Monday, October 7, 2013

Israel Remains Constant Target of Criticism

Little Israel, a land smaller than New Jersey, remains an international lightening rod.  The country, voted into existence by the United Nations in 1947 and born in April 1948, continues to be battered by criticism from every direction.

For example, a friend and colleague posted this on Facebook: 

How can Israel speak of self-defense when it does not grant equal rights to all citizens of the region and international aid workers?!

The second half of the post about international aid workers refers to an incident when Israeli troops intercepted and roughly treated diplomats who were part of a caravan delivering food to Khirbet Al-Makhul, a West Bank village with about  120 residents.  A Reuters story said that the Israeli army “demolished … ramshackle houses, stables and a kindergarten … after Israel's high court ruled that (the residents) did not have proper building permits.  Despite losing their property, the inhabitants have refused to leave the land, where, they say, their families have lived for generations along with their flocks of sheep.”

In essence, the army was enforcing a Supreme Court ruling.  Have we seen that before?  How about in Louisiana and Alabama, among other places, after the U.S. Supreme Court ended the “separate but equal” racial doctrine?  Our troops didn’t demolish homes, but then, Southern racists weren’t building them.  However, they did toss a few bombs into the homes of black activists.

It seems hypocritical to criticize Israel for enforcing a court ruling when we have done the same thing.  I’m not in agreement with manhandling diplomats, however.  That seems like a case of an inappropriate, overzealous response.

The other half of the posted comment calls on Israel to grant civil rights to people of the region.   In short, my friend is criticizing Israel for not ensuring equal rights to people not living in Israel.  In fact, he specifically wants Israel to grant equal rights to residents of Gaza, which is not under Israeli control.

Gaza is a strip of land along the Red Sea that's a self-governing entity once controlled by Egypt, seized by Israel and then released and now run by Hamas.  To my friend, it’s actually “a humongous refugee camp of people driven out of villages in Israel.”

That’s not quite true: some people living there were driven out; others chose to leave the newly created state based on promises by their Arab neighbors that Israel would be destroyed.  The neighbors were wrong and then compounded their foolhardy claims by refusing to accept their Arab brethren.  That’s why there are seemingly permanent refugee camps.

It could be worse.  In the Middle Ages, armies besieging towns often refused to allow citizens not wanting to fight to come through their lines.  The poor people then were trapped between the besieged and besiegers, starving to death in no-man’s land.  For example, that’s what happened in Munster, a famed 1524-25 battleground between attacking Catholics and defending Protestants.

Regardless, Israel has no authority to grant equal rights to anyone living in Gaza.  Its responsibility is only to Israelis, all of who have equal rights.  In fact, Israel is as close to an American clone in the Middle East as we are likely to ever see.

Israel has the right to defend itself against neighbors like Iran, Syria and the Palestinians, who are determined to destroy it.  That’s no different than our right in the U.S. to defend ourselves against anyone seeking our destruction. 

On the other hand, no one is suggesting we should make sure Mexicans have equal rights or Cubans or others within our region.
Some Americans opposed independence 

Only Israel is condemned for not doing so.

Some of that criticism arises from disgust with the United Nations’ decision to create the country.  After all, residents there were not consulted, nor were provisions made to protect people who disagreed with the decision.  The same thing happened in this country, when Tories who opposed American independence were harassed and often forced to leave the new country. American children usually aren’t taught that tidbit in American history classes.    
The Tories were not compensated for their losses, any more than Arabs who chose to flee or were forced out of Israel received compensation. However, Tories found new homes largely in Canada.  They were not kept in refugee camps.  If they had, their descendants no doubt would be launching clandestine attacks on Americans just as Palestinians are doing now.

I also doubt my friend would have been calling for the U.S. to grant equal rights to those people in Canada.

Some of the opposition to Israel comes from inbred hatred of Jews.  Antisemitism is a convenient charge – and often erroneous one – filed against people who choose to criticize Israel.  I know fully well that’s not my friend’s motive.  However, that’s not true for others.

Being the long-time opponents of Christians placed Jews in a precarious position in many countries for long centuries.  That’s why Israel was created in the first place – to provide a homeland for persecuted people who suffered tremendously in World War II and needed a place of refuge.

Israelis cannot be responsible for how their nation was created.  They didn't ask for the vote -- Britain proposed a partition of the land into Jewish and Arab units.  They didn’t seize the ancient land then called Southern Syria.  They didn’t buy it.  They didn’t force it to surrender.  They were granted the land by an overwhelming vote of the world’s nations (33-13). 

Since then, they have developed a barren land and created a modern nation amid often-backward surrounding societies.  Israeli residents enjoy all the freedoms that Americans do.  No one has to be Jewish to be a resident, for example.

Israeli response to provocation has often been direct and, occasionally, brutal.  Life and death situations aren’t always pretty or tiptoe along legal lines.  However, they are understandable, even by people safely cocooned in the U.S., far from the realities of constant war and cheerfully tossing unwarranted criticisms.

Israel deserves to be criticized for any inappropriate actions, but that doesn’t include upholding a court decision and not granting equal rights to non-citizens. 

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

You can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion for Dummies, at

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