Sunday, September 5, 2010

hey Americans, read this

One of the things I stress on this blog is the dissimilarity of America and Israel. This is part of my goal in persuading Americans that our country and Israel are not identical twins with identical goals but two countries as distinct as any other international pair. It is extremely dangerous to the interests of America to say that there is no "daylight" between the U.S. and any other country in the world, including Israel.

It's necessary to stress this because the Israel lobby would love to convince Americans that the two countries have quite similar foundations and national life, making it easy for Israel to relieve us of billions of dollars every year.

It's a false pairing. America is an all-inclusive state that accepts citizens regardless of their ethnic background. Freedom and justice for all is only true in Israel for Jews who qualify for citizenship, not all Jews who think of themselves as Jews.

To become Israeli, you must be a Jew in the strict definition of the term as decided by Jewish clerics. Those who practice a strict version of Judaism are given authority to pronounce on personal life in the state of Israel that we would never accept in America, where state and religion are kept separate by law. These orthodox Jews are exempt from military service as well, no small thing in a militaristic country.

If you are an avid reader, as I am, the next time you are in a bookstore look for a copy of Israeli Professor Shlomo Sand's book, The Invention of the Jewish People. Get a cup of coffee, have a seat and read the first 14 pages of the book - the introduction. In the few minutes during which your coffee will not have time to cool, you will see the contradictions involved in Israel's policy on citizenship drawn from personal experience. It's a shameful policy that would delight segregationists in American or South African history.

If you get the chance to do the reading, keep it in mind the next time you hear an American politician proclaiming how the U.S. and Israel are virtually joined at the hip as societies.


  1. I'm a little troubled by your thought, Clif. Israel is not going to go away. Do we not need some internal fulcrum to move away from the hate? If we condemn in toto, what is left, what can then be done?

    I do not like American policy toward Israel either. There is an "we would do the same thing" indulgence in it. But that is the point. We would do the same thing. What we fight here is ourselves. I look, or would like to look, for a place within Israel where that fight may be waged to marginal advance. Complete condemnation cannot find such a stand.

  2. suzuki - thanks for your comment.

    I'm not proposing the end of Israel, nor do I condemn it in toto. I do believe that the foundation on which it is built is antithetical to that of the U.S.

    It is hard for me to understand a country that seeks to be all-inclusive and non-discriminatory, that speaks of equality under the law and of respect for the law, for that country to be supporting another that is exclusive by design, operates an oppressive and unending military rule over another people in occupied territory, and flouts the international laws concerning occupation.

    There are many countries that are far from good citizens of the world, but the United States doesn't give them the blank check it gives Israel, nor provide complete cover in the UN for everything they do.

  3. Clif, I think that the killing of 13 (I think it was 13) Arab Israeli citizens by the military in Nazerath in 2000 is sufficient to indicate a severe racial bias. A inquiry into the killings took place about 2008; the Israeli Attorney General later declared that too much time had elapsed for factual findings.

    But, as you point out in today's post, the US has done such things as well; and might do so again.

    The US's foundation included slavery. Let us hope or pray that a shifting of Israel's ground will not cost as much as our shift, nor take as long, over 100 years post Civil War. The case of Israel is as unique as was the case of antebellum America.