Over the last weeks, we have seen the Zionist colonial regime carry out a wide-scale and genocidal campaign against the people of Gaza. Their campaign of ethnic cleansing originated in 1948, but within the last immediate period alone they have bombed entire hospitals, schools, apartment buildings, and destroyed other vital infrastructure. The Israeli state has cut off electricity, water, food, communication networks, and even humanitarian aid to the entire population of Gaza. They have bombed refugee camps in Gaza and Jenin and, since the time of this publication, admitted to bombing ambulances.
What enables and funds this campaign of ruthless terror? The United States. According to a Congressional Research Service report, “Foreign Aid to Israel,” published March 1 this year, “Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II.” Currently, this amounts to over 30 percent of total U.S. foreign “aid” annually, or around $3.8 billion. The overwhelming majority—over 99% to be more precise—of that money goes directly to the Israeli military. Israel—or Occupied Palestine—has 0.11 percent of the world’s population yet receives almost one-third of all U.S. foreign aid.
Billions for war but nothing for the poor
Since 1999, most (but not all) of this aid has come from a “Memorandum of Understanding” between the imperialist U.S. and its watchdog in the Middle East. Former president Barack Obama implemented the third and current MOU in 2016. The first paragraph of the White House’s press release clearly presents how the U.S. government frames its assistance in genocidal campaigns like the ones Palestinians are currently heroically resisting:
Under President Obama’s leadership, the multifaceted cooperation between the United States and Israel has reached unprecedented levels. This is particularly true with regard to the security of Israel. The new 10-year security assistance Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to Israel is the most recent reflection of President Obama’s unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security.
The promised $3.3 billion in the MOU also guarantees $500 million annually for missile “defense” systems, bringing the figure up to $3.8 billion annually. In addition, the $1.7 trillion budget President Joe Biden signed in September 2022 included an additional $72.5 million for “US Israel counter-drone and anti-tunneling cooperation” on top of “$6 million for a new US-Israel Cybersecurity Cooperation program,” and another $2 million for “homeland security cooperation.”
On November 2, the House of Representatives voted to give Israel an additional $14.3 billion in U.S. military aid as part of a $105 billion “supplementary” budget Biden first proposed on October 20. While the vote was split along party lines, the divisions had nothing to do with financing Israel’s occupation of Palestine. A few days later, Senator Lindsay Graham told the press he anticipated the Senate would have no qualms giving billions more to support Israeli’s occupation forces.
Such supplementary bills are not exceptional, which is only one reason why official statistics on U.S. military aid to Israel are deceptive. As Richard Becker writes in Palestine, Israel and the U.S. Empire:
In addition, the U.S. government has allowed and encouraged private fundraising for Israel unlike that permitted for any other foreign state. This private aid has included the sale of tens of billions of dollars in Israel Bonds, which have been purchased by labor unions, universities, other institutions and private investors. Annual fund appeals from pro-Israel organizations in the United States have raised additional billions in tax-deductible donations. Such tax-deductible support is not allowed for any other country.
Further, such figures do not include military aid to Israel’s wars and military campaigns against countries like Lebanon, Syria, and Iran.
Meanwhile, there are 140 million poor people in the United States, which amounts to over 40 percent of the country’s population. In New York City, over 100,000 students—or one out of ten—were homeless in 2021.
Koreans and Palestinians: One shared struggle and enemy
As Koreans, we have a shared struggle and history with the Palestinian people against a common enemy. The same enemy, U.S. imperialism, funds and materially supports the Zionist colonial regime also maintains the division of Korea. It is not coincidental that the illegal partition of Palestine and the Nakba occurred while U.S. imperialism was dividing the Korean peninsula in half. Like Palestine, the occupation of my country continues. That is why the liberated part of the peninsula, the northern part, has always supported the Palestinian struggle. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or north Korea) recognizes Palestinian sovereignty over what is called Israel. There is even a Palestinian Embassy in the country’s capital city.
Shortly after we liberated ourselves from decades of Japanese colonial rule—under which our land was stolen, our people were kidnapped and forced into a military sex-trafficking ring or forced to work as slave-laborers in Japan, during which time we weren’t allowed to speak our language, wear our clothing, or even use our names—only half of our country remained free. Initially, self-organized “People’s Committees” governed the whole country. However, when the U.S. army arrived, the colonial occupation of the southern half of the peninsula was merely transferred from Japan to the U.S. In the north the People’s Committees took power. In the south, the U.S.-backed dictatorship slaughtered them.
