Does Israel merit support?

Following the horrors of the Holocaust, it was natural and deserving that world sympathy went out to all Jews. However, many people who were profoundly sympathetic did not believe that the future protection of Jews warranted - or was guaranteed by - the establishment of an essentially theocratic state based upon the displacement of 800,000 indigenous Palestinians. But in 1948, that's exactly what happened through UN decree urged by Britain, the U.S. , and the former Soviet Union. From that day on, there has not been a moment's peace in Israel - just as the opponents of statehood predicted. The harsh treatment of Palestinians - that included limited rights to those who remained in the allegedly democratic state - and the arbitrary placement of a non-Arab nation in the middle of the tumultuous Arab world without the consent of the indigenous population was bound to spark fierce Arab resentment and retaliation.

One of the prevailing myths about the establishment of Israel is that the U.S. acted from the purest of motives: sympathy for the oppressed. But the geopolitics of the time suggest otherwise. After World War I, the Middle East was carved up into new nations controlled and exploited by England and France. After World War II, ferment was building in these countries to throw off their imperialist yokes. Much of this new political thrust was socialist, and as such, gained sympathy from the Soviet Union, the U.S.'s bitter Cold War opponent. Placing a U.S. surrogate in the midst of the growing maelstrom made sense to U.S. policymakers. And indeed, from the day it was founded, the U.S. has provided Israel with billions of dollars yearly in armaments and other benefits, including cash.

This U.S. initiative dovetailed beautifully with the Zionist visions of Israel's founders. As far back as the 19th century, Jewish leaders such as Theodor Herzl dreamed of a Jewish state. Others saw this dream as reclaiming the "Holy Land" to which they believed they had a God-given right. To them the "Holy Land" extended north past Syria to include Lebanon, and so their intent was expansionist under the biblical rubric of Eretz Israel - or Greater Israel. The Jewish plight after World War II and U.S. political needs conjoined to realize the dream. This pretty much guaranteed that the U.S. would support - or not strenuously object to - most anything Israel did, whether it was Ariel Sharon's complicity in the massacre of up to 3,500 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in 1982 - an act condemned as genocide by a UN commission; the illegal occupation of the West Bank and the proliferation of Jewish settlements; or the grossly disproportionate "retaliatory" slaughter of Gaza's civilians being repeated today.

Throughout the sixty-six years of conflict and slaughter, any talk of peace between Israel and its neighbors has been futile. If a set of proposals is agreed upon, another set with clearly unacceptable conditions is quickly invented to stymie the process. If peace means a two-state solution, clearly Israel doesn't want it, since it would conflict with Eretz Israel. And so the settlements continue unimpeded, Palestinians are persecuted and confined more each day by walls built around them that separate them from water and other means of survival, and Arab death tolls rise exponentially - all in the name of Israeli self-protection. The question never seems to be raised as to how warding off the understandable hostility of people whose homes and land you've stolen can be deemed legitimate "self-protection."

Nonetheless, conditions in the Middle East today are a far cry from what they were in 1948, and the original reasons for condoning censorable Israeli conduct may no longer apply. The West's imperial role is clearly coming to an end in the face of unstemmable revolution raging throughout the area. The only Western alternative is to negotiate with whatever victorious forces emerge - a necessary policy shift hindered by the presence of an antagonistic Israel. Israel, which has been callously used as a Middle East foil by the U. S. , is no longer needed to advance U. S. policy.

The knee-jerk and irrational accusation of anti-semitism leveled at anyone who opposes Israeli actions is rapidly coming to a deserved end as increasing numbers of Jews themselves - both in Israel and abroad - are massing in active opposition to Israeli policy. The vaunted two-state solution with Palestine consisting of the separated areas of Gaza and the West Bank - and surrounded by an aggressive Israel - is practically and economically unfeasible. And Israel - steadily gobbling up the West Bank for itself through ongoing settlements - has routinely sidelined the possibility.

The only reasonable and humane solution is a single, secular, democratic state embracing all people equally by guaranteeing equal rights to all religions and ethnicities - as in all advanced nations - which should have been established in 1948. This may be a long way off. But until then, let's no longer stain ourselves by condoning the unpardonable - through silence and continued support - in the hypocritical name of "traditional friendship." Do we dare vilify Putin in Ukraine while shrugging off Israeli atrocities in Gaza?

Andrew Torre lives in Landgrove.


If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.

Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions