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WHAT ISRAEL SHOULD DO NOW: A Time For Moral Clarity
by Yosef Y. Jacobson
It is about time that we put an end to the moral ambiguity that has allowed terrorism to rear its ugly head in Israel and in the United States. It is true that you sound more sophisticated and open minded when you can talk about the validity of "both sides" in the conflict. Yet, for 4,000 years our faith has taught us that the preservation of human life is the most sacred ideal in life. In order to stop the bloodshed, we must teach moral clarity and decisiveness.
In this spirit, I want to respond to some of the painful questions people of goodwill are asking today.
Why can't Israel just withdraw to its pre-1967 borders and put an end to the present conflict?
The present conflict between Israel and the Arabs has absolutely nothing to do with any occupation. Consider the following facts:
1) The Palestinian Liberation Organization, known today as The Palestinian Authority, was founded in 1964 at a time when the "occupied territories" were under Jordanian control. There was not one Jewish settlement in the territories, nor any Jewish "occupation." Yet the charter of the PLO from 1964 till this very day states as its goal "the destruction of Israel."
2) What compelled Israel in 1967 to capture the territories? Five Arab countries - Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon joined by Saudi Arabia - contrived a plan to annihilate Israel and "drive the Jews into the sea." Israel fought back and won the war - and the territories from which they were attacked.
Israel never sought to occupy either the West Bank or Gaza. The war which brought about the "occupation" was thrust upon Israel. Yet this crucial point is almost never conveyed in the international and American press.
Keep in mind that in 1967 the Arabs controlled 99.9 percent of the Middle East lands. Israel represented less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the land mass. But even that was too much for the Arabs. They wanted it all. No matter how many land concessions the Israelis make, it will never be enough.
3) During the summer of 2000 at Camp David, Yasser Arafat was offered by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak 98 percent of the "occupied territories" and a firsttime ever Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem. Arafat rejected the Israeli offer and initiated 20 months of bloodshed in Israel.
The widespread notion that the daily murders of Jews in Israel has anything to do with the "occupied territories" is a myth. The territories are merely being used as a justification to exterminate Jews and destroy their land.
Still, why can't Israel demonstrate goodwill by putting an end to the "occupation" and declaring Palestinian statehood? This would foster hope and put an end to the psychology of violence.
For one to demand this gesture from Israel one needs to be either foolish or cruel. It is akin to demanding that a person with cancer give his malignant tumor uncontrolled rein in one part of his body. Such a "gesture" would secure his death.
Arab terror, just like the terror we experienced on 9/11, is a cancer. Yasser Arafat and the thousands of fighters in the territories are not opposing Israel's right to a particular piece of land. They don't recognize Israel's right to any of the land. They do not recognize Israel's right to exist. To make peace with cancer is an act of war; to declare war against cancer is an act of peace.
The creation of a Palestinian state would be a tragedy for innocent people throughout the region, Jews and Arabs alike. You don't give a state to people who want to see your children burned alive and your teenagers blown to pieces. Such people you destroy. If not, they will destroy you and thousands of more innocent people the world over.
The very negotiations about a "Palestinian state" are dangerous. It is these types of negotiations that have granted legitimacy to terrorists and have encouraged them to continue on their path of destruction.
How could intelligent people say, "in the end Israel will have to return to the negotiations table?" Israel has been negotiating land for peace for years now; it has given the Arabs virtual control over 90 percent of the territories. What has it brought Jews? Blood, blood and more blood. Clearly, another solution must be sought.
What about the moral injustice of occupation? How could Israel hold on to the homeland of another nation, the Palestinian nation?
To call Israel occupiers of the West Bank, Gaza and Eastern Jerusalem is akin to calling the U.S. occupiers of New Jersey.
First and foremost, the Bible -- a book embraced by billions of Muslims and Christians as the word of G-d -- states clearly that the entire country, including the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem, is G-d's eternal gift to the Jewish people. Read the Bible and draw your own conclusion. The American people are a moral people who bow their heads before truth. It is about time that Jews begin stating the truth without shame: "Israel is occupying nothing but its own land; the Creator and Master of the entire world gave this land to the Jews."
Second, the entire concept of a "Palestinian people fighting for their ancient homeland occupied by the Jews," is nothing short of a lie, a myth that has become an accepted truth in the American press.
Let us reflect on some history:
Israel became a nation in 1312 B.C.E., 2,000 years before the birth of Islam. Forty years later, in 1272 B.C.E. the Jews conquered Eretz Israel and enjoyed dominion over the land for a thousand years. Even after the Babylonians and then the Romans put an end to the Jewish sovereignty, Jews continued to reside there throughout all of their history. In short, the Jews have had a continuous presence in the land of Israel for the past 3,300 years.
What about the "Palestinian people"? Israel did not seize the West Bank and Old Jerusalem from a "Palestinian nation." Such a nation never existed in the history of mankind. Israel captured these territories from Jordan's King Hussein and the Gaza Strip from Egypt after they declared war against the Jewish state. It was only in 1967, following the Six-day War that Arab refugees in Israel began identifying themselves as part of a "Palestinian people." One can't help but wonder why all these Palestinians suddenly discovered their national identity after Israel won the war but not during the "Jordanian occupation"?
