Post Paints Misleading Picture of Biden’s Financial Support for Israel and Palestinians

12.10.2023, 2:25, Разное
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Para leer en español, vea esta traducción de Google Translate.

Quick Take

An Instagram post misleadingly claims President Joe Biden is “funding every angle of this conflict” between Hamas and Israel. The U.S. does supply military aid to Israel, but it has supplied only humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people in Gaza, not military aid to Hamas.

Full Story

The Palestinian militant group Hamas launched a surprise attack on civilian and military targets in Israel on Oct. 7, killing at least 1,200 people, including 22 Americans. Since then, some have sought to blame the Biden administration for providing monetary assistance to residents of the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas, which the U.S. has designated a foreign terrorist organization.

An Oct. 11 Instagram post shared by a Florida rapper who goes by Hi-Rez says that Biden “is funding every angle of this conflict,” and shows the image of competing missiles, both labeled “US Taxpayer Dollars.” But the claims used to back that up are missing context.

Let’s take these one at a time.

U.S. Humanitarian Aid for Gaza

The claim that “Biden unfroze $360 million in 2021 and began sending it to Palestine” is essentially true, but the money is not funding the Hamas attacks on Israel.

The State Department announced in May 2021 that it was adding $38 million to support humanitarian assistance in the West Bank and Gaza. That brought the total in U.S. aid to Palestinians to $360 million that year, a sharp turnaround in U.S. policy after then-President Donald Trump axed Palestinian aid in 2018.

The State Department said the money would be used to support “humanitarian organizations to provide emergency shelter, food, relief items, and health care, as well as mental health and psychosocial support for those who experienced trauma.” About $10 million of the funds were earmarked to “support programs that support reconciliation work to reduce tension and violence over the long term.”

At the time, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the aid would be used for “urgent, humanitarian reconstruction assistance for Gaza” after an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas militants in May 2021. Blinken also assured that “we will work with partners to ensure that Hamas does not benefit from these reconstruction efforts.”

U.S. Military Aid for Israel

The social media post’s claim that “America sends billions every year to Israel for military aid” is accurate. According to a Congressional Research Service report issued in March, the U.S. has provided $124 billion in military aid to Israel since 1946.

“Almost all current U.S. aid to Israel is military assistance,” the report states. “U.S. military aid has helped transform Israel’s armed forces into one of the most technologically sophisticated militaries in the world.”

$6 Billion in Iranian Assets

Finally, the Instagram post claims that “Biden unfroze $6 billion cash for Iran on 9/11.”

Iran has historically been a supporter of Hamas, and the post is referring to Iranian money unfrozen as part of a prisoner swap between the U.S. and Iran in August. Citing that deal, some Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, have falsely claimed that U.S. tax dollars helped to fund the recent Hamas attack.

But as we wrote on Oct. 10, the $6 billion freed up was Iranian money that was being held in South Korean banks. It was released to banks in Qatar, and State Department officials say there will be oversight to ensure it can only be spent on humanitarian needs in Iran, such as food or medicine.

As the State Department noted, the Trump administration had previously attempted to facilitate the release of the Iranian funds held in South Korea for humanitarian purposes, but it never came to pass.

Experts told us it is fair to argue, as some have, that money is fungible, and therefore even if the $6 billion is spent on humanitarian needs, Iran could use money it might otherwise have spent on those necessities to fund other things, which could include Hamas.

But Iran hasn’t seen any of that money yet.

The U.S. Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, Brian Nelson, posted a statement on social media on Oct. 7 saying, “All of the money held in restricted accounts in Doha as part of the arrangement to secure the release of 5 Americans in September remains in Doha. Not a penny has been spent.”

Taken together, the claims in the social media post draw a false equivalence between military aid provided to Israel and humanitarian aid provided to Palestinians in Gaza. And the claim that “Biden unfroze $6 billion cash for Iran” is missing the context that it is Iran’s money, that it is earmarked for humanitarian uses, and that the Trump administration also had attempted to facilitate the release of the Iranian funds for humanitarian purposes.

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