Monday, August 6, 2012

Diplomacy in Israel

Recently, Presidential candidate Mitt Romney took a trip to Israel. While there, he made a number of speeches, held some fundraisers, and talked with state officials there about their ongoing debates with Palestine. Since that trip, the Romney campaign has released a new ad which attacks Obama for never visiting Israel and not saying that Jerusalem is it's capitol. Romney has now done both of these things.

This highlights an issue that I've been having a hard time understanding. Once again, Romney helps to articulate it. During his visit, Romney upset the Palestinian community by claiming that Israel's culture was the reason for its economic prosperity and growth, which vastly outstrips Palestine. Of course, the Palestinians were upset because Israel has been violating treaties and border agreements for decades, limiting Palestinian rights and freedoms, putting in place economic sanctions and embargoes, and using the political system to limit the growth and development of Palestinian communities. It is due to direct interference by the Israeli powers that Palestine has struggled socio-economically. For Romney to chalk up Israel's success and Palestine's failure to a simple difference in culture is insulting and blindly ignorant of the truth.

So, why does America continually support Israel? Obama has largely been absent from the debate over Israel and Palestinian rights, saying that it is up to those powers to decide what they will do. While this has drawn criticism from many political corners, it does show that Obama understands the tension between these two people, and (I think) shows diplomatic prudence in picking his fights. After all, it's a touchy subject because of our long-standing support of Israel and the political implications that seem to come from the slightest criticism of them.

It seems to me that Israel has been engaged something resembling domestic terrorism for quite a while in their treatment of Palestine. There are numerous stories of violence and murder by Israeli border guards. Israel has staunchly ignored border and peace agreements with the Palestinians, invading their lands and controlling their development. In fact, a recent story pointed out that Palestinians are being forced to demolish their own homes because Israeli officials will not give them permits to have them on their own land. At the same time, Israeli neighborhoods and towns are continuing to grow.

We here in America tend to hear a lot about Palestinian terror attacks, from bombs and firefights to kidnappings and assaults. But rarely do we hear any criticism of Israeli policy. Why is that? I don't understand why America turns a blind eye to our ally and condemn the acts of the people that ally is oppressing. Shouldn't we put the welfare of humans before stability with a political power? I certainly think so. And if that power is not acting in a humane way, we should call them out on it.

This speak to a larger problem with America, in that we tend to neglect the atrocities of our friends and demonize that atrocities of our enemies. It's a depressing thought to consider that we condone the killing of Palestinians by the Israeli's, but condemn that act in reverse. What makes an Israeli more valuable, more worthy of compassion, than a Palestinian?

Maybe Romney had it right. Maybe we support Israel for cultural reasons. After all, we seem to be in a struggle over the religion of Islam in our society, why not translate that to a mistrust and vilification of an Islamic state? That seems to be the basis for the animosity. But why should it be? Does oppression or violence by a Jewish or Christian state escape our notice while oppression or violence perpetrated by a Muslim state spark outrage? Apparently. And that is not okay.

So, I'm still wondering why it is that we blindly support Israel, no matter what? Can anyone shed light on this relationship? It troubles me that our leaders can't seem to look straight into the heart of this issue and shed light on the inequality that is being perpetuated by Israel without facing political castration. How are we supposed to make progress towards peace in this world if we ignore the unrest that is caused by our own allies?

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