Restoring the indigenous population to their land
Native Americans: Native Americans lived in the United States for millennia before Europeans discovered the land. Within a few hundred years, the Europeans overwhelmed the native population and effectively banished them from their lands and homes. To add insult to the injury, the invaders forced new religions onto the remaining tribes.
In the 20th century, Americans began to slowly reverse course and offered more rights to the Native Americans, including American citizenship in 1924. At present, the United States recognizes several hundred Native American tribes and gives them some degree of autonomy in lands of their own.
Jews: Jews have lived in the land of Israel for roughly 3700 years. They had two independent kingdoms in the land and built their holiest Temples there. Roughly 1900 years ago, Romans destroyed the Second Jewish Temple, forced conversion on thousands of Jews, banned Jews from Jerusalem, and renamed their holy land “Palestine”. While some Jews continued to live in the Holy Land, most were dispersed throughout the world.
In the 1800s Jews began to move back to their holy land in greater numbers. While much of the land had been taken over by Arabs who invaded Palestine in the 7th century, the world sought to reconstitute the Jewish homeland as so declared in the the 1922 League of Nations Mandate of Palestine. The British assumed their Mandate of Palestine to encourage Jewish immigration, land ownership and citizenship in Palestine in 1924, the same year that America offered all Native Americans citizenship.
African Americans: While the Europeans came to conquer the New Worlds of North and South America, they brought Africans with them to be their slaves. It took hundreds of years for the United States to abolish the inhuman treatment of African Americans.
Jews: The Jewish people became a nation when they emerged from hundreds of years of slavery in Egypt 3500 years ago. It was only at that time that they received the Bible and entered the promised land.
On January 1, 1863, US President Abraham Lincoln freed the black slaves in America, and just three days later, he abolished the most anti-Semitic decree in US history when he overrode General U.S. Grant’s order to expel the Jews. In one week, Lincoln actively asserted the self-evident rights and dreams in the US Constitution, “that all men are created equal,” including blacks and Jews.
Advancing Minorities’ Interests
Hispanic Americans: Hispanics were always a decent segment of the United States population from the earliest colonies. However, in 1964 and 1965, new laws were passed in the United States which dramatically increased their number and visibility. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 made discrimination unlawful, and the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 ended a quota system from certain countries. With those actions, the number of immigrants coming to the USA from Latin America jumped from 9% to 44% from the 1950s to the 1980s.
Jews: Jews were an unwelcome minority in many countries in the world, and in many parts of the United States. Golf Clubs, universities and private clubs would not admit any Jews – some publicly, and others, privately. The same laws that addressed inequalities for black and Hispanic minorities, also helped Jews in America.
Beyond America’s shores, just a few years after the acts of 1964 and 1965, the Kingdom of Jordan which had evicted and banned every Jew from the area of Palestine it conquered in 1949, attacked Israel again. In so doing, it lost that region of Palestine it had illegally annexed, the “West Bank.” Israel quickly repealed the anti-Semitic bans and welcomed Jews once more.
American Minorities Come to Israel
Minority groups in America “get” the Jewish State of Israel. African-Americans understand a history of slavery and persecution. Native Americans understand being torn from land, culture and religion. Hispanic Americans understand being excluded.
When these groups look at Israel, they instinctively get why the world made some attempt to rectify the long history of expelling and murdering Jews throughout Europe, Russia and northern Africa. They have sought the same kind of consideration themselves.
But even more, when they come to Israel – to the reconstituted Jewish State – they see a success story. They see that the vanquished can be victorious. Where the excluded are now the leaders. Where the defenseless are now a military powerhouse. Where a forgotten language has been reestablished. Where a barren land has become an environmental leader. Where a bankrupt society has become a financial success story.
Minorities that come to Israel see a country where minorities count. Where women account for 24% of the Israeli Knesset, compared to only 16% in the US Congress. Where Arabs represent 14% of the Knesset, versus only 8% black representatives in the US Congress.
Martin Luther King said “Peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all our might to protect her right to exist, its territorial integrity and the right to use whatever sea lanes it needs. Israel is one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security, and that security must be a reality.”
Israel is not just a success story for Jews; it is a beacon of hope for minorities around the world.
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