Graylan Scott Hagler
Mondoweiss / March 3, 2023
Even as Israel slides further into religious fascism, and chants of “death to the Arabs” become commonplace, there are still those who say “I’ll wait and see.” It is time for them to speak up.
Dear Supporters of Israel,
It is time to step out and criticize this country that has operated above accountability. Things are spiraling out of control. They have been out of control for some time, but now the insanity and madness are being exposed to the world, and this arrogant behavior must be brought into question for the sake of justice, humanity, and the survival of Israel.
Recently, Israeli Occupation Forces entered the refugee camp of Jenin (January 2023), killing at least 10 Palestinians. Among the dead was a 61-year-old Black Palestinian mother peeking through blinds. Then, in February, a brazen attack by Israeli forces was carried out in Nablus that killed at least 11 and injured 102 Palestinians.
In response, it appears, Palestinian assailant(s) killed two Israeli brothers, and settlers have reacted in revenge attacks. There are attacks every day, reported and unreported, that are being carried out by Jewish settlers in fanatical frenzy, and by Palestinians in response to the brutality of the occupation. This is a natural manifestation of a government swung severely to the right, embracing religious and political fascism and White Supremacy, while denying any of that, and without any legal restraints or accountability.
To support Israel demands calls for accountability and restraint. If we remain non-judgmental in the face of wrong, injustice, and demagoguery then we are not supporting Israel, but ushering its demise. Diminishment comes in many forms: losing respect in the eyes of the world community; devolving into a totalitarian state; becoming a religious state of exclusivity and hate; and, in general, being a morally and ethically bankrupt country.
If we allow Israel to continue to take this route it will cease to be — maybe not physically, but at the very least, it will be ethically and morally diseased. This coalition government of white supremacists, religious and political extremists need to be challenged now before it is too late.
Unfortunately, even after seeing the upheaval, violence, and calls for “Death to Arabs,” and “Death to Palestinians,” people who should be speaking out are saying “we’ll wait and see” instead. When there are attempts by religious extremists and political demagogues to defile the Al-Aqsa Mosque, even urinating on the floors of the mosque, there are still too many saying “we’ll wait and see.”
The Congressional Black Caucus born of the Black struggle for civil rights and freedom seems to be saying “we’ll wait and see.” As Christian sites in historic Palestine are being defiled and destroyed, and religious extremists march and chant, “Death to Christians,” the silence of world Christendom is deafening, sorrowful, and an abdication of its responsibility in delineating right from wrong.
Liberals, horrified by the reports of the pogroms of this right-wing Israeli regime, still are lukewarm in their concerns and response, and apathetically question whether the actions have gone too far. They counsel to wait and see, believing in the myth of Israeli democracy, and hoping that this coalition government would eventually pivot, right itself, and in the end embrace democratic values.
Dear supporter of Israel, why is “wait and see” a viable option at this point? Haven’t you seen enough? When is enough enough? What are you waiting for? How long will you wait? When does your waiting become too late? It is time to break your silence if you really want to save Israel. Because right now, Israel needs to be saved from itself.
I am reminded how when Donald J. Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States, many tried to excuse the looming disasters by embracing a wait-and-see posture, though his candidacy telegraphed what his presidency would be about. But many had hoped that the political system would work. Even when an ill-equipped person was elected; one who had pandered to the most vile and base elements of American culture, many chose to rationalize the expressions of hatred and racism with the consolation of waiting and seeing.
Many in the Black community felt however, that when you hear a racist making statements you had better believe him. And the agenda of that election and administration resulted in culture wars, Christian Nationalism, White America first ideology, replacement theory, racist pronouncements, and the most extreme forms of xenophobic expressions.
Many in the wait-and-see category kept waiting for the Trump presidency to right itself, to become more presidential, more diplomatic, more analytical — but it never did. They waited day after day and months into years for his administration to pivot, but the only pivot was further to the right and into greater division and racist anger. It plowed forward over the next four years making not wearing a mask during a pandemic a litmus test of loyalty, stressing first amendment rights as a way to insult non-white people, and pushing individual freedoms ad-nauseam at the expense of everyone else.
Dear supporter of Israel, the same wait-and-see scenario will only reap the same results.
What is being exposed is the long-held suspicion of Zionism as another form of White Supremacy, and is thrusting, with breakneck speed, an ideological spear within the world Jewish community and among the supporters of Israel. People, in general, do not want to be associated with fascism or White Supremacy, but because of your historical support for Israel you are now faced with that dilemma. This coalition government has created a moral dilemma of gigantic and long-lasting proportions.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has been the lawyer for Israeli murderers and terrorists, and a member and leader of the ultra-extremist Kach party has been awarded the newly created post as National Security Minister. Mr. Ben-Gvir was even barred from serving in the Israeli occupation forces for his extremist and hateful views on Palestinians and Arabs. He has a portrait of Baruch Goldstein in his living room. Goldstein was a disciple of the rabidly racist Meir Kahane. Goldstein carried out a terrorist attack in the Hebron Mosque that killed 29 and wounded 125 Palestinians in 1994. For some, like Mr. Ben-Gvir, Goldstein is a national hero. So, what are you waiting to see from him?
Benjamin Netanyahu has come back from what many had hoped was a political graveyard. He not only came back from the dead but put together a coalition of political and religious extremists to return to power. His coalition government is pushing for the ability of the Knesset to ignore rulings from the Israeli Supreme Court if those rulings threaten the coalition’s agenda and power. The restructuring of the Israeli judiciary will keep Netanyahu from legal jeopardy and allow the most extreme and racist elements of the government and Israeli society to carry out policies of apartheid, and pogroms of racial and cultural genocide against Palestinian Muslims, Christians, and secularists without accountability to the courts or anyone else.
So, I would like to know, what are you waiting to see?
This is the time for all of us who claim to stand for civil and human rights to speak up. When we challenged South Africa and defeated apartheid, the prediction was that South Africa would cease to exist, but South Africa is still here. The same thing happened with Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and Angola, and those nations are still here. Criticism of Israel is therefore not an advocacy for its dissolution, but to make it better, just, and righteous in its survival. To criticize and challenge a nation is not to destroy it, but to push it towards an evolutionary possess that will make it better and its future brighter. That process cannot begin however, without the criticisms that will make a country conform to the international community standards of human rights and justice.
Dear Supporter of Israel, this is a grave and frightening moment for Israel. Israel will either stand in the world’s raw spotlight of evaluation redeemed and justified, or it will sink deeper into that place where the soul of Israel will be lost forever and unable to be redeemed.
This is an appeal to the supporters of Israel, to be a voice that will seek to correct that nation; give to it the vision to live in harmony and peace with its Palestinian neighbors; and demand that Israel save itself from its current course of self-destruction. Your voice can save the nation, but your silence will ensure the country’s demise. This is my appeal, praying that you may have the courage to speak, and speak boldly.
Reverend Graylan Scott Hagler is the Senior Minister of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, DC.