Equally important, Israel was founded by secularists not just as a Jewish state but a democratic one as well.. Also, at its inception, Israel's very existence was threatened by its hostile Arab neighbors, so it was truly an underdog state. But that was then, and this is now. Times have changed, and I find myself questioning my position of heretofore unwavering support for several reasons.
To begin with, in recent years the country has fallen under the control of the right wing and Orthodox minority who thanks in part to the parliamentary system of government holds a disproportionate amount of political power over the secular majority of Israeli citizens. I find the intolerance and aggressive policies of the Orthodox and its other rightist allies in government abhorrent, in terms of its stranglehold in such matters of conversion to Judaism, marriage, and its refusal to recognize and share power with other branches of Judaism within Israel. Equally obnoxious is the attitude of the Orthodox Jewish establishment in Israel towards non-Orthodox Jews in the Diaspora, which is "You must keep supporting us with your donations and your political support , but don't expect acceptance or recognition from us; not now, not ever."
And in the topic of political support, I think that it's high time for Israel to shed its over-dependence on American aid on both government level as well as from private sources such as AIPAC which as a lobbying organization has itself become too big for its britches. As previously mentioned, Israel is no longer a 97 pound weakling among nations. It is a first world country with a sound industrial base, a kick-ass military, and an eminent producer of software which is highly in demand worldwide as well. So it should not keep putting its hand out for financial assistance.
In addition Israel needs to quit searching for love in all the wrong places. For example there is the matter of the Israeli Government's and Orthodox Jews' climbing into bed with American Christian fundamentalists who support Israel's existence, yet are nevertheless anti-Semitic. If that sounds like a twisted doctrine (which of course it is), here is the "reasoning" behind it: Christianity, especially evangelicals, believe that the establishment of
Speaking of acceptance, there is a branch of Orthodox Jews in Israel, the haredim, who refuse to recognize
As an atheist, I have a hard time coping with all this religious craziness. Yet, in spite of everything, I feel that turning away from Israel--and from my relatives living there as well-- would be not just disloyal, but by default would put me on the same street as anti-Zionists who claim only to oppose Israel's existence and want to drive the Jews into the sea. Certainly, there are people who oppose Zionism and who do so without harboring a hatred for Jews and Israel. But for the most part "Zionist" is used pejoratively by Muslims and other anti-Semites as a code word for "Jew".
Perhaps it was the Six Day War in 1967 that showed Israel was a powerhouse of military strength and not to be taken lightly, even by its enemies. It also brought the Palestinian question issue into the world spotlight, although that issue had been festering in one form or another for years prior, and of course ever since. There is plenty of blame to go around. Israel has been wrong and ham-handed in many ways that it has dealt this matter. But a major source of the problem is the Arabs' decision to leave Palestinian refugees to rot in squalid camps and exploit them as pawns instead of absorbing them into the Arab nations as Israel did for Jewish refugees who were expelled from those same countries as soon as Israel achieved nationhood in 1948.
It's one thing to criticize and second guess Israel from the outside (and by someone like myself who has never even been there). But its quite another from within. Please see "We Have Lost Our Way", a beautifully written essay by an Israeli about her country's wayward policies and culture . The sadness that the writer expresses over Israel's straying from its compassionate Zionist roots is almost palpable. On the other end of the spectrum is an equally moving "Only Israel". This video rightly condemns the hypocrisy of those in the international community who criticize Israel for the very acts that they themselves likewise commit. Yet why does Israel frequently shoot itself in the foot and put itself in untenable positions in the first place? In doing so it needlessly furnishes ideological ammunition to its enemies and even alienates many Jews as well. (See "American JewsWho Reject Zionism Say Events Aid Cause".) For Israel to then say that it is no less guilty of international law violations than its detractors is a poor rationalization. Two wrongs don't make a right.
One noteworthy ideal of the aforementioned early Zionist roots was the willingness of the pioneers in Israel in the late 19th century through the mid 20th century to tackle menial jobs and perform hard physical labor required to build the country. In time as the country prospered, this scut work was handed off to Palestinians laborers. After the Intifada when these workers became scarce, the country began importing workers from other places such as those in Southeast Asia. Sad to say that these laborers often face such abuses as unsafe working conditions and unpaid wages. By turning a blind eye to the exploitation of these workers by ruthless employers.("Israel Grows Uneasy Over Reliance on Migrant Labor"), that country is following the lead of its Arab neighbors who are infamous for their inhumane treatment of migrant laborers. I reside in the Philippines, and tales of horror abound in the local media about Filipino overseas workers who have suffered at the hands of their Arab employers. Is Israel on the slippery slope to that same kind of barbaric behavior? And what are the all powerful Orthodox Jewish leaders who are self-proclaimed experts on morality doing to stop these violations of human dignity?
In short, many of Israel's missteps and inconsistent policies are the result of the delusions of its religious establishment. If it could overthrow this pernicious influence, the Jewish state would very likely become a more humane, coherent, and
Suggested reading: "What Is Israel Doing Wrong?" I happened to read this essay after I wrote this post and found that many of the views of the writer, David Solway, are identical to mine. However, many are diametrically opposed. (More cognitive dissonance!).