Some Americans have recently traveled to Israel to vote in the upcoming Knesset elections. As native-born Americans who became Israelis by virtue of Jewish birth or conversion, it’s only natural that they travel, along with Israeli-born naturalized Americans, to exercise their Israeli franchise. It is totally legal and acceptable that they can vote in both Israel and America and I say go for it!
I pray, as they cast their ballots, that they pay heed to the Prophet Micah, “Do Justice, love Goodness, and walk Humbly with your God.” (6:8)
Upon arrival, some of these Americans will travel to colonies illegally built on Palestinian lands in occupied East Jerusalem or on the occupied West Bank, some of which are partially subsidized by American tax-free donations (New York Times, May 5, 2010). They will travel “home” on roads built exclusively for the use of colonists and the Israeli army, roads forbidden to Palestinians.
Israeli writer Amos Oz recently charged, “In my mind, the Netanyahu government is the most anti-Zionist government Israel has ever had. It is doing everything so there will be not two states here, but one.”
Oz went on, “… They believe that Jews can rule over an Arab majority for a long time. No apartheid state in the world has lasted without collapsing after a few years.”
Be humble. It’s an election of grave consequence; for Americans, for Palestinians, for Israelis. Moderates and liberals don’t stand a chance in this election — it’s about degrees of extremism — it’s about whether Israelis should empower Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Likud/Yisrael Beiteinu list — a list that embraces politicians who believe in expulsion, transfer and annexation of all Palestinian territory, a list that includes Miri Regev, Moshe Feiglin, Danny Danon and followers of Avigdor Lieberman.
Witness Likud/Yisrael Beiteinu’s extremism in Netanyahu’s recent decision, in spiteful retaliation for the Palestinian U.N. statehood bid, to colonize the E-1 corridor between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim, which would bifurcate the West Bank and effectively make impossible the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state on the West Bank connected to East Jerusalem.
Friday, responding to a question from Israel’s Maariv newspaper whether he would dismantle any settlements over the coming four years, Netanyahu answered, “Yes. The days when bulldozers uprooted Jews are behind us, not in front of us. Our record proves it.”
“We haven’t uprooted any settlements, we have expanded them.”
Not humble at all.
Witness: nearly 50 percent of occupied Palestinian territory is off-limits to Palestinians (B’Tselem). Restricted roadways, arbitrary military areas and expanding colonies force 2.5 million Palestinians, with no voting rights, to live on less and less land with access to fewer and fewer resources, while 550,000 illegal colonists thrive.
Other than Israel, not one country supports Israel on issues of occupation and annexation.
Israel will elect its new government the day after Barack Obama’s re-inauguration. Perhaps it’s time, as America reconfigures its Mideast policy to reflect the upheavals from the Arab Spring, to rethink America’s relationship with a country that continues to promote policies of occupation and annexation — policies believed at odds with Israel’s and America’s long-term interests. It’s America’s time, perhaps, to help guide Israel to Good.
Will our bi-national sojourners be mindful of what’s in our bi-national interests: a hope for peace, an equitable settlement with Palestinians, détente with Iran, security assurances for Israel and an end to terrorism, or will they support a continued estrangement between two nations that honor them as citizens?
Sadly, Amos Oz’s long view is seemingly not the majority view, either in Israel or among many of Israel’s American supporters. Witness the outrage when President Obama nominated former Sen. Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense. Hagel, who believes that war should be a last resort, who believes that bombing Iran would not be effective, and who — gasp — wants to engage in diplomacy with all parties involved in the Israeli-Palestinian issue, including Hamas if necessary, is being criticized as not being pro-Israeli enough, and what under normal circumstances would be an uncontentious confirmation hearing now appears to be a referendum on who is pro-Israeli — not on who is pro-American.
While Israel’s supporters rarely mention the words apartheid, colonization, transfer and expulsion, it’s clear that its failure to honorably engage a path to peace (a path that can’t be honorably engaged while colonies seize more Palestinian land) contributes to the destabilized state of the Arab and Muslim worlds and certainly destabilizes American strategic and economic regional interests.
Sojourners, listen to Israeli President, and twice Israeli Prime Minister, Shimon Peres: “Look, the whole world is in turmoil. The Palestinian problem isn’t the main problem in the Middle East. But there are a billion and a half Muslims. The Palestinian problem affects our entire relationship with them. If the Palestinian problem were to be solved, the Islamist extremists would be robbed of their pretext for their actions against us.
“The problem in this case is not only the prime minister but also his coalition. I am not claiming that peace with the Palestinians will solve all the problems. People who think in sweeping terms are being superficial,” Peres continued. “There’s no perfection. Making peace is complicated.”
True, peace is complicated. Do Justice. Honor the Palestinians with dignity and spare them the humiliations of occupation. Take the Wall off their land, spare their olive trees and let them pump water from their wells.
Most Palestinians, including Palestinian President Abbas, have endorsed a two-state solution. While it’s true that rhetoric from some Palestinians is often provocative, sometimes bellicose, occasionally anti-Semitic, inflammatory rhetoric is not a reason for not discussing peace.
There is no parity between the two: Israel speaks from the authority that comes from military power, from being the occupier, and from the privilege that comes from being supported, almost unquestionably, by the United States. The Palestinians are the subject people, dispossessed, humbled, impoverished, subject to the arbitrary whims, and sometimes cruelty, of their occupier.
S. Daniel Abraham, the founder of the Center for Middle East Peace, recently wrote, “(Israel) needs a neighboring state of Palestine in order for Israel to survive. And if we Jews don’t understand that, and don’t act on that understanding now, perhaps the Jewish people will survive, but the Jewish state won’t.”
“Do Justice, love Goodness, and walk Humbly with your God.”
This column appeared originally in the Portsmouth Herald.