Where Should We Stand?

2 thoughts on “Where Should We Stand?”

  1. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not one that is soon going to disappear from the headlines, nor will it become any easier as both parties move forward to discover a solution to Middle East’s most contentious issue. To be sure, there are many arguments in favor of support for Israel’s existence, but your article neither successfully presents them nor does it do a fair job of presenting the conflict in its entirety.

    It’s unfair to say that the United Nations Security Council should reject Palestine’s bid for statehood because the Palestinians rejected UN Resolution 181 sixty years ago. It should be noted that even David Ben-Gurion opposed the Resolution in 1947 precisely because it offered a two-state solution, and the goal for the Israelis at that point was to have all of the land—Israel Proper, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank—to be considered as part of the Jewish State. As evidenced by their continued efforts in building settlements in the West Bank, the Israelis have no desire to curtail the borders of their State. As long as the Israelis continue to build settlements, a two-state solution will be increasingly hard to reach.

    Anti-Semitism may be a popular course of rhetoric for Mahmoud Abbas, but it is a common misconception to label all Palestinians as anti-Semites. Palestinian anger towards the Israelis has more to do with the loss of their homeland rather than religious views. The modern Zionist settlement uprooted the lives of countless Palestinian families who had been established in the region for many, many generations, and many would argue that their reactions are more than justified. Furthermore, to liken Mahmoud Abbas’s offhand remarks to “an ideology exercised by Adolf Hitler” is a gross and inaccurate comparison, and it is exactly the kind of exaggeration on which Israel thrives. No one will deny that millions of Jews unjustly died during the Holocaust, but Israel’s self-portrayal as a constant victim clouds our judgment regarding their current racist and aggressive policies towards the Palestinians, which you blatantly ignore in your article.

    You write, “After the Holocaust, many world powers promised as a global community not to allow persecution of a religious group merely because of its beliefs.” I assume that you are referencing the UN Convention of the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, and it should be clear that according the UN definition, genocide includes “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” The United States supports Israel not because it is committed to religious freedom of all peoples, but because the largest diaspora of Jews outside of Israel is in the United States and because the Jewish lobby is one of the largest lobbying groups in Washington. If the United States were truly against the persecution of any group, the government would not have passively watched genocide unfold in Rwanda, Darfur, and the Sudan. The United States government is only committed to humanitarian causes when US interests can be helped.

    You claim that “we must stand with the Israeli people,” but even the Israelis themselves are divided into tenuous factions: religious Zionists, secular Zionists, reform Jews, Ultra-Orthodox Jews. Who exactly among these contentious groups should the United States be standing with? Israel needs to figure out what it wants to be as a nation before the United States decides to side with the Israelis. And is it really prudent for the United States to send thirty billion dollars to Israel in aide (as per the proposed 2011 fiscal year budget) when its own debt ceiling has just been raised to over fourteen trillion dollars?

