Kissinger’s Promise and Obama’s Fulfillment

Old realpolitiker Henry Kissinger was in the news recently when he sat down with Donald Trump, to give him the benefit of his experience. It brought to mind Kissinger’s numerous attempts to get Israel out of the territories it conquered in 1967, before, during and – especially – after the Yom Kippur War.

Kissinger went to Iraq in December of 1975 to try to wean the regime away from the Soviet Union and improve relations with the US. In a discussion with Sa’dun Hammadi, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Kissinger suggested that American support for Israel was a result of Jewish political and financial power, promised that the US would work to force Israel back to pre-1967 boundaries, and indicated that while the US would not support the elimination of Israel, he believed that its existence was only temporary. Here is an excerpt (the whole thing is worth reading):

I think, when we look at history, that when Israel was created in 1948, I don’t think anyone understood it. It originated in American domestic politics. It was far away and little understood. So it was not an American design to get a bastion of imperialism in the area. It was much less complicated. And I would say that until 1973, the Jewish community had enormous influence. It is only in the last two years, as a result of the policy we are pursuing, that it has changed.

We don’t need Israel for influence in the Arab world. On the contrary, Israel does us more harm than good in the Arab world. You yourself said your objection to us is Israel. Except maybe that we are capitalists. We can’t negotiate about the existence of Israel, but we can reduce its size to historical proportions. I don’t agree that Israel is a permanent threat. How can a nation of three million be a permanent threat? They have a technical advantage now. But it is inconceivable that peoples with wealth and skill and the tradition of the Arabs won’t develop the capacity that is needed. So I think in ten to fifteen years, Israel will be like Lebanon—struggling for existence, with no influence in the Arab world.  [my emphasis] …

Kissinger also promised that aid to Israel, which he presented as a result of Jewish political influence, would be significantly reduced. He indicated that legal changes in the US – he must have been referring to the creation of the Federal Electoral Commission in 1974 to regulate campaign contributions – would attenuate Jewish power and therefore American support for Israel. Naturally, he didn’t foresee the Israel-Egypt peace agreement, which permanently established a high level of military aid to both countries.

He further promised that the US would support a PLO-run Palestinian state if the PLO would accept UNSC resolution 242 and recognize Israel. This of course is what (supposedly) happened in the Oslo accords.

Kissinger insisted that “No one is in favor of Israel’s destruction—I won’t mislead you—nor am I.” But his hint that a smaller Israel might not survive is clear. Surely he understood that a pre-1967-sized Israel (within what Eban called “Auschwitz lines”) would have no chance of surviving, simply because of the strategic geography of the area.

Kissinger was wrong about the Arabs developing the capability to challenge Israel, but their place has been taken by soon-to-be-nuclear Iran and its proxies, who are significantly more dangerous than the Arab states ever were.

US policy, however, has kept more or less the same shape, except that the hypocrisy of insisting that the US supports the existence of Israel but in a pre-1967 size is even more glaring. The substitution of the PLO for the Arab states as the desired recipient of the land to be taken from Israel has barely made a ripple either in America or among the Arabs, suggesting that the policy is more about Israel giving up land than about the Arabs getting it.

The original motivation for Kissinger’s promises was supposedly the desire of the US to replace the Soviet Union as the patron of the Arab states. After the collapse of the USSR and the end of the Cold War in 1991, however, there was no change in policy. Although the Oslo Accords were initiated by left-wing Israelis, the US eagerly embraced them, and the so-called ‘peace process’ became a permanent stick to beat Israel with.

President Obama is especially adept at emphasizing support for Israel’s existence while at the same time demanding that Israel make concessions that would make her continued existence impossible. Apparently agreeing with Kissinger about Jewish power, Obama has worked to reduce the pro-Israel influence of American Jews in numerous ways, such as by providing access to the White House for groups like J Street and the Israel Policy Forum, while marginalizing traditional Zionist organizations like ZOA.

Kissinger’s almost antisemitic claim that US support for Israel is bought with Jewish money was probably untrue in 1975 and is even less so today, when a large proportion of American Jews, including wealthy ones, have chosen their liberal or progressive politics over Zionism. The coming struggle over the introduction of a pro-Palestinian plank into the Democratic platform is an indication that the party and with it, many of its Jewish supporters, is moving toward Obama’s position.

