Friday, May 27, 2011

5 Things To Remember About Israel-Palestine

I watched the Glenn Beck show, in full, four times last week. No, I haven't converted to the dark side. And, as far as I can tell, I haven't gone crazy. I was interested because he was talking about Israel all week. It's funny, he obviously doesn't know much about Israel-Palestine and also doesn't seem curious to learn. But he's convinced that Obama has betrayed Israel in a way that will probably lead to either genocide or Armageddon. Never mind that Obama was simply re-articulating the traditional US stance on the issue (two states, pre-'67 borders, etc), with which the world is in nearly unanimous agreement. Glenn Beck portrays the Israel-Palestine issue as a stark dichotomy: You either "stand with Israel" and are thereby following God's commandments from the Bible, or you stand with the Palestinians, spit in the face of God, and want all Jews to die. And of course he's very emotional, on the verge of tears, about it.

What's scary is that I think a lot of people agree with him on this. Heck, based on a number of comments I've seen on Facebook I know plenty of people who agree with him.

So I'd just like to throw out five thoughts to help pull this discussion in a more sane direction.

1. Even if you believe the Bible commands you to "stand with Israel," the Bible does not command you to support militaristic, unjust, apartheid policies of the Israeli government. The Bible does not command you to support the oppression of the Palestinian people. It's an absurd argument to say that for a Christian to live out his beliefs he must support the Israeli government's actions no matter how egregious they are.

2. Jews/Judaism and the nation-state of Israel are not interchangeable. It's an important distinction, yet people like Beck speak as though they are one and the same. Only about 42% of the world's Jewish population lives in Israel. More Jews live in America (45% of world population) than in Israel. Israel itself is only 75% Jewish. And if the Palestinians in the occupied territories were counted, Jews would not even be a majority in Israel. Which leads to the next point...

3. When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demands that Palestinians "recognize Israel as a Jewish state," he is implying, among other things, that Palestinians within Israel will always be second-class citizens. To put that in perspective, imagine people demanding that Ireland "recognize Northern Ireland as a protestant state." Imagine Alabama demanding to be recognized as a Baptist state.

4. The most humane and sensible solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is also the most radically left-wing. I'm talking about a "one-state solution." It goes like this: Make all Palestinians citizens of Israel, incorporate the Palestinian territories into Israel's territory, and allow the refugees to return from Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and elsewhere. Have a secular, democratic government that protects minority rights and freedom of religion. In other words, do what is just and stop treating one group as superior to another. Isn't this also the most "American" solution? You could say that a "one-state solution" is what ended up happening in the segregated American South and in apartheid South Africa. This solution also recognizes the facts on the ground--that Jews and Palestinians are going to live intermingled one way or another. But the strongest opponents to a one-state solution are those on both sides whose positions of privilege would be threatened by democracy and tolerance.

5. Israeli public opinion is much more "Pro-Palestinian" than you think. Most Israelis support a two-state solution with pre-'67 borders. Most Israelis support direct negotiations with Hamas. Most Israeli's support dismantling most of the Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories as part of a peace deal. So whoever wants to "stand with Israel" should stand with the Israeli people against their right-wing government.

That's all for now. But next time you hear someone being called an Anti-Semite because they are arguing for democracy and justice for Palestinians and Israelis alike, step into that discussion with some of these points. It will hurt Glenn Beck's feelings. And make him cry. Literally.

1 comment:

What Pale Blue Dot? said...

I could quibble with your first point, particularly if you even lazily read the Tanakh. ;) But, that issue aside, I couldn't agree more. States built on religionist, racist, or other discriminatory politics are not legitimate nations. The Jewish people should certainly be safe in their chosen homes, just like all people. But there's nothing about them that warrants granting them the unquestioned right to oppress others living within their claimed borders.