Analysis: America’s “Bern-outs” and their Misconceptions of Reality: Why Reason and Justice are on Israel’s Side

The brand new citizens of a new born country gathered outside Independence Hall in 1787. Anxiously awaiting their fate, time stands still for these European refugees. As the secret deliberations of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia begin to cease, tensions start to spark. This consequentially led to the onset of rumors among the new settlers of this strange and foreign land.  A Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia, was among those waiting in anticipation. According to American historical documents, this woman was first among the crowd to come forward with an inquiry. Legend has it, she asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” Without any hesitation, Franklin immediately replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

This quote is relevant to today because we can clearly see that we are still standing as a republic. In fact, we are thriving as the greatest republic known to mankind.  The problem is that Bernie supporters seem to have forgotten the core concepts of what it is that genuinely makes America flourish. The results of this sort thinking can cause dangerous outcomes to both our country, and states all over the world. It leads to a whole new level of brainwash and made-up Utopian concepts that may seem wonderful to the average citizen, but are invalidated and corrupt in regards to the real world. Another negative connotation derived from this new logic can mean the wrongful destruction of an entire civilization, countries that used to be America’s most important allies. The impact these self-made “geniuses” have on states such as Israel, could mean the difference of whether or not it survives as a nation. I wish to write this to these particular individuals, as they are being misguided by falsified idols of imaginative thinking. Without further due:

To Whomever it May Concern,

In the past 18 months, Israel’s six million citizens have suffered 12,480 terrorist attacks. They have buried more than 400 victims — a per-capita death toll six times that of America on September 11. Yet, in an abhorrent act of injustice, Israel continues to be pressured by many into making concessions to Yasser Arafat, the arch-patron of those terror attacks. In the long run, this means that Israel is being pressured into sacrificing its basic right to exist.

We should be supporting Israel’s right to take whatever military action is needed to defend itself against its nihilistic enemies. Morally and militarily, Israel is America’s frontline in the war on terrorism. If America is swayed by Arafat’s latest empty rhetoric, and allows him to continue threatening Israel, our own campaign against terrorism becomes sheer hypocrisy and will, ultimately, fail.

In the past 18 months, Israel’s six million citizens have suffered 12,480 terrorist attacks.

Consider the facts and judge for yourself:

The Israelis and the Palestinians are not morally equal 
Israel is the only free country in a region dominated by Arab monarchies, theocracies and dictatorships. It is only the citizens of Israel — Arabs and Jews alike — who enjoy the right to express their views, to criticize their government, to form political parties, to publish private newspapers, to hold free elections. When Arab authorities deny the most basic freedoms to their own people, it is obscene for them to start claiming that Israel is violating the Palestinians’ rights. All Arab citizens who are genuinely concerned with human rights should, as their very first action, seek to oust their own despotic rulers and adopt the type of free society that characterizes Israel.

Since its founding, Israel has been the victim 
Since its founding in 1948, Israel has had to fight five wars — all in self-defense — against 22 hostile Arab dictatorships, and has been repeatedly attacked by Palestinian terrorists. Arafat is responsible for the kidnapping and murder of Israeli schoolchildren, the hijacking of airliners and the car bombings and death-squad killings of thousands of Israeli, American, Lebanese and Palestinian civilians. Today he ardently sponsors such terror groups as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the al Aksa Brigade.

Since its founding in 1948, Israel has had to fight five wars, all in self-defense, against 22 hostile Arab dictatorships.

The land Israel is “occupying” was captured in a war initiated by its Arab neighbors. Like any victim of aggression, Israel has a moral right to control as much land as is necessary to safeguard itself against attack. The Palestinians want to annihilate Israel, while Israel wants simply to be left alone. If there is a moral failing on Israel’s part, it consists of its reluctance to take stronger military measures. If it is right for America to bomb al-Qaida strongholds in Afghanistan — and it is — then it is equally justifiable for Israel to bomb the terrorist strongholds in the occupied territories.

