This week the UN may be taking a vote concerning Palestinian statehood, a general assembly vote to grant “nonmember state” observer status. So I thought now would be a good time to attempt to offer some sense. Yes, the WiseFather is taking on an issue of much higher difficulty than mocking the Kardashians, Justin Bieber, and the Jersey Shore (Google search term hits, FTW!).
Why take on this issue? The marketplace of ideas needs someone to model how to take a thoughtful approach to some of these delicate topics.
Let’s see, we have two historically beaten-down minority groups competing for my sympathy, and each gets some. It’s a touchy subject. Any questioning of Israel seems to risk a charge of anti-Semitism. While it is true that not all people who criticize Israel are anti-Semites, taking a unbiased position that would gain praise of actual anti-Semites produces an uneasy feeling. The labeling prevents an open and honest discussion of actual facts, and slows any approach to a conclusive peace.
Did I mention how hard it is to find unbiased information about the conflict? A lot of issues are like that. I’ll list some in a future post.
In stepping back and taking a thoughtful approach, let’s start with an easy one. People shouldn’t be discriminated against because of their religion. It is wrong to hate someone just because they are Jewish.
Here are some facts. The holocaust is a fact. Being the victims of what is known as THE holocaust, the Jewish people have earned an enormous amount of sympathy and goodwill. The world feels the need to protect this group so it never happens again and recognizes that there is still an anti-Jewish crowd out there. Immediately following the war, it was entirely appropriate to created a safe place for Jewish people. That safety obviously was strengthened by having a Jewish-controlled government.
Israel was founded as a Jewish state. Here in America we rejected the idea of established state religions when we wrote our constitution more than 200 years ago. I see the wisdom of this decision with every mention of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Adopting an official state religion gives rise to the issue of fair treatment of the non-Jewish people in Israel and its territories.
It is wrong to hate someone just because they are Jewish. It is also wrong to treat someone poorly because they are not Jewish. If a government wants to do so, can it really tout itself as a democracy?
Two, Israel has the right to exist. It is way too late for that debate. Israel is not going anywhere. So the non-Jewish Israelis and Palestinians (and outside agitators) have to accept that the conflict is a civil rights issue. As such it is time to renounce violence. It doesn’t work and has been making matters worse. This year has seen the effectiveness of nonviolent protests.
Three, America’s role seems one-sided. The default stance on any issue concerning Israel is somewhere between unwavering support of a long-standing ally and a blind allegiance. I’ll examine this relationship in another post. It is complex and interesting enough on its own (Hint: It involves apocalyptic evangelicals and crazy conspiracy theorists).
Conclusion: the Israeli government should not discriminate against non-Jews in any territory where they exert authority, and the Palestinians (and their sympathizers) should not use or condone violence to appeal for fair treatment. Now that I’ve scolded both sides, do I have any solutions in mind?
A two-state solution? If the Israeli government insists on treating non-Jews differently, perhaps the Palestinians need their own state. Of course, Israel would retain the right to defend itself from any attacks from the territory of an independent Palestine, just as they may respond to an attack from any other nation.
A one-state solution? I see this working only if the one state, Israel, acts like a 51st state: adopt (at least) American civil rights standards (including that Establishment Clause) and your security justifications will be more legitimate.