Ohio Statehouse and Palestine

Human Rights Watch recently labeled Israel an “apartheid regime,” their recent bombing campaign on Palestine sparking protests across the world – including one this coming Friday in Goodale Park at 6:30 pm. Yet Ohio taxpayers are funding Israel’s military occupation of Palestine through both federal and state taxes. While the US federal government pays almost $4 billion a year for Israel’s military, Ohio’s Treasury also invests hundreds of millions in Israel, holding a total of $220 million in Israel Bonds – the highest amount for any state in the US. 

As a part of a 2016 agreementmade under the Obama Administration, the US gives Israel $3.8 billion dollars a year for military spending – the “leading recipient worldwide of U.S. [Foreign Military Financing].” President Biden has carried the torch, even leaving many of Trump’s pro-Israel policies in place.

Biden initially responded to Israel’s bombing campaign saying Israel had a “right to defend itself,” but he’s since voiced support for a ceasefire. However, the US continues to block the United Nations from officially calling for an immediate ceasefire. Today, after a day of bombing, a truce was announced.

Protests have since erupted across the US and around the world to end the bombing and occupation of Palestine, including protests here in Columbus. While Ohio taxpayers will pay $108,326,244 in federal taxes annually towards funding Israel’s military, the state government also invests heavily in Israel.

Federal funding toward Israel often makes headlines, but more than 95 state and municipal public employee pension and treasury funds prop up Israel’s economy through Israel Bonds, including Ohio. Every Ohio Treasurer since 1993 (Democrat and Republican) has invested in Israel Bonds, but investments have ramped up since the 2017 election of Republican Treasurer Robert Sprague, a Trump follower who was very active in Trump’s re-election campaign last year

In 2020 alone, Sprague made four separate Treasury purchases of Israel Bonds, totaling $105 million. Since March of 2020, while evictions and food insecurity rose and government spending was cut due to the pandemic, Ohio bought $70 million in Israel Bonds.

Sprague said in a statement, “With competitive interest rates and a strong record of principal and interest payments, Israel Bonds continue to be a valuable investment for Ohio’s taxpayers.” Ohio now holds a total of $220 million in Israel Bonds, making Ohio America’s largest state investor in Israel Bonds.

Dani, a local Palestinian American activist, said in an interview, “That money could have been invested back into our community to help our lower income families, title one schools, SNAP benefits recipients, SSI, and homeless veterans.” She added, “This money could have also been used in our school districts, roads, and overall upkeep of our state and its citizens.”

Former Republican Ohio State Treasurer and Zionist Josh Mandel justified Ohio’s 2017 purchase of $61 million in Israel Bonds as a way “to combat the bigotry of the (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement [of Israel].” He added, “we are making this investment to stand with the only country in the Middle East that shares American values.”

Dani responded to this quote asking, “Where in the American values does it say we stand with murdering innocent men, women, and children?” She said, “Our American values do not align with that and our money is being used to fund this terror.”        

Israel’s military occupation of Palestine has proved extremely profitable, creating entire industries around surveillance technology and acting as America’s military proxy in the Middle East. Since Israel Bonds was established in 1951, they’ve maintained a perfect record of interest and principal payments.

Israel’s military occupation of Palestine has also proved financially profitable for Ohio’s investment portfolio, Israel Bonds yielding between 1.00% and 1.59% profit.

None of Israel’s human rights violations against Palestinians over the decades has stopped America’s federal government, Ohio’s state government or private corporations in maximizing profits through investments in Israel.

While the Middle East seems a world away, Ohio taxpayers are funding Israel’s apartheid military occupation of Palestine with both state and federal funding and have been doing so for decades. The local protests against Israel’s occupation therefore aren’t just in solidarity with Palestinians, but also directly calling for the cutting of state funds that allow the apartheid regime to continue and accelerate.

In reference to Ohio and the US’s funding of Israel, Dani said, “We are both directly and indirectly committing ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people and supporting it with our unconditional financial aid to Israel. We should be concerned that our money is funding all of this, especially when we are not using tax dollars to help our own citizens in need.”