Hatred of Israel, and of the United States, is hatred for Western values
Like America’s war against the Taliban and al-Qaida, the Arab-Israeli dispute is a conflict between opposing philosophies. On the one side are the forces of mysticism, medieval tribalism, dictatorship — and terror; on the other side are the forces of reason, individualism, capitalism — and civilization. Arafat and his sympathizers hate Israel for the same reason that Osama bin Laden and his sympathizers hate America, i.e., for embracing secular, Western values. No “peace process” is possible with such enemies.

This is not an ethnic battle between Jews and Arabs, but a moral battle between those who value the individual’s right to be free and those who don’t. Those Arabs who value individual freedom are enemies of the Arafat regime and deserve to be embraced by Israel; those Jews who do not value individual freedom deserve to be condemned by Israel.

Israelis have a right to the land 
Only Israel has a moral right to establish a government in that area — on the grounds, not of some ethnic or religious heritage, but of a secular, rational principle. Only a state based on political and economic freedom has moral legitimacy. Contrary to what the Palestinians are seeking, there can be no “right” to establish a dictatorship.

There can be no “right” to establish a dictatorship.

As to the rightful owners of particular pieces of property, Israel’s founders — like the homesteaders in the American West — earned ownership to the land by developing it. They arrived in a desolate, sparsely populated region and drained the swamps, irrigated the desert, grew crops and built cities. They worked unclaimed land or purchased it from the owners. They introduced industry, libraries, hospitals, art galleries, universities-and the concept of individual rights. Those Arabs who abandoned their land in order to join the military crusade against Israel forfeited all right to their property. And if there are any peaceful Arabs who were forcibly evicted from their property, they may press their claims in the courts of Israel, which, unlike the Arab autocracies, has an independent, objective judiciary — a judiciary that recognizes the principle of property rights.

Palestinians are not “freedom fighters”
The Palestinians want a state, not to secure their freedom, but to perpetuate the dictatorial reign of Arafat’s Palestinian Authority. Arafat’s “police” brutally expropriate property and silence opposing viewpoints by shutting down radio and TV stations. They systematically arrest, torture and murder peaceful dissenters. To call the militant Palestinians “freedom fighters” — when they support the subjugation of their own people, when they deliberately murder children in the streets or gleefully praise such depravity — is a mind-numbing perversion.

Palestinians have consistently sought to destroy Israel
In 1947 the Palestinians rejected the U.N.’s offer of a state larger than the one they are demanding now. Instead, they joined in a war aimed at wiping Israel from the map. Today, that hostility has only hardened. For example, in a televised public sermon, a Palestinian Imam declared: “God willing, this unjust state [of] Israel, will be erased.” Palestinian textbooks are filled with vile, anti-Jewish propaganda, such as this exhortation from a fifth-grade Arabic language text: “Remember: the final and inevitable result will be the victory of the Muslims over the Jews.”

A Palestinian state under Arafat would become a base for terrorism
A Palestinian state headed by Arafat would be a launching pad and a training ground for terrorist organizations targeting, not only Israel, but the United States. Forcing Israelis to accept a Palestinian state under Arafat is like forcing Americans to accept a state the size of Mexico, 12 miles from New York City, ruled by Osama bin Laden. As long as the Palestinians sanction aggression, they should not be permitted their own state.

Arafat’s meaningless words will not restore life to his terror-victims — past or future
No rhetoric by Arafat can change the fact that he is a hater of freedom and a destroyer of innocent human life. Imagine Osama bin Laden being enticed by American diplomats to announce: “We strongly condemn operations that target American civilians, especially the last one in New York. We equally condemn the massacres that have been, and are still being, committed by U.S. occupation troops against Taliban civilians in Kandahar, Shah-i-Kot and Tora Bora.” Would any sane individual thereby endorse an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan and the creation of a Taliban state, headed by bin Laden, alongside America? If not, why should Israel be expected to act so suicidal?

America, for its own benefit, must allow Israel to uphold the principle of self-defense
The growing demand for Israel to negotiate with Arafat comes from an unprincipled, range-of-the-moment mentality. Surrendering to extortion — which the “land-for-peace” catechism endorses — is profoundly immoral and impractical. In the 1938 version of “land for peace,” Nazi Germany was appeased by being allowed to take over Czechoslovakia as part of the Aryan people’s “homeland”; the result was to encourage Hitler to start a world war.

