The U.S. government says it is a friend of Israel. That is good; I want my government to extend its circle of friends as wide as possible, and to seek peaceful ways of living with those who refuse our friendship. But the U.S. has a very strange way of behaving toward a friend. Friendship entails seeking the greatest good for one’s friend. That is not what the U.S. is doing with Israel.
If a friend comes to my house drunk, I do not give him the keys to my car. If that friend is fighting with a neighbor, I do not give him a gun. If I wish to be a true friend, I seek ways to help him and his neighbor settle their disputes peacefully. If I see my friend doing things that exacerbate the quarrel, I point that out to him. I try to get my friend to listen to the complaints of his neighbor and see where those complaints may be justified.
I do not help my friend break into his neighbor’s house and steal his property. I do not help my friend deprive his neighbor of the means to live a decent life. I do not subsidize the actions of my friend that make a peaceful settlement of the dispute impossible. And if my friend should kill his neighbor, I do not congratulate him and tell him he has a right to kill; I certainly do not give him more weapons so he can kill again.
The U.S. government is betraying our friendship with Israel. The president and Congress are not acting in the best interests of Israel, but responding with moral cowardice to its unlawful, immoral and brutal behavior toward the Palestinians. Afraid of Israel’s powerful supporters in the United States, our government betrays the very meaning of friendship by supporting Israel in its time of shame. And it is worse than that.
Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. military aid in the world. The United States extends its diplomatic cover while Israel continues to confiscate Palestinian land for new settlements in the occupied territories, in violation of international law, and making a peaceful, two-state solution impossible.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asks, “What would you do if the (Palestinian) rockets were landing on your cities and towns?” Fair question. As someone who wants to see Israel live in peace amongst its Arab neighbors, I take this question very seriously. As a friend of Israel, who wants to get at the root of the ongoing tragedy, I would ask the prime minister, “What would you do if another country occupied ever larger sections of your homeland, kept you and your people prisoners in a restricted zone where all coming and going, including commercial trade, is controlled by the occupier, who attacks with overwhelming destructive power whenever the prisoners react with frustration and violence?”
I do not intend to excuse the prisoner’s violence, the rockets, the resulting fear and destruction. I am trying to place it in historical and psychological context, just as I try to understand how the history of pogrom and holocaust — none perpetrated by Palestinians — motivates some of the unquestioning supporters of Israel. The Israeli government wants us to forget this Palestinian context as it has great explanatory power; so it places the start of the violence at a convenient moment that seems to support its contention that the Palestinians started the whole catastrophe.
Just when the number of Palestinian dead approached 1,400, the majority of whom were civilians, including nearly 200 children, the U.S. government gave Israel an additional $1 billion in weapons. This further implicates every U.S. taxpayer in the killings.
The barbarous actions of the Israeli government in Gaza erode the magnificent tradition of Judaism for justice and peace, a tradition that forms a basis of Western political thought. Israel says it wants peace, but it is the peace of a cell block. And the United States aids and abets these actions. With friends like this, who needs enemies?
Joseph Gainza lives in Marshfield.MORE IN Commentary
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