Israel and the “peace process” have been making headlines recently and (surprise, surprise!) Israel is being portrayed as an aggressive, bigoted bully. As I say all the time, those of us who support Israel need to be part of her PR team. We need to get the facts and share them ˆ now more than ever.
The most recent controversy stems from the fact that Israel has begun building again in the settlements (the towns and villages in the West Bank ). For 10 months, the Israeli government placed a moratorium on building after being pressured by the US and others. Now that the moratorium has expired and building has resumed, the Palestinian community is in an uproar because they want ownership of the property on which the building is taking place.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Netanyahu stated that he was willing to extend the moratorium if the Palestinians would recognize Israel as a Jewish State ˆ something the Palestinian leadership has refused to do in the past. The Prime Minister’s offer was rejected by the Palestinian leadership. They will not recognize Israel as the State of the Jewish people.
Netanyahu is being accused by many of playing games and undermining the peace process. This is absurd. A fundamental component of the peace process must include the recognition of the Jewish State of Israel by the Palestinians. Israel has recognized the Palestinian people and their right to a state. We simply cannot move forward and discuss borders until both sides state publicly that both the Israelis and the Palestinians have the right to a nation.
Also this week, we have heard a lot about the new “loyalty oath” that is before the Israeli government. This loyalty oath will require new, non-Jewish citizens of Israel to declare their allegiance to the Jewish, democratic State of Israel. This loyalty oath has sparked outrage within Israel, the global Jewish community, and the international scene. Israel is being accused of being a racist country and denying people freedom of religion for requiring people to declare that they are loyal to the Jewish State of Israel. Many are arguing that the oath is a way to deter Palestinians and others from living within Israel.
While the timing of the oath is really not great, I want to remind all of the critics out there that all of the countries that surround Israel are Muslim nations ˆ many of which offer no protection to religious minorities ˆ specifically Jews. Being a Jew in these countries is dangerous. Sharia law (Islamic law), which has been adopted by Hamas, the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority makes Judaism and every other non-Muslim religion inferior to Islam and this strips non-Muslims of significant rights and freedoms.
In Israel, freedom of religion is protected. You do not need to be a Jew to live safely in Israel, practice your religion openly and even serve in the government. From her birth in 1948, the modern State of Israel has openly declared herself to be a Jewish State that will guarantee the rights of “all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions” (Declaration of Independence, 1948).
Anyone can become a citizen of Israel. The “Law of Return” makes it easier for Jews to become Israeli citizens because Israel wants to insure that Jews have a safe haven to easily return to at any time. Non-Jews can and do become citizens of Israel and are given the same rights and privileges as non-Jewish citizens. This being said, non-Jewish Israelis are living in a Jewish State that emerged from the ashes of the Shoah (Holocaust). They are living in a country that embraces Jewish legal customs, rituals, holidays, and beliefs and is committed to the safety and well-being of the global Jewish community. Israel is a Jewish State and, at the same time, adheres to fundamental democratic principals.
People wishing to become US citizen must renounce all allegiances to foreign governments and pledge their loyalty to our country. Is there anything wrong with this? Is there anything wrong with asking new citizens of Israel to declare their loyalty to the one and only Jewish nation in the world? Doing so does not mean one needs to become a Jew! Of course the Palestinian community is outraged by Israel’s proposed loyalty oath. They won’t acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State! If one has a problem declaring their loyalty to Israel, they do not need to become a citizen. And if they do have a problem declaring this loyalty, why would they want to become a citizen?
What troubles me the most about all of the grumbling I have heard about Israel this week is that a lot of it seems to be coming from within the Jewish community. Certainly, as Jews we will never agree on everything! But, when it comes to Israel, we can’t allow ourselves to become divided. History has taught us that when this happens, we lose our homeland. This is not an option. And this is why it is so important for us to get the facts and talk about the issues as a community.
I hope you will join me on Monday evening October, 25 at 7:00PM for “An Evening With The Experts,” a discussion with Jewish leaders who are intricately involved in Israeli politics. The program is being held at the Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa. For more information (including cost) and to RSVP please contact AIPAC at (954) 382-6110 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Let them know you would like to be at the Ramat Shalom table.
UPDATE: SINCE THIS WAS WRITTEN, NETANYAHU IS SUPPORTING HAVING BOTH JEWS AND NON-JEWS WISHING TO BECOME CITIZENS TO PLEDGE LOYALTY TO A JEWISH AND DEMOCRATIC ISRAEL.