Hirst: Allies for a reason

The Yale’s community reaction to the recent Gaza war is neither unique among those at universities nor unique in the long history of this campus’ response to armed conflicts, especially those involving the Middle East’s only liberal democracy.

Yale activists and intellectuals have protested Israel’s action and the inaction of the United States government. But their voices have not been heard. These protests have affected neither public interest nor policies because the United States-Israel relationship is based on strategic interest and shared values.

Yale’s “activists” took it to the Woolsey Hall Rotunda, the dining hall lunch tables and the Green. They organized rallies, held up signs they had made in their dorm rooms and posted posters as they organized. Turnout was low.

The more industrious decorated our dining halls with table tents, each with a picture of a burning building and a brief, albeit inaccurate, historical account of the conflict. The conflagration in the picture, we were meant to understand, was a result of an event that took place 60 years ago, the formation of the modern state of Israel. They saw the recent events as an opportunity not to contextualize or understand the conflict, or even to consider the reasons it occurred when it occurred, but to question the legitimacy of the country in the Middle East in which Arab citizens have the most opportunities and freedoms; the country in which gay men and women are allowed to live peacefully, in which ethnic minorities have their rights protected by a liberal court system.

The scholars felt compelled to throw in their two cents. From their efforts we are reminded that Hamas is a political party (like the Whig Party, perhaps, just with more suicide bombers) and that states that exist in the international state system are imperfect — a point which had been in serious dispute until recently.

Tables were also set up outside Commons, with petitions available for students who disapprove of Israel’s actions. Those petitions were not meant for our congresswoman, I hope — Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro is one of Israel’s staunchest allies in the United States Congress. These activists attempted to influence opinion and put pressure on our government to act, but the American people and the politicians remained steadfast in their support of Israel, as they have done without fail since 1948.

Americans of all ethnicities, geographical locations and political parties have worked to support the security and prosperity of Israel. By overwhelming majorities, the American people support the Israeli people. Strategic interest plays a part.

But more important than any advantages for the United States from this relationship, Americans support Israel because of shared values: pluralism, the rule of law, a strong civil society, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, minority rights. In addition, both nations are safe havens for those who seek freedom and opportunity. America’s founders came to this land to escape the oppression of the Old World. The Jewish people returned to their ancestral home in a search for safety following the Holocaust (though many had never left).

None of the affinity between the two countries has changed over the past two weeks, nor should it have.

That Israel acted to protect its own security, to stop the constant rocket fire aimed at its civilians is not in dispute. That Israel has the Gaza phonebook and will call a house and say, “We know military supplies are being stored there, we are going to hit your house, please leave,” is a firm reminder of the morality of the Israeli Defense Forces. That Israel allowed trucks of supplies to enter Gaza — contrary to its own strategic interest — is an unambiguous good.

While Israel seeks to live in peace alongside a Palestinian state, Hamas seeks to kill or expel every Jew from the Middle East. Hamas proudly waves the banner of genocide and ethnic cleansing. While Israel seeks to avoid armed conflict, Hamas has done everything possible to increase civilian casualties. Constantly, they fire rockets from the middle of schools, from inside hospitals, and from sidewalks and homes within residential neighborhoods. Those who seek objectives like the ones Hamas seeks must be held responsible for the resulting carnage. And let us not forget the chief sponsor of Hamas — Iran — and its development of a nuclear weapon and funding of groups that continue to kill American soldiers in Iraq.

Those who sought to weaken the United States’ relationship with America were rebuffed. And one of primary individuals responsible for their ineffectiveness is President Obama. In his first interview since assuming office, Obama told an Arab news station: “We will not stop being a strong ally of the United States. And I will continue to believe that Israel’s security is paramount.”

From Truman to Obama, our president has reflected the will of the people and supported Israel.

Adam Lior Hirst is a junior in Branford College.

Comments

  • MC'10

    Mock the protesters for their inefficacy and inaccuracy, then fill a YDN opinion column with distorted "facts" of your own? ("By overwhelming majorities," you write, "the American people support the Israeli people"--yet according to Rasmussen, fewer than half of Americans support Israel's decision to take military action, while nearly the same number criticize the state for not having made greater diplomatic efforts.) What's your plan, Hirst--to discredit a few students who work to voice their opinions in a public forum, then, in the same breath, disseminate equally if not more specious claims in that same forum?

    You should take a look at Schwalb's column, "Torn between emotion and reason" (23 Jan). Now there's an example of productive and elevated civil discourse without fraudulent exaggerations and counterproductive agenda jockeying. "Political support is not rational", he writes. Well, your column certainly isn't.

    Take a hint and stop ranting long enough to think. Go ahead and criticize student protests for their misguided projects, misrepresentations, and weak positions, but stop beating up straw men, and avoid falling into the same trap yourself.

  • Genocide Witness

    The author repeats several ideas, that he probably got from FOX: 1) Israel is Liberal, 2) U.S. loves Israel due to shared values, freedom and democracy.