The Obama Administration’s program to extricate itself from the Middle East by empowering Iran as the new regional power has given a new impetus to the policy of shrinking Israel. Iran sees Israel as a major obstacle to its hegemony, for both geopolitical and religious/ideological reasons, and is committed to eliminating the Jewish state. Obama found it necessary to restrain Israel from bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities at least once (in 2012), and seems to be prepared to sacrifice Israel in order to achieve his goal of establishing Iranian regional dominance.

Some would go even further and say that Obama’s primary ideological goal is to eliminate Israel and the Iranian gambit is a means to this end, but that is highly speculative! Or maybe it’s a matter of two birds with one stone.

Henry Kissinger didn’t do us any favors, but I think the anti-Israel thread in American policy would have been strong enough without him, running from Truman’s Secretary of State George C. Marshall all the way to Obama’s stable of anti-Zionists like Rob Malley and Ben Rhodes.

Today Israel is long gone from the Sinai, more recently from Gaza, and probably only thanks to the disintegration of Syria, still holding the Golan Heights. I would like to believe that PM Netanyahu was correct when he said that Israel will never leave the Golan. Regarding Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, I expect that we are about to begin a very difficult time, as the Obama Administration is likely to mount a campaign in its last days to fulfill Kissinger’s promise to the Arabs at long last.

Posted in Middle East politics, US-Israel Relations | Leave a comment

Adjusting the Moral Compass, Part II

…European universalist ethics no longer promotes the survival of cultures that espouse it in the environment that is present-day Europe. We certainly see in present-day Europe all of the above responses to this pressure: adaptation, migration and cultural failure. – Part I

This is even more true for Israel. A nation-state whose moral code is based on the idea that all men are brothers will not survive in the Middle East. It needs to operate according to more tribalistic moral principles, in which the welfare of its own culture and people are given priority over others.

What are the practical implications of such a change to our moral principles?

The case of Elor Azaria provides a starting point. Azaria shot dead an already ‘neutralized’ Palestinian terrorist. This was a violation of standing orders as expressed in the IDFs code of ethics, which explicitly forbids harming prisoners of war.

In his defense Azaria argued that he believed the terrorist may have been wearing a suicide vest. But the military prosecutor, the Defense Minister and other officials apparently did not believe him.

When he was indicted for manslaughter, there were large demonstrations in various parts of the country calling for him to be freed. I suspect that many of the participants didn’t believe him either, but nevertheless they felt strongly that he was not guilty of a crime in any event. I believe they were thinking something like this:

Here is a 19 year-old soldier whom we have entrusted with protecting us, and whose job makes him a target at all times, even when he’s waiting for a bus. We send him into combat in places like Gaza or Lebanon where our tactics of doing everything possible to avoid civilian casualties put him at great risk of becoming a casualty himself.

Palestinian terrorists have been murdering Jews on our streets at random, and this one has just stabbed and tried to murder his fellow soldier. The terrorist will receive medical treatment and be incarcerated in a safe and relatively comfortable prison with other terrorists, until he is released in exchange for a hostage or because the PLO has told the American president that freeing terrorists will lead to ‘peace’ negotiations.

Meanwhile, our soldiers will continue to be targets and have to operate among restrictions designed to protect terrorists.

Perhaps Azaria violated orders. But in a larger sense, what he did was not wrong. The position we place our soldiers in is wrong.

This is a perfect example of the tension between the concern for the ‘other’ – in this case a deadly enemy – that is built into what I called ‘European universalist morality’, and our own need to protect ourselves. There are several asymmetries here: Palestinian terrorists are not bound to obey rules protecting civilians or prisoners; indeed, they prefer soft targets when possible. When they are caught they are treated well and often released to continue their activities. They act according to a genocidal ideology in which every Jew is a target for murder, while our soldiers are required to behave like policemen and ‘detain’ a ‘suspect’ who has ‘rights’ that must be protected.

In this case, not only was the shooter, Azaria, charged with a crime, but several IDF officers at the scene were reprimanded for failing to provide prompt medical care for the wounded terrorist.

It isn’t just the army. The mission statement of Magen David Adom, the Israeli organization affiliated with the International Red Cross, calls for care to be given to “any individual in need, avoiding discrimination based on nationality, religion, gender, age, class, political affiliation or ideology.” This has been consistently interpreted to mean that care should be given in an order based on severity of injury, regardless of whether the patient is a terrorist or his victim. A badly injured terrorist, in other words, is expected to be treated first! Whether this happens in actual situations is another matter, which illustrates the moral conflict inherent in the attempt to maintain a universalist morality in a tribal region like the Middle East.

