Israel and Palestine: The Case for Non-intervention

The recent Israeli military incursion into Gaza has been correctly termed an “invasion”, as put by Congressman Ron Paul. It shows the world, once again, that the policy of preemptive or “preventive” war carries the day with Israel and its policies towards its neighbors. In reality, this is an extension of the U.S. foreign policy of intervention into the internal affairs of other nations, having taken its latest form in the past five years as preemptive war with the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Many staunch (i.e., blind) supporters of the state of Israel somehow believe that the latest military strategy will somehow work in staving off the threats of rockets being fired by members and supporters of Hamas. Sadly, this strategy is only likely to beget more violence and to further radicalize Palestinians in Gaza who are understandably outraged over continued military occupation by Israel under conditions that some have likened to concentration camps (as Ron Paul put it in his recent video statement).

The truth is that the situation with Israel and Palestine is not so black-and-white as many on both sides of the conflict tend to portray it. It is really a very complex situation that is extremely difficult for most people to understand or grasp, and it is rooted in fighting that has been taking place for hundreds, if not thousands of years. It is extremely difficult to comprehend the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics, and it is even more dangerous for the U.S. to continue its policies of intervention into Middle Eastern affairs as if somehow it could change these realties. The U.S. is almost certain to be blamed, rightly or wrongly, for Israel’s recent actions, not the least on account of the weapons used having been provided to Israel by the U.S. Our “special relationship” with Israel does not come without consequences, as we learned on September 11, 2001. The likelihood of another major terrorist attack on our own land has been substantially increased by Israel’s recent actions. We can only ignore this fact at our own peril.

This writer accepts the view that Israel has the right defend itself from attack by radical Islamists (or any other attackers). However, it must be kept in mind that it is weaponry paid for by taxpayers here in the U.S. that gets used in Israeli military actions. When Israel responds to attack (or attacks preemptively) in such a way as to inflame its enemies to perpetrate more violence, it cannot happen without some sort of consequence to the U.S. We imperil ourselves by attempting to take one side or the other, or even worse, attempting to play both sides of the conflict, as we have done at various times. Our on-again, off-again policy has essentially jerked people around who should be left alone to try to resolve their own problems and conflicts. The more we interfere, the more inflamed tensions and passions become. It’s rather like pouring gasoline on a fire.

It especially bothers this writer that some of the most vociferously blind supporters of Israel’s actions are those who identify themselves as religious conservatives or evangelicals. Where is the Christian gospel to be found in a policy that pretends that a certain subset of people are somewhat less than fully human, and that advocates acts of violence? How can religiously conservative columnists, such as Cal Thomas, suggest that the rants of radicals in Hamas amount to anti-semitism on the level of the Nazis while ignoring the boulder in the eyes of those who would view Palestinians en masse as barbarian and sub-human? It all boils down to a kind of relativism that suggests certain acts of violence are acceptable, depending on who is committing the violence. Therefore, violent acts by radical Palestinians are roundly condemned (as they should be), while violent acts by radical (what other word can we use?) Israelis (i.e., the Israeli state) are somehow justified.

Especially disturbing and dangerous is the use by many evangelical Christians of certain theological views of the role of Israel in God’s plan for the end times as a justification for policies which blindly support every action taken by Israel, and which encourage the waging of preemptive war. This approach has led many in the religious right to support a preemptive strategy against Iran, which possesses no nuclear weapons and poses no threat to Israel or any other country (and is incapable of doing so). The alleged threat seems rooted in the inflammatory rhetoric used by Iran’s rulers, rather than having any basis in reality. In other words, it’s a phantom threat that serves the purposes of war propagandists. The danger of such a policy to the U.S. should be clear. Any preemptive attack on Iran would surely inflame the Arab world in ways perhaps unseen before, and there would be considerable blowback in the form of terrorist attacks on our own land, and certainly on our citizens abroad.

Violence and killing are unacceptable and immoral, no matter who commits the acts. There is nothing Christian about preemptive, preventive war as a means of countering some supposed future threat. The violent acts by some members of Hamas should be dealt with as criminal acts, and not responded to in the form of killing innocent civilians as we’ve seen in Gaza. It would do Israel a world of good to understand what it is that motivates those who have become radicalized, and to bring to an end the occupation and militarization of the lands of people who have lived there for thousands of years. Israel and its neighbors should talk to each other and find some way to peacefully co-exist.

How might such a peaceful coexistence be even remotely possible? This writer would suggest that a first step the U.S. could take towards such a goal would be to adopt a policy of non-intervention and neutrality, and to end the special relationship it has with Israel. This is not to say that we should not be friends with Israel or turn to an adversarial relationship. Rather, this is to say that we should treat Israel and its neighbors equally, allowing for trade and travel but providing nothing in the way of taxpayer-funded foreign aid. Israel and its neighbors would have a far greater incentive to settle their own affairs without U.S. foreign aid and the strings that come attached.

Finally, a most important consideration in returning to a foreign policy of non-intervention and peaceful commerce and trade is that our interventionist foreign policy comes at a tremendous cost, financially speaking. Ron Paul has correctly tied the cost of our foreign policy with the current financial crisis, which is being driven by debt and the destruction (devaluation) of our money. We can save billions of dollars by bringing our troops home from around the world, and in the process of doing so, we can earn the tremendous gratitude of the people of nations who are weary of being directed in their affairs by the U.S. It is time to end our empire around the world, to stop pretending to be an almighty superpower, and to return to being a land where liberty can flourish and where we can set a good example for the rest of the world to emulate.

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