A divided Congress

Some time ago I participated in a “Support Israel” group.  I resigned.  At my final meeting there I had raised the issue of supporting Israel by noting Israel’s shortcomings as well as all of its wonderful attributes.  One of the group members told me in no uncertain terms that “…we talk only about the good things; there are no negative issues to raise when we talk about Israel…”.

I served in the 13th Battalion Golani Brigade.  I fought in the Yom Kippur War.  Many months later I was trained again, along with many others, to become a tank commander.  Countless patrols later in the Sinai and later the Gaza Strip, my tank unit was dissolved.  I became a liaison officer in the IDF, working with the Multi-National Force and Observers and our Egyptian counterparts.

My wife and I own property in Israel.  My children and grandchildren live in Israel.  I felt that I had every right to express my ideas and thoughts about the country of my birth.  Some good, and some not so good.

The simple reason:  I love Israel.

Some years ago I became a Naturalized American Citizen.  The American Dream, the very idea of America, are not only important to me, I cherish them.  The United States of America is one of the greatest nations in the world, and I particularly like the idea of striving for a “More Perfect Union”; this idea is very similar to our Tikkun Olam philosophy, i.e. to make our world a better place.

I took an oath when I became a Golani Warrior.  Jewish blood will never be spilled in vain.  I swore to protect Israel and the Jewish People.

I took an oath when I became a Naturalized American Citizen.  I swore to “… support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law…”

With this, the latter oath, in mind, and given our current state of affairs in the US, I find myself at odds with many Israelis, and I find myself conflicted with some of the Democrats in the US House of Representatives.

I don’t understand the infatuation with Donald J Trump.  I don’t understand why a town or street in Israel would be named after this president, whose comments, tweets and rally cries smack of racism and xenophobia.

I also do not understand the lack of historical perspective demonstrated in the comments and tweets and speeches by, specifically, US Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) when it comes to Israel.

Do not misunderstand me.  I favor a two state solution, and I hope for a Peace between Israel and Palestine, I hope for peace between the people of Israel and the Palestinian people.  I’m not happy about settlements in Judea and Samaria, and I am not happy to see what the 2005 Israeli disengagement from Gaza brought about, i.e. terror, rockets, missiles, mortars and incendiary devices meant to murder Jews in Israel.

And so it is that I will defend the rights of US Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) to speak their minds without having Donald J Trump tell them to, in essence, “Love It or Leave It”.  I will also ask of these Representatives to read, among others, Ari Shavit’s “My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel”, and Yossi Klein Halevi’s “Like Dreamers The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation”.

Just as Americans strive for a “More Perfect Union”, so do Israelis strive to live in peace in the only country in the world that is truly the Jewish Homeland.  Israel is not a perfect country by any stretch of the imagination.  There is much to be done, and much to improve.  And just as there is discrimination and fear of “the Other” in the US, there is the same in Israel.  Just as there is no limit to the kindness and charity so characteristic of Americans, it is the same in Israel.

As I write these words anti-Semitism and racism have again crawled out from under the rocks they hid under.  While Donald J Trump may claim that he is no anti-Semite and not a racist, it is my opinion that his lack of leadership and his inability to condemn them in the strongest of words show otherwise.

Telling four members of the US House of Representatives to go back from where they came from  is abhorrent.  Where does that end?  Does it not sound too much like “JUDEN RAUS” of decades gone by in Nazi Germany?

The fact that the United States Congress, speaking as one unanimous voice, failed to condemn these comments by the President of the USA saddens me, and at the same time gives me hope.  The hope that in the upcoming 2020 elections America will once again show itself to be a United States of America, giving equal rights to all of its citizens.

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America clearly states: …that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Criticizing one’s country does not diminish one’s love for that country, nor does it ever mean that it is an expression of hatred.  It is, in my opinion, an attempt to make it a more perfect home for all.

About the Author
Born in Israel, Yuval emigrated as a baby to Austria and then Canada. He returned to live in Israel in '71 until '91. His military service was in Golani Brigade's 13th Battalion (including Yom Kippur War) with reserve duty as a tank commander and later a liaison officer in the IDF Liaison Unit. He now resides in Pennsylvania, USA.
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