in Managua denounced the mounting Israeli military intervention as well as the U.S. policy of intervention in Central America, according to the Feb. 1983 Le Monde Diplomatique. Nicaraguas relationship with Israel predates the formation of the Zionist state. In the 1940's, Anastasio Somoza Garcia provided Haganah agents (the main Zionist military wing in Palestine at that time) with the diplomatic cover necessary to buy arms in Europe, In tum, Israel provided military equipment to Nicaragua beginning in the 1950's. These arms sales to Nicaragua and other Central American nations remained relatively uncontroversial until the outbreak of the Nicaraguan insurrection against General Anastasio Somoza Debayle. In 1961, the FSLN (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional) was founded to work toward the overthrow of the Somoza dynasty. In the twenty-year period between the mid1950's and late 1970's, Israel sold tanks, light aircraft, armored cars, automatic rifles and ammunition to the Somoza dictatorship, according to the May June 1985 NACLA Report on the Americas. In 1980 the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reponed that Israel provided 98 percent of Nicaragua's arms between 1970 and 1974. It was the savagery shown by Somoza's troops toward the civilian population in the period after the September 1978 uprising, and the continued international attention given to human rights abuses, that prompted the U.S. to cut off new arms shipments to Somoza's National Guard. In the regime's final months, Israel is said to have piovided the vast majority of the military hardware received by the Somoza regime. Consequently, a Carter administration official said in November 1978 that the administration "had decided against trying to prevent Israel from supplying light arms" to Somoza, according to the 18 Nov 1978 Miami Herald. Defending its arms shipments to Nicaragua, Israel pointed to the "special relationship" between itself and the Somozas, claiming that Israel "owed" Nicaragua the favor. Somoza consistently supported Israel in the United Nations, especially regarding Israel's policy toward the Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In a report issued in April 1985, the bipartisan Arms Control and Foreign Policy Caucus of the U.S. Congress found that forty-six of forty-eight of the leaders of the largest contra military unit, the Nicaraguan Democratie Force (FDN), were former National Guardsmen under Somoza. The Israel is have supplied arms to the contras since late 1982. At that time they sent several thousand AK47 asault rifles that had been captured from the Palestine Liberation Organization. According to a 12 Nov 1983 Washington Post article, these rifles were paid for with CIA funds on cash-and-carry terms during covert operations. Israeli support for the contras has increased since then through a variety of means. Although denied by both the U.S. and Israel, it is very likely that the U.S. has used part of the military and economie aid package to Israel to fund the contras. Concemed about such third party sales to the contras. Senator Claibome Peil (D-RI) introduced an amendment to the 1986 foreign aid bill that would curtail this practice. President Reagan threatened to veto the bill unless the amendment was scrapped. The Peil amendment was then rewritten in a way that does not prohibit third party sales. Several contra leaders have openly discussed Israeli aid to their movement. In May 1984, Time Magazine reported, "Israel furmels arms to the contras through the Honduran army. Israeli intelligence experts have helped the CIA train the contras, and retired or reserve Israeli army commandos have been hired by shadowy private fïrms to assist the rebels." Marco Zeledon of the FDN commented in 1983: "Israel would be a good candidate if the North Americans reduce our aid," according to J: Hunter in the Dec 1984 no.l Israeli Foreign Affairs. In April 1984, another (see Israel, page 7) ISRAEL (from page 5) prominent FDN figure, Adolfo Calero, confirmed that his forces were looking for altemative sources of support and added that "the Israelis would be the best because they have the technical experience," according to McManus in the 16 April 1984, LA. Times. There was U.S. pressure on Israel, partí - cularly during 1983 and 1984, to assume a more overt role in Central America. At this time the Jerusalem Post reported that "the (Reagan) Administration would like to see Israel encourage its own supporters in the Congress, the Jewish community and elsewhere to become more assertive in backing the contras ... The Administration is prepared to cooperate with Israeli assistance schemes, but is more anxious to see a higher Isracli political profile in support of U.S. policy in Central America." However, Israel has accused the Reagan administration of encouraging the contras to talk about Israeli military assistance in order to improve the contra's image with members of the U.S. Congress who are proIsrael. The Israelis decline to take a high profile in the contra controversy precisely because doing so will antagonize liberáis in Congress opposed to aid for the contras. At the same time, Israel runs the risk of upsetting right-wing congressional supporters who feel that Israel should do more to help the U.S. in Central America. Citing Reagan administration officials and members of Congress, Taubman in the 13 January 1985 New York Times reported that Israel had "increased its aid to the rebels providing more weapons and advice." The Iran-Israeli-contra scandal is, thus, a direct result of this "friendly" relationship between the U.S. and Israel. However, the people of Nicaragua, who so courageously fought for democracy and an end to their oppression, have since been just one of the many recipients of the interests of this Israeli-American "friendship." Israeli military intervention in Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Guatemala, is just as significant. Judging from the Israeli government's past record with undemocratic, dictatorial andor racist regimes in the Third World and its current ideology, the people of Nicaragua and the Latin-American Solidarity Movement in this country can expect no change in Israeli policy, except continued Israeli military involvement in Central America, so long as the U.S. govemment encourages and supports such practices.
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