Essay / Uncategorized

Hurrah for Israel!

I don’t know when it became cool in the Academy to hate Israel or hold her to a higher standard than the rest of the world, but it is.Lately, it has also been hard to be a traditional Christian and love Israel. Somehow the “fact” that Israel has a successful lobbying effort should make us dislike her. (“By golly, those Israelis keep pressing for American politicians, otherwise incorrupt, to vote their way!”) Weirdest of all are the arguments where a mysterious thing called “dispensationalist” (nothing like the theological idea I know from Biola University) is blamed for an irrational support for Israel.I can think of four good reasons for a patriotic American to support Israel. I should not that my own church is very Arab and I understand very well that some government policies in Israel have been bad. Bad things have been done to Arabs at times by the government of Israel. No person should justify those actions. Still, on the whole, I would rather be an Arab citizen of Israel than an Arab citizen of any country now run by Arabs. If there is a mote in Israel’s eye (and perhaps more), then there is a cedar of Lebanon in both eyes of Syria and Jordan. Nobody talks about boycotting them!Why do I think Israel is a good friend and ally?First, Israel allows voting and dissent. Can anyone name many countries that would have removed the settlers from the occupied territories? Blame Israel that they are there, but admire the republican government that got rid of them.Second, Israel allows a fairly free market to exist within a highly educated culture. Education is good. Freedom is good. Israel supports an economy with limited resources that is the envy of its neighbors.Third, Israel is a friend in the global war on terror. It does not practice terrorism (on the whole). It hates terrorism and tries to stamp it out. This is not always done perfectly, but the perfect must not be allowed to be the foe of the pretty good in war time.Four, Jewish persons have historically been the victims of periodic injustice. For Jewish persons to have a secure homeland makes sense given this history. Jewish persons have no reason to trust the West or the East to protect their right to exist. Perhaps Palestine should not have been chosen as the location of this homeland, but it was.Israel exists and is necessary. Much of the Arab world will still not officially recognize these facts. Why? We all know the answer is widespread anti-Jewish sentiment in that part of the world.Finally, for a traditional Christian there should be two concerns.Christians have not historically been friends to the Jewish community. In fact, often we have treated the Jewish community less well than the Islamic community has. We have sinned against our neighbor. Some degree of sensitivity to this fact (without useless chest beating or taking blame for sins not our own) is in order. There is a good reason for Jewish persons to be sensitive to talk of “conspiracies” or Jewish “control of the Senate.” Discussion on any of these topics should always keep in mind that no group in modern times has been more sinned against than Jewish persons.Of course, this does not mean that Jewish persons or the state of Israel cannot be criticized by non-Jewish persons. To the contrary such criticism is a sign of respect. Still one should be sensitive in the language deployed and particularly sensitive to overly broad generalities that might echo anti-Semite language of the past.Christians also have more in common ethically and historically with Jewish persons than with any other group of people. This is not just the result of the origins of Christianity in Judaism, though of course that is important. It is also the result of much of Judaism and Christianity developing in shared space. Judaism may be “other” to Christians, but it is often not “totally other.” One thinks of the Christian and Jewish roots to modern science, for example. There are many shared modern values that make the state of Israel a close cousin to the American republic.On the whole, one must praise Israel for her many virtues, condemn without hesitation her vices, and not press on her a double standard of rectitude not placed on other cultures. Otherwise one begins to suspect an odd obsession with “the Jews” that can be near relative to very bad views indeed. So as an American and an Orthodox Christian I say here is two cheers for Israel! Long may she be free and prosperous!

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