The Arab-Israeli conflict could become a dress rehearsal for a wider, global conflict. If America now stops Israel from retaliating against Arafat, the father of international terrorism, how can it ever justify retaliation against its own enemies? If we force Israel to appease Arafat, we will be broadcasting, loud and clear, that terrorism can bring America too to its knees.

We should urge our government to recognize that there is only one means of achieving long-term Mideast peace: Israel’s sweeping retaliation against the scourge of terrorism.

 

 

A small incident during Bernie Sanders’ recent talk at the University of Chicago reveals how the progressive left has turned against Israel. The venue was the largest on campus, and it was packed with enthusiastic supporters. During a Q&A, one student said that he and his friends liked Bernie’s progressive politics but didn’t much like his views on the Middle East. Bernie’s response, and the crowd’s, are worth pondering.

First of all, Bernie said, Israel has a right to exist. It was supposed to be an applause line, but it fell flat. There was only a smattering. That changed when he said he strongly favored a Palestinian state. For that, the applause was loud and sustained.

It’s only a small incident, but it captures a movement that has been developing for years at elite universities and is now spreading to cultural and media institutions. Their views are surely encouraged by President Obama’s diffidence toward the Jewish state. But he is less a leader than an accurate weather gauge. The left loves Israel about as much as it loves fracking, the Keystone pipeline, Goldman Sachs, voter IDs, Clarence Thomas, and deer hunting.

What has happened on campus, aside from the well-documented suppression of pro-Israel views, is the formation of a durable coalition opposed not only to Benjamin Netanyahu and specific Israeli policies but to Israel itself. The coalition is composed of the two fundamental groups on all elite campuses: the self-professed “victims” and the self-flagellating “guilty.” One of the main purposes of orientation week is to sort students into one of these two groups and to educate them in their assigned roles.

The guilty are all students from comfortable backgrounds, except those from approved minorities. These middle-class students are, by definition, “oppressors.” They can expiate their sins by pleading guilty and showing they want to remedy the mess their families have made of America and the world. Their own special movement is environmentalism and “safety” on campus, which goes beyond the legitimate goal of ensuring all students’ physical security to include suppressing views they don’t like. Those views, they say, make them “feel unsafe.” Deans of students, who care not a whit about free speech, happily rush in to protect them. But the main way middle-class students can wash away their sins is to back the movement-du-jour of the “victims’ groups.”

There is no shortage of opportunities. There are all sorts of self-designated victims on campus, each vying for the coveted position as “the most terribly oppressed by America.” Among international students, the undisputed winners are the Palestinians (and Muslim students in general). They are glad to have others’ support as long as no one challenges their status as the No. 1 international victims group. Their main political activity is to show up at all public events for Israel, protest them, and, if the university does nothing, disrupt them completely.

This anti-Israel coalition has racked up some impressive victories, largely because their views are shared by faculty in the humanities and social sciences. (Economics is the exception.) They have now completely excluded pro-Israel voices from virtually any subject touching on the Middle East. This goes beyond Middle East centers, which they control completely. It also means there are hardly any pro-Israel specialists in political science or history. It means junior faculty who want tenure keep any pro-Israel views well hidden. (Believe me, they do.) Zionism is a hated word in fields like gender studies, where every single faculty member at Brandeis objected to the university’s decision to honor Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the world’s most prominent opponent of female genital mutilation. She had said some things critical of Muslims. Bad form. Brandeis surrendered immediately.

At bottom, the bien-pensant view is that (a) Israel is wrong because it’s strong; (b) Israel has no right to exist because it is a European state in the Muslim Middle East; and (c) Palestinians and fellow Muslims are not responsible for their fate, or their crimes, because they are oppressed victims.

The left hates Israel’s military strength and its willingness to use it for the same reasons it hates American power. As right-thinking cosmopolitans, they would never approve such brutality. Obama captured this perspective in a Freudian slip. “Whether we like it or not,” he explained, “we remain a dominant military superpower.” The left doesn’t like it. They don’t like it in America, and they don’t like it in Israel. As for Russia, China, Iran, or North Korea brandishing military threats, well, let’s not think about that. The threats may vanish from their minds, but they still threaten everybody else with working synapses.

