"The Christian--be he Protestant or Catholic--the infidel, the Mohammedan, the Jew, the Deist, has not only all his rights as a citizen, but may have his own form of worship, without possibility of interference from any policeman or magistrate, provided he do not interrupt, in so doing, the peace and tranquility of the surrounding neighborhood."
Robert Baird (speaking of US settler communities in the1840's) quoted in 'Religious Pluralism in America,' by William R. Hutchinson.
Here in the US we have long valued, not only freedom of religion, but also the separation of church and state.
In 1791 the First Amendment of the US Constitution was passed guaranteeing the freedom of religion. In 1940 freedom of religion was also affirmed by all our state governments.
And while our important ideal of the separation of church and state may not be so clearly spelled out in the Constitution, it is an ideal that we have long held as sacred as freedom of religion. Together these ideals form the underpinnings of American democracy.
While we in the US may have on going debates on the proper extent of the separation between church and state, we are clear that there must be freedom of religion and a separation of church and state. However, the same can not be said for a country that we support with 4 billion in military aid each year, and with the power of our veto at the UN.
Israel has very clear discriminatory laws, that favor people who are Jewish by heredity or conversion. Conversion, however is a tricky and arbitrary businesses. Not everyone who wants to convert is allowed to.
First of all, take a look at this list of Israeli discriminatory laws:
If you are inclined to read something a little more in depth and referenced, here it is:
Here is a great little video that shows how the discriminatory laws play out in East Jerusalem:
And then there is the whole arbitrary business of conversion, discussed here from a Jewish perspective: http://forward.com/articles/195883/israeli-jews-who-arent-jewish-in-eyes-of-rabbis-fa/?p=all So we see, Israeli laws discriminate against those who are not legally Jewish under Israeli law. But even if you have been Jewish all your life, Israel is not necessarily going to accept you as a Jew and allow you to reap the benefits of their discriminatory laws. If you are Palestinian, however, the outcome is much worse.
As Americans, we must ask ourselves, according to our own beliefs and laws, now that we know what is really going on, how can we possibly continue to support Israel? How can we continue to support a country that does not believe in religious freedom nor in the separation of church and state?
Photo Courtesy of Americans Against Genocide in Gaza (AAGG)
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