Righty: The re-establishment of the Jewish homeland in Israel after nearly two thousand years was an almost miraculous fulfillment of New Testament prophecy, a prerequisite to the Second Coming of Christ. All Bible-believing Christians rejoiced at the birth of Israel and continue to support the Jewish state with all their hearts. The United States must continue to shape its foreign policy around the welfare of Israel, no matter what the cost, so that the events foretold in the Book of Revelation can continue to unfold until Jesus returns to establish His kingdom. Granted, I might have a problem or two with the Jews here in the U.S., but I stand behind the state of Israel 100 percent.
Lefty: Here’s a terrible irony for you: the Jewish people, traditional champions of humane liberal values and progressive causes, have established a blatantly racist, militarist state with questionable claims to legitimacy. Overwhelmingly dependent on U.S. aid for its survival, Israel has absorbed the worst traits of its benefactor: a blustering arrogance and self-righteousness combined with an almost pathologically itchy trigger finger. How fitting that the world’s two most sanctimonious nations have become the closest of allies. How sad that the Jewish people, themselves perennial victims of bigotry and injustice, have seen fit to systematically oppress, ostracize and disenfranchise the Palestinians. No biblical claim to sovereignty can justify such willful mistreatment of the people who have now inhabited the land of Palestine longer than the Jewish people ever did. Israel must create a fully independent Palestinian state, remove Israeli nationals from their settlements in the West Bank, and grant immediate equality to Palestinians who choose to remain within the borders of Israel. There can be no lasting peace in the Middle East until the Palestinians are liberated from their Israeli oppressors.
The New Moderate:
When the Israeli flag first fluttered over Palestine in 1948, most of the civilized world cheered. We were witnessing the fulfillment of an ancient dream and the end of a brutal nightmare for the Jewish people. A mere three years after the Holocaust, the Jews had created an independent state in the land where their saga had begun. It was cause for rejoicing.
Less than half a century later, the glittering dream was looking tarnished. Israel had survived by a combination of pluck and massive U.S. aid. It had also become a perpetual magnet for Muslim terrorists who denied its right to exist. And was it truly a democracy when its Arab citizens were effectively barred from full participation in Israeli life?
No nation in my lifetime, with the possible exception of the United States, has been loved and hated so fervently. To its champions, Israel is still the culmination of a dream, an oasis of prosperity and a shining beacon of enlightenment in a dark corner of the world. How could anyone, they argue, rightfully deny the Jews a state of their own after all those endless centuries of wandering and persecution?
To its detractors, the Jewish state is an ongoing exercise in racism and hypocrisy. How could the Jews, perennial victims of racism themselves, be so blind as to create a state for Jews and Jews alone? Weren’t they at least faintly echoing the fevered nationalism of a certain monomaniacal, mustachioed German dictator who despised Jews?
But what is to be done? All the proposed options regarding Israel seem depressingly futile or misguided:
- Keep the Palestinians subservient and segregated within Israel, and you have an apartheid state. Unacceptable (at least to the Palestinians, Jimmy Carter and others who respect human rights).
- Integrate the Palestinians into Israeli society, and eventually (given a decade or two of unlimited Arab procreation) you have a Palestinian majority calling the shots. Unacceptable (at least to the Jews and others who believe in the concept of a Jewish homeland).
- Create two separate states — one for the Jews and one for the Palestinians — and both regimes must enact oppressive laws to safeguard their ethnic and religious “purity.” Unacceptable (at least to anyone who believes in freedom).
- Wipe Israel off the map (we’re not going there).
The New Moderate asserts, for what it’s worth, that Israel has a right to exist. It has a right to exist where it now exists, not by virtue of a divine deed to the land — but because it won that right, through a combination of grit and diplomacy, back in 1948. I’m a little less supportive of the “Israel for the Jews” mentality, which, no matter how you slice it, smacks of racism and exclusionism. But I can understand that mentality all the same. (The only other choice available to the Jews would have been to settle down in an uninhabited, unclaimed wilderness — say, the northern tip of Antarctica.) I also believe that Jews and Palestinians won’t be able to coexist amicably within the same state, or even within neighboring states — as long as there are Jews and Palestinians clamoring for the same turf.
Granting Palestinian independence won’t win relief for the beleaguered Jewish state. (In fact, the most recent intifada began after Israel promised to withdraw from Gaza and allow Palestinian self-government inside the West Bank.) Israel can mitigate some of the hatred, including the animosity of its Western critics, by tempering its more sanctimonious rhetoric — and by offering its Arab population a fuller role in Israeli life. But the hatred will never entirely vanish as long as the Jews are successful and their neighbors are not.
All Israel can do, in the end, is learn to accept the hostility of Muslims as a fact of its existence, just as Jews endured the hostility of Christians in Europe for all those centuries. You get on with life; you make a few friends; you survive; you produce offspring who remember your ancient traditions. That’s about the best you can hope for in a notoriously savage world.
Summary: Israel has a right to exist, even though the Jewish state is founded on somewhat lamentable exclusionary principles. There is virtually nothing Israel can do to win the affections of its Muslim neighbors. The only solution, if you can call it that, is to survive in the face of chronic hostility — a skill the Jews have been forced to master over the last two millennia.