This excerpt complements information contained in the February 2010 Personal Letter archived on this website. To receive our pamphlet “28 Ways You Can Help Israel,” please send your name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By George Berkin, blog.
America—and the West—should think long and hard before possibly making a regrettable mistake – abandoning Israel. Neighboring Iran seems bent on obtaining nuclear weapons, and threatens to use them against Israel. Israel announced a few months ago that it might take unilateral action if Iranian plans to build nuclear weapons are not derailed. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently said that he won’t come clean about Iran’s nuclear program until the U.S. gets rid of its atomic arsenal.
Western support for Israel is jeopardized by the following:
Support for Israel may fade as the Holocaust begins to fade from memory. That tragic history is now six decades old, and there are fewer and fewer survivors of the Nazi wickedness. For decades, the testimony of those survivors has served as a living reminder of our failure to respond promptly to anti-Semitism, and our need to support Israel in the face of anti-Jewish hostility. The loss of the living witness does not bode well.
An economic downturn may also weaken support for Israel, especially if the downturn includes a spike in the price of Arab-produced oil. Unfortunately, economic fears often cause general good will to disappear. Many people who support Israel if it doesn’t cost them anything extra at the gas pump may turn sour if gasoline and heating oil prices go up.
Then, if a terrorist strike destroys an American (or other Western) city, there may well be a huge outcry for the affected country to retreat from the international stage. This will be crucial if it is America. The pressure will be to abandon any overseas commitments, including Israel. The mood may turn very ugly, especially if support for Israel is seen as one so-called “reason” for the strike.
Why, in light of all this, is support for Israel so crucial for America’s and the West’s future? There are lots of reasons, both for Believers and for secular policymakers. From a biblical perspective, the Jewish people are God’s chosen people and Israel is the piece of real estate that God has set his special favor upon. The biblical text promises that God will bless those who bless Israel. (Genesis 12:1-3)
From that perspective, it is a good thing to get in line with the divine purpose. It’s no coincidence that Evangelicals worldwide are among the strongest supporters of Israel.
From a secular perspective, it is important to support Israel because we are in the habit of supporting legitimate governments. By any decent reckoning, Israel is a legitimate government, much as is America or Germany or Australia. (Israel has always considered its neighbors, despite their undemocratic traditions, to be legitimate governments, and has thus sought to live and let live. Meanwhile, many Arab leaders, captured by radical religious ideas, have continued to poison relations by publicly calling for Israel’s destruction.)
Were America and the West not to support Israel, a legitimate government, it would give tacit approval to those who would undermine other legitimate governments, including our own.
With or without help from America and the West, Israel is worth supporting because it is the only functioning democracy in the Middle East. In a sea of anti-Western nations, Israel holds “American/Western” values (which are biblical, Judeo-Christian values). A diminished Israel would only embolden Islamic radicals in their war against the West. Plainly speaking, our survival is tied to Israel’s survival.
Those radicals, be it understood, mean business. After Ahmadinejad came to power in 2004, the Iranian leader declared himself committed to destroying Israel and bringing in the “Mahdi”—the 12th Imam, the Islamic “messiah.”
But Israel is unlikely to stand by, contemplating its own destruction.
As leaked in The Times of London last year, the Saudis have given Israel permission to fly over Saudi Arabia in an airstrike against Iran. That “flyover” is not outside the realm of possibility. The Saudis dislike Iran because the Saudis are Sunni Muslims, while Iran is Shiite Muslim. Theirs is a rivalry over which group is the “true” Islam, and those two factions have been fighting since the founding of Islam more than a dozen centuries ago. If the Israelis use the Saudi route to take out the nuclear facilities in Iran, the Saudis will be rid of their enemies (while blaming “the Jews” as a cover).
With Israel determined to defend itself in a preemptive manner, and events moving rapidly, it would be wise for American and other Western policymakers to think proactively – so as to not be merely in “reactive” mode.
George Berkin, a graduate of Columbia University (degree in history and Russian studies) was a Star-Ledger (NJ) reporter for nearly 15 years.
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