The Israeli-Palestinian conflict poses a host of questions and moral difficulties for the secularist. After all, both sides use religious arguments to justify their position: many Israelis and their Christian apologists use the Bible to justify the existence of modern Israel and its policies; many Palestinians and their Islamic apologists use their faith to justify anti-Israeli terrorism. So how should the secularist respond to this faith-driven conflict?
Here’s how this secularist views the situation. First, although as a secularist I must reject the Biblical arguments for Israel’s existence, I must say that Israel does have a moral right to exist and the Jewish people have a moral right to a homeland or a sanctuary. Israel also has a moral right to defend itself from terrorism and other forms of attack.
The experience of the Jewish people in the 20th century validates this claim. First there was the Holocaust in which much of Europe’s Jewish population was wiped out by the Nazis, an atrocity which a great many people ignored or tried to downplay. Then after World War II had ended and the concentration camps were shut down, the United States and other countries refused to take in the vast numbers of Jewish refugees left homeless by the Holocaust. The only place many Jews had to go was Israel, even though most of them probably would have preferred to emigrate to the USA or other countries.
Since 1948, countless US politicians have voiced support for Israel and sent it vast amounts of foreign aid. Yet not a single American soldier, plane or ship was ever deployed to the Middle East to protect Israel. One flight of US planes over the Arab lines in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War probably would have caused the Arab governments to back down, thereby preventing decades of Arab Israeli war and countless deaths. The US never signed a defense treaty with Israel or asked Israel to join NATO. America created Israel, then failed to lift a finger to protect Israel from Arab aggression–or, for that matter, to protect the Arabs from Israeli aggression in 1956 and 1967. America gave the Arabs the green light to try and destroy Israel, and Israel the green light to wage unlimited war on the Arabs.
With such a history, is it any wonder the Israeli people are so determined to preserve their homeland? The state of Israel is not going anywhere and the vast majority of Israelis are not going to leave their homes or their country. We must accept that fact and learn to live with it.
There is also justification, of course, for the Palestinian cause. The Palestinians’ ancestors had lived in what is now Israeli for centuries. Until in 1917, the British essentially gave their homeland away to the Zionists in exchange for support in World War I. After World War II, the victorious allies used their nation as a dumping ground for a people they didn’t want. Since then, the Palestinians have been rejected by other Arabs and pushed from their homes. Is it any wonder the Palestinians are angry and frustrated? Vast numbers of people and many governments, and even the UN, have endorsed the Palestinian cause but none of these people or entities has done a thing to actually help the Palestinians. Is it any wonder the Palestinians and their sympathizers around the world put more faith in guns and bombs than political promises?
Now, I don’t know all the answers, but as a secularist I must say that the United States and other nations have a moral duty to come up with a sensible solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I would suggest the deployment of some sort of peacekeeping force to patrol the Palestinian areas and smash the terrorist forces gathering there, a guarantee of Israeli security from the United States, and the creation of some sort of Palestinian state.
I do know one thing, however: the answers to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will be found in practical politics based on a sensible view of the real world–not in the Holy Bible or the Koran.