By Codie Barry
The Alexander Hamilton Society sponsored a debate titled “Israel: Our Responsibility?” on the evening of Thursday, Dec. 4. The debate featured Dr. Robert Lieber of Georgetown and Dr. Susan Hanssen of the University of Dallas history department. Over 80 students were in attendance.
While originally advertised as a debate, both Lieber and Hanssen seemed to support United States involvement in the currently precarious and violent situation in Israel. Both speakers gave reasons as to why the U.S. should consider getting involved. The night seemed aimed at getting students to question the current situation and the relation between the two countries. Here, we take an abbreviated look at the points made and the questions raised by the two lecture speakers.
– Israel is “the exemplar of Western civilization in the East.” Israel and America share the same values of democracy, rule of law and freedom of religion. If America values democracy, and is committed to its triumph, the country should feel the responsibility to preserve it.
– The Israeli people have made cultural, scientific, medical and technological advances to society, and have helped the U.S. before. Lieber cited the example of when, during the Soviet War in Afghanistan in 1979, Israel supplied confiscated Soviet weaponry to the United States. With these weapons, the U.S. was able to supply the Peshawar Seven insurgents who ran revolutions to counter the U.S.S.R. Israel is a country that has helped both the United States and the world.
– The conflict in Israel between the Israeli people and Hamas is not just a border issue. Israel’s claim to the land was legally recognized by the United Nations. The borders need to be decided by negotiation, but Israel has a historical, religious, national and legal claim to the land.
– The war crimes, beheadings and systematic killings exhibited by Hamas represent the dark impulses that Israel is struggling to resist. The violence is not cyclical but calculated by Hamas. Such an environment of destruction merits the attention of America.
– U.S. credibility is at stake. If America broke its promise to Israel, the break would be stunning and traumatic. The word of Americans would be worthless, and could never gain the trust of another country again.
– America needs to ponder the exact meaning of the question “Is Israel our responsibility?” (referring to the title the Alexander Hamilton Society gave the lecture). Who is meant by “our?” What does “responsibility” entail? What exactly are we referring to when we say “Israel?” All of these factors can affect the answer to the posed question.
– After World War II, America helped rebuild Poland. The West supported Ukraine after the Cold War. “Does aid imply inherited responsibility?” wondered Hanssen. As a father has a responsibility over his children, a country has a responsibility over the places it helped create. Hanssen asked to what extent the U.S. fostered the creation of Israel and whether there is enough of a link to allow for responsibility.
– We need to remember the context of European influence on the Israeli immigrants as well as the American one. During the 1930s and 1940s the Jewish people living in Europe and America began returning to Israel. Israel has many European and American influences due to this emigration.
– Peace may be impossible in Israel because of a cultural incapability. If peace from an outside source like the UN is impossible, it would seem that peace will never be attained. The cultural differences between the Israelis and Hamas create a situation in which negotiation is impossible, and force may be the only available option.
– We cannot forget our inherited responsibilities as a nation. It is not enough to claim separation from an event in history because of a lack of involvement. Nations and people must work together, and not forget the bonds they have with each other.