The psychological consequences of our European-style ‘fairness’ on our tribal enemies are also counterproductive. They understand our ‘goodness’ as weakness, and take maximum advantage of it. It does not make them admire us or wish for peace; rather, it generates contempt and encourages them to continue using violent tactics.

What is true of our rules for warfare and counterterrorism also applies to our public diplomacy and other areas. Our leaders express an understanding of the supposed Palestinian need for a state and desire to sit down with them and negotiate a peace deal, while the Arabs publish maps on which Israel does not appear and educate their children to love martyrdom above all. We provide surgery in our best hospitals to the relatives of leaders of Hamas and the PLO, while they encourage their people to pick up a knife and stab a Jew.

The universalist approach to conflict is to look for technical solutions. Hamas can’t stop firing missiles at us? Develop a way to shoot the missiles down, but don’t hurt anybody. No choice but to bomb Hamas targets? Develop a way to warn civilians (and incidentally, Hamas fighters). The PLO has impossible demands, designed to destroy our state? Try to compromise. Arabs stabbing Jews in the streets? Try to arrest them; only shoot to kill as a last resort.

One of the implications of a universalist morality is that there is no such thing as an enemy in the traditional sense. If anyone should be considered an enemy it would be the leaders of Hamas and the PLO; yet our doctors save the lives of their relatives. In this view even terrorists have rights, and the people of Gaza and the Arabs of Judea and Samaria shouldn’t be punished collectively for what their leaders do. After all, everyone is an individual and everyone has human rights.

Israelis have taken this European approach even further. Because of our (historically inappropriate) guilt complex toward the Palestinians, we might say that “everyone has human rights especially the Palestinians.”

But what if we realign our moral system to see the conflict in tribal terms?

This is war and the Palestinians are the enemy. Who speaks like this in Israel today?

When we confront a terrorist, we should shoot to kill, just like in a firefight in Bint Jubail. The terrorist Sgt. Azaria shot probably shouldn’t have been alive in the first place. No, we shouldn’t shoot prisoners of war, but we don’t need to provide medical treatment to enemy casualties either, at least until all of ours are taken care of. Non-uniformed terrorist operatives are unlawful combatants, and can be tried for murder or terrorism if they survive. Needless to say, there should be an option to apply the death penalty in these cases, and it should be applied liberally.

You don’t supply water, electricity, food and cement to an enemy population, especially one which has no desire to overthrow its leadership. And the Palestinians, both in Gaza and Judea/Samaria have defined themselves as an enemy, by their choice of leaders, by what they teach in their schools and say in their official and social media, and in their popular support and enthusiastic participation in terrorism against Jews.

Collective punishment? Of course they should be punished collectively, because their guilt as an aggressor is collective.

If it is determined that he had no good reason to fear the wounded terrorist, Sgt. Azaria will have violated a standing order and should be punished for doing so. But his punishment should be minimal. We put him in an untenable situation and expect him to behave like, pardon the expression, Jesus Christ.

A Palestinian terrorist who tried to murder a Jew ended up dead. It’s war. Stuff happens in war. Get over it.

Posted in Israeli Society, Terrorism, War | 2 Comments

Adjusting the Moral Compass, Part I

News item:

[Ya’alon] said Thursday that he has been “surprised” of late at a “loss of moral compass on basic questions” in Israeli society. “We need to steer the country in accordance with one’s conscience and not whichever way the wind is blowing…”

Questions of moral compass and conscience are the essence of the cultural struggle that is going on in Israel today, but few seem to understand what these questions actually are.

The incident in which a young soldier, Elor Azaria, shot and killed an already ‘neutralized’ Palestinian terrorist who had just stabbed another soldier has become a litmus test, but for what?

Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon responded to the incident a few hours after it occurred, too quickly for many, when he and the Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, condemned Azaria for a “breach in IDF values.” Azaria was indicted for manslaughter, but large popular demonstrations in his favor broke out.

Later, Eisenkot’s deputy, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, made a Holocaust Remembrance Day speech in which he said that he found “certain processes” in Israeli society today that were reminiscent of Germany “70, 80 or 90 years ago.”

This was considered by many – including PM Netanyahu – to be far too close to comparing present-day Israel to Nazi Germany, an outrageous comparison often made by our enemies to delegitimize the Jewish state. It was considered a political speech, forbidden to a serving officer, since he made references to the “responsibility of leadership.” Nevertheless, Golan received strong backing from Ya’alon.