    The facts support neither of these ideas.

    1) The author mentions the status of gays and women as an example of how liberal Israel is. In fact, gays have been stoned to death marching in Tel Aviv. Check out this article from Haaretz on what they have to face when they march.
    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/783729.html

    Regarding women in Israel, for many years, a law proposing to give women the basic right to divorce husbands has gotten defeated. Neighboring Egypt passed the law, allowing tens of thousands of women to divorce their husbands.

    Of course the author of this article will dismiss these things: "no country is perfect" etc. Gays getting bashed in the head, tens of thousands of women getting beaten on the head and can't do anything about it… details details.

    ANd to understand why these things happen to Israel, look at the parties that control the knesset: majority are from ultra conservative groups, unlike what one would expect from a liberal country. Check!

    2) The reason that the U.S. supports Israel is that Israel has done and continues to do the dirty work for Israel throughout the globe: Israel channeled money to South Africa, even after the U.S. had to divest, Israel supplies arms to right wing death squads in Guatemala, Brazil, Argentina, etc. in 70's and 80's, and Israel continues to train such death squads in Colombia. This is the basis of the relationship. Read a little and inform yourself. What you find may surprise you.

  • BK '09

    Very well said.

  • Y'11

    Let me just point out 3 of the many lies in this article:

    3) "That Israel allowed trucks of supplies to enter Gaza — contrary to its own strategic interest — is an unambiguous good."

    Israel has imposed a strict blockade on humanitarian aid since the start of Cast Lead. Is it an "unambiguous good" that aid workers have actually been KILLED trying to help the countless in need in Gaza?

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090108/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_israel_palestinians

    2) "That Israel has the Gaza phonebook and will call a house and say, “We know military supplies are being stored there, we are going to hit your house, please leave,” is a firm reminder of the morality of the Israeli Defense Forces."

    I guess the same can't be said about Israel's indiscriminate use of white phosphorous.

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/777549.html

    1)"Israel seeks to avoid armed conflict…"

    This takes the cake. Has Israel avoided armed conflict by strangulating Gaza's economy, or by killing 1000+ of it's people, so many of whom were innocent? I can't decide.

  • @#2 (check your facts!)

    The article you posted doesn't even mention stoning. In fact, it said that an ultra-conservative contingency was anti-gay, but that Israel administered security to PROTECT gays. This is like America: we would give security to protect gays, but of course there is a vocal minority of fundamentalists who would be violent towards gays. Please do not say that the ultra-orthodox represent all of Israel; that is simply not correct. Israel lets gays serve openly in its military, whereas the US does not. That is a fact.

    Speaking of facts, what are these "death squads" in Colombia that you mention? Are you talking about how they help Colombia combat terror groups that kidnap civilians and threaten governmental stability? Once, they helped retrieve hostages without firing a shot:
    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/998838.html

    Please fact check!!!! It annoys me when people make generalizations ("tens of thousands of women getting beaten on the head" is an insult to my intelligence) without backing them up.

    Hirst, I enjoyed your article. People who are pro-Palestine have said (as with comment 1) that most Americans are against Israel, but then many commenters on Ahmed's column

    (http://www.yaledailynews.com/articles/view/27214)

    said that he was brave since so many Americans are PRO-Israel. Hmmm….it's funny how people on the same side use contradictory facts (whichever are more convenient, I suppose) to back their assertions.

  • @ Genocide Witness

    Note the Haaretz article states that the police were in place to protect them from extremists, both Muslim and Jewish. The police force itself is Israeli. Extremism is the real enemy in the middle east. Hamas wants Israel destroyed, but Israel could coexist with Fatah.

  • Genocide Witness

    Pro-Israel brain-washing is so powerful, that facts no longer matter. Gay-bashing doesn't matter and woman-bashing doesn't matter-- all from the lovers of freedom and democracy:

    On Jewish women getting beaten for sitting at the front of the bus in Jerusalem:
    http://haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=801449&contrassID=19

    On the treatment of women in Israel's courts:
    http://www.international-divorce.com/d-israel.htm

    http://www.iwn.org.il/innerEn.asp?newsid=166

    On Stabbings during Gay Pride in Israel:
    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3108675,00.html

    On Stoning during Pride in Israel:
    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/873597.html

    http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1181813057803&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

    The usual retort by pro-Israel folk is to dismiss all of this as detail and just say "well there are crack-pot conservatives everywhere… it's no big deal really…." However these are not a few odd-ball crack-pots, they are the largest block in the knesset and overwhelm the progressive few. Of 120 members of the Knesset, 51 are from conservative parties and 15 are from religious/conservative parties. The rest are from the "center" parties, however quite a few vote with the conservatives on social issues.

