I grew up in the 1950s when Israel was considered a light unto nations, a tiny nation the size of New Jersey that made flowers bloom in the desert and that today has become a technological marvel, one of the top five countries in the world in technology. Advances in medical technology that are saving millions of people worldwide were designed and developed in Israel, and today Israel is second to America in the number of companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange—not bad for a nation of 7 million people.
Everything changed after the Six-Day War. What was considered a war to end the Egyptian blockade of the Strait of Tiran instead was a war that long after the conquest of Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian lands became the permanent acquisition of these lands by Israeli governments from both the right and the left, who increased settlements in the occupied territories. The left was willing to remove the settlers for peace, but as the settler movement was allowed to grow, and because Israel’s political structure is so fractured it takes cobbling together coalitions from several dfifferent parties to form a government, more and more Israeli governments continued to give in to the settlers’ demands and more money was being spent on the settlements than was spent for the poor, the disabled, the sick and the hungry inside Israel.
Israel today has become a far-right country where loyalty oaths to the state are passed in the Knesset, where left-wing groups are investigated to see where there funds come from, where Israeli commanders who attempt to evict settlers from illegal outposts have not only their lives threatened but also the lives of their families, and where former Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin was assassinated in 1995 and today, on the pages of many Israeli online media sites is called a traitor.
Israel today is a country where politicans on the left who question the current right-wing government’s policies have their loyalties to Israel questioned on a daily basis. Generals in the Israeli military and former heads of the Israeli intelligence services who have publicly questioned the wisdom of bombing Iran are called traitors, and many people have gone so far as to call for their arrest. Any Israeli politician who publicly calls for a two-state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is called a self-hater and the enemy.
Since Barack Obama became president in 2008 there has been a daily drumbeat on Israeli media sites, with thousands of comments posted every week accusing him of being a Muslim out to destroy Israel and an anti-Semite. To so accuse a president who has increased aid to Israel and protected Israel at every turn at the United Nations as well as worked with the Israelis on preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is shocking, but the vile hatred displayed toward Obama is there every day on Israeli sites for all to see. Jews who voted for him have their Jewishness questioned and are called self-haters and routinely called traitors. The attitude of the current government and the government that will soon come into office is that because Jews lived on the land 3,000 years ago, it does not matter if the Arabs have lived there for the past 300 years. They are not welcome and should leave either by financial incentive or force. When dozens of innocent Palestinian men, women and children are killed in retaliation for rocket attacks from Gaza, the average Israeli citizen feels no remorse whatsoever.
My Jewish friends and I are deeply saddened by what Israel has become. A nation once lauded and idolized as “the light unto nations” is fast becoming a country of darkness where might equals right, where it’s “my way of the highway” and where compromise for peace no longer exist. The Israel so many of us once knew and loved is forever a thing of the past and the light unto nations is flickering and about to go out only to be replaced by ultranationalists and xenophobes. Israel’s founders must be weeping in heaven, and all of us who were once so proud of what Israel once was are deeply saddened by what Israel has become.
Mark Jeffery Koch
Cherry Hill, NJ
Jan 15 2013 - 5:40pm