A majority of Jewish Israelis believe that Azaria should be freed, and a majority strongly disapproved of Golan’s remarks. At this precise moment, Netanyahu moved to reinforce his coalition by bringing in the 6 seats of Avigdor Liberman’s Israel Beitenu party. Part of the price was the Defense portfolio for Liberman, and Netanyahu took it from the very technically competent Ya’alon and promised it to the somewhat mercurial Liberman. Ya’alon resigned from the government and from the Knesset. There is no doubt that Ya’alon’s opinions were part of the reason Netanyahu acted as he did.

I must interject at this point that I think Netanyahu made a serious mistake. But that is because of the abilities and personalities of Ya’alon and Liberman, not the moral questions involved.

Ya’alon and Golan had other things in mind in addition to the Azaria case. For the past few years a cultural gulf has been opening up in Israel. It is often referred to as “Right vs. Left,” but that is incorrect. Although the two sides do tend to be on the opposite ends of the political right/left divide, that is an effect rather than a cause.

On the one side, we have the primarily secular academic, cultural, military, legal and media elites, mostly Ashkenazim whose families have been in Israel for generations, who have become increasingly vocal, even frantic, about what they call ‘undemocratic’, ‘racist’, ‘ultra-nationalist’, ‘fascist’ and ‘theocratic’ trends in society.

On the other side – now a majority –  are found many religious Israelis and those of Mizrachi or Soviet origin, who believe that the elites are anti-Zionist, self-hating, bigoted against religious people and ignorant about the true nature of our enemies.

Both sides believe that the other, if not reined in, will destroy the state.

This is a dispute about values and even style more than politics. Moshe Ya’alon is clearly on the side of the elites, but he is also politically right-wing. The real issue is deeper than whether the Oslo agreement was a good idea or whether Mahmoud Abbas can be trusted or whether Jews should be allowed to pray on the Temple Mount.

The real issue is the degree to which our moral system should be universal or tribal.

Universalism, the belief that we are obligated to treat all human beings alike regardless of who they are has reached its apogee in Europe and the US, where no crime is more detested than ‘racism’. Although the universalist principle seems self-evident to many today, it was not found in the ancient world, where it went without saying that one’s own group always deserved preferential treatment.

Christianity and Islam found it useful to say (although they usually failed to live up to it) that every man of the correct religion deserved equal treatment. The philosophers of the 18th century Enlightenment in the West expanded the concept to apply to white men, regardless of religion. Non-whites, women and sexual minorities followed. Today, for most of the “first world,” one of the most important moral principles is non-discrimination.

Universalist ethics are opposed to tribalism, which prioritizes one’s own tribe, religious group or nation. There was no Enlightenment in the Islamic world, and Middle Eastern cultures are still highly tribalistic; so much so that attempts to create modern states while ignoring ethnic, religious and tribal realities have been (e.g., Syria and Lebanon) spectacular failures.  One way to characterize the moral system of a culture is by where it falls on the universalism-tribalism axis.

Moral principles that are intuitively accepted in a culture – the general principles against which one’s actions are measured and which constitute one’s conscience – come into being by evolutionary processes not logically dissimilar to those that shape the physical organism as a member of a species. More particular moral rules are derived from these principles, and are accepted on the basis of religious or political authority, or a combination of both.

If Western philosophy has established one thing about moral principles it is that they can’t be proven like mathematical theorems or verified like empirical statements. Nevertheless, from within a culture, basic moral principles are treated like a priori truths.

But cultures change and evolve. Why shouldn’t moral principles evolve as well? The answer is that of course they do. Was Thomas Jefferson a man of conscience? Almost certainly he was. Then how could he have owned slaves? If he had lived even 100 years later, chances are that his conscience would not have permitted it.

Some biological mutations promote survival of the genes that carry them and some don’t. There can be mutations that produce an organism more or less suited to a particular environment. And sometimes the environment changes rapidly, and organisms must adapt, move or die out. The same is true of moral principles and the social environment in which a culture is embedded.

It may be that European universalist ethics no longer promotes the survival of cultures that espouse it in the environment that is present-day Europe. We certainly see in present-day Europe all of the above responses to this pressure: adaptation, migration and cultural failure.