    Here is the breakup of members of the Knesset by party:

    http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Government/Branches+of+Government/Legislative/17th+Knesset+Members.htm

    Right Wing religious parties: 51
    Left Wing parties: 15
    Center (Labor, Kadima)

    That is why women and gays are bashed in Israel. It is not an exception. Read! Don't just repeat what you hear on FOX.

  • Genocide Witness

    And regarding Israelis training "death squads", here is the link from your favorite FOX:

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,263743,00.html
    http://www.ynet.co.il/english/articles/0,7340,L-3384413,00.html
    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/845082.html

    And on the history of Israel's weapon sales to anti-semitic genocidal Latin American governments through the 70's and 80's:

    http://www.foreignaffairs.org/19870301fabook9390/bishara-bahbah/israel-and-latin-america-the-military-connection.html

  • @ MC'10

    "'By overwhelming majorities,' you write, 'the American people support the Israeli people'--yet according to Rasmussen, fewer than half of Americans support Israel's decision to take military action, while nearly the same number criticize the state for not having made greater diplomatic efforts."

    I don't know the accuracy of Hirst's statement, but to equate support of the Israeli people to support of Israel's recent military actions is absurd and insulting. One can believe that Israeli citizens have the right to live in their homes without constant fear of rocket attacks without necessarily agreeing with the government's decisions.

  • Adaam James

    Reading this discussion, I've noticed the depiction of two, very different, Israels. A highly conservative and oppressive Israel on one side and an open minded, grossly liberal Israel on the other. As an Israeli citizen, I feel both sides of Israel strongly co-existing and struggling. I feel that, already preset with convictions on the conflict, most articles and replies fail to address this delicate inter-Israeli struggle.

    Personally, I wish for the immediate exchange of the Israeli settlements for a solid, trust-worthy peace (were it only that simple), and for extensive deliberations with a Palestinian government (one that acknowledges Israel's right to exist) in the purpose of a two state resolution; I wish for an Israeli state where all its citizens are equally treated by law and deeds, and where the issues of sexual preference, religious views and ethnicity would have no bearings on a person's worth stature. Now, as it is, the Israeli judicial system is one of the most radically progressive and liberal on those issues. I also know that many people in Israel share these wishes, and that in many parts of the country those wishes are being made a reality, or at least, openly, freely and deliberately discussed. Tel Aviv is a haven for the gay community, and the election for mayor was recently held between two candidates, both extremely liberal, and one of whom is a member in an Arab party. But even in Jerusalem, one of the more religiously conservative cities, a vast gay community has been defiantly growing, holding an annual gay parade, despite an annual religious stir. Generally, more and more schools in Israel find it crucial to instill the study of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, stressing the various sides and notions, and emphasizing the need for great compromise along the hope for just peace. The artistic scene is blooming and free. Indeed, there is a very liberal side to Israel and it's vital and breathing.

    But there is also a very different Israel, where one hears the sounds of ignorance and intolerance. While in most days the voice of reason is predominant, encouraging tolerance and liberalism, it becomes somewhat tacit in times of crisis. In time of war, a certain clamor of rabid belligerents, usually fulminated by the pseudo patriotic rodomontade of careless politicians, blocks off the considerate call of doubt, and with the whiff of a rocket, tolerance is taken over by prejudice and narrow mindedness. It's a primal, cyclic process (relating to some primal, survival instincts) that is not at all exclusive to Israel: existential war often exerts single sidedness and adamant certainty, the sort of certainty that brings about intolerance, and intolerance proliferates easily from the Israeli-Arab conflict to other domestic issues (gay rights, religion, and military service). It is precisely this kind of war-provoked intolerance that threatens the existence of the open-minded, liberal Israel, thus further fuelling the very Israel-Palestinian conflict it denounces.

    While bigotry and extremism may be an inevitable burden of every democracy, Israel is a puny country in size and populous (7 million citizens), involved in a uniquely complex situation, where, in critical times, it may have literally no room for the development of an equilibrating mass. No matter how powerful, copious and persistent the liberal, intellectual and humanitarian side of Israel may be, the lack of a vast mediating majority leaves the voice of the bellicose extreme to resoundingly challenge the voice of reason that, I believe, most of the people of Israel believe in. And when the call of fanatic extremes is being heard so vociferously, the voice of the more liberal and humanitarian Israel would be too often shadowed by the violence and aggression of the other.

    Acknowledging this inner struggle within the heart of Israel is fundamental in understanding the peculiar position of Israel in this Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which calls for a change in the very nature of discussion. Rather than debating whether Israel is right or wrong, one might argue as for what part of Israel should be further strengthened in support, that of reckless bigotry, or that of liberal values and tolerance. That is why I believe that over-embracive, flat support, just like flat one sided criticism, is nothing more than damaging; completely ignoring the merits of Israel is leaving those very merits alone in the struggle, so to speak, while disregarding Israel's faults is a tacit support of those faults. The complexity of this reality demands us to be super cautious of such dangerous ex parte discussions, which have already more than saturated this ancient conflict.