March 19, 2010

My soft spot for Israel

How can a liberal be for Israel? one might ask. Israel has better weapons, their country was created by imperialist oppressors, their opponents, in general, have darker skin. It's the perfect set-up for a knee-jerk support of all things Palestinian. And, in general, America's "Left" lines up, always the uneasy (and pampered) supporters of the "little guy."

But in truth, I've never followed the leftist desertion of Israel. I can recall, back in 1967 when I was a student at Cal, that things were not so one-sided. Then it was felt that Israel had the right to defend itself. Was that because we had a Democratic President at the time? I think there's something to that: the more closely Israel's fortunes have become connected to American Neoconservatism, the more alienated Israel has become from the (to me, tiresome) doctrinaire Leftists in this country. You can read their diatribes anywhere you look. Some of the more virulent are themselves Jews (Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein.) A very complicated situation.

I always try to simplify the analysis (and identify who it is I'm talking to) by asking the preliminary question: Does Israel have the right to exist at all? I also think this is the final question on the subject, for more complex reasons. But the first question greatly simplifies all that follows. For one thing, it tells you whether your interlocutor is a student of history. Are they aware of the centuries of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust? This at least establishes a framework. Do they favor the ceding of all American land back to its Native Americans? (Sometimes when I drive through Fremont in the East Bay, or even along the Bayshore on the Peninsula south of San Francisco, I think this would be a very good idea, by the way.)

I operate on this fairly simple analysis: had there been no Suez Crisis of 1956, or wars in 1967 or 1973, or the Lebanese problem of 1982, nor any Palestinian intifadas nor terrorist attacks against Israel (which became routine prior to erection of the security walls), then the amount of sectarian, Israeli-Arab violence in the region would have been approximately 1% of what it has actually been. Virtually all of the violence has been of one of two kinds: Arab violence designed to destroy the Israeli state (the wars), terrorism by Arabs against targets in Israel (cafes, discos, weddings, buses, the streets) or delegitimize Israel; or Israeli response to one of the above.

I think that's the big picture. The success of Palestinian propaganda has been to isolate, in the public mind, the response of Israelis to Arab violence as if it existed free of any provocation. I don't quite understand how that has worked. I would concede, of course, that in any long history of more or less constant violence there are going to be a fair number of instances (on both sides) of overreaction, excessiveness and needless killing. Such are the coarsening effects of war and retaliation. It's why violence and terrorism are bad ideas in the first place.

Which takes us to the current "rupture" in U.S. - Israel relations. Netanyahu's brother called Obama an anti-Semite because Obama apparently became upset that Israel took the occasion of Joe Biden's visit to announce the granting of 1,600 building permits for Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem. So it would have been better to wait till he left? I'm not sure what significance the timing has. But it does bring up the question of the West Bank and the "1967 borders." I've done a fair amount of reading about the border issue and about the question of whether Israel's continued presence in (and development of) the West Bank constitutes an illegal occupation. The arguments get very, very involved, and sometimes turn on the construction of little words ("all" "of","the" etc.) in accords and agreements signed at the conclusion of the 1967 war and the United Nations resolutions on the subject. Well, it's kind of interesting actually, so take a look at Resolution 242 yourself:

(i) Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;
(ii) Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force." [3]

Clear, huh? Well, not if you're in my line of work. It doesn't say, in the English version, "all of the territories occupied" in the 1967 war. It says withdrawal from "territories occupied." Surprisingly, there are Jewish lawyers also, and they noticed the same thing. It was a deliberate ambiguity, because the law of war ordinarily imposes a penalty on the aggressor, and there can't be any serious question that Jordan (which controlled the West Bank prior to the war) was practically begged by Israel to stay out of Nasser's Pan-Arabic troublemaking (Nasser killed far, far more fellow Arabs in his various wars around the region than were ever killed by Israel from 1948 to the present).

That's why, instead of the usual map of the West Bank, I present the post-Potsdam Conference map of Germany. Germany gave up 25% of its total land area as the result of its aggression in World War II. No one I've ever heard (except maybe the German high command) ever said this was unfair or inappropriate. Yet returning to Jordan, or Palestine or whatever we want to call the area, the same land which was used to launch an attack 17 kilometers from the Mediterranean (about an 11 mile stretch, which if conquered, cuts Israel in half) is considered Israel's minimal obligation.

I guess my point is that ordinary ways of thinking just never seem to apply to Israel, and I suppose that has to do with the hidden agenda that most people, consciously or not, bring to the discussion. They don't really want to go back to 1948, but that's where they go without saying so. They don't like the idea of a state based on theocratic ideas, whether it's a democracy or not, and they particularly don't like the idea of a Jewish state.

Yet we've done everything we can to establish a state based on Sharia principles in Iraq, where Article II of its constitution specifically prevents any law from being passed which is not consistent with Islamic principles. But it's still full of good things, such as the rights of its citizenry to regain citizenship lost under the Saddamist regime, and the right to dual citizenship. For everyone except Israelis, of course.

1 comment:

  1. hammerud6:28 AM

    I find it interesting that this latest rift between the United States and Israel has to do with Jerusalem. As a Christian, I am beginning to see a lot of signs that world events are starting to line up with prophetic scripture. In Isaiah 46, God says, "I am God...declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done." In describing events of the end times, Zechariah writes, "...says the Lord, Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all people round about...I will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people..." Check out chapters 12-14 of Zechariah, written thousands of years ago, speaking of end time events. Coincidence? It would be if not for the reality of God. God is real and in control of world events, which are unfolding as He has declared in His Word. Most important though is that God who declares the end from the beginning, offers hope to each of us through a Jew named Jesus.