We’ve been in Israel for almost four weeks and a lot of what I’ve written about in this blog and for occasional Facebook posts has been what we’ve seen, experienced, felt, and enjoyed in Israel. It’s been, for the most part, a wonderful, joyful adventure and we’ve felt fully alive and young at heart. Except for a few sentences, I haven’t written about Israel’s flaws or how Israel is portrayed by others, especially those on the left and on college campuses in America.
The title of this post could easily refer to the US. Although I lived through the Vietnam War, Nixon, and the Bush years, I’ve never been as worried about my country as I am now. Trump has trampled on our constitution; he’s corrupt, racist, vindictive, and amoral. Our government’s treatment of immigrants at the border has been heartbreaking and inhumane. Republicans in Congress have abandoned their principles and scruples and blindly fall in line behind Trump. I could go on and on, but you get the picture.
But, I wasn’t referring to the US in the title of this post. Israel is the complicated, flawed but democratic country I want to discuss here. I see Netanyahu as a frightening, albeit highly intelligent, mirror image of Trump. Under his leadership, Israel has pursued policies that I and many others who love Israel see as a stain on the soul of the nation, especially in regard to the Palestinians on the West Bank and the Jewish settlements there. And yet, this is still a democratic country, albeit a seriously flawed one. During our time here, we have seen evidence of a democratic society on a daily basis. In Israel, there is freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion. We have watched TV shows that are exposes on the treatment of Israeli Arabs and Jewish immigrants from Ethiopia. We regularly watch a show called The Back of the Nation, where clever and funny pundits skewer Netanyahu and other political figures. The other day, we saw an art exhibit examining Israel’s controversial, disturbing treatment of Israeli prisoners of war released by Egypt after the Yom Kippur war. We witness (and support) the New Israel Fund, an Israeli organization that pursues social justice in every aspect of Israeli society, however controversial and often unpopular their work may be. Israeli government policies are protested in Israel on a regular basis. There are more Arabs studying in Israeli colleges and universities than ever before. In a few weeks, there will be a national election in Israel and although the results may well be disappointing and discouraging, it will be a free and democratic process. These are all signs of a functioning democracy, however flawed and misguided its current leadership may be.
The BDS movement singles out Israel as the worst and only nation on earth worthy of complete boycott, divestment and sanctions. Not China, not Saudi Arabia, not Syria, not Yemen, not Eritrea, not Sudan, not North Korea. Israel, the only Jewish country in the world, is the only target of the BDS movement. Why not call out other often more egregious examples of injustice, repression, discrimination, and violation of human rights in other countries? This sole focus on the only Jewish nation in the world reeks of antisemitism and is extremely troubling for me.
My love of Israel does not blind me to her faults and transgressions, but neither can I be silent about what undergirds the BDS movement. I pray for a more just future in Israel, just as I do for my beloved America. The fact that both nations are democracies gives me hope my prayers will be answered.