Israel, BDS and one strange aspect to the Establishment Clause

For years, I’ve been fascinated by the unrelenting urge of Congress and lately, various state governments, to provide almost unmitigated support to a tiny country in the Middle East, Israel. When I used to listen to NPR, there was a constant drumbeat of news about Israel, the Palestinians and anything Middle East, every single morning. I’ve never really understood why we support Israel.

Israel doesn’t have any oil. They’re a tiny desert country of people that have found a way to make a living there, something I doubt they could sustain without a constant drip of subsidies from America. They now have a home that was basically given to them after the second world war.

Mind you, I don’t have anything against people of the Jewish faith. I have friends who are Jewish and they make me laugh. They have depth. I find them to be authentic. But this unrelenting support of the state of Israel, regardless of what they do, I’m not so sure I support it myself.

Over the last decade or so, there has been a long train of articles about BDS and Israel. BDS stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, and in this case, against Israel. BDS is about punishing Israel for a long train of abuses of their power. Of their efforts to colonize land that doesn’t belong to them. BDS is about withdrawing our support for an abusive government, one that abuses some of the people living within their country, and for allowing their people to live on land they are taking over, unjustly.

Israel has a very powerful lobby here in the United States, and they are using it to fight BDS. They are fighting what appears to be an existential battle, one that I am not interesting in participating in through the use of my tax dollars.

Most articles I see about the BDS movement against Israel are about freedom of speech protected by the 1st Amendment. They are about how people are being forced to adhere to a certain set of principles, in violation of their 1st Amendment rights. They are about censorship, they are about taking oaths to not engaged in boycotts of Israel. They are about enforcing support of Israel.

But I’ve never seen any articles to suggest that pro-Israel laws violate the establishment clause. Here, I will attempt to show that our governments at the state and federal level favors Israel primarily for the reason that many in Congress and statehouses just want to go to Heaven. I believe this evidence to be incontrovertible.

Here is an example of an article documenting that support I mentioned earlier, from The Intercept:

A CHILDREN’S SPEECH PATHOLOGIST who has worked for the last nine years with developmentally disabled, autistic, and speech-impaired elementary school students in Austin, Texas, has been told that she can no longer work with the public school district, after she refused to sign an oath vowing that she “does not” and “will not” engage in a boycott of Israel or “otherwise tak[e] any action that is intended to inflict economic harm” on that foreign nation. A lawsuit on her behalf was filed early Monday morning in a federal court in the Western District of Texas, alleging a violation of her First Amendment right of free speech.

That’s the opening paragraph of a long article detailing and criticizing a Texas law that requires anyone who does business with the state, must take an oath not to boycott Israel. Texas isn’t the only one, and more states are considering laws that would also do the same thing. What is really interesting here, is that it’s just Israel that is getting favorable treatment here. What is also interesting is that this is about speech, not favoring one religion over another. I want to make it clear here, that such laws are favoring Christianity for the sole purpose of showing support for those “chosen people” so that their supporters will get a golden ticket to heaven.

While it is clear that the Texas law flouts the 1st Amendment in terms of freedom of speech, few if any articles I’ve seen ever discuss favoring one religion over another. Here is what the 1st Amendment says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

On first impression, it appears that Congress shall make no law respecting the creation of a state church, but there is something else. Congress shall make no law favoring one religion over another. Now here is section 6 of the 1st article of the Texas Constitution:

Sec. 6. FREEDOM OF WORSHIP. All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences. No man shall be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry against his consent. No human authority ought, in any case whatever, to control or interfere with the rights of conscience in matters of religion, and no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious society or mode of worship. But it shall be the duty of the Legislature to pass such laws as may be necessary to protect equally every religious denomination in the peaceable enjoyment of its own mode of public worship. (emphasis mine)

According to the Legal Information Institute, the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution prohibits the government from unduly favoring one religion over another.

This is how I think that our support of Israel violates the 1st Amendment. The Congressional Research Service says that better than 90% of Congress follows the Christian faith, or, we could say they are Christian, a proportion that has held very steady for decades. And for decades, we have, by law, sent Israel enormous subsidies relative to the size of the Israeli economy, and there is no sign of stopping.

In recent years, we have seen a rise of anti-Israeli sentiment concerning brutal acts of violence against the Palestinians (and their supporters) living in Gaza and the West Bank. We have seen Israel slowly occupy more and more land and displacing more and more people. I still can’t forget the story of a woman who was run over by a bulldozer so many years ago.

It is also clear to me that Israel is facing an existential threat from their neighbors all around. The Muslims don’t believe that Israel has a right to exist and Israel would like to keep existing. I would like to see both sides exist in peace.

Both sides also receive subsidies from the United States and perhaps many other countries around the world. Muslims living in oil rich countries might have very little sway in Congress if we found a way to eliminate oil from our economy. Israel would have very little sway over our Congress if America had absolutely no business interest in the Middle East to protect.

But I believe that there more than a business interest at work in our support of Israel. I believe that our support of Israel is almost an entirely religious act support, to the disadvantage of every other religion.

I think our Congress, out of religious zeal, protects Israel. They seem to truly believe that if they just support Israel, they will be seen in a favorable light when The End Times come.

To wit:

Perhaps it could have been a noble cause, if it hadn’t been so damn selfish. Because at the same time, mega-rich televangelists like Benny Hinn and John Hagee began this very insidious teaching that America and Israel have an intertwined destiny, and that God wants America to stand with Israel. God would bless America, as long as we stood by Israel. It became practically as strong a belief as any in the pro-life movement. And it wasn’t about helping others, but helping themselves.

That is from a fellow writer here on Medium, Shannon Ashley, and her article, “Why Evangelical Christians Are Obsessed With Israel (It’s not because they love the Jews).” That is the first article I’ve ever seen to explain exactly why America supports Israel, and from that, I think I can understand why the lobby is so strong. The reasoning has everything to do with raising their religion above all others.

Make no mistake, I want everyone to be able to practice their own religion in the manner and the style they prefer. Of course, I would add one caveat: to the extent that they do no harm to others, I want people to be able to practice their religion or none at all. There shall be no religious test for public office, either. I don’t personally care what religion you follow, as long as we can all get along. You do you’re thing, and I’ll do mine. I’m OK with that.

But when I see federal and state governments supporting Israel like they can do no wrong, just so that they can be on the right side of Jesus when The End Times come, well, they are making it my business to ask questions about it. They are making it my business when my tax dollars are being used to favor Christianity and/or Judaism over all others.

Write on.

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Husband, father, worker, philosopher, and observer. Plumbing the depths of consciousness to find the spring of happiness. Write on.

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