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.