Friday, March 10, 2006

DIVESTMENT FROM ISRAEL - A GOOD CASE OF BAD THINKING

I try to read as much as I can, on all sides of the issue, concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I try to remain objective, recognizing that there are at least two sides to every story; this can be difficult but possible as a Jew by birth and culture. The primary difficulty is weeding out objective reasoning and criticism from hidden anti-semitism.

It's easy to dismiss the rantings of the Iranian President and others of his ilk as anti-semitism (as well as geo-political posturing). It is more difficult to understand the motivations of seemingly sincere people and organizations, ranging in ideology from the Presbyterian Church to the Green Party, both of which have called for divestment from Israeli companies and U.S. companies that do business with Israel. I attended a forum on divestment at which a representative from the national Presbyterian Church and a local Presbeterian minister spoke to different sides of the divestment issue. The person from national defended the divestment campaign on the basis of human rights; the local minister feared that the divestment campaign is based in anti-semitism, and argued against it from a variety of points.

The Israel divestment movement makes no sense to me, particularly for educated and even seemingly progressive people. I disagree with some of the tactics and decisions of the Israeli government, and I do support an independent state for the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank. I also think that there has to be a solution to the different claims on the City of Jerusalem. But all of the above has to be put into the proper historic and political context. Israel is a sovereign democratic country. It has been surrounded by self-proclaimed enemies since it's founding. Israelis are constantly under attack by terrorists, and occasionally by other governments. Israel is the only member of the United Nations that has never been allowed to serve on the Security Council. Most of Israel's neighbors, and many other countries have much worse human rights records than Israel. Israel has worked towards peace with it's neighbors and the Palestinian people for many years.

We are at an interesting turning point in this decades-long conflict. The Palestinians recently held a democratic election, and the majority choice for their government was Hamas, a terrorist organization that refuses to recognize the State of Israel and refuses to end terrorist attacks against Israel. I'm hoping to see a cry for divestment from the Palestinian Territories by the Presbyterians and the Greens - but I won't hold my breath!

The divestment campaign against Israel is misguided and dangerous. If it is not in itself anti-semitic, it certainly feeds anti-semitism. I can't believe that the majority of Palestinian and Israeli people want to remain in a conflict that benefits neither side, and only perpetuates hatred, fear, injustice and poverty. The majority of these people certainly have aspirations of peace and prosperity, and I believe these can be achieved through negotiation and compromise on both sides. Divestment helps no one; calling for an end to terrorism, military strikes, and the teaching of hatred is the best thing we can do at this time.

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