Rica are so intimate with Israel that these are the only two nations in the world that have permanently moved their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The authors suggest that one reason Central American leaders cultivate close ties to Israel is because they believe that a solid relationship with Israel fortifies their ties to the United States. A friendship with Israel also curries the favor of the influential North American Jewish community, guaranteeing the oligarchies and military governments of Central America the voice of a powerful special interest group. There is another added appeal of Israel’s assistance to the military regimes in Central America: Israel has been fighting its own internal war, with some success, for the entire duration of its existence. When Israel’s advisors talk of irregular warfare, strategic hamlets, and national pacification, the military leaders of Central America listen, for the Israelis speak with authority. As one Salvadoran military officer remarked “[The Americans] lost their war. The Americans know nothing. . . . The Taiwanese and Israelis do know.” /T IS IN Nicaragua where the direct tie with Israel goes back the furthest. Because Anastasio So moza actively supported the Zionist movement and the formation of the Israeli state, the Israelis sent substantial amounts of military assistance to Somoza and his National Guard to help prop up the regime during the 1960s and 1970s. Since the victory of the Sandinista revolution in 1979, relations between Israel and Nicaragua have soured. In part because of Israel’s relationship with Somoza, and in part because of its close ties to the United States, the Sandinistas have adopted a strongly anti-Israel \(though not necessuspended diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. The FSLN has had links to the PLO since the 1960s; however, there is no formal relationship at the present time between the government of Nicaragua and the PLO. The Israelis, in return, began to funnel aims to the contras seeking to overthrow the government as early as 1982. The hostility between Israel and Nicaragua is real, since Israel cannot overlook the past Sandinista ties to the PLO. In El Salvador and Honduras, too, the Israelis have stepped up their sales of weaponry and aid. The amount of Israeli military aid to these governments has soared since 1980, when Reagan’s election assured that the crisis in Central America would be interpreted primarily as conflict between East and West. As early as 1981, the Israelis transferred $21 million in arms credits to El Salvador at the behest of Washington. This assured that the Salvadoran army and national police force would have the arms and material to combat a large scale popular insurgency at a time when the U.S. Congress balked at sending direct U.S. military aid. At the same time, the Israelis began to send jet fighters, suspension bombers, and Arava transport planes to Honduras, with the explicit blessings of the Reagan administration. Unlike in El Salvador, these weapons were not to be used against a domestic insurgency, but to be stockpiled in anticipation of a future showdown with Nicaragua. Even Costa Rica, the tiny bastion of democracy which has no standing army, has begun to beef up its national security force with Israeli aid. Costa Rica began “The Americans know nothing . . . The Taiwanese and Israelis do know.” arming its civil guard with Israeli-made rifles in 1980. In 1985, Israel began to send heavier weapons into Costa Rica, including anti-aircraft guns, to be placed along the border with Nicaragua to fend off any potential air attack from the north. With Israeli counsel, the Costa Rican government has initiated a landdevelopment scheme along the northern border and brought in hundreds of settlers to live in the area. The program is modeled after Israeli settlement of the West Bank. It is Guatemala, though, that has received more military aid from the Israelis than any other Central American nation. The official rationale for the massive flow of Israeli arms into Guatemala is the bond of friendship that formed between the two nations when Israel was created. In fact, it was Carter’s 1977 cut-off of aid that marked a turning point. Within three months after Carter’s move, Israel began to pour weapons into Guatemala and quickly became the country’s primary source of military equipment. As Bendicto Lucas Garcia, Guatemala’s defense minister during the darkest years of the country’s told a journalist in 1985, “Israel was the only country willing to help us fight the guerrillas.” During the height of the civil war at least 30,000 people \(by But the Israelis have provided the Guatemalans with more than arms. They have also brought in the latest in counterinsurgency training and hightech software. Among other things, Guatemala now has, courtesy of Israel, a computerized surveillance system used by the police and army to spy on the populace. This system makes it possible for the security forces to run a “subversive check” anywhere in the capital. A computer monitors locations in the city where there is any kind of electrical surge at night, indicating where a clandestine meeting might be taking place or an illegal printing press is being run. Jamail and Gutierrez believe that the Israeli connection in Central America is more important than ever. The authors conclude, “The Israelis are very good at what they do militarily and they are secretive. Israeli military aid to the region accomplishes U.S. policy goals without popular and congressional approval. .. . Israeli aid . . . has been an important contributing factor to the continuation of oppression in Central America.” Anything published by an ArabAmerican organization about Israel is open to attack as lacking objectivity. This book, however, is no shrill polemic. The authors have compiled their findings from an impressive collection of articles, newspapers, papers, and books in Hebrew, Spanish, and English. They have not used much primary material as their sources, but given the nature of the topic, interviews and other first-hand information must have been nearly impossible to obtain. Even so, in these days of the Iran-Contra-versy, we have all suddenly come face-to-face with the fact that the politics of the world’s hot spots converge when and where we least expect it. Jamail and Gutierrez prove that 011ie North isn’t the only one to blame. It’s No Secret is available by order from the Central America Resource Center, P.O. Box 2327, Austin, Texas 78705. Life Insurance and Annuities Martin Elfant, CLU &Aire 4223 Richmond, Suite 213, Houston, TX 77027 OF CANADA THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21
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