Recently, I received an email from Rabbi Wise of the organization Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), who is alarmed by the Prawer Plan currently being considered by the Israeli Knesset. The plan outlines the removal of 40,000 indigenous Bedouin people from their ancestral homeland in the Negev desert in order to transform the Negev into a majority-Jewish area. Unlike Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza, the Bedouin are non-Jewish citizens of the State of Israel. Ethnic and religious identity are being used as the sole criteria for the forced removal of these people; calling the concept of Israeli democracy itself into question.
Considering the billions of American tax dollars we provide the Israeli government, I thought to contact my Congressman, Jeff Miller, to ask him if he could help stop this tragic injustice by the Israeli government. The Prawer Plan, if implemented by the Israeli Knesset, would be like the US Congress removing African Americans from the State of Florida in order to transform Florida into a predominantly white state. Absurd right? Patently wrong. Blatantly racist. I would’ve expected this kind of action in Apartheid South Africa, not from a supposed democratic government as Israel purports itself to be. I assumed Congressman Miller would agree.
I learned however, that Congressman Miller is a member of the Congressional Israel Allies Caucus. In 2006 the U.S. House of Representatives formed the CIAC and additional caucuses have been formed in Uruguay, Brazil, South Africa, Finland, England, Germany, The Philippines, South Korea, Canada and the list continues to grow. According to their website, The Israel Allies Foundation was formed to become the umbrella for coordinated activities of these government caucuses around the globe.
I went on to read the organization’s declaration of purpose which includes among other things that "Israel’s protective military actions are lawful…" and "We support the Government of Israel as acting within its rights and obligations to its citizens when it stands resolutely in defense of its sovereign territory and acts preemptively if necessary…" and "The Iranian regime with its developing arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and its stated goal of destroying Israel constitutes a clear and present danger to the existence of the State of Israel that must be opposed." These broad stroke declarations of unqualified support for the actions of the Israeli government, regardless of the circumstance, indicate to me that Congressman Miller will be unlikely to condemn or even concern himself with the detestable Prawer Plan.
As a human being I’m concerned about indefensible actions by the Israeli government, but as an American citizen, I am more concerned that my own Congress abides an organization like the Congressional Israel Allies Caucus and I would like to know why my Congressman believes this is an appropriate organization for him to join. If I am not mistaken, Congressman Miller swore the following oath when he took office as my representative:
"I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."
Israel was not mentioned in that oath and I’m pretty sure the voters in Florida’s 1st Congressional District did not send Mr. Miller to Congress in order that he unquestioningly support the Israeli Government’s right to "act preemptively if necessary…"
While I harbor no animosity towards Jewish people in America or in Israel, it is my belief that through its continued actions towards the Palestinian people, it’s continued actions against its own non-Jewish citizens, it’s threatening behavior with regard to its neighbors in the Middle East as well as the role it has played in our own government, the government of Israel has become a threat to the national security of the United States. While many thinking people around the world have come to the same conclusion, I recognize that many of my neighbors strongly disagree and will support the government of Israel regardless of the situation or the actions of the Israeli government no matter how horrendous I may believe them to be. As I am only an opinionated American citizen, I would refer those people, and Congressman Miller, to the words of George Washington in his farewell address to the nation:
“The nation which indulges towards another an habitual hatred, or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest…Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government… Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favorite, are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people to surrender their interests."
George Washington left us a great deal more useful advice regarding foreign entanglements and other threats to self governance in his farewell address. I encourage my fellow citizens and Congressman Miller to read the entire document and consider President Washington’s advice carefully.
How can the people of the United States hope to dissuade Israel from forcibly removing citizens from their land based on their religion or ethnicity if members of our own government have already pledged to support the Israeli government’s right to preemptive actions? There is no place for an organization like the Congressional Israel Allies Caucus in the Congress of The United States. Before the United States Government can be a genuine force for good in the world, we American Citizens must reawaken “the jealousy of a free people” and force our own government to re-focus itself, first and foremost, on the interests of those it governs.