Israel: Re-Thinking Our Un-Thoughtful Support

Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu at the White House in 2010President Obama said an astonishing thing last week: that we need to “reconsider” our support of Israel given our commitment to peace in the region and protecting the human rights of all; non-Jewish Palestinians included.  His comment rightly made news and wrongly brought about criticism from the right-wing here. It’s the most constructive thing an American president has said about the never-ending conflict in years. A little healthy distancing might help our two countries come to more mature relationship than the cloying and manipulative nature of whatever this past few months has been about (especially as we have an opportunity to bring Iran into a safer and saner role on the world stage).

Benjamin Netanyahu has just won re-election in Israel. In a system more complex and nuanced than we are accustomed to his Likud party picked up some seats rather than losing them. This will likely give them more power than the polls especially had predicted.

He turned expectation around by accelerating far-right voting. He did this by appealing to racism in cautioning the country that Arabs were turning out to vote in high numbers, and by denying his previous support of a two-state solution (a compromise unpopular with Zionists).  Time magazine wrote in a telling article it was “a disgrace in victory.”

Our own American conservative politicians have also been known to appeal to people’s base fears and racism (especially in the past 6 years). The technique for rallying support deserves condemnation.

Obama wisely “took Netanyahu at his word” rather than buying convenient next-day appeasement comments to an understandably outraged populace. A little reconsidering is what Obama recommended. A little more critical eyeing of the complex situation rather than the unilateral and unconditional financial and military support of Israel the world knows us for.

The terrorists and extremists are very much to blame for the violence in the region. Hamas and Fatah among others continue to make peace difficult and dangerous. But everyone in the world except for right-wing Israelies and right-wing Americans also believe Israel itself has played a key role in the appalling history of bloodshed and that we need a new solution. It turns out it really is like my mum reminded us growing up; it take two to tango. There is a significant left-wing of Israeli politics (and even military leadership) that sees this truth as well. They condemn Netanyahu’s appeal to xenophobia, continued criminal bulldozing, and disregard of human life.  They lost out last week unfortunately.

There is a growing minority of Christian and Muslim Israelies who are regularly denied human rights and suffer immensely at the hands of our cousins in the faith. The international court, with the broadest view of all, continues to condemn Netanyahu’s escalating violence and stealing of land set aside specifically for these impoverished masses seeking survival in decimated zones.

Some even say a two state solution is beyond reach due to Israel’s continued destruction of the land and its people. There is nothing left to preserve. Some believe this has been the Likud party’s real intent for decades now; playing us for fools financing and weaponizing their cause in their own vicious grab for dominion. The only option remaining is the continued Apartheid-like running of a country by wealthy, racist elites refusing humanity to impoverished masses. The trouble is, the path we have been on for years continues to degrade Christian and Muslim life. And with no other options for survival many Palestinians resort to terrorism.  In the name of unequivocal Christian support of the Chosen People it appears we may well be on the wrong side of history.

Outside the narrow view of the US the world community can’t understand our uncritical support of such a corrupt and inhumane system. The too-frequent Middle Eastern hatred of the US has very little to do with “they are jealous of our freedom” or “they resent our success and material wealth” (silly, self-serving excuses) and everything to do with our ongoing persecution of Muslims and non-Jews in the name of strengthening a regime with a horrible human rights record.

I am proud of our PCUSA who, almost alone, took a financial stand last summer to inhibit profiteering by US companies in territories everybody but right-wing Israelies believe to be illegally taken lands. Netanyahu condemned our denomination for our stand (so that tells us something). I was just glad he was paying attention.

It isn’t easy being faithful Christians and simultaneously insisting on holding Israel accountable to higher ethics than it has shown over the past years. But our originating Rabbi from Nazareth has much to teach all of us about the narrow, difficult way.

I want so much more for our friends and faith partners of all stripes in Israel.