Last month in Washington, D.C., I had the opportunity to take part in the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the China and Israeli states, jointly hosted by both countries’ ambassadors to the United States.
The event included the screening of a documentary that told the tragic and inspiring story of the 25,000 European Jewish refugees who were able to escape Nazi occupation and found refuge in Shanghai, China during World War II. The evening was an important reminder of the power of diplomacy, but also the profound impact of acceptance, compassion, and a sense of human dignity.
While the purpose of the gathering was to celebrate Chinese and Israeli relations, it also underscored the unique and unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel. Our commitment to shared values and interests, to the tenets of democracy, including rule of law, the protection of human rights, freedom of speech, and the freedom from persecution because of religious beliefs. In both nations, through good times and bad, these things are held to be self-evident.
For Israel, staying true to these values has meant constantly balancing its quest for ideals against the requirements of national survival. These challenges remain acute: Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran, even the Islamic State, all pose threats to Israel’s security.
As an immigrant, I spent the first seven years of my life living in Taiwan. I know first-hand what it means to live in the constant shadow of a more powerful enemy. Unlike any other democratic nation in the world, Israel has withstood an unprecedented number of terrorist incidents within its borders and launched by her neighbors. The United States must ensure that Israel has the ability to maintain its own self-defense and to protect her citizens from such vile attacks.
Israel’s leaders and the Jewish diaspora must have full faith and confidence that U.S. support is resolute and unshakable. With a change in administrations can come uncertainty. We must ensure there is no ambiguity in the United States’ support of Israel. A renewed effort by the United States to revive the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process would be an unmistakable demonstration of that commitment.
By reaffirming our commitment to a just Israeli-Palestinian peace, we reaffirm our commitment to Israel’s survival as a homeland for the Jewish people. We also assure our allies in the region and elsewhere that we stand with Israel. Peace in the Middle East is possible if both sides are willing to engage in direct negotiations and be willing to make concessions. The United States should use it diplomatic skills to work with the countries in the region to encourage the Palestinian Authority and Israel to return to the negotiating table.
America’s commitment to Israel today is more than a strategic interest and it even extends beyond our shared values. It also reflects the resolve of U.S. leaders since World War II to atone for the fact that the wartime ports of the United States – unlike Shanghai and many other cities around the world – were closed to Jews fleeing Hitler’s Germany. Since then, the America’s moral duty to ensure the survival of a Jewish homeland has been clear. No single step the U.S. could take would be more important to accomplishing that goal than reviving peace talks.
State Sen. Tony Hwang represents Connecticut’s 28th Senate District.