Israel is an important ally and the only democracy in the Middle East. It serves as a check on radical Islam in the region. The United States, as a longtime ally, friend of Israel, and member of the global community, has a duty to participate in a peace process that supports both our interests in the region and the interests of Israel and Palestine in establishing a two-state solution.
The origins and current state of the conflict between Israel and Palestine are complex. In 1948, Israel was established in what was British-controlled Palestine. It came at the end of World War II, during which six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis, but it was preceded by centuries of persecution of Jews by Christians.
The intent was to create two states: Israel and an Arab Palestinian state. Jerusalem, because of its importance to Christians, Muslims, and Jews, was not to be ceded to either state until they reached agreement on how to divide it. Armed conflict began and has continued. No agreement has been reached on Jerusalem.
Last February, President Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel, a decision praised by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A Palestinian peace negotiator disagreed. “This step is prejudging, dictating, closing doors for negotiation, and I think President Trump disqualified America from playing any role in the peace process,” Saeb Erekat said.
Past presidents, both Republicans and Democrats, led as statesmen in honest negotiations to bring peace to the region. The past three presidents supported establishment of a Palestinian state. I am concerned that Trump’s move endangers America’s critical role as mediator.
A troubling issue closer to home is persecution of Jews in the United States. Since the Federal Bureau of Investigation began tracking hate crimes, the highest rate of religiously motivated hate crimes has always been against Jews as compared to other religious groups. Hate crimes against Jews in the US surged 57% in 2017, the largest year-on-year increase since the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights group, began collecting data in 1979.
A resurgence of white supremacy groups, such as the “alt-right,” after the election of President Trump is also troubling. Shortly after he was elected, members of the self-proclaimed “alt-right” gathered in Washington, DC, where they exclaimed, “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” and raised their arms in Nazi salutes.
Are we at risk of repeating history? During the Holocaust, the Nazis murdered six million Jews and millions of others, including disabled adults and children, citizens of Russia and Poland, and religious dissidents. It happened because Germany was in an economic recession after WWI. Hitler rose to power on the backs of the people he blamed.
Today, here in the United States, hate speech that blames, denigrates, marginalizes, or vilifies any group of people must be rejected. Name-calling must not be tolerated. We must stand together as Americans for fairness, equality, and justice and have respectful conversations about our differences.