Not only is Israel powerful, the left (like the Muslim world) sees Israel as a remnant of Europe’s crimes: imperialism and the Holocaust. University faculties are preoccupied with imperialism and post-colonial legacies, which they blame for many of the world’s ills. They see Israel through that lens, as a colony of white settlers in an Arab-Muslim region. They blithely ignore the Jewish people’s age-old connection to the land, its continuous presence there, and its central religious significance. And they ignore how many Israelis were driven out of Arab countries, which have become virulently anti-Semitic.

The combination of Israel’s religious heritage, its nationalism, its prosperity, and its unapologetic self-defense combine virtually everything loathed by secular, cosmopolitan intellectuals. That’s why Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech offered such a tepid “defense” of Israel’s right to exist. Israel was needed, he said, because Jews needed somewhere to go after the Holocaust. That is the view of the average professor of French literature: Israel is the bastard child of Europe’s crimes.

In the left’s worldview, Palestinians and fellow Muslims are not seen as agents of their own history, for good or ill. They are righteous victims. This condescending view is grounded in Jean Jacques Rousseau’s gauzy, romantic vision of “noble savages,” not yet cursed by civilization. What can be expected of such people? Their crimes are merely “weapons of the weak.” And who are we, the oppressors, to criticize them? That would commit an unforgivable sin, blaming the victim.

For years, this coalition of anti-Zionists has marched across campuses shouting “Palestine, Palestine, must be free, from the Jordan to the sea.” The state they demand, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean, means Israel should disappear completely. So, when Bernie Sanders says Israel has a right to exist, they sit on their hands. Their shameful silence says Israel’s very existence is a no longer a “progressive position.”

The British broke their promise to the Jews while they created new Arab countries out of the land of the former Ottoman Empire. In addition, because of Arab revolts and pressure, the British even barred entry to the land of Israel to Jews fleeing the Holocaust.
Even when the full scope of the Holocaust was known, and thousands of Holocaust survivors were stranded in refugee camps (DP camps), the British refused to relent.
One of the most egregious of the British actions involved the refugee ship, Exodus, which the Royal Navy intercepted in 1947 in the Mediterranean Sea with 4,500 Jews aboard. The ship was brought into Haifa port under British escort; there the Holocaust survivors were forcibly transferred to another ship and returned back to Germany via France.
Abba Eban, who was then the Jewish liaison to a special UN committee ― called Special Committee On Palestine or UNSCOP ― persuaded four UN representatives to go to Haifa to witness the brutality of the British against the Jews.
Historian Martin Gilbert includes Eban’s account of what happened there in Israel: A History (p. 145):
“[In Haifa] the four members watched a ‘gruesome operation.’ The Jewish refugees had decided ‘not to accept banishment with docility. If anyone had wanted to know what Churchill meant by a “squalid war,” he would have found out by watching British soldier using rifle butts, hose pipes and tear gas against the survivors of the death camps. Men, women and children were forcibly taken off to prison ships, locked in cages below decks and set out of Palestine waters.’

“When the four members of UNSCOP came back to Jerusalem, Eban recalled, ‘they were pale with shock. I could see that they were pre-occupied with one point alone: if this was the only way that the British Mandate could continue, it would be better not to continue it at all.'”

UN Partition of Palestine
The British also wanted out of the problem. They had 100,000 soldiers/police trying to maintain control with a total population of about 600,000 Jews and 1.2 million Arabs. (Interestingly, until its independence in 1947, they had the same size force controlling India with a population of over 350 million!)
And so it came to pass that the British turned the matter over to the UN which decided to end the British Mandate over what was left of “Palestine” (after the creation of the country of Jordan) and to divide the remaining land among the Arabs and Jews, based on the demographic reality within the country. (Areas with a majority of Jewish population would go to the Jews while areas with an Arab majority would go to the Arabs). The proposal called for the Jews to get:
• a narrow strip of land along the Mediterranean coast, including Tel Aviv and Haifa
• a piece of land surrounding the Kineret (Sea of Galilee), including the Golan Heights
• a large piece in the south, which was the uninhabitable Negev Desert

The Arabs were to get:
• the Gaza Strip
• a chunk of the north, including the city of Tzfat (Safed) and western Galilee
• the entire central mountain region of Judea and Samaria (today known as the West Bank) till the River.

