Tag Archives: Palestine

Bernie Sanders, Israel, Palestine, and Me

I need to make a few things clear, here.

Today, I saw a meme on Facebook that said something along the lines of: “How to Make Young Liberals Vote for Palestinian Genocide” with an image of Bernie Sanders and a speech bubble that said “Free College.”

This meme is both offensive and factually incorrect. It implies that Bernie Sanders is anti-Palestine. He isn’t. But he’s not anti-Israel either. It is possible to be both pro-Israel and to recognize what’s going on with the Palestinians at the same time, and that as a displaced group, they deserve a two-state solution, which Sanders supports. So let’s go down this list of reasons why I am pro-Israel (and pro-Bernie Sanders) and why I feel a two-state solution is the correct solution here.

  1. As I have said before, you cannot expect a nation not to defend against armed insurrection at its borders. This is especially true when said nation is in a war-torn and violent area, such as the Middle East. Let’s be real, here, okay? If we told the armed forces of Libya to stand down, do you really think they’d listen? How about the armed forces of the Ukraine? Please recognize that saying “Israel has to be the one to stop shooting” is ridiculous on its face. Israel is under attack, both by terrorist groups and by front groups for Arabic nations in the region that want Israel to stop existing. It has a right to defend itself.This does not mean that I support any of the terrorist actions undertaken by Israeli settlers in the West Bank or in Gaza. I don’t. Those settlers should be ashamed of themselves, and they should voluntarily repatriate themselves into the inside borders of Israel. However, it must also be said that…
  2. Palestine is not a real place. It has no historical nationhood. It is not an ethnicity. “Palestine” was a label placed on the area that is now Israel and the West Bank and Gaza, first by the Romans when they occupied it, and more recently by the British when they occupied the Middle East as a functionary of the United Nations. “Palestinian” is a political label, not an ethnic one. There were plenty of Jewish Palestinians right there in the same area as the Arabic/Muslim Palestinians. What the media are calling “Palestinians” are simply Arab Muslims who lived in the same area that is now Israel. Most of them are not from that area; they are from the Arabic nations surrounding that area.
  3. Israel fought wars for that land, won those wars, and by the standards of war recognized around the globe, that land is and has been Israel’s since 1948. At the time the wars were fought, the Arabic nations surrounding the area that is now Israel could have absorbed the Arabic refugees from those wars. They actively refused to.You know why? Because their goal is to make things as difficult for Israel as possible and to, ideally, wipe Israel off the map.
  4. Saying you will not vote for Bernie Sanders for President in America, because he has voted for Israeli funding packages in the past is being incredibly blind. Let’s be clear about this: An American politician cannot make another country do what he wants it to do. There is no magic wand labeled “American President” that can somehow convince Netanyahu and Hamas to work for a peaceful solution here.Nevertheless, Sanders has stated his support for a two-state solution. It is documented that he said this in August: “Palestinians are entitled to a state of their own, and the United States should do what it can to make sure that state has a strong economy. Israel is entitled to live in security, not be attacked.” 

    Can he force Netanyahu to accept a two-state solution? No. Can he force the Arabic world around Israel to accept a two-state solution? No. Can he make sure Israel continues to exist? Yes.

    So what, exactly, would you expect him to do in order to get that two-state solution in place?

  5. I had an acquaintance say “Voting for Bernie Sanders when he has supported funding for Israel is exactly like voting for an anti-GLBT politician when you’re GLBT.” Sorry. No. That’s incorrect. Americans, no matter how much we think we can, cannot make other countries do anything that they won’t already do. Trying to compare a foreign-policy issue (Israel and Palestine) to a domestic issue (LGBT rights in the United States) does not fly. They are not comparable.A person who votes against my rights here at home has power over that situation, and they will not get my vote. A person who states that they think that another country should take certain actions has done as much as they have the power to do, and if I agree with their position, they will get my vote.

This really is not that difficult to understand. What’s driving me wild is how other people think this is simple: you should only vote for a politician who will somehow fix the situation in Israel. Well, that’s fine, but you need to understand that it’s unrealistic. Americans (and people from anywhere else, frankly) can’t fix the problems in Israel. We can advocate for a certain solution, but apart from that, there is nothing else we can reasonably do about this issue. Hamas is part of the problem, and nobody seems to be talking about that. The Arabic nations surrounding Israel are also part of the problem, but nobody seems to be talking about that, either.

Everyone has to own their own responsibility, here. It’s not just Israel’s responsibility. Other nations are contributing to the problem, too. And despite what many Americans seem to think, America can’t make Israel do anything that Israel isn’t already prepared to do.

