Once you arrive in Israel, it doesn't take much time at all to realize that the reality of the Israeli-Palestinian situation is not at all what the American media would like you to think. Indeed, having spent the last two weeks in Israel and Palestine, it's undeniable that the United States is turning a blind eye to one of the most pressing human rights situations in the world. Who knew? I certainly didn't. But the reality is that things will likely get worse before they get better as they often do after an election.
Benjamin Netanyahu has just been elected to a third term as Prime Minister of Israel. He will tell you that his first priority is deterring nuclear programs in Iran, which is most definitely true. He will also tell you that he is interested in revitalizing Israel's economy, also true. He will then tell you that he is interested in continuing to "talk" with Palestinians to reach a substantive peace. On this third promise, the truth is at an end. The Prime Minister is lying to you.
Tuesday's election only deepens the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The reelection of Netanyahu will likely please the United States, but will continue to isolate Israel from the rest of the world. The wall that surrounds the West Bank to "control" Palestinians is a clear violation of human rights. It's time for the blinders to come off and it's time to either ask, "When will the wall come down?" or "Which way to East Berlin?" The irony is that Israel represents exactly what it feared 60 years ago. They have managed to systematically marginalize Palestinians with little or no international criticism and on the dime of the United States.
The world has already learned once that peace is built with bridges, not walls. It would be one thing if the Palestinians were infringing upon territory that is not, in fact, theirs. However, Israelites had to first conquer Canaanites, the original inhabitants of the Holy Land before they could assume the role as God's chosen people... oops. It's time to lift the veil of ignorance and accept that a nation, Palestine, is being destroyed.
This is not a battle of religion; it is a battle of land. A Jewish religious claim implies that God has the power to take the land from the Jews whenever he pleases, which he's done numerous times. However, an ethnic tie to the land, a claim that Israel is the "Fatherland" for the Jewish people substantiates the Jews right to fight to reclaim the land. But why can't a Jewish kingdom be established in Australia or Canada? Well, Jewish restorationist theology suggests that Israel is their promised land and the kingdom has to be restored in Jerusalem, where God created the world and resides in the Holy of Holies. Only with the Third Temple can God be brought out of exile and fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant. Have you seen the menorah ready to be placed in the new temple? It's just outside the Western Wall in the Jewish Quarter.
The question then becomes, why don't the Palestinians move? They speak Arabic, surely they would be able to immerse fluidly into another country into the Middle East, right? Wrong. Palestinians are their own nation; they are not Egyptian, Syrian, or Persian. As a specific example, what would become of Palestinian Christians? It is guaranteed that they would be immediately marginalized and put into danger in otherwise Muslim countries. And Palestinian Muslims would arrive with zero political agency, little more than refugees. The Palestinians I met respond to the question like anyone else in the world: Palestine is their home and nothing will take them away from it, no matter how much of it Israel takes from them.
The lens of reality is not one used by mainstream American media, unfortunately, and so the Palestinian internment progresses largely unchecked. At the end of the day the Israelis will go on governing themselves. What's worse is that Netanyahu will be forced, as usual, to form a coalition within the Knesset and will likely align with the ultraconservative rather than move to the center. Palestinians live without autonomy in a land that was originally theirs, ever heard this storyline before?
I've had the pleasure of traveling throughout the Holy Land, in and out of Israeli and Palestinian controlled territory. Not once did I ever feel in danger nor did I receive criticism for being American. After all, there is no denying that Israel exists because of the United States and Palestinians are eager to welcome students interested in learning about the ongoing, contentious situation. They are so eager to interact with foreign travelers, especially students. Until the world fully understands the urgency of the situation, nothing will change. So, of whom shall we, as Americans, fear? No one, but ourselves. We have nothing to fear but our own complacency.