Israel, Moral Values, and The Future
More than anything else, the issue of Israel’s future is a moral one. Prior to the founding of the modern state of Israel in 1948, a date that Palestinians call “The Nakba” (Catastrophe), Israel’s founders made the decision to cleanse Palestine of its non-Jewish indigenous population and replace it with Jews, most of whom came from Europe. More than 10,000 Palestinians were killed and 750,000 fled to nearby countries. Israeli forces (The Stern Gang, Irgun and other Jewish terrorist groups) justified the slaughter by claiming they were attacked first, (as if Palestinians should have simply given up when they were attacked).
It is a familiar scenario: an invading group steals the land of a people they regard as subhuman, sets out to destroy them, then blames the violence on the victims. The invaders are rewarded with a new state called Israel, within specific borders. The plight of the Palestinian people was conveniently ignored. The invaders are portrayed as heroes, the Palestinian victims as the enemy, and the world conveniently shrugs its shoulders and moves on, leaving the invaders to construct a nation on stolen property. The Palestinian people? They are treated with contempt and portrayed as terrorists whenever they resist. Moral issues? The world pretends they don’t exist. But like it or not, they do.
On the issue of Israel and the Palestinian people, Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu recently repeated his assertion that the only acceptable agreement with Palestinians is that Israel will keep all of Jerusalem and control a large part of the West Bank, justifying himself by saying that the core of the dispute is not land claims, but a Palestinian refusal to recognize the Jewish people’s ancient connection to the land. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman agreed, saying that “We are fighting for the lands of the Jewish people and there are those who would intentionally try to rob and seize them. It’s not a social problem, or housing crisis, it’s a fight for land, ever since the 19th century.” The claim that the Jewish people have an ancient connection to the land, and because of that, have a right to take back the land as theirs, is both obnoxious and absurd.
If true, as a descendant of my French immigrant great-grandfather Martin Gerard, I have a right to go to the small French village of Hartzviller, France, a village of some 900 residents in The Lorraine, and lay claim to any piece of property that I want. You can imagine the response: the gendarmes are called, I am arrested, given a mental exam, and deported to the United States. An ancient connection to Palestine, real or imaginary, does not bring with it the right to attack a people, kill as many of them as possible, steal their land, then persecute them, treating them as if they are subhuman, nothing more than cockroaches. Is this an extreme picture of reality? I don’t think so.
In a museum at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, tombstones cover the walls of a series of rooms, each one commemorating a single Jewish community destroyed by Hitler’s Nazis. Where is the museum commemorating the Palestinian communities destroyed by Israel?
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Thirty-two years after the atrocity of Kristallnacht, West German Foreign Minister Walter Scheel toured Auschwitz, accompanied by two other West German officials. At the conclusion of his visit, he wrote this in the camp’s guest book: “In the face of this horror, of this inhumanity, it will be our duty to safeguard these highest values — the dignity of man, peace among peoples.”
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A woman and her husband sit on the balcony of their home late one afternoon. The husband sips a cup of coffee while his wife embroiders a gift for a granddaughter. Suddenly a shot rings out. The grandmother slumps in her chair, a sniper’s bullet in her head.
A fourteen year old boy walks home from school. A shot rings out, and he falls dead, shot in the back by a sniper standing in front of his school. In both cases, the snipers are pleased with themselves.
In the Galilee, Israel’s government plans to create new Jewish communities in an attempt to “Judaize” the Galilee which, according to the government, has too many Palestinians living in it. If you’re wondering where the government will get the land to create these new communities, it will be from land appropriated (confiscated) from Palestinian citizens. This has gone on from the beginning.
Israeli Occupation Forces of the IDF, once advertised by the Israeli government as “the world’s most moral army”, demolish the Bedouin village of al-Araqib in the Negev for the 82nd time since 2010. It is one of some 40 villages unrecognized by Israel, some of them older than Israel itself. The Negev constitutes roughly 40% of historic Palestine, and is home to nearly two hundred thousand Palestinians. If the controversial Prawer Plan becomes law, which it is likely to do, between 40,000 and 70,000 of the Negev’s Bedouins will be forced into crowded cities.
