Stop war over the west bank of the Jordan
The US quickly recognized Israel, over State Department objections, with much American, including Jewish support. I was in elementary school at the time but I believe that a future friend of mine ran guns here in New York for the State of Israel in 1948. I would have cheered. Later he ran an office in Mississippi in what was known as Freedom Summer – two actions that obviously took lots of guts. My friend, who has now passed away, also took a major part in the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.
Our support for the state of Israel was never unconditional. It always assumed a just state with the values of the free world. A state which dispossesses people from their homes or encourages squatters to do the dirty work can’t be described that way. The Israeli Supreme Court often objected to the treatment of the Palestinians, for which it was justly famous, and Israel repeatedly promised it would stop. Some Palestinians did commit or attempt murder, and mass mayhem. But Israel’s frequent collective punishment regardless of behavior is self-defeating and unacceptable.
Most international conflicts and civil wars are very difficult to stop. Usually the smartest policy is to stand back and watch the killing through our tears. But the war over the West Bank of the Jordan is different. Israel has been very dependent on American aid and arms. If we stopped and blocked it, Israel would have to reassess its policies and fast.
Some think the Chinese might intervene but on whose side? Our support of an aggressive Middle Eastern state has been a mixed blessing for us and the Chinese would face the same problems. Better they reap the whirlwind. Israel has pursued other trade and supply options, but those connections have historically been fragile. An American pullout would make them unsustainable for many of Israel’s partners. So I think Israel is the rare case where America policy could drive justice.
The problem that does concern me is that American withdrawal of support could have dangerous implications in an America already convulsed by hate groups.
To make American action conditional and effective, America would have to define the deal it’s willing to endorse. But we’ve been describing that for years and our so-called ally has been sticking its fingers in our eyes and flouting our wishes, confident that American support for Israel is one of the third rails of American politics.
Though most don’t realize it, America’s unconditional support for Israel isn’t because of general American Jewish support. Many of us are furious and tortured by Israel’s attempt to kill or push the Palestinians out, repeating there the treatment of Native American tribes here in America.
Instead, Christian fundamentalists made Israel the third rail of American politics, believing the temporary survival of the state of Israel is crucial for the Second Coming of Christ, the full sovereignty of God, or what is known, particularly to fundamentalists, as the Rapture – after which, according to their theology, Jews will collectively be sent to Hell, as if being Jewish is sufficient reason for eternal damnation, which has never sounded particularly Christian to me. But those who subscribe to those views have been so politicized that they’ll never support a Democrat. So I’m not sure there is a political downside to Biden or the Democrats.
America must be willing to make temporary compromises for our national security. But in the long run, America must stand for justice. And as Pete Seeger famously sang, Pacem in Terris, Mir, Shanti, Salaam, Hey Wa and Sholom too.
Steve Gottlieb’s latest book is Unfit for Democracy: The Roberts Court and The Breakdown of American Politics. He is the Jay and Ruth Caplan Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Albany Law School, served on the New York Civil Liberties Union board, on the New York Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and as a US Peace Corps Volunteer in Iran.
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