The US’ biggest ally in the Middle East is Israel, and the US returns the favor by almost indiscriminately supporting Israel. By 2018, the US will have given Israel over $30 billion in unconditional military aid and over $121 billion in aid since 1949. We remain silent on the Israeli government trying children as adults for crimes they didn’t commit. We remain silent about Israeli-government sanctioned extra-judicial killings. We remain silent about them raiding Palestinian homes and kicking out Palestinian families. We remain silent about their closure of Gaza. In fact, we praise them for their resilience, promise to support them against Palestinian terrorists, and continue to give them funds. We won’t even discuss sanctions against them.
One of Israel’s staunchest allies is Hillary Clinton. Hillary is a smart woman, capable of doing research and synthesizing new information. She has a masterful command of foreign policy and was one of our most esteemed Secretary of States. She does, however, completely support Israel, and is willing to feed the fears of Palestinian terrorism, praise Israel for their excessive military actions, and commit to supporting Israeli priorities both at home and abroad. This is an issue that divides the two of us.
However, the problem goes deeper than Hillary. It affects the highest offices in our government. The US still will not recognize Palestine as an independent state and has not recognized the raising of their flag at the United Nations as a real action. Palestine does not have an embassy in the US. President Obama only visited Palestine in 2013. Except perhaps Bernie Sanders, even our most liberal politicians won’t mention the hardships and atrocities Palestinians face. We’ve basically decided they don’t exist.
While I understand the US’ desire to have a strong military ally in the Middle East, we should not be willing to look the other way when Israel commits war crimes, violates treaties, or attempts to disenfranchise the Palestinian people. It is not inconsistent with good allyship and support to say, “What you are doing violates international law. What you are doing is disenfranchising an entire community. What you are doing needs to stop, and if you are not willing to stop, you are going to hurt our good relations.” We are also more than capable of supporting the Jewish faith and fighting against anti-Semitism while expecting Israel to adhere to basic standards of decency. It’s not an either/or question. Life is more complicated than that.
As we move into a new Congress and a new Presidency, we have to start holding our leaders accountable for how we support Israel and Palestine. You can do this by voting for Bernie, who is vocally pro-Palestine. You can also choose Congressmen and women who aren’t exclusively pro-Israel. Even if they are, write to them, email them, Tweet them. Pay attention to not just Israeli and US news but also Palestinian news. Remember that Palestine is not the enemy. Remember to extend the same decency towards them that we do to other people in war-torn countries. Remember that the people there didn’t ask to be arbitrarily divided and marginalized. Remember that Palestine and Israel can live in peace – but first we have to acknowledge their suffering.
* Photo taken from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gl8sWCxyPJw