In Michael Oren’s new book, Ally, (which I like quite a lot), he expresses a sentiment that is often heard in Israeli discourse:
If the First Intifada was not sufficiently convincing, the Second thoroughly persuaded me that Israel had to change the status quo in the territories. Yes, these were our tribal lands. The Bible speaks of the West Bank cities Bethlehem, Shiloh, and Hebron, not of Tel Aviv or Haifa. And many of the settlements helped thicken our pre-1967 lines, which were as narrow as nine miles across. But Israel had to weigh its historic rights and security needs against [a] the moral and political costs of dominating another people. It had to reconcile its real fears of the West Bank becoming a terrorist haven similar to South Lebanon, with [b] its need to preserve its right to defend itself and its international legitimacy as a sovereign Jewish state. [p. 36, my emphasis]
I don’t reproduce this to criticize Oren in particular. It is a view that many Israelis share, and Oren has earned his right to think and say what he wants about his country, both as a public servant and as a combat soldier. But I think if we look at precisely what this statement means, we can see that it is wrong, even self-contradictory.
What he says is that Judea and Samaria are our historic homeland, we have a right under international law to be there, and withdrawal would seriously impact our security. But he adds that a) the continued conflict with the Arabs there damages us morally, and b) the international community will take away our sovereign rights if we don’t make them happy.
What’s wrong with this position is that places the burden for the immoral, even evil, behavior of the non-Jewish Nations on the backs of the Jewish people. It requires us to compromise our historic and legal rights, and even our existence, because the Arabs and the US/UN/EU are antisemitic. It implies that Arab and Western Jew-hatred is our problem, not theirs.
Arabs in Palestine lived for 400 years under the domination of the Ottoman Empire. Nationalist sentiments didn’t arise among them until the early 20th century when they began to consider the possibility of eventual Jewish sovereignty. The ‘Palestinian’ Mufti worked closely with Hitler, and today’s Palestinian Authority doesn’t hide its Jew-hatred. The murderous actions of the PLO and other terrorist organizations are intended to drive Jews out of the land that the Arabs believe is only for them.
So why should we think our security measures and our communities across the Green Line are morally and politically damaging? Why would it damage us to resist the murderous hatred expressed by these Arabs, who for racist reasons don’t want us to be here? Where does the sense of guilt for taking the actions needed to protect ourselves come from?
The answer is that it all comes from believing and internalizing the myth that the Zionists ‘stole’ the land from ‘indigenous’ Arabs. But in truth we are indigenous and they are trying to steal our land! Oren the historian understands this, and despite knowing better, falls into the trap of feeling guilty for ‘the occupation’. But as Naftali Bennett correctly said, you can’t occupy yourself.
How about our “international legitimacy?” Here the argument is that we need to behave toward the Arabs the way those great moral exemplars in London, Brussels or Washington tell us we must, or they will decide that we do not deserve to have a sovereign state here (but the Arabs do!). They will kick us out of international organizations, boycott and sanction us, help our enemies, etc.
What do they, those upon whose exploitative empire the sun never set and those who built the greatest economic power on earth on the backs of black slaves, want from us?
They tell us now that they would be happy with expelling a few hundred thousand Jews from their homes – remember, this is in order to enable Arabs to achieve their racist goal of a Jew-free state – placing the holiest sites of Judaism in the hands of those that would desecrate and destroy them, and returning us to the indefensible borders that they themselves admitted were unreasonable in UNSCR 242, back in 1967.
This would be enough to destroy our state. But they are lying. They want more. Read their newspapers and the position papers of their NGOs, listen to the debates in their parliaments, look at social media, and you will know that the world has moved on. They believe the Zionist state by its very definition oppresses Arabs that live under its control, even if they are citizens that can vote. The ‘modern’ point of view is that nationalism is unacceptable, although nobody seems to care unless it is Jewish nationalism. They see the creation of a Jewish state on a Zionist foundation as immoral, an ‘original sin’ that has to be undone.
Jewish self-defense is claimed to be ‘disproportionate’ unless as many Jews die as Arabs. No other nation or army has ever been held to such a standard. Just as Shari’a forbids a Jew to kill a Muslim for any reason, so does the UN. Amnesty International and the UN ‘Human Rights’ Commission make up facts and international law as necessary to prove us guilty of war crimes. “Israel has a right to self defense,” as President Obama said – in principle, but not in practice.
What would happen if we did everything necessary to please the ‘international community’? We would end up with our social fabric destroyed, living within indefensible borders, surrounded by enemies armed to the teeth, with terrorist missile launchers next door to our airport and big cities, forbidden to fight back. And then they would come up with something else that we need to do in order to be acceptable world citizens.
The reality is that they don’t want there to be a Jewish state. If they were honest they would admit that. They don’t care about the ‘Palestinians’, any more than they care about the Ukrainians, Syrians, Kurds, Copts, Yazidis or any number of black peoples in Africa that are getting the short end of the stick these days. It’s us that they are concerned about.
Of course they are going to boycott and sanction us! Of course they are going to help our enemies — the Iran deal is evidence of that. When will we understand that we can never do enough, short of cutting our own throats?
Rather than try to appease the unappeasable, we should prepare to combat the negative effects of the expected economic, social and military pressure that will be exerted against us. We should develop economic and security relationships in other directions (e.g., India) and become less dependent on the US and the EU.
We can’t win against this stacked deck. Far better to stop playing, tell the ‘community’ to drop dead – and defend ourselves as ‘disproportionally’ as possible.