The worm eating away within
by Jonathan Rosenblum
March 22, 2002
"Zionism is the belief that Jews should have a state," writes Hillel Halkin in the February Commentary. Jews are entitled to a state, goes the traditional Zionist argument, like all other peoples. Adding special urgency to the Jewish claim is their long history of persecution wherever they live as minorities. (Both arguments, incidentally, apply equally to the stateless Kurds.)
However compelling these arguments for a Jewish state, however, they are inadequate to confer on that state the right to dispossess others.
I raise this issue not to undermine Israel’s right to exist. Israel’s existence is no less justifiable than most European nation states. Those states each represent the culmination of a long process of repeated invasions and conquest. (From a philosophical point of view, it hardly matters whether those invasions took place 500 years ago or 50.) By contrast, Zionist pioneers purchased the land on which they settled, usually from absentee landlords.
Nor did the Jews supplant an indigenous people with long roots in the land. Jewish aliyah was a powerful magnet for Arab immigration to what had previously been a desolate, sparsely populated land. From the time the Jews went into exile, sovereignty in the Holy Land was always exercised from afar.
Had the Arabs accepted the 1947 U.N. partition, they would have received a state far larger than anything proposed today, including most of the Galilee and Negev. Even within the narrow coastal state carved out for the Jews, the Arab population was only slightly smaller than the Jewish population. Given the higher Arab birthrate, Arabs would almost certainly have constituted a majority of Israel’s citizens today with full civil equality. The Arabs chose another course, and the rest is history.
Still, at no point did Jews constitute a majority within what would become the 1949 Armistice Lines. That is a point with which those who urge an immediate return to the 1949 Armistice Lines must contend, for they assume that a bright moral line runs along those boundaries.
Last week Hillel Schocken preached to us in Ha’retz that Israel is losing today because her cause is unjust. Justice lies with the Palestinians, who are fighting a legitimate war against occupation. The self-flagellation reached its nadir on the front page of last Friday’s Ha’aretz, with the publication by Dr. Danny Gur of a large ad explaining that Arafat "must continue the terror until the problem of Israeli occupation is resolved, since a cease-fire today would be considered giving legitimacy to the settlements." Gur thus justifies the murder of Jews wherever they may be found.
In our current desperation, Israelis are once again offering an ear to those who have bought into Hanan Ashrawi’s propaganda line that Israel is fighting an immoral war of occupation for the "peace of the settlements," and that an end to the "occupation" will bring an end to the terror.
Israelis who believe this cannot explain what the first two Arab/Israeli wars were about. Nor can they point to Palestinian statements affirming the Jews moral right to a state within the 1949 Armistice Lines.
The breast-beaters are little interested in history. To them it is irrelevant that the area claimed today by the Palestinians came into Israeli hands only after Jordan attacked Israel in 1967. Within weeks of the war, Israel became the first nation in history to offer to give back most of the land captured in a defensive war. The Arab response was the three "no’s" of Khartoum.
Though they routinely proclaim that the settlements are illegal, our moralists have little concern with the niceties of international law. To them it is irrelevant whether Resolution 242 contemplates Israeli retention of some captured territory or that the Fourth Geneva Convention is inapplicable to Judaea and Samaria because there was no internationally recognized sovereign prior to 1967.
For them, there is only one salient moral fact: There are more Arabs than Jews in Gaza, Judea, and Samaria. From that it follows that Palestinians must not only have sole sovereignty but the exclusive right to live there.
But that argument proves too much, for it would require Israel to also sheer off large parts of the Negev and Galilee as well. Worse yet, it leads to the conclusion that Israel was born in sin, inasmuch as Arabs formerly outnumbered Jews even within what became the 1949 Armistice Lines.
Enemies of Israel have not been slow to recognize the point. The Guardian has already posed the question of whether Israel’s creation was too high a price to pay in terms of Arab suffering. And British novelist A.N. Wilson writes in the Evening Standard of London that "Israel no longer has the right to exist."
Far more dangerous, however, than what our enemies think, is the possibility that the Jews of Israel will come to view themselves, in the words of Ha’aretz’s Avirama Golan, as "a people dwelling on another people’s land."
THERE is an antidote to this worm eating away within. Unfortunately, its mere mention is scorned in Israel today. Had Republican Senator James Inhoffe of Oklahoma made in the Knesset the same argument for Israel’s right to the entirety of all the land under her control that he made recently on the floor of the U.S. Senate, he would have been greeted with hoots of derision.
Inhoffe began with the archaeological and historical record showing a continuous Jewish presence in the Land over thousands of years and that no other people currently in existence has ever dwelt in the Land as sovereigns from the time Israel went into Israel. Inhoffe concluded with his most powerful argument: G-d promised the Land to the Jews.
None of Inhoffe’s arguments preclude territorial compromise, but they do establish that we are not here as alien interlopers.
Unless we take his message to heart, we will soon view ourselves as dwelling here as squatters, at best, and thieves, at worse, and find little reason not to prefer equally sunny Los Angeles.
Related Topics: Peace Process
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