Wolverine For Israel hosted U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., at University of Michigan Hillel on Thursday to discuss the United States’ relationship with Israel. Walberg touched on how his religion guides his support for Israel, his opinion on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and bipartisanship in the House of Representatives. There were 10 people in attendance.
Walberg is a former pastor and began by discussing his religion. He said despite being a Christian, he has read the Torah, and a large reason he is adamant about the United States supporting Israel is because he believes God supports Israel.
“I read the Torah, I’ve read the entire Old Testament,” Walberg said. “What God condemns, I condemn. Who God loves I will love. If I don’t, I’m a sinner.”
However, Walberg has many secular constituents and said religion is not the only reason for the U.S. to align itself with Israel. He claimed Israel is the United States’ number one ally in the Middle East, in addition to providing the U.S. with innovative entrepreneurship and engineering endeavors.
Walberg then discussed his respect for Netanyahu. Walberg said he hopes the recent claims of fraud against him are false, because he thinks the prime minister has “moral clarity.” He shared a story of meeting Netanyahu.
“The most impressive experience was being able to be with Bibi Netanyahu,” Walberg said. “In his presence, I understand very clearly he knows good from evil, right from wrong, success from failure.”
In response to an audience question about bipartisan cooperation in Congress regarding Israel since the country's establishment in 1948, Walberg discussed the religious founding of the United States.
“I would contend that, because we were established as a Christian nation, there’s debate I’m sure on that, but when I read the founders’ documents that defined who we were, it goes back to our understanding of scripture,” Walberg said. “And I think that’s why Congress generally follows those principles. I can say we have found it very, very easy to support Israel and to see that Israel has been a nation that has been pushed, pushed, pushed, pushed and ultimately, there is a place to stand.”
Walberg also discussed his concern about U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and her recent statements regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In an interview with The Daily after the event, Walberg said his ideal role for the United States in finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is supporting Israel in finding a peaceful relationship. He claims Israel has made more compromises than Palestine throughout the tumultuous conflict, and he said they have just as much of a right to the land.
“I think (the United States) plays into (the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) as a supporter of Israel,” Walberg said. “But a supporter of Israel in such a way that we always speak for developing a peace relationship that understands there always has to be compromise, but in this case, as I’ve seen the history, it appears that Israel has compromised, compromised and drawn in. And I’ve stood over there, on the Golan Heights or other parts of Israel that I’ve seen, how their footprint has been reduced over the years. They can only give so much. And they have claimed that land as much as others. And I understand the Palestinians have claim to that region as well.”
Walberg continued by saying the violence between the countries has made a peaceful solution challenging. He said the United States’ role should be to help facilitate a compromise.
“You can’t have a satisfactory solution when guns are pointed your way, missiles are pointed your way, bombs are pointed your way,” Walberg said. “And the rhetoric that goes on is always anti-Israel, and we want you to be off the face of this earth. That is where America comes in and says, ‘We don’t get that, we don’t accept it, and we will be willing to work for a two-state solution, but it has to be a true solution.’”
Walberg discussed how, despite his strong support for Israel, he does not condone organizations such as Canary Mission that campaign against and blacklist students, professors and individuals who are pro-Palestine.
“That’s not America,” Walberg said. “That’s not what we’ve ever been. We’ve been a place of diversity. I hope we continue to be a place of diversity where we can debate strong and hard and have disagreements but, in the end, say, let’s have at it. You’re free to hold those positions. To blacklist or to be, I assume this is canary in the mineshaft, saying we’ve alerted you to something that is bad, that’s wrong, especially on a college campus.”
WFI President Bennett Bramson, LSA sophomore and a Daily Sports writer, was an organizer of the event. He said this event taught him how important religion is in forming an opinion about Israel for people of all religions.
“I’ve learned about the religious beliefs of non-Jews and how it has impacted their views on Israel,” Bramson said. “But I think until today, I never fully understood how much power religious beliefs have for non-Jews and why they think Israel should remain the Jewish state.”
Bramson then discussed how, while he and other members of WFI may not agree with everything Walberg said, understanding and listening to other people’s beliefs is crucial to forming a well-rounded opinion. He referenced a philosophy class he took.
“One of Aristotle’s moral theories is that the only way to really know what you truly believe is to hear different opinions and what other people believe,” Bramson said. “And that’s what we’re really trying to get the most diverse group of opinions that we can.”
WFI Operations Chair Joshua Abramowitz, Kinesiology sophomore, echoed what Bramson said. Abramowitz discussed the importance of discussing controversial topics, such as Israel, with people of all backgrounds and beliefs.
“The more people we can hear from, the more opinions, the more discussions we can have about Israel to help shape our opinions and to actually think of things we might not necessarily agree with and maybe change our opinions,” Abramowitz said. “That is extremely important in developing what we believe and just getting a broader knowledge around the subject.”