At the end of World War II, after a long period of debate, the Soviet Union agreed to the temporary division of Korea as a concession to the U.S. on the grounds that all foreign troops would leave by 1948 and elections would be held. Because it was clear that free and fair elections would place the communists in power, the U.S. changed course and held elections after creating the artificial state of the Republic of Korea (or south Korea) in August 1948. Only afterwards did the DPRK become a state. While the Soviet Union rubber-stamped all decisions made in the north, the U.S. ruled with a bloody iron fist. While the Soviet Union did withdraw its troops, the U.S. troops remain in the south, continuing to occupy my country.
My country was united for thousands of years and will be reunited. The “Korean War” was not really a “Korean War” but a U.S. war against Korea. When the Korean People’s Army of the north crossed the 38th parallel on June 25, 1950, they were greeted with open arms and welcomed as liberators. When the U.S. intervened, the army had truly liberated almost all of Korea. That is when the war began. The U.S. military waged a ruthless war against my people.
The U.S. turned entire cities into rubble. Just a month after their invasion, U.S. pilots complained there was nothing left to bomb. One Air Force Sergeant wrote, “It’s hard to find good targets, for we have burned out almost everything.” They kept bombing, however, dropping over 635,000 tons of bombs, more than were dropped during the entirety of World War II in the Pacific region. They dropped 32,557 tons of napalm, more than the U.S. dropped on the people of Vietnam. A decade or so later, the U.S. would supply Israel with napalm to use in its ongoing wars of colonial expansion and project of ethnic cleansing.
Like Palestine and Gaza, the U.S. imposes comprehensive sanctions and embargoes against north Korea, making it impossible to import graphite for pencils or sand for construction. Despite this, the people of the north have resisted the US’s attempts of overthrowing their government.
Eyewitness to colonial occupation and resistance
When I was in south Korea this past summer, I saw the mechanisms of US militarism firsthand. I visited the demilitarized zone (DMZ), and U.S. military bases. I learned about the people’s struggles against the U.S.-backed military dictatorship in Gwangju during the 1980s, the struggle against U.S. military bases in Pyeongtaek and Jeju, and the ongoing struggle against the building of a U.S. THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) missile base in Soseongri.
Both Korea and Palestine are seen as strategic footholds in East Asia and the Middle East to the U.S. While the south Korean government and corporations like Hyundai, who are made up of those who materially benefit from and whose interests lie with U.S. imperialism, have partnered with Israel, it is north Korea who has been and remains a major ally to Palestine, training and arming the Palestinian struggle in the 1970s and 1980s. As Kim Il Sung told an Iraqi reporter in 1971:
The Korean people will continue to resolutely support the valiant struggle of the Palestinian people for liberating their fatherland and the struggle of the entire Arab people against Zionism and imperialist aggression and will always remain a close comrade-in-arms of the Arab people in the struggle against the common enemy. Our people will render active support and encouragement to the righteous struggle of the Arab people at all times.
It is important for us to make these connections and deepen our internationalist analysis to uncover the truth beyond the massive and vicious propaganda machine the U.S. and Zionist media deploys to try and justify their genocidal crimes and aims. What the Korean War has shown is that a ceasefire without an end to the occupation only prolongs the occupation—the war takes on new forms!
We want more than a ceasefire
We want a ceasefire, yes, but that can only truly come with the end to the occupation of Palestine from the river to the sea! The liberation of Palestine can only come with the liberation of Korea and all of us! Our enemies are united; and we must be too!
What the Palestinian and Korean people, what all working and oppressed people show us, is that the enemy cannot bomb its way to victory. Despite their military might and power, the Koreans and Palestinians continue to resist and, eventually, if we all unite, we will do more than resist: we will win!
- Glory to the resistance forces! Glory to the martyrs!
- From Korea to Palestine, occupation is a crime!
Photo: Riley Park, holding a Korean Reunification flag, surrounded by Palestinian supporters at the October 12, 2023 rally. Credit: Jared “Jay” Grillo, Indianapolis Liberator.
About the author
Riley Park is an organizer with the Party for Socialism and Liberation, a graduate student at the University of Indianapolis, and a part of the international Korean peace and reunification movement. Along with Cambria York, Park is co-editor of Socialist Education in Korea: Selected Writings of Kim Il–Sung (Iskra Books, 2022).