In the summer of 1099, Jerusalem was seized and captured after one of the most brutal sieges of all time. Catholic crusaders from Europe slaughtered the remaining Muslims who sought refuge in the Dome of the Rock and the Temple of David. Fulcher of Chartres wrote, “In this temple 10,000 were killed. Indeed, if you had been there you would have seen our feet coloured to our ankles with the blood of the slain. But what more shall I relate? None of them were left alive; neither women nor children were spared.” 1 The crusaders then went on to the sepulchre where the Jews were hiding and burned them alive. These Muslims and Jews had fought side by side–working together to defend Jerusalem from the invading Christians.
The United States of America has been providing support and assistance to Israel ever since Israel’s establishment in 1948. The US government was the first in the world to recognize Israel’s statehood and began supplying aid to Israel immediately. In the early 60s, the United States began supplying Israel with weapons and ammunition. Ever since 1985, we give the Israeli government at least 3 billion dollars in aid every year. Go ahead and read that last sentence again: 3 billion dollars every year.
What has been bothering me (besides the ridiculous amount of aid we give out) is this: how did we pick a side? Jerusalem has been fought over, conquered, and demolished numerous times throughout history. We all know that it is a holy place for Christian, Jewish, and Islamic people.
What then, gave the United States the authority to determine who had the rights to the holy land? About 711,000 Palestinians were forced out of Israel following its creation. 2 Somehow, Americans place most (if not all) of the blame on them for the conflict over Israel. Politicians suggest that it is the Palestinians’ fault because they won’t accept a two-state solution; yet they fail to mention that in these proposed “solutions,” the state of Israel of course gets Jerusalem–and isn’t that what the conflict is all about?
In the January 26, 2012 Republican debate in Jacksonville, Florida, the candidates were asked about their views on US-Israeli relations. Newt Gingrich wanted the Palestinians to say, “we give up the right to return” while Mitt Romney declared, “We will stand by our friend, Israel.” No deeper explanation was offered as to why Palestinians should give up or why Israel is our “friend.”
Why do so many politicians and the majority of Americans agree that we have a duty to defend Israel?
Former president Jimmy Carter said, “The survival of Israel is not a political issue, it is a moral imperative.” Our support of Israel and involvement in the Middle East is seen by many as a duty to protect democracy or to spread freedom. Some Americans feel guilt over how much the Jews have suffered, saying, “We owe it to the Jews because of the Holocaust.” As I have struggled to understand this, I came up with two questions.
1. Is there actually a moral reason we should be involved in Israel’s affairs? I obviously feel that the answer is no. It is being painted as such so freedom-loving Americans can feel good about spending money and spending lives on Israel’s behalf. Why would we choose one religious group (Jews) over another (Muslims)? So what then is the underlying reason behind our support for Israel? Is our foreign policy really in the hands of puppets being controlled by AIPAC and Israel herself?
Some might feel we have a duty to defend Israel because it is the only democracy in the Middle East. Here, the definition of “democracy” obviously gets a little blurred; just because there is an election every few years where citizens vote does not equate to a democracy. Indeed, Israel’s open use of torture tactics, socialist programs, and government takeover of private property does not paint a very clear picture of democracy.
2. Is our involvement even doing anything good for Israel? Foreign aid almost always results in “taking money from the poor people of a rich country and giving it to the rich people of a poor country” (Paul). How does this protect the freedoms of the average Israel citizen? Are we prolonging and enabling the conflicts and wars by providing those weapons of war? We have obviously not stopped the war or stabilized the region: “a legal state of war has existed between Israel and her Arab enemies since…1948” 3.
If no clear answer can be found as to why we are continuously supporting Israel, isn’t it time to stop pouring money that direction?
“The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.
“So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification.” – George Washington, Farewell Address 4
Are we taking part in another “religious” crusade for the Holy Land that will just end in more lives being lost?