Jerusalem was to be under international control.

On November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted for this partition plan . Of those voting, 33 nations voted yes, including USA and USSR; 13 mostly-Arab nations voted no; 11 nations abstained.

Hard-hearted to the end, the British did not vote yes; they abstained. They also announced that they would not cooperate in the execution of the partition plan and that they would depart from Palestine by May 15, 1948.

As disappointed as the Jews were with the portion allotted for the Jewish state, they felt that something was better than nothing after all the waiting and the pain.

However, the Arabs, always maximalist in their demands, rejected the UN resolution. The next day Arab rioting began, and two weeks later volunteers from surrounding Arab countries began arriving into Palestine to fight the Jews.

The British, happy to be out of the situation, were packing up to go and turned their backs on what was going on. Writes David Ben Gurion in his Israel: A Personal History (p. 65):
“The British did not lift a finger to stop this military invasion. They also refused to cooperate with the UN committee charged with supervising implementation of the General Assembly resolution. At the same time, the Arabs living in the district destined to become part of the Jewish state began evacuating their homes and moving to the Arab states neighboring Palestine at the orders of the Arab High Committee.”
In the midst of confusion, the rioting continued with almost 1,000 Jews murdered by Arabs in the ensuing four months.

One of the worst incidents occurred on April 13, 1948. A convoy of doctors and nurses making their way to Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus was ambushed by Arabs. This happened 200 yards of a British police station. After a seven-hour shoot-out, during which the British did almost nothing, virtually all the members of the convoy (77) were killed. Some of the bodies were so badly burned that 24 were never identified.
Jerusalem Under Siege

In all of this, the British quietly encouraged the King of Jordan, Abdullah, to invade and annex the Arab sections to his kingdom. To Abdullah this was not enough. He wanted Jerusalem too.

As a result Jerusalem came under siege.

The focus of the struggle during April and May 1948 was the road to Jerusalem which passes through the mountains. The vehicles on that road are completely exposed to gunmen up above. It was on this road that all supplies to the Jews of the city had to come. But they could not get through. steel plates were welded on to trucks in attempt to create primitive armored cars that could withstand the constant ambushes. The narrow, winding road and the overweight vehicles made easy targets. Many were destroyed and the conveys of badly needed food and other supplies weren’t making it to Jerusalem,
Hunger reigned. The residents of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City were completely cut off.

The most intense fighting for control of the road to Jerusalem took place at the Kastel in the mountains to west of Jerusalem. The Kastel was the site of an ancient fortress and the Arab forces used the position as the staging area for attacks on the convoys. On April 5, 1948 Haganah forced launched an attack on the Arab positions above the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway and the Kastel. The fighting was fierce and the position changed hands several times. And then an amazing incident happened. A young Yemenite Jew, who was not known for his shooting skills, killed Abdul Khader el-Husseini the leader of the Arab forces. Demoralized, the Arab forces called off their counter attack and by the next day they had abandoned their positions to attend his funeral.

As a result a huge convoy of 250 trucks of food was able to re-supply the city and several more convoys soon followed. Writes Berel Wein inTriumph of Survival (p. 397):
[On Shabbat, April 17, 1948] Jews left their synagogues and, with their prayer shawls still draping their shoulders, helped unload the convoy. The siege of Jerusalem was broken for the moment. The Arabs, however, mounted a strong counter-attack, and by the end of April once again cut the Jerusalem road… for the next seven weeks Jewish Jerusalem was isolated.

A New State Is Born

The official date given by the United Nations in their partition vote for the creation of the two new entities was May 15th, 1948.

After 2,000 years, the land of Israel was once more in the hands of the Jews.