From its founding, Israel consciously adopted a universalist ethic and tried to meld it with tribalistic Jewish nationalism. This is why our Declaration of Independence and Basic Laws refer to a Jewish and democratic state. There has always been a tension between these. Is Zionism about the Jews returning to their homeland primarily for their own sake, or to be a “light unto the nations?”

Former Israeli Supreme Court Chief Justice Aharon Barak tried to force Israel into the mold of a European or American “state of its citizens.” In the name of democracy, the Court opposed attempts to maintain a special status for Jews or Judaism. Foreign interests like the American New Israel Fund and the Union for Reform Judaism, as well as European-financed NGOs support this universalist vision, even to the point of calling for changes in our flag and national anthem because they don’t speak to our Arab citizens.

Of course they don’t. Why should they, in a Jewish state?

For a long time Israel has been a Western island in a Middle Eastern sea, and it has turned toward universalist Europe and America for most of its cultural and economic intercourse. One of the arguments against Jewish tribalism has always been that our Western allies don’t like it. But now, in part because of weakness in the Western bloc, Israel is finding that it has no choice but to move closer to its more natural partners in the Middle East and the rest of the world.

The environment is changing and the cultural organism must change too, if it is to adapt to it. In our new environment, a strongly universalist morality is not an advantage; it constitutes unilateral moral disarmament. Our state won’t survive as a copy of the US or Sweden (indeed, the pressures are such that neither the US nor Sweden may survive in their present form).

That doesn’t mean that we need to give up democratic government or adopt all the cultural practices of our neighbors, like their misogyny, religious coercion, or beheadings and barrel bombs. It doesn’t imply that we ought to view ourselves as superior to non-Jews or that we should deny non-Jews that live among us their civil rights.

What it does mean is that our objective should be a state that unashamedly prioritizes Jewish people, culture, religion and values.

What are the consequences for our relationship with our neighbors, and our conduct of our long war – the one we have been fighting to create and keep our state on and off for close to a century? And what for our soldiers, like Sgt. Azaria?

That will be the topic of Part II. Stay tuned.

Posted in Israeli Politics, Israeli Society, Zionism | 1 Comment

Goodbye, Diaspora

I had the good fortune to meet Tuvia Tenenbom, author of Catch the Jew and I Sleep in Hitler’s Room the other night.

He’s writing a book about America. It hasn’t been published yet, but I think I can safely say that reading it is going to be a painful experience, because what he found isn’t pretty. To compress it into a single sentence, the American experiment of creating unity from diversity is crashing and burning.

One thing he noted was a recent explosion of hatred against Israel and Jews, coming from both the left and the right. I think he’s quite right.

Let’s dispose of the red herring that anti-Zionism and Jew-hatred are different. Oh, they are different concepts, but the group that hates Israel generally hates Jews, and vice versa. A distinction without a difference. And that especially includes Jewish anti-Zionists.

It’s only natural that someone who dislikes Jews would dislike a Jewish state. And objecting to the Jewish state’s stubborn refusal to lie down and die despite the world’s protestations that the tiny enclave of Jewish sovereignty is unacceptable, just naturally leads a person to wonder what it is about these Jews that makes them so stubborn.

Stubborn is what they are, refusing the True Religion (whether Christianity or Islam) for millennia. Refusing to return to Europe after the Holocaust, and demanding – demanding – to be allowed to enter the land that had been promised to them by the international establishment, not to mention other promises from a higher authority, despite the inconvenience for His Majesty’s government. Refusing to give up the idea of a Jewish state and return to a Diaspora in which their existence would be conditional on the whims of the non-Jewish majority.

Jew hatred is sweeping the world again today, even, as Tenenbom noted, the US. The US is especially interesting, because it is the home to about half the world’s Jews. With the exception of the 10% of American Jews that are Orthodox, many of them – especially the younger ones – are embarrassed by Jewish stubbornness and believe that their liberal morality compels them to join with the ‘oppressed Palestinians’ and help them to end the Jewish state. In fact, they lead the anti-Zionist crusade there, even in Jewish organizations like Hillel.

But we have to excuse them. They are far from the action, they don’t have the facts, they are subjected to a constant bombardment of anti-Zionism in their media and from their government, their teachers, their peers and even liberal synagogues. In the universities they are intimidated by Muslim students and hard-left faculty, while receiving little or no support from administrators when faced with anti-Jewish racism. And as Diaspora Jews, they need to ‘go along to get along’ as Jews learned for centuries under Christian and Muslim rule.

