Last week, I sent the following letter to Michigan’s two senators (both Democrats) and to my congressman (a Republican). A staffer for the latter called me today to say that the congressman (Jack Bergman) found the letter well-argued and helpful; I replied by asking to be kept in the loop on what the gentleman does about it. I would respectfully ask readers of this blog to write their senators and representatives in a similar vein. A great deal of lasting mischief may occur while our attention is distracted by the coronavirus, if we do not watch carefully and speak up.
Senator/Congressman, I am a recently-retired professor of Old Testament and Hebrew. I have therefore spent my professional life immersed in the Hebrew Scriptures and, more broadly, Judaism. I have learned much from Jewish sages ancient and modern. I am also well-aware of the long and tragic history of anti-Semitism and understand why Zionism arose to provide what the rest of the world would not–a safe haven for Jews–especially in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Furthermore, I have led five trips to Israel since 2000, in which my students have not simply seen the biblical sites, but have engaged with leaders and ordinary people, both Israeli and Palestinian.
It is in the light both of my studies and of my eyewitness experiences that I write to you now. I am frankly appalled at the failure of the present administration to maintain even the appearance of fairness in the present Israeli/Palestinian impasse. The reality is that Jews needed a state for the reasons already stated. But that state was established in 1948 at the cost of mass evictions, land seizures, and property demolitions that were contrary to international law and that have never been resolved. Moreover, since 1967 the entire “Holy Land,” including areas reserved for Palestinians since 1948, has been under Israeli occupation, and in recent years those areas have seen increasing encroachment by Israelis, both in the “separation wall” that has regularly seized land beyond the 1948 “Green Line” and in settlements.
Now an Israeli “unity government” is publicly moving toward annexation of large portions of the West Bank as part of “Greater Israel.” Palestinians are to be squeezed into isolated zones that some have rightly likened to the holes in Swiss cheese.
I am writing to urge you strongly to author and support legislation that makes it clear to the Israeli government that the United States will not recognize or support any resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian dispute that is not negotiated with and agreed to by the Palestinians themselves. The history of the State of Israel shows clearly that only the US has sufficient leverage with Israel to dissuade it from a path that is both unjust and inevitably costly to the hard-won values of their own faith and principles. Regardless of the outcome of this November’s presidential election, it is time for the United States to return to the role of good-faith mediator in this arguably most intractable of all international conflicts.