What is the relationship between peacemaking and fairness?

As the ELCA discusses our Church’s involvement in the occupation of Palestine next week, one will no doubt hear some Voting Members argue that we need to be fair in our stance toward this issue.  But what would “fair” really look like in today’s world?

Many people were brought up thinking about Israel and Palestine in terms Cold War categories, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union used Israel and its Arab neighbors to fight one of many proxy wars around the world.  And even though the Cold War has been over almost 30 years, one still hears slogans that date back to a bygone era, one of these being…

“Israel is surrounded by hostile neighbors”

While this was certainly true way back in the day, the political situation has changed quite a bit over the past 30 years.  Israel signed a peace treaty with the second biggest power in the region, Egypt, in 1979 and with Jordan in 1994.  And while hostilities with Syria remain technically unresolved, Assad currently has his hands full with his own civil war and the Syrian army is in no shape to attack any other country in the region, much less the sophisticated and powerful Israeli military.  Lebanon is extremely weak and divided—not even able to muster a defense in the face of repeated offensive Israeli military invasions in 1982, 1993, 1996 and 2006.

Given the recent relative docility of its near neighbors, the Israeli government has more recently pointed to distant Iran as the new “boogeyman on the block.”  (Tehran and Jerusalem are about 1,000 miles apart.)  Yet, Israel’s annual defense budget is nearly three times greater than Iran’s.  Compared to Iran, Israel has more than four times as many tanks, ten times the number of armored assault vehicles, twice as many fixed-wing fighter aircraft and four times the number of attack helicopters.  Israel’s air force is ranked “second to none in the world,” even superior to the U.S. Air Force.

in the past 50 years, the State of Israel has developed one of the most (if not THE most) technologically sophisticated military establishments in the world, including likely acquisition of nuclear weapons—largely funded by U.S. tax dollars—in fact, over $100 billion in tax dollars,  according to the Israeli press.  The Israeli government and owners of Israeli weapons manufacturing companies directly benefit from having you continue to think that they are “surrounded by hostile neighbors.”  After 50 years of military buildup sponsored by the U.S., Israel’s neighbors no longer pose a threat.

And most people in the U.S. don’t even flinch over the prospect of pouring an additional $30 billion of arms into the Israeli military apparatus.    Yet a “fair” proposal to give $130 billion of military aid to the Palestinian Authority would certainly be dismissed as an absurdity.

Why is continuing to arm one “side” to the hilt thought of as fair?  How does funding one of the largest armaments stockpiles in the world advance peacemaking in the region?  Why does the U.S. subsidize the sale of Israeli arms to war-torn countries?

Justice and fairness are indeed important in any process of reconciliation.  If anything, working to maintain the status quo is grossly unfair.