Israel in the wrong direction

By Roy Ribitzky

Courtesy of telegraph.co.uk

I have two words for the Israeli Parliament: wake up.

The Knesset, the Israeli equivalent of our Congress, passed a new law stating that any non-Jew who wishes to become an Israeli citizen must “pledge allegiance to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.” While this may seem initially a non-issue, as every country requires new citizens to pledge allegiance to their country, I see many problems with this new law, both as an American and an Israeli citizen.

These “loyalty oaths” will merely add fuel to the fire raging in the Middle East.

Instead of trying to accomplish full peace, the Israeli government is starting to exclude people based on their perceived loyalty to the state. Sounds painfully similar to what other corrupt nations have done in the last century. Do Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman really want peace? Or do they want to further advance racist goals?

For starters, not everyone in Israel is Jewish. Why should the Arabs living in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem be forced to pledge to a religious ideology that is not their own? Will my loyalty be questioned on my trip back to Israel as an open atheist? This new law gives an excuse for the ultraconservative right wing of Israeli politics to strip non-Jews of their citizenship. In other words, these loyalty oaths are similar to our “Patriot Act,” which racially profiles non-Whites in some misconceived notion that only Arabs commit terrorist acts.

The conservatives’ reasoning for this new law is to demand recognition of the Jewish state. It is undeniable that many nations do not recognize Israel as a legitimate state, but you don’t gain respect by jamming it down people’s throats. As the Knesset Speaker put it, “the establishment of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel was an ethical act” and that does not warrant a law recognizing this.

If Israel is to truly be a democracy, this law is a step in the wrong direction, fostering religious domination within a society. The Dark Ages taught us something: religious rule does not fair well for most people. Then how is it possible for a people who have suffered so much and endured the worst of crimes committed against them, that they are now using similar methods to weed out “enemies of the state?”

In refusing to extend the settlement-building freeze, passing this new law and hiring a known and open racist as foreign minister, Prime Minister Netanyahu is sending Israel into a diplomatic abyss. I do believe in the right for Israel to exist. I also believe in the right for Palestinians to eat in the same café’s as I do, to visit the same beautiful beaches as I do and to worship the religion of their choice. Lieberman and Netanyahu have reared their ugly smirks at the rest of the world and spat in the face of the countries working so hard to see peace in the region.

American Jews expressed immense outrage when the law was first introduced to the Knesset floor. What I wanted to see was condemnation from the Obama administration. Current conservative policy in Israel is seriously making me question just how much influence the United States has in the Israel-Palestinian conflict. In my opinion, we are not pressuring the current Israeli administration hard enough. As an Israeli citizen, I do not want to see my parents’ homeland get destroyed by war or politics. Unfortunately, it becomes clearer to me that America has to make some difficult choices in how we support Israel.

For over 60 years, men and women have fought for the right to exist. My parents immigrated to America so that my siblings and I would not have to face those same battles. But what does it say when people our age are still fighting this war?

Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations and states are not helping the situation either. At some point though, we need to point the finger at ourselves and ask: “what are we doing wrong? What can we do better?” For sure we can do better – America and Israel. It was a disgrace when the prime minister was elected. Everyone knew his stance on the conflict.

What we get in return is alliances with ultraconservative parties and futile peace talks. The arrogance, intolerance and stupidity of the current Israeli administration will tear the region apart. The sad part is that this law may only be the tip of the iceberg. If the religious faction gains more power in the Knesset – a faction no different from the radical Islamic and Christian terror groups – Israel will lose any support it has in the world.

Many people can ignore this situation and live their lives without ever hearing about the Knesset, the Palestinian Liberation Organization or Hamas. If we let politicians in Israel and America fail at signing peace with our enemies, the hole left to the east of the Mediterranean will create a vacuum of bureaucracy, terror and hopelessness.

Israel is on the verge of becoming a permanent warring state. The only way to prevent this from happening is to reverse the racist laws, permanently remove all the settlements and remove the few individuals representing the minority. When a minority like the conservatives in Israel rule, it is no longer a democracy, but a militant, theocratic state.

Roy Ribitzky is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]