Watching Democrats and Republicans wildly cheering Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he addressed a joint session of Congress and, thereby, dissing their own president (along with the president’s predecessors), should cause us concern about our national legislators.
They clearly need a revised Pledge of Allegiance.
It could go something like:
“I, as an elected member of Congress of the United States of America, pledge primary allegiance to the Jewish State of Israel and its continuing commitment to persistent violations of international law and universal human rights by its illegal occupation of Palestinian territories, by its denial of freedom of movement for Palestinians to and from their own property, workplaces, schools and hospitals, by its destruction of Palestinian homes, by its seizure of Palestinian land for construction of barriers, roads and the control of water resources, by its killing and maiming of innocent civilians, both Palestinian and Israeli, and I pledge my loyalty to this divided and divisive State, under a God that grants liberty and justice for only some but not for all.”
The revised pledge would not be needed, however, by a bipartisan group of distinguished Americans, including former Sens. David Boren (Oklahoma), Chuck Hagel (Nebraska) and Nancy Kassebaum-Baker (Kansas); former Rep. Lee Hamilton (Indiana), former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, former Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci, former and current member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board Rita Hauser and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Thomas Pickering.
Writing on behalf of the group, Hamilton revealed that a letter had been sent to President Obama at the beginning of the year that largely corresponded with what the president actually stated in his speech on the Middle East on May 19.
Hamilton wrote: “As indicated in our letter, we also strongly agree with the President that, while no peace can be imposed on the parties, there is little prospect of them ever reaching an agreement if their negotiations are not framed by a set of reasonable principles of fairness and international legality. While President Obama has not gone as far as we urged in our letter, he has made a critical contribution by defining some of those principles: that the 1967 lines, with agreed mutual swaps, define the border of the two states; the importance of verifiable security arrangements for both Israel and a non-militarized Palestinian state; and the ‘full and phased’ withdrawal of Israel’s military from Palestinian territory.”
No rousing applause here for Netanyahu and, therefore, no need for a revised pledge among these eminent Americans.
Nor should we assume that American Jews would need a revised Pledge of Allegiance, even though receiving the pronouncements of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) would lead one to think so.
Henry Siegman, former executive director of the American Jewish Congress and Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote that the “pretense” of AIPAC speaking for American Jews is false: “It does not, for the lobby’s commitment is to Israeli governments of a certain right-wing cast.”
He also opines that the Netanyahu government’s declarations of openness to a two-state solution are “patently insincere” because it remains committed to Israel’s possession of the entire “Land of Israel.”
A revised pledge by politicians could clearly allow them publicly to cast their lot with the forces of oppression, injustice and international criminality.
But how would this revision of American political allegiance play in Israel?
Evidently not all that well. Earlier this month, thousands of Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv to signal their support for our American president and his attempt to restart peace negotiations on widely recognized principles of justice.
The New York Times reported June 4 that the retired head of Israel’s spy agency, Mossad, is openly criticizing Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak for passing up opportunities for peace (along the 1967 border lines) and increasing the chances that Israel will experience increased isolation from the international community.
Other “elders” in the Israeli mainline political establishment are warning their fellow citizens to be suspicious about the capacity of current Israeli leaders to exercise good judgment.
Still, our own political leaders seem hell-bent on blindly following Netanyahu and his team, giving him a two-minute ovation when he entered the chamber and 24 standing ovations during his 50-minute speech.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky went on record, stating: “I found almost nothing in (the speech) with which I disagree,” according to the Washington Post.
Sounds like a solid allegiance to me.
What about the wider U.S. public? More particularly, where do U.S. Christians place their political allegiances on the issue of justice and peace in the Middle East?
The politicians think they know. And those politicians may be correct. They may have our “Christian” political allegiances down pat.
But maybe we should heed the first words of Jesus when he appeared to the disciples in the locked room after the resurrection: “Peace be with you.”
That wasn’t a command to be peacemakers, although that was a clear directive he gave to his followers at other times and places in his ministry.
It was, rather, a command not to be afraid, not to react with raw emotion, not to jump to judgments, but to be ready to accept the power that a risen Jesus entrusts to those disciples.
It was a call (of a risen Christ) and an empowerment (of the Holy Spirit) for a radically revised pledge of allegiance to that higher cause.
Whatever revised pledges our intimidated political leaders are taking, our Christ-invited pledge of allegiance can be taken freely and, yes, courageously.
Larry Greenfield is executive minister for the American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago. He also serves as editor and theologian-in-residence for The Common Good Network.
Larry Greenfield retired on Dec. 31, 2018 as the executive director of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. He served previously as executive minister of the American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago, a regional judicatory of the American Baptist Churches U.S.A, and the theologian-in-residence for the Community Renewal Society.