David Ben Gurion read the Declaration of Independence over the radio:
“The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here the spiritual, religious and national identity was formed. Here they achieved independence and created a culture of national and universal significance. Here they wrote and gave the Bible to the world…
“Exiled from Palestine, the Jewish people remained faithful to it in all the countries of the dispersion, never ceasing to pray and hope for their return and restoration of their national freedom.

“Accordingly we, the members of the National Council met together in solemn assembly today and by virtue of the natural and historic right of the Jewish people and with the support of the resolution of the General of the United Nations, hereby proclaim the establishment of the Jewish state in Palestine to be called Israel…

“We offer peace and amity to all neighboring states and their peoples and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all…

“With trust in the Rock of Israel, we set our hands to this declaration at this session of the Provisional State Council in the city of Tel Aviv on Sabbath Eve, 5th Iyar 5708, 14th day of May 1948.”

(Note that the Declaration of Independence of Israel ― unlike the American Declaration of Independence ― does not mention God. This is because the hard-line secularists that dominated the Jewish Agency opposed any such thing. “Rock of Israel” –which could be understood either as God or the Israeli Defense Force – became a compromise.)

People were dancing in the streets. But not for long.

Almost immediately five Arab countries declared war and Egypt bombed Tel Aviv.

[1] There can be little doubt that one of the primary reasons for U.N. support for a Jewish States came out of European guilt for the Holocaust. The death of millions of Jews “bought” enough sympathy to allow for the creation of a Jewish State. Sadly, since the partition vote of 1947, the U.N. voting record on Israel has gotten progressively worse: In 1975 the U.N. voted to declare Zionism as a racist ideology (resolution 3379) and since 1990 fully two thirds of ALL U.N. resolutions have condemned Israel.

[2] While armies from surrounding Arab countries had to wait until the British departed to officially invade, the actual fighting began immediately after the U.N. partition vote and the British did little or nothing to stop it.

[3] In May 1948, once the war of Independence had officially begun, Arab forces were able to close the road off once again by firing from the British police station at Latrun. The Haganah (fledgling Israeli army) tried several times to take Latrun but failed. Just as Jerusalem was about to fall an alternative road (nick named the “Burma Road”) was quickly cut through the rocky hills allowing badly needed supplies to arrive and prevent the fall of Jerusalem to the Arabs….

In the post-Gaza War environment, Israelis and Jews around the world are increasingly awakening to a new logic that we experience as unfair, morally corrupt, and for some, nothing short of anti-Semitic. This dark equation, while taking multiple forms and nuances, may be summarized in the following manner: Israel = ISIS.

Our frustration increases exponentially when we try to disprove the equation, and find that our arguments fall on deaf ears. We want to shake the proponents of this New Math: “Don’t you understand? We don’t murder innocents. Or we try our best not to. If we do, it’s not our fault. We want peace, but they don’t. We want peace, but it’s not in our hands.”

But they do not understand, and our arguments seem as nothing more than feeble attempts and self-serving rationalizations in order to avoid taking responsibility for who we are and what we do.

How ought we respond to this reality? For some, it is our duty to protest loudly and vociferously. While we may not be able to convince the proponents of the New Math, we must speak out against it, name it as evil, and when appropriate, expose it for the anti-Semitism it at times represents.

I understand and support this outcry, but am not satisfied by it. As Jews, we are part of a tradition which has never stopped at the point of putting blame on others and instead has always asked itself what it could learn and what it must change.

I am frustrated, because if ever there was a time when the case for Israel was clearer, when Israel should be seen as part of the solution and not the problem, that time is now. The religious, ethnic, tribal/national wars tearing apart Middle Eastern nation-states give lie to the fantasy that multinational states are the hope of the future.

They give lie to the belief that the Jewish people would be safe in the Middle East under any rule but our own. They give lie to the belief that peace and coexistence is the natural state of affairs here, and if we would only fully embrace them, they would become a reality.

I am frustrated, because a particular and evil manifestation of Islam is threatening us and our neighbors, yet it has not given birth to new cooperation and partnerships amongst Jews and Muslims who are not only endangered by it but who reject it as a representation of a life with God.

