Any day now, my second son will be born. I’d like to take time to reflect meaningfully on fatherhood so far, but I’m too busy trying to keep up with my first child to do that. With each new experience he offers, I find myself confronted with endless possibilities, but really only two choices: the one that encourages my child to become a better human being, and the one that doesn’t.
My fear is that 20 or 30 years from now I’ll look at my children and think, “What little jerks they are!” I want my sons to become Great Men, sure, but not at the expense of them being simply Good Men. And to prevent that future fear, I need to call them out when they are doing something that hurts someone else, and I need not bail them out of every problem they might foolishly create.
Which brings me, strangely, to Israel.
(But first, a disclaimer: I understand that the issue of Israel and Palestine is incredibly contentious, and in no way are my comments meant to pick a side other than Peace.)
Israel and the United States have a strange relationship, in some ways like one of a spoiled child and a feckless parent. It doesn’t seem to matter to us that in the most recent conflict, the Palestinian dead outnumber the Israeli dead approximately 31-to-1, or that Israel continues to expand its settlements into Palestinian territory, or that, in comparison to Gaza, Israel is armed to the hilt and can easily defend itself. We continue to fund them and arm them to the tune of billions of dollars annually.
Why? I’m not sure. Perhaps many Americans confuse the Israel we learn about in Sunday school with the Israel that actually exists today. Perhaps some folks think that rabid defense of Israel is a condition precedent to the Rapture. Perhaps some people still view Israel and her people as perpetual victims, heirs to and survivors of the Holocaust, and this blinds them to the aggressive, colonial policies lately peddled by the Israeli government.
Unfortunately, the most vocal of Israel’s defenders tend to be the ones that refuse to concede any valid criticism of Israel or its policies. They are like the parents of an otherwise good child who, when they misbehave, offer not a firm reprimand or the occasional spanking, but instead say to everyone, “How dare you criticize my child. He’s perfect! His behavior is just the way he is!”
But that kind of reaction doesn’t help socialize the child, nor does it help Israel broker peace and integrate fully into the community of nations. To love a child requires disciplining that child; to support a fellow nation requires we be allowed to criticize it.