On the other hand, we don’t have to excuse Israelis, even the highest IDF officers, when they react to the waves of Jew-hatred like Diaspora Jews. The recent remarks of Maj. Gen. Yair Golan were not only explicitly political – and therefore broke IDF rules – but by drawing a comparison between Israel and Nazi Germany, validated the most hateful anti-Zionists for whom such comparisons are stock in trade.

In part, he was referring to an incident in which a young soldier, Sgt. Elor Azaria, shot and killed an already ‘neutralized’ Palestinian who had just stabbed another soldier, and to the outpouring of public support for Azaria as the Army tries him for manslaughter. Azaria is accused of violating the IDF’s principle of ‘purity of arms,’ which forbids harming prisoners of war, although he argues that he believed the terrorist had a suicide vest on. Whether or not he was justified, his action was as different from Nazi genocide as day from night.

What motivated Golan to make such a comparison? You’d have to ask him, but I think he is harkening to a typically European, non-Jewish, even Christian moral system, in which love for all humanity, including enemies, is the highest value. If we don’t display enough universal love, then we must be on the road to Nazism. Possibly he believed that if he just beat his country up enough, the ones that hate us would realize that we are human after all.

This is Diaspora thinking. Nothing we do will be enough for the anti-Zionists. Their irrational hatred is not our problem and we can’t solve it for them. Kenneth Levin called the belief that we can fix things by accepting the criticism of those who hate us and being better according to their principles the ‘Oslo Syndrome’. As the expression suggests, it is pathological.

The Diaspora Jew is used to being powerless, so he has to beg the non-Jewish authorities to protect his community. Of course, the more we abase ourselves before them, the more they hold us in contempt. An analogy today would be an Israeli leader begging Obama to protect Israel from Iran. How did that work out for us?

Diaspora Jews worry a lot. What will the goyim think? Don’t make the goyim mad. Flatter them, pretend that we believe that they don’t hate us, and they will pretend in return. Maybe.

It is becoming harder and harder for us to pretend. And they aren’t hiding their feelings so much either. When an anonymous Obama Administration official called our Prime Minister “a chickenshit,” the statement barely made sense. Literally, the official was calling Netanyahu a coward because he didn’t attack Iran when the US pressured him not to do so. But the emotional message was as clear as a slap in the face. Take that, Jew.

And how did our PM respond to the contempt poured on him from the White House? “The friendship between the US and Israel is stronger than ever,” and “my Congress speech [was] not intended to show disrespect to Obama or the office that he holds,” said Netanyahu in his best Diaspora diction.

But Israel isn’t powerless and doesn’t have to play this game, especially since the goyim have problems of their own. The West is losing in its battle with Islam and the forces of chaos. The Roman Empire may have taken hundreds of years to collapse, but today’s West will go down much more quickly.

For Israel to survive the ensuing cataclysm, we have to become a successful Middle Eastern nation instead of trying to be an outpost of Western power and Western morality. And that implies that we will have to defeat our enemies decisively, not pull our punches for fear of the reaction of the hypocritical Western powers. We will need to make alliances with Arab countries and others like India and China, not with the increasingly anti-Zionist US, the traditionally anti-Jewish Europe, or our bitter enemies, the PLO.

We need to implement a truly Jewish moral system which is suitable for survival in the Middle East, and not adopt the European Christian one (which the Europeans and Americans themselves fail to live up to while trying to impose it on us). This doesn’t mean that we ought to behave like Bashar al-Assad, but it does mean that – for example – the life of a Palestinian terrorist must be counted as worth infinitely less than that of a Jew.

Mostly, we need to stop thinking like Diaspora Jews. Western leaders increasingly can’t and won’t help us, and we don’t live or die by their favor.

Our leaders need to come to understand this. The Israeli in the street – most of whom want Elor Azaria freed – already does.

Posted in American Jews, Israeli Politics, Jew Hatred | Leave a comment

On observing the nakba

Many of you have seen the traffic coming to a stop on Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance day and Memorial Day, with drivers getting out of their cars and pedestrians standing stock still, at attention while a siren sounds for two minutes. It never ceases to move me to tears, no matter how many times I’ve experienced it. Ordinary Israelis understand quite well why their independence is important and what it still costs them.

