The state of Israel this past year celebrated its 66th birthday, one that it would not have been able to observe had it not been for the leadership and tenacity of one brave and principled American president. President Harry Truman, going against nearly the entire Washington establishment, made the United States the first nation to grant official recognition of the State of Israel a scant 11 minutes after they declared their state official.
Israel is the only free country in a region that is dominated by monarchies, theocracies, and dictatorships that repress freedom, oppress women, limit educational opportunities, outlaw religious and racial tolerance, and sponsor terrorism against freedom-loving people. As such, the approximately 8 million citizens of Israel, living in an area about the size of West Virginia (our 10th smallest state) including Jews and Arabs who live within the Armistice Lines of the 1948 War of Independence, enjoy freedoms not available to the hundreds of millions living in neighboring Muslim dominated countries. They can express their opinions, criticize their government, worship according the dictates of their conscience, publish opposition newspapers, and hold free un-coerced elections. They are by far the most free people in the Middle East. In spite of criticism to the contrary, Israel provides more freedom to Muslim citizens than neighboring Muslim countries grant themselves. Both Hebrew and Arabic are the official languages of Israel and Israeli Arabs enjoy the same rights as their Jewish neighbors, have representatives elected to the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) and have positions as associate justices on the Israeli Supreme Court
On May 14, 1948, the day the British Mandate over Palestine expired, the Jewish People’s Council gathered to declare their independence. In that document, they declared that the Land of Israel “was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance.”
“After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.
“Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland. In recent decades they returned in their masses. Pioneers, and defenders, they made deserts bloom, revived the Hebrew language, built villages and towns, and created a thriving community controlling its own economy and culture, loving peace but knowing how to defend itself, bringing the blessings of progress to all the country’s inhabitants, and aspiring towards independent nationhood.”
This right to gather in Israel “was recognized in the Balfour Declaration (1917), and reaffirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations which, in particular, gave international sanction to the historic connection between the Jewish people and Israel and to the right of the Jewish people to rebuild its National Home.” This right was reaffirmed in 1948 by the United Nations.
The declaration then states the principles upon which the new nation of Israel would be established. “THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”
Since that time, Israel has struggled for its very existence, having fought military onslaughts in at least eight wars of self-defense against 22 hostile dictatorships and three major state-sponsored terrorist organizations – the PLO, Hezbollah and Hamas, and faced a determined terror-led attack that makes those against America pale in comparison. In the 18 month period following 9/11/01 alone, Israel suffered 12,480 terrorist attacks that killed more than 400; a per-capita death toll more than six times that of America’s 9/11 attacks.
It is with this historical backdrop that President George W. Bush addressed the world at Israel’s celebration of independence six years ago, where he declared, “You’ve lived too long with fear and funerals, having to avoid markets and public transportation, and forced to put armed guards in kindergarten classrooms. The Palestinian Authority has rejected your offer at hand, and trafficked with terrorists. You have a right to a normal life; you have a right to security.”
The President went on to say, “Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along.” Does anyone truly believe the bellicose leaders of Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, The Muslim Brotherhood, and Islamic Jihad, who all call for the eradication and annihilation of Israel, can be persuaded to change their minds?
The Middle East is home to the primary front lines of battle in the war against terrorism. Recognizing this, and the fact that Israel is a free democratic country, and an ally in combating the evil of terrorism, we must always maintain a resolute determination to stand by them and assure their defense, and not believe naively that Israel’s enemies can be appeased into pacifism. After all, they have sworn to wipe Israel off the map, and the rest of the world’s “infidels,” including us, are next on their list.
Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].