Throughout American history, no religious minority has invested so much in their ancestral land than the five million Jewish Americans. Today, American Jewry is a potent mix of well-organized, complex, diverse and creative community with intense relationship with Israel.
The myths and realities surrounding the excesses of Zionism are attributed mainly to the dismal politics of Israel which has been transformed into a theocracy for Jews only.
The Jewish challenge to assimilation is not the lack of basic understanding of pluralistic and modern religious society, but the general anti-Gentile streak of totalitarian policies. Apparently, Jewish revolutionaries who detest British imperialism in the name of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have become powerful reactionaries.
In response to my op-ed “A Strong United Israel is Indispensable to Regional Stability in the Middle East”, Dr. Nabil S. Muallem – my co-alumnus and Titan fraternity brother, wrote:
In 1948 we were 20% of the population and presently we are only 1.8%. When you say that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, to me it is true only when it involves Jews. It’s oxymoron to say Israel is a democracy when it occupies other peoples’ land and controls their daily movements, Democratic countries don’t do such things. Democratic countries don’t build settlements for a particular religion only.
Historically significant was the imposition of unfair practices and expulsion of Christians like Nabil, a Melkite Greek Catholic, originally from a small village in Galilee, near Nazareth. The banished Christian inhabitants of the depopulated villages of Iqrit and Bir’im in the Galilee, provides compelling example of deplorable injustice when Israeli forces expelled the inhabitants from their homes in 1948.
As a matter of fact, Muslim terror contributed to the alienation, persecution and eventual decline of the Arab Christians. Ramallah was 90% Christian before the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, while Bethlehem was 80% Christian. By 1967, more than half of Bethlehem’s residents were Muslim, while Ramallah is a large Muslim city today. The silence of the Vatican and the World Council of Churches has been astonishing when they turned a blind eye on Palestinian Arab Christians persecution and harassment by the Islamic extremists.
Surprisingly, even today, Christians were not permitted to return to their ancestral land. Moreover, the tiny Palestinian village in the West Bank, Taybeh is the only remaining presence of Christianity in the Holy Land.
Of the greatest importance, the Holy Land which is home to Judaism, Christianity and Islam should not be politicized. In order to preserve its protected status, Jerusalem should be declared an Open City – with the Israeli Defense forces at the helm to provide legitimate security.
For its part, Israel should acknowledge to put an end to its alleged oppressive and discriminatory policies and practices against non-Jews. Through strength of purpose and determination, Israel can now lay down the groundwork for a comprehensive negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In my view, to counteract anti-Semitism, Israel should support the emergence of a viable, sustainable, credible commonwealth rather than a Palestinian state. A commonwealth of Palestine will give Israel a respite from violence and uneasiness with some of its Arab neighbors. The fact that despite these pragmatic difficulties, there are no easy answers, no permanent solution to the current conflict without compromise from both sides.
The concept as codified in Foreign Affairs Manual of the US State Department policy, states that a ‘commonwealth’ does not describe or provide for any specific political status or relationship; is self-governing under a constitution of its adoption and whose right of self-government will not be unilaterally withdrawn by Congress.
Currently, the Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico are insular areas or territories classified with the status of commonwealth. The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is part of the US as a territory, unlike the ‘associated states’ of the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, and the Marshall Islands – are sovereign states with full right to conduct their own foreign relations.
After an embarrassing unsuccessful bid at the UN for statehood, Palestinians should realize that a commonwealth offers a better future for them because of shared identity among its citizenry, shared territory, natural resources, government institutions and military power. A commonwealth status for Palestine as a territory of Israel is a better option than the options proposed by a foreign power whose interests come first and foremost.
In a democratic state, political stability is based on trust, not ambiguity to bridge the gap to its citizenry in terms of shared security and providing services and economic prosperity regardless of religious affiliation, origin or race.
Therefore, Israel’s security is enhanced and direct engagement and diplomatic recognition with its Arab neighbors possible. As we have learned the mistakes of the past, hatred between two people separated by religious extremism has not been conducive to peace and harmony.
Furthermore, a critical piece of legislation should be forged to renounce violent extremism and of course, recognition and adherence to the laws of the State of Israel. Depending on its success or failure, a commonwealth of Palestine in order to be viable must be supported by Israel.
In the commonwealth model like Puerto Rico, Palestinians are de facto Israeli citizens with the same benefits, privileges and responsibilities like any other Jews. To maximize viability, UN sponsored arrangement may be needed that accommodates Israeli security requirements and demographic realities.
As far as American Jewry goes, US law is not Talmudic law that protects them from their government. However, based on Talmudic laws governing the relationship between Jews and non-Jews is difficult to comprehend. Henceforth, the imposition of Jewish only policies in a ‘democratic’ Israel is self-defeating.
Israelis and Palestinians alike, have to bridge the gap, to compensate, to make amends and to make peace in order to stop the paroxysm of rage and the confusing murderous conflict.
Admirably, the American Jewish lobby promotes to preserve the critical strategic alliance between the US and Israel might as well support a commonwealth to hopefully end the conflict. The key to American Jewry’s success lies in socio-economic equality, opportunity and prosperity, not self-imposed religious identity. When Judaism, Islam or Christianity collides, religious extremism has no place in a democratic society.
In Israel, of all places, it is confusing to rationalize ultra Orthodoxy in an already predominantly Jewish community. When racism, xenophobia and discrimination are directed against non-Jews, it is hard to justify that Israel is a democratic society. Similarly, chauvinism, religious fanaticism and anti-Semitism have no place in a democracy. When religion is pursued for political gain, it becomes a theocracy not necessarily a democracy.
Needless to say, the apartheid-like policies Israel pursued after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War in the Occupied Territories was a policy of political, ideological and realistic considerations of the time. That is why non-Jewish citizens of Israel do not have the right to equality before the law.
But in modern Israel, the Utopia called the ‘Jewish state’ is far more dangerous when its policies are sanctified by religious principles. A Jewish state based on the principles of Jewish Orthodoxy cannot ever contain an open society or a democracy.
Thomas Jefferson said, “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.”