Richard Forer, one time AIPAC supporter, reported this from a friend in Khan Younis: “Gaza Dying. It is zero degrees right now with a new storm forecast for later in the week. Many of Rana’s neighbors are in the hospital. The streets are filled with sewage. Israel let loose a couple of dams, the sole purpose apparently to make life harder than it already is for the people. . . Electricity is available only a few hours per day. People are freezing to death and starving.
“This is not warehoused slaughter like Nazi Germany,” he goes on to say, it is “the opportunistic use of bad weather to wear Palestinians down and let them know that their destiny is being manipulated by and is subject to the whims of a cruel and sadistic oppressor with no regard for their well being.” “Cruel and sadistic,” remember that. It is strong stuff, and it badly needs to be said.
“We have no solution…” Israeli general and hero Moshe Dayan once said; “You [Palestinians] shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes may leave, and we will see where this process leads.”
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What is wrong with the picture I have painted above? From the standpoint of acceptable standards of behavior and morality, everything is wrong with it. Moshe Dayan’s cruel remark is the kind of thing one expects from a leader of an abusive and sadistic nation, not a nation that represents itself as a beacon of freedom and democracy. From the beginning, Israel’s leaders have tried to build a vibrant society for Jews only, shoving Palestinians and others to the sidelines like slaves or, as Dayan said, “like dogs”. The kind of nation that results from this kind of behaviour is an abusive one, one that healthy people leave, leaving behind the sadists (“It is acceptable to kills a goyim baby.”), racists, those in denial, and violence toward people who are considered “in the way,” including African black Jews who, it seems aren’t acceptable because they’re not white.
To deny this, as the US government has done all along, and as US Secretary of State John Kerry continues to do when he presents a two-state solution as anything but farcical, is a travesty, a deliberate ignoring of the facts on the ground, and an appalling moral failure. As Richard Forer said in a recent blog post, “decent people do not support the Israeli government’s assault on the indigenous people of the land it claims exclusively for itself, nor do decent people pander to phoney claims of security by a nation whose behavior in the name of security and in the name of the Jewish people incites anti-Semitism, making Jews around the world less secure.”
The moral standard mentioned by Walter Scheel is the standard we all must work from: In the far of this inhumanity, it is our duty to safeguard these highest values: the dignity of mankind and peace among peoples. That Israel fails the test so blatantly is no longer a secret. If it is allowed to continue along its path, it will become even more violent, abusive and sadistic.
Nelson Mandela once said “You will achieve more in this world through acts of mercy than you will through acts of retribution.” Abusive people neither accept nor understand this. If Israel’s leadership does not change, I do not see Israel having a viable future at all. Where things are at present, it is careening toward a precipice. That is what dysfunctional, abusive systems ultimately do.
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In the face of this horror, of this inhumanity, what questions should we be asking of ourselves, our friends, our representatives in government, and Israel? The questions, I think, are at the very least these:
l. Does our support of Israel support the dignity of man and peace among peoples? If it doesn’t, what does it support?
2. When the evidence is so clear that Israel’s behavior toward the Palestinian people is an act of persistent ethnic cleansing, why does our government turn a blind eye at the evidence and continue supporting Israel?
3. What am I willing to do to help right this wrong and support the dignity of man and peace among peoples?
4. What is my first step going to be, and when will I take it?
“I had no epiphany,” said Nelson Mandela, “no singular revelation, no moment of truth, but a steady accumulation of a thousand slights, a thousand indignities and a thousand unremembered moments produced in me an anger, a rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people. There was no particular day on which I said, ‘Henceforth I will devote myself to the liberation of my people’; instead, I simply found myself doing so, and could not do otherwise.”
The Palestinian people are my people, just as they are yours. It is time to bring an end to the travesty in Israel, the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights. If we wish peace among peoples, this is a good place to begin.
The only future Israel has, as I see it, is as a nation for all its people, not just the Jewish ones. We the people must keep pressing until they make this change. If we do not, then the results are on our shoulders. My hat is off to all of those good people who stand on the principles of the dignity of mankind and peace among peoples and in solidarity with the Palestinian people in their fight for the right to be treated with respect and dignity and allowed to return to their homeland.
As for Israel, it will become a nation of all its people, a nation in which all its people enjoy the same rights, or it will disappear.