The US and other nations rightly identify the Palestinian political party Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, as a “terrorist organization.” And its recent attack against Israel, which resulted in reportedly 1,400 Jews dead, was most deplorable. Israel has been bombing Gaza ever since and preparing for a ground war to root out and kill the Hamas leadership so that it can never govern the Gaza Strip again.
Soon after this Israel-Hamas War got started, US President Joe Biden issued statements supporting Israel without saying anything about the background regarding the now more than sixty years of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that has built up the anger of Palestinians toward Israeli Jews. This has happened because Israel got its own state in 1949 and the Palestinians are still wonting. Moreover, they fled from the path of war in 1948-1949 and were never allowed to return to their land and homes after the war. Neither were they financially compensated for their loss. Yet Palestinians have been just an entitled to their own state as Jews have because Palestinians are human beings with rights just as much as Jews are, which shouldn’t even need to be said. But you often wouldn’t get that impression from listening to some Israeli Jewish leaders through the years. Why? They were opposed to the peace process because they were against the creation of a Palestinian state.
That goes squarely against the Torah–the law of God given through Moses their par excellence leader of all time. It says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19.18). And when Jesus of Nazareth was asked, “‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12.29-31 NRSV).
I believe it has been quite right for the US to support Israel as it has for all of these years. However, I do not believe that overall the US has done right regarding the Palestinians. How so? We have supported Israel for many decades with foreign aid amounting to $3 billion or more per year; yet we have done nothing like this to support the Palestinians. Our attitude has been that many Jews live here in the US, Jews therefore have political clout, and few Palestinians live here. So, we support Israel and expect Arab nations to financially support Palestinians, who consider themselves Arabs.
The main mistake that the US has made about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is that it should have connected our foreign aid to Israel to its participation in the peace process. And this should have included Israel preventing the illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank. They were a violation of international law. That is, Israel is a member of the UN which forbids a member nation with “occupied territory,” such as the West Bank, from settling its own citizens there. IMO, the UN has appeared weak by not enforcing this principle in regard to Israel. Of course, the US as a permanent member of the UN Security Council likely would have voted against doing so.
I believe UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres makes a lot of wise statements. And he just made one yesterday regarding the Israel-Hamas War. He has strongly condemned Hamas’ attack on Israel. Yet he added, “It is important to also recognize the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum.” He explained that for 56 years Palestinians have suffered a “suffocating occupation” by Israel. He said Palestinians have seen “their land steadily devoured by settlements and plagued by violence; their economy stifled; their people displaced and their homes demolished.” All of this suffering logically creates Palestinian anger against Israeli Jews.
Yet the Israeli Netanyahu administration responded to this Guterres statement by calling for his resignation as the UN General Secretary. I think that is shameful. And President Biden’s spokesman John Kirby was just about as bad by responding to the General Secretary’s effort to put the conflict in context, saying to reporters, “Hamas is to blame, Hamas is to blame.” Well, yes, but Israel is not without fault, either, and I think neither is the US.