    1. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not one that can be summarized in a short editorial piece. Likewise, neither can its history, evolution, and potential solutions. What can be concisely shown is a history of anti-Semitism from the Palestinian National Authority’s leaders, including but not limited to, Mahmoud Abbas. It is terribly stereotypical and ignorant to label any race, country, or people solely by the actions of a handful of its members. However, when the leader of a particular race, country, or people calls for the elimination of an entire religious group, there is considerable room for concern.
      In the case of the Palestinians, Mahmoud Abbas is the leader of the Palestinian National Authority and the would-be leader of Palestine. It is important the global community take any potentially threatening person or group at their word and judge them by their actions. Moreover, it should be expected and appreciated that certain countries and people are skeptical of the consequences that accompany Palestinian statehood. The history of their leader and even the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s charter (which was created to reflect the views of Palestinians as a whole) explicitly express dangerous motives.
      David Ben-Gurion’s opposition to the original two state solution was founded upon the notion that Palestinians were seeking statehood with violent intentions. He had no motive or yearning to block the rights of statehood to Palestinians, as he said in an article in 1918 titled ‘The Rights of the Jews and Others in Palestine’: “Palestine is not an empty country…on no account must we injure the rights of the inhabitants.” He continued in the article to attack Israel Zangwill, an influential author who suggested the Palestinians to be expelled from the state of Israel. Ben-Gurion responded saying, “Only ‘Ghetto Dreamers’ like Zangwill can imagine that Eretz Israel (the state of Israel) will be given to the Jews with the added right of dispossessing the current inhabitants of the country. This is not the mission of Zionism.”
      Ben-Gurion’s doubt regarding the peacefulness of Palestinian statehood was verified several times after Israel’s independence was announced, with the Arab League declaring war on the state of Israel and immediately sending troops to its borders on May 14, 1948. It is important to remember May 14, 1948 is the day Israel was granted statehood and independence. As history shows, Israel successfully defended itself against soldiers from Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Transjordan (now the country of Jordan). Moreover, Israel conquered land well within the borders of Syria, moved forces into Egypt, and took hold of the land set aside for the Palestinians in the original two state solution. Seeking only peace with the countries surrounding it, Israel willingly gave back each country its respective land if they agreed not to invade Israel anymore. The Arab League agreed to withdraw and not invade the country again, only to attack and invade again years later. Israel defeated them similarly and gave all the land they had conquered back to their respective nations once more.
      Its clear Israel has had many chances to expand their borders and weaken the economies and social structure of the countries surrounding it. However, not capitalizing on any of these opportunities eliminates the notion that Israel is trying to selfishly occupy the land of Palestine. It is also important to note that Israel is not building settlements to gain hold of the Gaza Strip, or even the West Bank. Jordan annexed the West Bank while Egypt laid claim to the Gaza Strip. Again, it is blatantly clear Israel’s goal is not to possess any more land than they have been given.
      There is nothing wrong with the average Palestinian family or their yearning for a state they can call their own. Many would indeed argue their actions are more than justified. However, some would also argue that the armed actions of their militants are acts of terrorism, and it is important to view both of these personalities rather than just the peaceful average Palestinian. The recent stonings of Israeli vehicles have resulted in the deaths of innocent men and women, including an infant. There is nothing peaceful in such actions and that is not the display any country should possess while simultaneously and ‘peacefully’ seeking statehood from the United Nations.
      It is not far-fetched to compare Mahmoud Abbas’s open hatred of the Jewish race to the ideology Adolf Hitler exercised during the Holocaust. As history has shown, Hitler did not begin his ‘career’ calling for the elimination of the Zionist presence, as Mahmoud Abbas has. He eased his way to it and gathered support from those around him, and consequently, the unjust loss of lives during the Holocaust. In reality, we should be very concerned of Mahmoud Abbas’s alacrity to condemn the Jews so freely and openly.
      Genocide is “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethical, racial, or religious group.” Doesn’t Mahmoud Abbas, the PLO Charter, and the recent stonings and acts of violence against Israelis satisfy that criteria?
      Furthermore, the United States supports Israel because they are one of our strongest allies, and the point of having an ally is to stand for each other when one is threatened. America’s large Jewish population is not extraordinary. At the base of the Statue of Liberty a plaque reads, “Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand a mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles.” America has been the “Mother of Exiles” since her creation, and has been open to the Jews just as she has been open to every other race represented in its population including the Palestinians.
      The United States should have intervened in the genocides of Rwanda, Darfur, and Sudan. It is in some sense astounding that we didn’t do what we could to help those who were recklessly disposed of during those genocides. However, it is not at all fair to penalize those who support Israel because of these inactions in American history. If one is outraged by our country’s reactions to Rwanda and Darfur, they should condemn the lack of action of the Clinton and Bush administrations, rather than pro-Israel advocators.
      Israel is indeed divided into “tenuous factions.” However, the same argument could be made for the United States. Our country serves as home for Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Progressives, and appearing more recently at Occupy Wall Street, Anarchists, Socialists, and Communists. (Occupy Wall Street protests have been hosting daily anti-democracy art shows and last week, Alex Callinicos was asked to speak to an OWS audience about ‘What’s Wrong with Capitalism. Callincios is editor of the International Socialism Journal and the author of The anti-Capitalist Manifesto.) What’s more, there are numerous religions represented throughout the United States regularly practiced thanks to the protections afforded by the Constitution. So, if anything, Israel should be asking which group of Americans they want to be allies with, not the other way around.
      The Israelis have decided what kind of country they want to be, a democracy. That’s more than one can say for Palestine. David Bedein, and investigative journalist with Arutz Sheva (a major news outlet of Israel) wrote in an article that, “The Palestinian Authority [had] adopted an official constitution based on Koranic Sharia Law.” As we have seen with honor killings and the public stonings of homosexuals, Sharia Law is not an ideology America should support in any way, shape, or form. Moreover, Israel is the only working democracy in the Middle East, despite their constant reprimand and harassment from nearly every other country surrounding them. Solely because they haven’t committed the country to be one belief of Judaism doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be allies with them and protect them. The United States isn’t committed to just one religion, yet no one criticizes us and suggests that we “figure out what” we “want to be as a nation.”
      Despite what our religious and political beliefs are, Israel is our ally and they are being violently threatened. The Palestinians do deserve a right to a place they can call their own, but on the same token, they shouldn’t be granted statehood at the expense of Israel. If the Palestinian National Authority only wanted their homeland back, they simply would have accepted the UN proposition. Diplomacy does not always satisfy everyone’s wants and needs. The Palestinians and the Arab League invaded Israel with an intent to eliminate. These are crucial components of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict we cannot simply ignore. Until we are convinced, without doubt, that Palestinians are seeking statehood in the same land they already rejected once before with completely peaceful intentions, we must support Israel and finally show some responsibility as their ally.

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