Goosebumps and shivers are the only words that come close to accurately describing how I feel when I consider the advancements the Western World has made in the past few years. Of course, when I speak of “advancements,” I am generally referencing innovations in equality for gender and sexuality.
In 2012, Barack Obama became the first sitting US president to endorse gay marriage.
In 2013, Queen Elizabeth signed the Succession to the Crown Act, canceling ancient laws of male primogeniture that have existed in Britain since before the time of the Anglo-Saxon kings.
As a gay college student, advancements such as these get me excited... they remind me what an exciting time it is to be alive.
I consider myself a staunch supporter of gay rights and women’s liberation, and I wish to see religious tolerance and western notions of just punishment implemented the world over.
I guess you can call me a typical liberal, and I accept that label with sincere pride. I am constantly baffled when I see my fellow “liberals” bashing one of the only governments in the Middle East that supports these ideals.
Being pro-Palestinian seems to be the liberal trend, which both saddens and confuses me. Since the tragic deaths of Eyal Yifrah, Naftali Fraenkel and Gil-Ad Shaer, my Facebook newsfeed has been swelling with debates about Israel’s right to exist.
My friends, mostly observant Jews, argue from a religious perspective. They use faith, history and definitely some pseudo-history to argue for the existence of the Jewish state in the Middle East.
Although I am of partial, distant Jewish ancestry, I do not consider myself a member of any particular faith, and I do not think that religious claims to land should be acceptable in 2014. Claiming ownership of land on a religious basis is almost as tricky as using religion to claim rights or power over others. Equally as tricky is a historical claim. Yes, ancient tribes of Jews lived in the area, but the archeological evidence for a “united” ancient Israel has been contested in academia since the days of Doctor Israel Finkelstein.
So where do we go from here? I am a liberal who has just written about his own support for Israel, and yet deny the two biggest pillars of said support: history and religion.
So where do I dig for my justification? The simple answer is morals, or perhaps you could call it “good behavior.”
This may seem like a very incomplete way to justify the existence of a country, but I believe it is the best way. Israel was founded in 1948, and recognized in 1949, and there is nothing you or I can do about this fact. Israel is there, and has been since those dates. The political situation was mostly this: urban European Jews (many of whom were academics) that survived the Holocaust became farmers, cultivators, and rebuilders of the Middle East.
Although this sounds like a recipe for disaster, it was actually the ingredients for success. These settlers not only brought their education with them, but they also brought memories of their own persecution.
Part of their identity throughout history was being on the receiving end of hatred, violence and discrimination. This memory of persecution, combined with their European education, created a state that was set to join hands with the Western World and march into the future.
It is time we consider a small country that has managed to make immense social progress in terms of human rights despite the politics of its surrounding countries, and despite constant threats against it. It’s time we examine what could have been.
It could have been very possible that Israel was never founded... and that a piece of land “the size of New Jersey” could have been an Islamic state instead, implementing sharia law and keeping Jews from visiting their holy city of Jerusalem. Tel Aviv would never have existed, and its first gay pride parade never would have occurred. Freedom of religion would never have been implemented in the land, nor would women be able to hold positions of leadership.
We forget, at a very unfortunate cost, that Israel was one of the first governments to talk about gay rights, starting with Yael Dayan’s speech in 1993. It’s interesting that members of the American Left are ready to hold signs saying “Gaza Strong” when Islamic Gaza is against the very liberties that American liberals stand for.
The author is an undergraduate at Binghamton University in upstate New York. He is pursuing majors in Art History and Russian Studies, with prospects for a masters degree in international relations.