I am frustrated, because we are not seen as a moral beacon and ally, and instead as the chief promulgator of oppression and discrimination. If not now, if at a time when hundreds of thousands of Muslims, Christians, and others are being wantonly slaughtered, oppressed, and terrorized, if not now, then when? Are we always going to be a nation that stands alone? Is that our destiny? Or is some of our destiny in our own hands?

Let’s turn now to the New Math equation increasingly prevalent in Israeli society and which is dominating the discourse of our political leadership:

ISIS = a destabilized Arab world and a radicalization of Islam.
Hamas = ISIS.
Hamas rules in Gaza.
Hamas will rule in Judea and Samaria.
We cannot leave Judea and Samaria.

The linchpin of this argument is that a destabilized and radicalized Arab world confirms the narrative that the failure of progress with the Palestinians is not our fault. Since the Second Intifada, we have been arguing that we have nobody to talk to, and now, finally, the truth of our claim is clear for all to see.

For many years, Israeli society was split over the question of whether holding on to Judea and Samaria was a security imperative or a manifestation of Jewish law to maintain control over the Holy Land. With the Oslo Accords, Israeli society en masse adopted the first option, with a large majority willing to cede Israel’s control for the sake of peace.

The settler movement, finding itself in the minority, shifted its external argumentation and began to speak in security terms, rather than in religious ones. The rise of ISIS has been a boon for the settler movement, for as security concerns have risen, they have found themselves not merely a position of significant power in the current government, but also in the mainstream of Israeli political opinion.

Truth be told, it is difficult to sustain any more an argument which claims that settlements are the obstacle to peace. There seems to be little political opposition to settlement expansion, for what difference do settlements make if territorial compromise is no longer feasible in a world where ISIS is a player?

However, it is not difficult to sustain an argument that perpetual settlement expansion alienates our friends, as well as Palestinian or Arab supporters of peace, and emboldens those who argue that Israel only wants to engage in a peace process to give it more time to expand its hold on the land. And while withdrawal from Judea and Samaria might not be prudent at this time, settlement expansion does little more than undermine Israel’s integrity and credibility as a country in search of peace.

Harboring the fantasy that now it will be clear to everyone that we were right all along is deemed as more important than actually helping ourselves. This grows out of a deep pessimism that we cannot change the reality in which we live, and that the only victory to be achieved is when others come to realize our plight.

But if that is the logic we are applying, we will fail at this math. It is time that we recognize that we will never win the title of greatest victim. We are simply too powerful, and whether or not withdrawal from Judea and Samaria is feasible at this time, we are still occupying and oppressing another people.

If we want people to identify with us, it will not emanate out of them seeing our side, but rather because our side embodies values worthy of identification. People will be on our side when our words and policies mourn radicalization, and instead of embracing the status quo, reflect a constant aspiration to move beyond it.

A powerful State of Israel will not be able to build a coalition around its victimhood, nor by instructing the world as to the errors of its ways. It can build a coalition and solidify the base of its friends when it uses its strength to protect itself, embodies vision and hope, and constantly searches for ways to fulfill our moral responsibilities.

Unlike ISIS, our values prohibit the taking of life unless it is necessary for self-defense. Unlike ISIS, our values teach us to treat all human beings regardless of national identity, religion, race, or gender, with compassion, dignity, and equality. Unlike ISIS, we have no expansionist aspirations, and truly yearn to live with our neighbors in peace.

There are some who do not and will not believe the above. There are many who do. It is time for us to change the equation and to implement both new language and new policies if we are to shape a New Math in the Middle East.

Israel is much more than a tiny piece of land in the Middle East. She is living proof that the Jewish people have survived, against all odds, and will continue to survive — and thrive. Israel’s citizens live in a constant state of the unknown. They don’t know when or where the next terrorist attack will occur. They don’t know which countries, Arab and other, will turn against them in the court of world opinion. They don’t know how their economy will fare, thanks to the intifada. But they do know that they will continue to live their lives with some semblance of normalcy.

They do know that, unlike many of their Palestinian counterparts, they will continue to cherish life.

 

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