David K. Rees

Should the United States Continue to Support the Israel Military?

Since Israel’s inception, the United States has based its support, especially its military support, on the two countries having common values. That military support has been and continues to be crucial to Israel’s survival; if the United States had not supplied Israel with massive amounts of military aid in 1973, during the Yom Kippur war, Israel’s enemies would probably have succeeded in wiping Israel off the face of the earth. It is worth exploring those values in order to see whether that justification still exists.

The values of the original founders of the State of Israel are set forth in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, which states in relevant part “[Israel] will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex . . . .

I was born in 1947 in the United States, where, before I moved to Israel, I lived for most of my life. I was still a baby when Israel became a State. The founders of Israel had values in common with those of my parents’ generation. Those values were passed on to their children and reached a crescendo during the American civil rights movement of the 1960s. They were best set forth in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 “I have a dream” speech. In short, the values with which my generation, including Joe Biden, was raised have been the basis of American foreign policy towards Israel since its inception.

An examination of the language of Israel’s Declaration of Independence identifies those values. It states in relevant part, that “[Israel] will be based upon freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel.”

Significantly, the reference in this clause is not to Torah, but to the prophets of Israel. In fact, the prophets wrote roughly 2,3000 years AFTER Moses is said to have received Torah from God. By the the time the prophets wrote, Judaism had evolved considerably. The God of Torah was a fearful god, demanding fealty above all else. It was a god that said little about justice. The god of the profits was a kinder, gentler god — one who emphasized acting justly. The profit Micah, who wrote in the eighth century BCE, stated, “What does God require of you but to do JUSTICE, to LOVE kindness and to walk humbly WITH our God.” Micah 6:8 (CAPS MINE.)

In his “I have a dream” speech, King, who had a PhD in theology, emphasized equality between the races. For King, the concepts of justice, democracy, and equality were intertwined. In explaining this, King referred to the profits. Paraphrasing Amos 5:24, King said, “[W]e will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream”. King also alluded to Isaiah 40:4 when he said, “I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain and the crooked places shall be made straight . . . .

The concepts of freedom and justice are stated explicitly in Israel’s Declaration of Independence which also states that Israel “will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex . . . .”

Those are the values upon which Israel was based in 1973, shortly before the Yom Kippur war when a young Senator, Joseph Biden, met with Prime Minister Golda Meir and Yitzhak Rabin in Israel. Biden has been a staunch supporter of Israel ever since, at least until the present Israeli government showed its ugly face.

The present racist, ultra religious, ultra right wing government has a very different set of values from all previous Israeli governments. Its leaders and their followers certainly do not believe in democracy, though they give lip service to it. Virtually all democracies, including The United States, take the position that an independent judiciary is critical to democracy. The present government is trying to give the Knesset, which it controls, the power to overrule Israeli Supreme Court decisions.

The members of the new government certainly do NOT believe in equality. Itamar Ben Gvir, who has previously been convicted of inciting a riot against Arabs and is the leader of the Jewish Power party continues to declare that his people will show the Muslims who controls the Temple Mount, thereby poring gasoline on the flames which are increasingly threatening the Jewish/Muslim relationship. Some of his followers have marched by an Arab neighborhood chanting “death to Arabs.”

Bezalel Smotrich, another of the leaders and Finance Minister of the present government, has also been fanning the flames of hatred between Muslims and Jews, saying just hours before Israeli Jews marked holocaust remembrance day that Muslims who do not recognize that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people will NOT continue to reside in the land. In March, Smotrich called for Israel to wipe the West Bank Palestinian town of Huwara off the map three days after ultra religious, ultra right wing settlers burned dozens of homes and cars there. Smotrich later said that his comment had been a “slip of the tongue”, but there are some things that one says which can never be taken back. (Ask Mel Gibson and his antisemitic rant when he was arrested for drunken driving or Hillary Clinton and her “deplorables” remark.) Certainly the rioters (all of whom were male) did not think that Smotrich had changed his views. Just last week hundreds of settlers, some of whom were carrying automatic rifles and others who were carrying material with which they attempted to burn down an Arab village, rioted. One of the rioters was caught on tape in front of a mosque tearing the pages out of what appeared to be a Koran. The United States has condemned this violence. US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides said that that the Biden administration would “not stand by and watch settler violence occur.”

So too, for equality of the sexes and freedom of religion…

Some members of the present Israeli government have dismissed the United States’ criticism of their actions saying that they are internal matters and none of America’s business. They miss the point: the United States has every right to decide how to spend its money.  I do not know how the United States can continue to support Israel, especially its military, if the two countries no longer have common values.

About the Author
Before making Aliyah from the United States, I spent over three decades as a lawyer in the United States. My practice involved handling many civil rights cases, including women's- rights cases, in State and Federal courts. I handled numerous constitutional cases for the ACLU and argued one civil rights case in the United States Supreme Court. I chaired the Colorado Supreme Court's Committee on the Rules of Criminal Procedure and served on the Colorado Supreme Court's Civil Rules and Rules of Evidence Committees. Since much of my practice involved the public interest, I became interested in environmental law and worked closely with environmental organizations, including the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). I was on the Rocky Mountain Board of EDF. I received an award from the Nebraska Sierra Club as a result of winning a huge environmental case that was referred to me by EDF. I also developed significant knowledge of hazardous and radioactive waste disposal. I was involved in a number of law suits concerning waste disposal, including a highly-political one in the United States Supreme Court which involved the disposal of nuclear waste. As I child I was told by my mother, a German, Jewish refugee who fled Nazi Germany, that Israel was a place for her and her child. When I first visited Israel many years later, I understood what she meant. My feeling of belonging in Israel caused me to make Aliyah and Israel my home. Though I am retired now, I have continued my interest in activism and the world in which I find myself.
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