Last week CSUN Students for Israel sponsored ‘iFest.” It commemorated the creation of the state of Israel 61 years ago.’ While they have a right to celebrate Israel, there are some important questions which need to be asked: What was life like for the people that were already there?’ What happened to the villages, refugees and the Palestinians when Palestine became Israel?’
Israel and the United States have a lot in common.’ Israeli historian Benny Morris draws the parallel this way: ‘The great American democracy could not have been achieved without the extermination of the Indians. There are cases in which the general and final good justifies difficult and cruel deeds that are carried out in the course of history.’
The ends justify the means, even if we lose our souls in the process.’ We are good and our cause is just, so committing some evil acts when we are fighting evil is justified.
Both countries are nations of immigrants, largely populated by descendents of Europeans.’ Many immigrants came to America to escape a life of oppression in their home countries, just like the new citizens of Israel.’
Our cause was Manifest Destiny: God wanted this land for us, so we can murder our way to accomplishing that goal.’ The Indians of North America were perceived as lowly creatures in the way, who needed to be civilized and taught about Christianity, ‘missionary work’ and ‘saving souls’ was a slick cover for imperialism.
The treatment of the Palestinians has been similar, but the justification was different.’ The goal was a ‘Jewish State.” After what Hitler put the Jews through you can’t blame them for wanting to get out of Germany and have their own land where a ‘Jew can be a Jew’ and not have to worry about being murdered or persecuted.’
This wasn’t the beginning of the Jewish people’s suffering however.’ Too many are unaware of the history of the Jewish people.’ They were driven from their homeland by the Romans, and for thousands of years the Jews have been enslaved, persecuted, and murdered.
After the Holocaust, the survivors pleaded to be taken in by other countries.’ Western Europe and the U.S. accepted a very small number.’ In spite of what these countries now say to the contrary, they don’t care about the plight of the Jews.’ If they did, they would have taken them in when they were desperate and had just survived the horrendous experience of the Holocaust.’
The dream of a Jewish state was of course justified, but it shouldn’t have been created in a place where there were already a people with a vibrant society and ties to the land for hundreds if not thousands of years.’ Palestinians live on farmland which has been in their family for generations.’ A source of national pride, their olive trees can be well over a hundred years old.
Many say the Palestinians are paying the price for Hitler’s crimes.’ They weren’t the ones that put the Jews in death camps and killed them by the millions.’ How righteous does the cause have to be to take someone’s land in pursuit of it?’ What price should that country pay for destroying the society that was already there?’ There are no easy answers to these complex moral questions and it’s disappointing when people seek to define them as moral absolutes.
Many say there was never a country called Palestine and they have no right to the land.’ Israel is similar to the United States in this regard as well.’ The Indians never had an officially recognized country before we came, but so what?’ They are indigenous, so the land is up for grabs?’ We were more technologically advanced and powerful, so that made it right to take their land?’ Is it ok to take someone’s land and resources just because they are less powerful and the West doesn’t recognize their government?
Should we celebrate the Fourth of July without recognizing our past crimes and dark history?’ Should we sweep historical facts under the rug because they make us uncomfortable, or should we accept our history, the good and the bad alike, so we can learn from it and not let those atrocities ever happen again?’ Why would Israel be any different?
Recognizing historical crimes is important, but it doesn’t mean my family should have to move because this land was stolen from Mexico, and it doesn’t mean Israel doesn’t have a right to exist.’ But, we cannot’ history and pretend our two countries that share so much in common don’t have blood on their hands from their very beginnings.’ We need to be honest about what really happened so no atrocity against any people ever happens again.
Just as the United States must afford Indians the utmost respect and maximum self determination possible (along with an apology for past crimes), so should Israel recognize the plight of the refugees who were wronged and welcome them back to their historic homeland of Palestine.
The only thing we can do is move forward as best we can with hopeful hearts so that all our children can grow up with peace, love and security.’ If we do that, then it would truly give’ a reason to celebrate the Fourth of July.