Many Miss the Forest When It Comes to Israel and Palestine

Warren Albrecht | United States

Recently, Rep. Ilhan Omar has criticized people in the United States who support Israel’s government and that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) influence.

I support the country of Israel and territories of Palestinian people; Israel is a legitimate country with an insane history. I believe in private property rights and do not believe two wrongs make a right. Peace between Jews and Arabs in the region is a very difficult issue. We must not get distracted by the trees of political rhetoric from the potential peace of the forest.

There is a difference in supporting a country and supporting a government. For example, the people of Iran would make many different political decisions than their government. I do not think most Iranian people want to destroy Israel or deny the Holocaust. But the people of Israel are caught in a predicament which Rep. Ilhan Omar, many Muslim activists, and many others do not see. The recent re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu is an indication that the politics of Israel is changing; the left parties are now weaker. Voter intimidation is a limited excuse. Why are the voters of Israel more concerned for safety than Palestinian rights? Less than 50% now see a possible two-state solution. We must have an honest discussion of why this may be happening.

Discourse on Israel

Author Stephen Walt has written books and articles on the topic of AIPAC and Israeli influence within our politics. He understands the detriment that a one-size-fits-the-narrative approach can have to this issue. He states:

Most importantly, only an open and honest discourse on these topics is likely to produce a Middle East policy that would be better for the United States and Israel alike.

Many criticize AIPAC for trying to snuff out real discourse. I blame the politicians for the misguided decisions they make and the citizens who continue to vote for them. I blame the mainstream media who keep the conflicts flamed for ratings and the small media who will only hold onto their individual trees in the forest because it gets the clicks.

Though Omar has tweeted reconciliatory comments, she is fully on board with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS). Just begin to search Israeli Palestinian issues, the AIPAC, or BDS, and much rhetoric is the day-to-day political clickbait and trolling propaganda.

The Misguided BDS Movement

The BDS movement is misguided and not working as documented. A nice article from The Brookings Institution explains this further:

The inspiration for the strategy and name comes from the international sanctions on South Africa that helped catalyze the end of Apartheid.

Which worked because of international pressure, not the BDS individual economic pressure. The article continues,

The premise of the strategy is twofold, therefore: that international pressure will exert a dramatic toll on Israel and on Israeli citizens, and that Israelis will then see and opt for a political path out of this pressure.

There is much to debate on BDS—and much ink has already been spilled—including on its choice of one single target in the world today, Israel, and on the diametrically conflicting aims of some of its promoters: either supporting an Israel at peace with a sovereign Palestinian neighbor, or a rejection of Israel outright as an illegitimate entity that should be replaced in its entirety.

This economic terrorist movement does nothing to sway the Israeli government. Meanwhile, it hurts both Jews and Arabs alike in the country, as well as many people and companies outside of Israel. Part of the issue of peace has been an issue of economic help for the Palestinian areas.

In 1993, Yasser Arafat ended this possible help by the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction (PECDAR), an organization to oversee the Palestinian Authority economy, and the World Bank. He ran the economy in Palestinian territories as a syndicate or cartel and it failed. Whatever possible free trade there is across the border of Israel, Gaza or the West Bank, is threatened by hurting the economy on the Israeli side and therefore hurting the Palestinian people.

If there is any movement in which Anti-Semites can hide, it is the BDS movement.

AIPAC and BDS: Both Bullies

The AIPAC and BDS are mirror images of themselves with the same legal rights to pursue their goals and are both wrong. Both are bullies. The BDS can’t surgically discriminate against companies without harming investors, workers, and consumers. If a French construction company needs to downsize and fire employees because of a lost contract in Israel but the Israeli government is still using money to displace people, BDS advertises the French loss as a win. Look at South Africa today; an Israeli-upon-Palestinian type process is happening. The apartheid has been reversed. A policy of sweet revenge deserves no support.

Unless someone has been living without any available media, I should not have to document the many free speech issues of the Facebook, YouTube and Twitter boycott, divestment and sanctions actions against participants. This is not just right-wing conservatives: libertarians are also getting swept up in the wake. The theory of BDS is just spreading to the media platforms of the world. This is not “I can do what I want with my company”. Nor is it “vote with your feet or wallet”. This is economic bullying.

