Author Archive

A “Holy” War?

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

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?

Free Labor, Free Land, Free Men

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

Have you ever wondered about the origins of the Republican Party? Well, I have. I am dismayed at some of the things the Republican Party is doing, and being affiliated with the Republican Party for my entire life as a registered voter, I decided to do a little research on what it was all originally about.

Step 1 of my research took me to how the party was formed and what the original Party Platform said. The Republican Party officially began in 1856. Prior to that, the grass roots meetings first began in Wisconsin and moved quickly to Michigan. Lincoln was elected as President of the United States on the Republican Party ticket just four years later. I find it amazing that a political party could grow that much in so short a time.

The official platform as set forth at the first Republican Party Convention–in Philadelphia–was primarily an anti-slavery document. The slogan that they advertised was “Free Labor, Free Land, Free Men,” free labor meaning no slave labor, free land meaning no slave plantations, and free men meaning, well, free men. (Wikipedia: Republican Party)

The opening paragraph of the official platform established the main ideals of the new party as being anti-slavery. The Republican Party declared that they were opposed to the Missouri Compromise, opposed to the present administration’s policies (Democratic President Franklin Pierce), opposed to the expansion of slavery, in favor of admitting Kansas to the Union as a free State, and in favor of restoring the Federal Government “to the principles of Washington and Jefferson.” (Republican Platform 1856)

There were a few things that surprised me. First was this: “it is both the right and the imperative duty of Congress to prohibit in the Territories those twin relics of barbarism — Polygamy, and Slavery” (ibid). I’m guessing that their feelings toward polygamy were partially tied to their ideas about Mormons. (Just a guess.)

The next thing that surprised me was that the Republican Party was eager for federal funds to build a railroad clear out to the Pacific Ocean as well as funds to improve the canal and harbor systems throughout the States.

There were very few things in the platform that hinted at the small-government ideals for which the Republican Party is known (or supposedly was once known). I’m anxious to learn just when the Republican Party began espousing those beliefs. So to summarize the original platform:

I can only confidently say that I agree with them on #1.

The next step in my research is the platform of 1872. Maybe in there I’ll find something more substantial that makes me feel like I belong in the Republican Party.