This is going to be a difficult post to write. For the past month, there’s been a lot of frightening news coming out of Israel. It all began with the kidnapping of three Israeli teenage boys, which ended badly. Hamas was blamed…and (more) rockets flew.
My own personal relationship with Israel is complex. Like many Jews, I feel that Israel is our homeland…our country. It was designated for us by God, and we’ve been there since antiquity. My own personal experience with Israel is that I feel like it is home when I go there. You see Jews from every corner of the globe, from all walks of life. Judaism and living all are wrapped up into life in Israel. Even the most secular Israelis are in tune with the Jewish calendar and lifecycles. It a unique, miraculous place for the Jews. That, I can never deny.
I can fully understand if non-Jews cannot understand this special affinity that most Jews have for Israel. Notice that I say ‘most’. This is just my opinion, but I figure that most anti-Israel/anti-Zionist Jews have not been to Israel. For them, Israel is simply a policy issue. A point of contention in America’s politics. And that’s fine. I have no desire for all Jews to be drones. We need dissenters among us…it keeps things interesting.
But let’s turn back to the non-Jews for a second. In the past…and now…I am simply amazed at how Israel grabs the attention of non-Jews. Why do they hold such strong opinions on the issue? But more importantly, from what basis do these opinions come from? First of all, how many non-Jews, or even Jews, really know the history of the modern day State of Israel? As Rabbi Tzvi Gluckin so wonderfully pointed out, many people would be at a loss to answer even the most basic questions in regards to the facts surrounding Israel/Palestinian history.
To be fair, it seems that the media is guilty of imparting incredible bias on the issue as well…from both sides. And you would think that most rational people would embrace the fact that things are hardly ever black and white. As much as I love Israel, I do not blindly support everything that the State of Israel does; just like I do not support everything that the United States of America does. I am not a war-monger. It is not exciting to see Israel on the news due to fighting and unrest. And without fail, here come all of the commentary and talk surrounding the issue (as if your talking and analysis will really change anything). Yet so many of the opinions regarding the Israeli/Palestinian conflict go to the extremes. Let look at (and debunk) some of them:
1. Democrats (or President Obama) are anti-Israel
I am not a political scientist; I cannot recount every administration’s viewpoint on Israel since the state’s founding in 1948. But I will say this; the President of the United States‘ first concern is always going to be this country….not Israel! Therefore, while the U.S. has historically been a strong ally to Israel, I don’t put all my faith in this country’s devotion to Israel, and I’m not combing through every single word that the President says in regards to Israel. I’ve heard gung-ho Zionists talk about Jimmy Carter like he was the devil. However they conveniently fail to mention Ronald Reagan and his incredibly blatant anti-Israel policies. So please. Don’t paint any rosy pictures. Both political parties have had members that support or don’t support Israel. Let’s not pick sides.
2. Supporting the Palestinians because they are a disadvantaged minority
This one really gets me. Vocal liberals love to say that Israel is an apartheid state, completely ignoring the fact that true apartheid, like what they had in South Africa, strips the disadvantaged group from full social and political rights. This is not the case in Israel. Also, more and more African-Americans are aligning themselves with the Palestinian cause in the overly simplistic vain of White/Europeans oppressing the brown people. Again this is totally false. Yet we have fools in academia, literature and the arts who want to make statements that chastise Israel in a grandiose way. Do you realize that there are plenty of countries on this planet with issues of genocide, corruption and a slew of human-rights violations that you completely choose to ignore? I guess that the plight of North Koreans, the strife of the civilians in the Central African Republic, and Russia hitting the Ukraine with rockets, is just not worth your while.
And let’s be perfectly clear; racism and discrimination were institutionalized and upheld within the legal system of the United States and Britain for centuries. Israel has no history of this whatsoever. What you do have is a lot of people with baseless hatred and stereotypes of each other. But there are people of Palestinian heritage in the highest echelons of Israeli society, including members of Parliment, movie stars, and business leaders. Can Black Americans make the same claims of stature a mere 60 years after the founding of this country?
3. The Palestinians should not be vilified for the action of their leaders
Not all Palestinians are in support of Hamas. Just like not every Arab wishes death and destruction to the Jews. In the soap opera which is our modern media, it makes a great story (the relentless struggle of the Arabs against the Jews). However it’s not that simple. However with so much misinformation and ignorance floating around, it is a notion that will not die. Far too many Jews are wary of (or even hate) Arabs. This is a travesty. From a social and religious standpoint, Muslims and Jews can offer a lot to each other. Similarly, just like “Muslim” is not a nationality….neither is “Jew”. We all support a wide variety of political and religious beliefs…and no one leader has our unconditional support.
4. Israel did not invent the concept of imperialism
Many anti-Israel activists say that the Israelis came in, and pushed the Palestinians off of their land. That may be true. But it is hardly unique. How did the United States come to be? Where are all of the vocal protesters in regards to supporting the Native Americans and the injustices done to them. Mind you, I bring this up not as justification; but for comparison. The Palestinians have a right to some sort of repatriations. However to demonize Israel for taking part in the normal formation of a country (where a war is fought, a winner is declared, and “boom” that country is now so-and-so’s) is unfair.
So in the end, no, I will not apologize for Israel or be ashamed of my love for the country. It is a beautiful land (even more so, thanks to hard-working, committed Zionists) and even more importantly it is the Jewish homeland. Yet I don’t wish to silence to detractors. I just wish that more people who felt so comfortable criticizing it, would take some more time to learn about it.
אִם-אֶשְׁכָּחֵךְ יְרוּשָׁלִָם– תִּשְׁכַּח יְמִינִי.
תִּדְבַּק-לְשׁוֹנִי, לְחִכִּי– אִם-לֹא אֶזְכְּרֵכִי:
אִם-לֹא אַעֲלֶה, אֶת-יְרוּשָׁלִַם– עַל, רֹאשׁ שִׂמְחָתִי.
(…from Psalms chapter 137)