Free Israel

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You can see why Jews everywhere might get overly defensive whenever people start condemning the actions of any Jews anywhere. After all, the Jews got blamed for the execution of one man more than two thousand years ago and have been getting crucified for it ever since. So you can’t blame the Jews who wave their victim cards now that much of the world is hammering the particular Jews running the state of Israel, itself the historical homeland of Jewry, with a Star of David on its flag and everything. To some Jews the criticisms launched at Israel must feel as though the corpse of anti-Semitism, which many liked to believe had died with the Third Reich, is bursting from its tomb in yet another resurrection.

And of course we should assume plenty of plain anti-Semites are mixed in with the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, as well as those saying the pro-Israel lobby holds too much sway over the U.S. government.

But most of us — I support the movement — think we should boycott, divest and sanction the state of Israel for the way its government treats its Palestinian citizens, and that a powerful lobby in this country has a lot to do with why our own government and our mainstream press seem so supportive and uncritical of the Israeli government. Period. It has nothing to do with whom the land belongs to, or being pro-Jew or anti-Arab. I’m not for or against either group; I’m just for human rights and against governments that abuse their citizens.

I’m especially against governments who treat some of their citizens as if they weren’t even citizens. The prime minister of Israel, Bibi Netanyahu, says Palestinians aren’t citizens of Israel — or anywhere, apparently, since Israel is the only homeland they know. “According to the basic nationality law we passed,” he posted on Instagram over the weekend, “Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people – and only it.”

I disagree with Bibi, but not because I’m anti-Jew or even anti-Israel — I’m not either. I just don’t think any nation state can or should belong to a single ethnic or racial or religious group, and that goes for any nation state and any group. If an independent Puerto Rico chose to exclude all non-Boricuas from its citizenry, I’d come out and say something against Puerto Rico and the Puerto Ricans running it. I’m not down with chauvinism — people are people; what group you belong to is an accident of birth — and I come from too many tribes to be tribal.

As for the land, it belongs to the people who live on it. Now I’m sure some reader will say the land belongs to the guy who takes it, or buys it, and we’ll just have to agree to disagree on that for now. Still, another reader might say Israel belongs to the Jews because that’s what the Torah or the Bible say, another that it belongs to the Arabs because that’s what the Quran or the history books say, yet another that it belongs to the Israelis because the Arabs have killed innocent Jews, and the last that it belongs to the Palestinians because the Jews and Christians have killed innocent Arabs — and all of that is undoubtedly true, but what does any of it have to do with the Israeli or Palestinian toddler just uttering their first Hebrew or Arabic words today?

As it is, Jews and Palestinians live and have lived in the land known to half as Israel, to the other half as Palestine, and so they will have to learn to live in peace. And the only way people can have any hope of living in peace is if they are granted equal rights in a society whose government is of, by and for all the people. There is no other way, because unequal rights mean unequal power, and unequal power leads to abuse of power, which leads the abused to rise up, sooner or later. Dictatorships are like people in that way — doomed to die the moment they’re born.

And just as I don’t want to see one more Arab life sacrificed for the security of Israel, I don’t want to see one more Jew sacrificed for the liberation of Palestine. I don’t even want to see Netanyahu put to death, no matter how much blood he has on his hands, Arab and Jewish. No one will ever hear an Amen! or Allahu akbar! from me at the scene of some symbolic execution (which is another reason why I’m not a Christian).

So I have no dog in this fight over Jerusalem; I’m not for or against any party involved. I’m only for what’s right, and while that’s clearly debatable, if the leader of Israel thinks Palestinians should be treated like foreigners in their own land, the land they’ve been sharing with Jews since… then I’m against the leader of Israel. And if the Israeli government thinks it’s kosher to corral Palestinians in Gaza like Apaches on a reservation (we all know what happened to poor old Geronimo), or wall Arabs out like Trump wants to do the Mexicans, then I guess I’m against the Israeli government, too. And until any of that changes, I can’t be anything but.

It’s as simple as that.


Featured image: Barbed wire above a border fence in the West Bank, Israel. (Paolo Cuttitta/Flickr)

Hector is the founder and editor of MANO as well as the host of the LATINISH podcast. A Chicagoan living in Las Vegas, he's also the senior editor of Latino Rebels, part of Futuro Media, as well as a former managing editor of Gozamos, an art-activism site based in his home town. He was a columnist at RedEye, a Tribune-owned daily geared toward millennials. His work has been mentioned by The New Yorker, Good Morning America, TIME, the Washington Post, and other outlets, and his writing was featured in 'Ricanstruction, 'a comic book anthology whose proceeds went toward recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. He studied history at the University of Illinois-Chicago where his concentration was on ethnic relations in the United States.

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