John Kerry arrives in Israel, July 23.
(photo credit: MATTY STERN, US EMBASSY TEL AVIV)
I grew up as a proud American.
I stood up every morning and pledged my allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the “liberty and justice for all” that it represented. That flag flew outside my childhood home 365 days a year. My patriotic upbringing led me to love the Lee Greenwood song “Proud to be an American.”
The words, along with the powerful arrangement, touched me deeply: “If tomorrow all the things were gone I’d worked for all my life And I had to start again with just my children and my wife I’d thank my lucky stars to be living here today, ’Cause the flag still stands for freedom, and they can’t take that away.
And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me And I’d gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today ’Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land... God bless the USA” Greenwood’s declaration in a later stanza that “there’s pride in every American heart” was a sentiment that I related to as an American child.
Four years ago I stood in the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, raised my right hand, and renounced my American citizenship. I did so with a heavy heart and with tears in my eyes, but I had no choice: Israeli law forbids members of Knesset from holding citizenship in another country, so I had to recite those words. But it was painful. I was sad not to carry citizenship of the country that made me so proud, after 41 years of feeling so honored to be an American.
During the ensuing years since, I have defended my birth country against significant criticism in Israel.
I did so with pride because in my eyes, America and its leaders might make mistakes – including missteps in the context of its dealings with Israel – but that did not take away from the underlying sense of justice and moral clarity on which America was built, and which I believed infused the country and its leadership.
But the American abstention on UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which enabled the anti-Israel resolution to pass, demonstrates a loss of the moral clarity and sense of justice that had always filled me and “every American heart” with pride. And I know that almost all of Congress and a high percentage of Americans agree with my embarrassment over this decision.
The resolution blames Israel – the one law-abiding democracy in the Middle East – and its “settlement activity” for failing to implement the two-state solution.
It doesn’t blame the Palestinian leadership, which has refused all of Israel’s generous offers for peace. It doesn’t blame the Palestinian Authority incitement, which inspires its children to butcher Jewish children in their beds. It doesn’t call out the Palestinian leadership for naming schools and public squares after murderous terrorists.
No, it is Israel – the only party in this conflict that condemns terrorism and prosecutes any Israeli who carries out an act of terrorism – which is the obstacle to peace. The one sentence that condemns “all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation, incitement and destruction” without naming and outright blaming the Palestinian leadership is an embarrassment to anyone who seeks truth. This is a complete lack of moral clarity.
The resolution essentially calls for Israel’s physical and spiritual destruction with its demand for a return to the indefensible 1967 borders, and its claim that the heart and soul of the Jewish people, its eternal spiritual (and physical) capital, its holiest city, doesn’t belong to Israel. This is a complete abandonment of justice.
The America in which I grew up stood for the value of the fabled president George Washington’s “I cannot tell a lie” story. So how can that same country allow for the passage of a resolution that identifies Judea and Samaria as “Palestinian territory?” This is an outright lie! This land was occupied illegally by the Jordanians until the Six Day War in 1967. The Jordanians have since rescinded their claim to this land, leaving it as “disputed territory” until it is resolved via negotiations.
The America with which I am familiar stands for Abraham Lincoln’s declaration that “Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in our bosoms,” and “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.”
So how could America remain quiet and not object to a resolution that “calls upon all states... to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967?” This clause supports boycotts of Israel since the distinction between official Israel and the territories is quickly blurred, and even a boycott of just the territories hurts Palestinians who are employed by Israeli companies in that region.
Lending a hand to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is the exact opposite of the classic American value of liberty.
And how can America so blatantly support the Palestinian leadership, which denies freedom to women, LGBT’s, and non-Muslims? What happened to the core American values of equality and freedom? I want to be very clear. I disagree with many of the policies of the current Israeli government, and have publicly condemned many of the statements and actions of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It is obvious that the prime minister has taken actions that have enraged the Obama administration, and the US president himself.
But these are not justifications to throw all of Israel under the bus, demanding that law-abiding Israelis who live in established cities labeled as settlements be prohibited from building to allow for “natural growth.” None of these is a reason to rob all Israelis of their eternal capital. And none of these is a reason for a country such as America to join the world in its hypocrisy and outright immoral and unjust anti-Israel bias.
My immediate anger and disgust with this American abstention led me to very uncomfortably feel proud to be un-American. But I know that greater America rejects this decision, and this fills me with confidence that my birth country will right the ship and its policies regarding Israel, and the world at large will once again stand for freedom, truth, justice and morality.The writer served in the 19th Knesset with the Yesh Atid party.