Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Commentary: Israel’s Occupation Violates Traditional Jewish Values of Justice and Equality

By Allan C. Brownfeld

Speaking to the J Street annual conference in Washington in February, Tony Klug, a special adviser on the Middle East at the Oxford Research Group, said that support for Israel’s “never-ending” occupation is changing the nature of what it means to be Jewish. “We used to be people devoted to justice,” he declared. “Now we have become enablers of Israel’s injustices.”  
Klug told J Street that, “If Israel does not end the occupation sharply, and if organized Jewish opinion in other countries appears openly to back it, there will indeed almost certainly be a further surge in anti-Jewish sentiment … Israel’s never-ending occupation of the land and lives of another people, is not just seriously endangering Israel, not to mention deepening the despair of the Palestinians. But it is also making the situation of the Jews around the world increasingly precarious … Time honored Jewish ideals — justice, freedom, equality, peace, mutual respect — have made an extraordinary contribution to human civilization. They lie at the very core of Jewish identity … We now face the major reality of a state that describes itself loudly and often to be Jewish as … withholding fundamental human rights from millions of people indefinitely. A standpoint that is in total defiance of quintessential Jewish principles.”  
In Klug’s view, “If we are not prepared to speak out resolutely, we may be on the cusp of Jewish identity being redefined for all of us. To start with, supporters of Israel could openly clarify that their affection for the country, however deep, does not extend to supporting the occupation. They could consider adopting a slogan like, ‘Love Israel, Hate Occupation.’ … When all is said and done, the bottom line is that the conflict with the Palestinians has dominated and distorted the Jewish world for too long. It is time to bring it to an end and stop the infamy of a half century of military occupation of another people and allow us all to get back to the business of being ourselves.”  
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont also addressed the J Street conference and noted that one could be sharply critical of the Israeli government’s policies but still be supportive of Israel. He criticized President Trump for retreating from a commitment to a two-state solution and discussed the time he lived on a kibbutz near Haifa in 1963 and recalled “the progressive values” nurtured there.  
“But,” he declared, “as you all know, there was another side to the story of Israel’s creation, a more painful side. … the founding of Israel involved the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people already living there, the Palestin¬ian people. Over 700,000 people were made refugees … We can oppose the policies of Netanyahu without being anti-Israel.”

This article was originally published in the April 2017 edition of Special Interest Report, a quarterly journal of the American Council for Judaism.


Allan C. Brownfeld received B.A. from the College of William and Mary, J.D. from the Marshall-Wythe School of Law of the College of William and Mary, and M.A. from the University of Maryland. Served as a member of the faculties of St. Stephen's Episcopal School, Alexandria, Virginia and the University College of the University of Maryland. The recipient of a Wall Street Journal Foundation Award, he has written for such newspapers as The Houston Press, The Washington Evening Star, The Richmond Times Dispatch, and The Cincinnati Enquirer. His column appeared for many years in Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. His articles have appeared in The Yale Review, The Texas Quarterly, Orbis, Modern Age, The Michigan Quarterly, The Commonweal and The Christian Century. His essays have been reprinted in a number of text books for university courses in Government and Politics. For many years, his column appeared several times a week in papers such as The Washington Times, The Phoenix Gazette and the Orange County Register. He served as a member of the staff of the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, as Assistant to the research director of the House Republican Conference and as a consultant to members of the U.S. Congress and to the Vice President. He is the author of five books and currently serves as Contributing Editor of The St. Croix Review, Associate Editor of The Lincoln Review and editor of Issues. He also serves on the editorial board of The San Francisco Review of Books.

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