Of particular interest to those on the Israel Experience trip was the Israeli concern for human rights. During a presentation by Joe Hyams of Honest Reporting, we saw videos of Israeli pilots redirecting missiles targeting Hamas operatives at the last moment to stop from killing civilians, even if those civilians were opening their doors to the terrorists. The Israelis also sent automated messages and text messages to areas before strikes during Operation Cast Lead in an attempt to get civilians to flee. The Israelis haven’t even cut off the Ashkelon power station that provides the Gaza Strip with 70% of its electricity. Hamas, on the other hand, has frequently targeted it with its missiles.
In academia, I’ve noticed that the discussion almost always centers on some sort of moral equivalence between the two sides, as if the conflict stems from both sides’ equal dose of hatred and unwillingness to compromise. Such discussion erases the Israeli handovers of territory to the Palestinians and fails to account for the lengths to which Israel goes to defend itself humanely, whereas Hamas, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and other terrorist groups see inhumanity as a weapon of war and diplomatic tool.
There will be haters no matter what, but on the Israeli side, such hatred is not mainstream or institutionalized. In every conversation I can remember I had with an Israeli, the suffering of the Palestinians was always mentioned as part of the equation. While discussing their own suffering, they’d always turn and say something along the lines of: “You know, the Palestinians don’t deserve what they’re going through either; it’s unacceptable.”
Israel has adopted virtually every liberal cause. The Jewish state has taken in 1,700 refugees from Darfur, giving Africa the attention Hollywood has demanded. Israel does not do so for recognition, as surely they know by now they will never get any, but because it’s simply the right thing to do.
Environmentalists should be hailing Israel as a model. Twenty percent of the water used by Israel will be desalinated by 2010 and, according to Israel @ 60, “Israel treats 92 percent of its wastewater and reuses 75 percent in agriculture, the highest rate in the world.” Israel stands nearly alone as having more trees today than at the beginning of the last century and “is one of two countries in the world in which deserts are shrinking rather than expanding.”
Investing in electric cars and other forms of alternative energy, bacteria that can dissolve oil spills, and other green technology, Israel is taking a leading role in helping the environment. With the current health care debate in the U.S. raging, liberals should also take notice that Israel provides national health insurance — or, as conservatives would say, socialized health care. When we visited a hospital, our guide articulately defended the concept and criticized the American health care system in a way that would have made any Democratic Party operative proud.
Whether it’s protecting and respecting human life or preserving the rights of citizens despite the highest temptation to restrict them, Israel is a bastion of liberalism and progressivism. For liberals to not support Israel is to not support the very issues they fight for at home.