So get off your BDS high horses and look at reality, please, because there are three basic options and none of them lie in the hands of an American politician:

  1. A two-state solution is reached, and Israel and the Palestinians have a truce. Israeli settlers are withdrawn from the newly established Palestinian state’s territory and repatriated to other areas in Israel, and Palestinians stop attacking Israel with guns, knives, and rockets.
  2. Israel throws all Palestinians out of the area claimed by Israel and the Arabic nations absorb the refugees, as they should have done back in 1948.
  3. Israel ceases to exist and the Arabic nations around it overrun it and kill all Israelis.

That third option? That is never going to happen. Jews all over the world need a place that is a refuge in times of trouble, where we won’t be carted away to extermination camps again. That place is Israel.

So pick one of the other two. But get this straight: you have no influence over what happens. 

And neither does Bernie Sanders.

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For We Were Strangers in Mitzrayim

11 Tamuz 5774

Trigger warning: This is about the boys who were killed in Israel and then in Palestine just recently, whose deaths have caused such a furor that Hamas and Israel are exchanging massive firepower at each other right now.

I don’t quite know what to say. I’ve hesitated to write anything for more than a week, for various reasons.

We were strangers in Mitzrayim. This is a hell of a way to demonstrate that we remember that. Actually, it’s about the farthest thing from a demonstration of remembering it – it’s demonstrating that we are forgetting it.

What we are seeing is former victims now becoming bullies. This happens a lot with children. The bullied kid gets big enough that he begins to bully.

By the way, I don’t care who started it. Neither should you. That isn’t the point. The point is that children were killed, mostly by adults, because some people decided it was okay to throw their weight around and bully someone weaker.

I think it’s horrifying. I think it’s horrifying that Hamas operatives felt it was okay to harm children. I think it’s equally horrifying that Jewish extremists then felt it was okay to retaliate against children. Nobody’s hands are clean in this situation. Nobody gets to say “but they started it.” That’s a childish excuse and it doesn’t hold water even on the playground or in the sandbox. It certainly should not hold water in an international conflict.

As far as I know, none of the boys involved were part of any political movements in Israel or in Palestine. None of them were soldiers (most of them weren’t old enough). None of them signed up to be sacrificial victims. And none of them deserved what happened to them.

The Israeli boys were killed by adults. The Palestinian boy was killed by a gang of teenagers, from what I understand, and his cousin was severely beaten by three Israeli police officers (who were also adults).

Why? I cannot come up with a good reason why. It’s the playground bully written large. It’s the fight for control of the sandbox. It’s senseless. And the reasons given by either side are also senseless (and often very childish).

As a new member of the Tribe (almost) I also didn’t know if I had any right to write about this. I’m not a Jew, yet. I’m only Jew-ish. I’ve never been to Israel. I’ve never been in the thick of this situation. But I’m taking on not just the Jewish belief system but the entire tribe, right? So I’m going to go with “I have a right and a responsibility to write about this because I will be a Jew, and soon, and this is part of what I’m accepting as the burden of being Jewish.”

Moving on.

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. So why do we keep on doing it? Why is it that we keep on trading bomb for bomb and life for life? What is wrong with us? Are we so married to our ideologies and our territoriality that we aren’t willing to see the people on the other side of the firing line as human beings? Do we not remember how it was in Egypt and in Babylon? Do we not remember what it was like being second- or third-class citizens? We talk about it every year on Pesach to keep the memory fresh. Has everyone already forgotten for the year? Do we only remember it during the spring?

There has to be a solution that provides both for Palestine and for Israel. There has to be a two-state solution, where we respect boundaries and borders and stop insisting that everyone else should stay out of our sandbox. I don’t think that what’s going on right now in Gaza and in Tel Aviv is what G-d wanted of his children (and what drives me the most crazy about this? It’s just a continuation of sibling rivalry – Isaac and Ishmael – bickering over whose idea of G-d is going to be more important). This is insanity, folks.

None of those boys should have died. And none of them should have been “avenged.” And the people who carried out the revenge killing and beating are equally guilty and should be held equally responsible for what they did as the Hamas terrorists should be for what they did to the three Israeli teenagers.

Because this? Is not the act of a nation that shows mercy to the stranger. Not at all.

I can’t say it’s not what I signed up for. But I am going to say that it’s not what I was hoping to see in the people I’ve chosen to join. Because we can be better than this, and we should be better than this. And if that knowledge doesn’t frame our discussions and our negotiations, even in blog posts, then we’re no better than the Egyptians that enslaved us.

For we were strangers in Mitzrayim, and we are admonished over and over again in Torah to remember that, and to be gentle to the stranger. Now the Palestinians are the strangers, and we really ought to be better than this.

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