I grew up in a community that staunchly supports Israel. It’s the kind of place where you would regularly see billboards like this one:
In the U.S., there are three main pro-Israeli lobbies. One is a mixture of interests that sees Israel as a key ally in a region that is volatile and that contains many American interests (like oil – lots of it). Another consists of Jews and Jewish organizations that support Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people. The last describes most of the Israel supporters in my hometown: Christian Zionists. Christian Zionists are Christians who see the return of all Jews to the Holy Land as key to the prophecy of the Second Coming of Christ and the Rapture. Growing up around a lot of Christian Zionists, I couldn’t help but support Israel for similar reasons, but as I got older, I came to realize that Christian Zionism is super freaky and actually pretty anti-Semitic.
You see, Christian Zionists believe that once all the Jews return to the Holy Land (read Israel), the Second Coming will begin, and in that process, all of the Jews (who many Christian Zionists believe were responsible for the death of Christ the first time around) will be struck down by God for their refusal to accept Christ as Lord and Savior.
So . . . Basically the Christian Zionists want to kill all of the people they claim to support . . . THIS IS THE CRAZINESS I WAS RAISED TO BELIEVE!!
In college, I was introduced to the other side of the narrative, a side where Israel is not some benevolent home of the Jews (“A land without a people for a people without a land“) but is actually a political pawn of the United States that uses its funding from the U.S. (to the tune of $3 billion per year) to oppress the Palestinians in an Apartheid-like system of suppression. I learned of the narrative, counter to the dominant one in media and in the Churches and schools I had attended, where Palestinian loss of life and land is wildly disproportionate to that of Israel.
Israeli and Palestinian Children Killed since Sept. 29, 2000.
0 Homes of Israelis have been demolished by Palestinians since Sept. 29, 2000. 24,813 Palestinian homes have been demolished by Israelis.
Then in June of 2009, I visited Israel and Palestine. In Israel, I saw a bustling, Western city with seemingly-endless resources. In Palestine, I saw poverty, desperation, and violent oppression.
Palestinian olive trees that were cut down by Israelis after the 2nd Intifada in an effort to cripple the Palestinian economy.
The Israeli Apartheid Wall, meant to “protect the Israelis from Palestinians,” though it actually acts as a land grab that cuts deep into the West Bank.
These experiences helped me to understand the tremendous power imbalance in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, with one side backed and funded by the most powerful country in the world and the other being forcefully thrown from their land with little recourse.
As a result, I’ve long been active in the movement to secure a free and independent Palestine, partnering with Palestinians, Jews, and other concerned citizens in the U.S. and around the world. In this activism, I found a troubling trend. One of the first times I experienced it was while marching in a pro-Palestinian march in Chicago. People were lining the street where we were marching, screaming at us and holding up photos of the atrocities of the Holocaust. They were screaming, “BIGOT! ANTI-SEMITE! IF YOU HAD YOUR WAY, ALL JEWS WOULD BE WIPED OFF THE MAP!!!”