The Chick-Fil-A Parallel

Chick-Fil-A is one of the most successful and popular restaurants inside and outside of airports today. There have been no publicized nor successful lawsuits against the food chain for discriminating against the LGBT community. But Chick-fil-A does support Christian organizations, and is now facing a boycott, divestment, and sanctions type process by two cities. Local airports are even banning the restaurant, calling the company homophobic.

If Ilhan Omar’s words are Anti-Semitic, then there must be Christianophobic and Anti-Semitic persons involved in these decisions. After all, both religions have a relationship to the book of Leviticus.

Chick-fil-A is not going out of business because of this and is not being pulled from airports it is currently in. Is everyone blind to the lines at the airport Chick-fil-A? Only present employees or potential future employees are hurting. These are good entry level jobs. Customers who would gladly enjoy the food and good business are seeing harm; this includes gay and lesbian patrons who just want a better quick meal between flights.

Likewise, innocent Israeli citizens, both Jewish and Arab, and companies are just trying to find opportunities. What is going on today is a belief that economic bullying will not come back to haunt you. The pendulum will swing. Always does. The world is an example of an eye for an eye without forgiveness. South Africa is an example. Grace is necessary for the Israel conflict, on both sides.

A History of Destruction

Look at any map of the area of Israel from 1800 to present. Governments were unwilling and unable to see the swath of destruction they would cause. Anti-semitism has a strong influence on the creation of Israel. This crisis formed many years before AIPAC was established, and the Jews and Arabs in Israel proper aren’t to blame. How can anyone who is not Jewish and did not live through the Holocaust or any other Anti-Semitic violence decades before discount tens of thousands who just wanted to have a country and government they could count on to protect them?

Since about 1909, Jews have immigrated to this area. Many were peacefully living in Kibbutzim. We now see mass migration out of Libya, Somalia, and Syria because of government-created issues. Once again, the immigrants are not to blame; Jews wanting to live in Israel, moving through history away from Anti-Semitic violence, simply want a home. Regimes across the world have thrust Anti-Semitic terrorism on them, making this a near-necessity. And yes, some of the Anti-Semitic policies come from some on the pro-Palestinian side. But without a doubt, the Israeli government has supported policies of “two wrongs make a right”.

I use the documented abuses and violence of both sides to remain on point. I will not stumble into a tit for tat, no-win scenario in this controversy.

The Path to Resolution

Jackie Robinson, the first black professional Baseball player was famously told by Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey, “I’m looking for a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back.” The rest is history. Some even say that Martin Luther King corrected Larry King in an interview by saying the true founder of the civil rights movement is Jackie Robinson. I must believe it was his character more than his play. Sanctions were not necessary against other teams with racist players. Those players did not lose their jobs. Nonetheless, Robinson soon had all the support he needed and had changed the minds of many who initially did not support his playing.

The Jackie Robinson story counters both the need for AIPAC and BDS. There are many Jews today who would support the type of diplomacy Jackie Robinson is famous for. The well-known Jewish writer Martin Buber is one with his essay, “I and Thou”.

The country should ignore both AIPAC and BDS. If I lost, I lost. Isn’t that what everyone is searching for? Someone needs to have a true backbone and principles. Stop blaming AIPAC for their legal right to influence, and start directing all writing toward the individual politicians and their votes. Where is the investigative reporting for solutions instead of journalism for propaganda? Ilhan Omar needs to stop tweeting and name names of politicians if she has a concern. We can blame her for her straw man arguments. If she is honest, there will be both Republican and Democratic names on her list. Stop blaming companies just trying to survive in the global market, when the United Nations cannot or will not recreate the international type apartheid sanctions of South Africa.

Opposing All Violence

Israeli and Palestinian counterparts must stop eye for an eye policies. We must speak clearly against all violence and seek economic stability in the region. Property rights need to be the basis for which we build a resolution. A majority of Arabs and Jews live peacefully in Israel, a country with great liberty for minorities compared to other countries in the Middle East. We must seek health and welfare for everyone on both sides of the argument. That is the prize, there is the forest. The trees must not obstruct our view.

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