If you’ve seen videos of the event, you may have noticed a few vehicles that don’t stop. These are primarily Arabs. After all, it’s not their grandparents who were murdered by the Nazis (the father of Palestinian nationalism, al-Husseini, was a Nazi himself), and the last people they would want to honor are the soldiers who died to keep the Arabs from finishing al-Husseini and Hitler’s program. Indeed, today the Arabs of Judea and Samaria will sound  a siren of their own to commemorate “nakba day,” the day they failed to prevent Jewish sovereignty from returning to the Land of Israel.

The experience of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Memorial Day and Independence Day, which all come within the space of a week, always affects me profoundly, creating feelings of love for the Jewish people and pride at what we have accomplished. I don’t have the slightest twinge of regret for what my people had to do to get their independence, and what we continue to do to keep it. And I don’t think there is a place in the state of Israel for the observance of the nakba, the catastrophic failure of our enemies to kill or re-disperse us.

Some Jewish Israelis, like the one that wrote this, disagree.

God, I love this country – and I am not ashamed to be a Jewish citizen of Israel… and yet… and yet… I think about others… the nearly 23% citizens of Israel who did not look toward Zion, who were already here when we returned home, the people who cut their teeth on stories of banishment, of exile so like ours, only done by us to them during one of the most tumultuous periods in modern history… a time when we, too, uprooted were building a home. A time when they, firmly rooted, had to flee. …

Yes, we need a homeland. And yes, I’m glad we have returned home. And I’m not going anywhere, nor are my kids — but until both people [sic] who share this land can celebrate and mourn their narratives together, I find no reason to celebrate wholly. For truly, being strong means allowing space for others. For truly, if we are to be worthy of our ancient hope, we must respect the yearnings of others, too. For truly, we are not free until both peoples celebrate and mourn side by side, and hold both truths as one.

The author of the above, Sarah Tuttle-Singer, has an overdeveloped ability to empathize with others (many of these others would as soon kill her and her children as look at them), but she is also making a fundamental mistake about the nature of the Jewish state. She is ignoring the fact that it is a Jewish state.

I’m sure she would deny that. But what is the meaning of the concept? In order to understand, we need to reflect on the beginnings of Zionism and why the state came into being. There are many threads here, but the central one is that in order for the Jewish people to be free of oppression they must live in a state that belongs to them. It isn’t enough to live under a tolerant regime among mostly tolerant people, like the US, or even in a place with a Jewish majority. There needs to be a nation-state of the Jewish people, belonging to the Jewish people, where Jews provide the labor and defend the state, where Jews make the rules and enforce them. Where Jews hold title to the land.

Yes, our Declaration of Independence proclaims a Jewish and democratic state. But it makes no sense to understand ‘democracy’ in such a way as to negate Jewishness. To suggest otherwise is to deny the validity of the Zionist idea and its insistence on a state that belongs to the Jewish people. Without Zionism, Israel would be just like any other democracy. It would be like the US, perhaps Tuttle-Singer’s paradigm of a democracy. She forgets that Israel is not aspiring to be a multicultural democracy like the US.

Unlike the planned ‘Palestinian’ state, the Jewish state affords civil rights to its minority residents. But it would be self-contradictory for it to give them the right to negate the Jewish nature of the state. And that is exactly the program of Palestinian nationalists among the Arab citizens of Israel.

The nakba story is a story about the land belonging to a ‘Palestinian people’ and how that land was stolen from them. It is not only historically false, it is designed to provide a justification for the violent destruction of the Jewish state. It is not a ‘truth’, as Tuttle-Singer seems to think, which is as valid as the Zionist narrative.

The ‘Palestinians’ who don’t have a language or religion of their own, or a historical tradition in the land going back more than a couple of hundred years – for most of them, far less than this – didn’t start developing a peoplehood until they were faced with the possibility of Jewish sovereignty. Their ‘exile’ was mostly self-imposed, and their rejection of our sovereignty was the primary reason for it. Their actions, both before and after the founding of the state have been profoundly immoral, even murderous. And we are supposed to “celebrate” together with them? Respect their “yearnings” (to kick us out of our land)?

This is our country, the nation-state of the Jewish people. If our Arab citizens enjoy living here and taking advantage of the safety, stability, liberty and functioning economy of the Jewish state – so different from the chaos, oppression and poverty of most Arab states – we will treat them as equal citizens under the law.

We can’t stop them from believing fairy tales. But we don’t have to embrace a narrative that contradicts our own national existence. Who would?

Posted in Israeli Arabs, Zionism | 1 Comment