Since 1967, Israel has transferred, in defiance of international law, more than half a million of its Jewish citizens, almost 7 percent of the state's total Jewish population, to almost 300 distinct locations outside its borders.
While Israeli governments repeatedly express support for a two-state solution, they have continued to settle the very territories which would constitute a future Palestinian state.
Within the American Jewish community, there is growing dismay with Israel's four-and-a-half-decade settlement enterprise. Writing in the June 26 edition of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, formerly the leader of the Union for Reform Judaism, noted that he "spoke a few weeks ago with someone who works with American Jewish organizations in planning programs for their meetings and conventions. 'Israel is out,' he told me. The demand for speakers about Israel or from Israel has dropped dramatically over the last decade. American Jews are simply interested in other things."
Shortly thereafter, Israel's coalition government announced that while it would evacuate five homes constructed on Palestinian-owned land in Beit El's Ulpana neighborhood in the West Bank, it also would build 851 additional housing units elsewhere on occupied Palestinian land. "There is no government that supports, or will support, settlements more than my government," declared Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
That Palestinians living in the occupied territories are suffering is undeniable. In its recent human rights report, the U.S. Department of State detailed arbitrary arrests and killings in the Israeli-occupied territories, as well as discrimination against Arab citizens and refugees inside Israel itself. In the section on the West Bank and East Jerusalem the State Department report, which covered 2011, noted that Israeli forces killed 105 Palestinians, including 17 minors. It also cited allegations that interrogation methods used by the Israelis on Palestinian detainees, including children, could amount to torture. According to the report, Israel restricted movements of Palestinians within the West Bank and on boundary areas within Gaza, and limited travel in and out of Gaza. The report also found that Israeli authorities have made 85 percent of fishing waters offGaza mostly or entirely inaccessible to Palestinian fishermen.
"I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just."
It is not only Palestinians who are the victims of the Israeli occupation-made possible, despite the State Department's findings, by U.S. tax dollars. Much as slaveholders in the American South in the years before the Civil War had their moral and ethical values distorted by the slaveholding enterprise, Israel's illegal occupation has shattered Jewish moral and ethical tradition as well.
In his Notes on the State of Virginia, slaveholder Thomas Jefferson wrote: "There must doubtless be an unhappy influence on the manners of our people produced by the existence of slavery among us. The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submission on the other."
Jefferson feared for the soul of his country in the face of the depredations of slavery: "And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the giftof God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever; that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation is among possible events; that it may become probably by supernatural interference."
Hundreds of young Israeli Jews who have served in the military in the occupied territories have recoiled in dismay from what they have been asked to do. …