Just like some whites feel they can't say anything negative about a black person without being called a racist, well, it is extremely uncomfortable for me to say anything negative about Israel's policies in the Middle East.
I think it's my religious background. I'm Baptist, and our preachers and teachers have pounded home the message that Israel is the chosen people of God. No matter what, as Christians, we must always side with Israel. That makes sense in Sunday school.
But the never-ending conflict between the Arab Nations and the Jewish State is forcing me to examine that teaching.
During my visit to Israel, I got a chance to tour the Kiriatshmoma area, a town of about 24,000 people. Kiriatshmoma sustained some damage during Israel's 34-day war with Lebanon, Our guide, a woman who once lived in Jersey City, proudly pointed out that about 4,500 of the residents were new immigrants from Russia.
The families inhabiting the neat three-story residences were described as being "hard-working" and "doing well."
But when I asked her why thousands of Palestinians are still living in refugee camps--I'm talking about tents set up on barren rocks--she described them as "not wanting to work" and "not wanting to do anything."
I practically had to bite my tongue to hold my peace.
But how do you criticize Israel's policies without being branded an anti-Semite?
The fear of being misunderstood has kept many of us from expressing our views on the Middle East conflict. Because we are silent, the Middle East--one of the most beautiful places on earth--is also among the scariest.