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Grace Eberly

Rethinking Religion: Kasich says no to public criticism of Israel – I say no to Governor Kasich

Columnist Grace Eberly criticizes Governor Kasich’s statements about the state of Israel and argues that one can be anti-occupation without being branded anti-Semitic.

Two months ago, during the Nov. 10 Republican presidential debate, Ohio Governor John Kasich argued, “No more criticizing them (Israel) in public.”

Kasich’s statement implies that there should be no political dissent on the issue of Israel, including perhaps specifically, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Kasich’s statement may also imply that public criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic and maybe even anti-American.

Governor Kasich’s position is dangerous – not so because he supports the state of Israel but because he does so unconditionally. Governor Kasich writes Israel a blank check. Israel may do as it pleases and is accountable to no one. Governor Kasich, it seems, does not permit political dissent on the subject of Israel. And anyone who dares to question the policies or actions of the state is to be publicly silenced.

Perhaps Governor Kasich would do well to acknowledge that, even within the contested borders of Israel, there is public political dissent. In Israel, there are no less than eleven political parties represented in the Knesset. Each of these parties has its own platform. Each of these parties offers its own solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Eli Yishai party, for example, believes that God promised the land of Israel to the Jewish people. Eli Yishai calls for the annexation of all of Judea and Samaria and promises to strengthen the settlement enterprise in all of the West Bank. However, the Ayman Odeh party supports a two-state solution and advocates a return to the pre-1967 lines. They call for all West Bank settlements to be taken down and the security barrier – which they call “the racist separation wall” – to be dismantled. They also advocate for the release of all political prisoners and the right of return for Palestinian refugees based on UN Resolution 194. A separate party, Zehava Gal-On, calls on the UN Security Council to recognize Palestine as a state and to accept it as a member of the United Nations. There is no unanimity. There is public political dissent – the very kind that Governor Kasich would prohibit.

Why do the majority of Americans, including Governor Kasich, offer their unconditional support to the state of Israel?

I submit, it has much to do with politics of recognition. Benjamin Netanyahu is the face of Israel. He is light-skinned. He is clean-shaven. He wears a suit and tie. He graduated from an American university. He speaks perfect English with a noticeable Philadelphia accent. He is just like “us." 

Who is the face of Palestine? Is it the late Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization? He was dark-skinned. He was bearded. He wore a military uniform and the keffiyeh – a traditional Arab headdress. He went to school in Egypt. He spoke English with considerable difficulty and a heavy accent. Clearly, he was one of “them.”

I have a deep appreciation for the cultural and religious heritage of the Jewish people. I celebrate their rich history. I detest the horrors of the Holocaust. I condemn Palestinian violence directed at Israelis. But I also condemn Israeli violence and injustice directed at Palestinians. I condemn the Israeli occupation.

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Every nation on this earth, including Israel, must be held accountable. And so, Governor Kasich, I will publically criticize the current policies and actions of the state of Israel, which I find to be inconsistent with their most treasured values – and ours. The oppressed have become the oppressors. I am not an anti-Semite. I am not anti-American. I am, however, a champion of justice. And public political dissent, Governor Kasich, is indispensable to justice.

Peace is not the absence of violence. It is the presence of justice. Justice transcends nationality, race and religion. Justice is creative. It is never easy.

Grace Eberly is a senior studying world religions and biology. What do you think about John Kasich's statements regarding Israel? Email her at

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