The answer to this enigma is that there has never been a land known as Palestine governed by Palestinians. Palestinians are regular Arabs, indistinguishable from Jordanians, Syrians, Lebanese, Iraqis, Egyptians, etc., who have all lived for hundreds of years under Turkish rule, and then, after World War I, under British rule. There is no language known as Palestinian. There is no distinct Palestinian culture. There is no such an entity as a "Palestinian people."
The first time the name Palestine was used was in 70 C.E. when the Romans committed genocide against the Jews, smashed the Temple and declared the land of Israel would be no more. From then on, the Romans promised, it would be known as Palestine. This region was ruled alternately by Rome, by Islamic and Christian crusaders, by the Ottoman Empire and, after World War I, by the British.
(The name was derived from the Philistines, a Goliathian people conquered by the Jews centuries earlier. It was a way for the Romans to add insult to injury. They also tried to change the name of Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina, but that had even less staying power.)
Mark Twain took a tour of Palestine in 1867. This is how he described that land: "A desolate country whose soil is rich enough but is given over wholly to weeds. A silent, mournful expanse. We never saw a human being on the whole route. There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country."
Where was this great Palestinian nation? It did not exist. It was not there. Palestine was a region under the control of Turkey.
Many people are unaware that Saudi Arabia was not created until 1913, Lebanon until 1920. Iraq did not exist as a nation until 1932, Syria until 1941. The borders of Jordan were established in 1946 and Kuwait in 1961. To state that Israel "robbed" the Palestinian people from their homeland is simply not true.
How can Israel justify the suffering of so many innocent Arabs in the territories?
Every decent human heart goes out to the pain of innocent Arab children, women and men. Their suffering should evoke the compassion of all moral men. But let us be clear on the matter: Their suffering has absolutely nothing to do with Israel. Their profound agony is the result of the Arab and Palestinian leaders who have in a most cynical way used them as weapons in their bloody battle against Israel, robbing them from any prospect of a brighter future.
This abuse of the Arab refugees by their leaders began back in 1948. The refugees were encouraged by Arab leaders to leave Israel, promising to purge the land of Jews. Sixty-eight percent left their homes without ever seeing an Israeli soldier.
Out of the 100 million refugees after World War II, theirs is the only refugee group in the world that was not absorbed or integrated into their own peoples' lands. Jewish refugees were completely absorbed into Israel, a country no larger than the state of New Jersey. Yet the Arab refugees were intentionally not absorbed or integrated into the Arab lands to which they fled, despite the vast Arab territory. Why? Because cynical Arab leaders realized that the true value of the refugees was not as Arab brothers but as pawns to be used against Israel.
Koffi Annan, the Secretary General of the United Nations stated recently: "Is it possible that Israel is right and the whole world is wrong?"
Let us not be ashamed to respond to Mr. Anan: You bet your life it's possible! It is true now and it's always been true. Abraham gave the world ethical monotheism and the whole world fought him. Moses taught the world individual freedom and universal morality and the world's super-power was against him. Just 60 years ago the entire world watched in silence as 1.5 million Jewish children went up in smoke. Was the whole world right then, too?
Universal morality and the value of life was the Jewish gift to the world. At a time when the whole world was accustomed to slaughtering children to the pagan gods, the Jewish people, alone in a hostile world, declared the word of G-d, "Thou shall not kill."
Mr. Annan, if we had listened to the world then, murder today would be legal. If we listen to the world now, terrorism tomorrow will become the norm. How cynical, how cruel it is to accuse Israel of the massacre of civilians. The entire culture of the Jewish state is based on the value of every single human life. Israel has always sacrificed its children in order to secure the safety of Arab civilians. Israel restrained itself for years in the territories despite ongoing killings of Jewish children, women and men.
A Jewish professor in Tel Aviv put it in these words:
In the history of the Jewish state, how many Jewish suicide bombers have blown themselves up in Arab communities?
How many Arab buses were blown up by Jews?
How many Arab pizza parlors, malls, discotheques and restaurants were destroyed by Jewish terrorists?
How many airplanes have been hijacked by Jews?
How many Ramadan feasts were targeted by Jewish bombs?
How many Arabs have been lynched in Israeli cities, or Arab Olympic athletes murdered by Jews? How many Arab embassies have been bombed by Jews?
How many mosques, cemeteries and religious schools were fire bombed or desecrated by Jews in North Africa, France, Belgium, Germany, England or any other country?
How many Jewish schools contain books claiming that Arabs poison wells, use Christian blood to bake pita, control world finance and are the work of the devil? How many claim that Arab elders meet secretly to plot a world takeover?
And now, the Arabs have the chutzpah to accuse Israel of massacre! And the entire world follows suit?
Shame on you Mr. Annan!
Question: The Arabs claim that they are fighting against the brutal Israeli occupation, which has stripped them from their dignity and humanity.
It would be foolish to claim that "Israel never did any wrong" to Arabs living throughout the territories. Of course, Israel has made errors. Yet the fact remains that the Arabs living under Israeli rule enjoyed more civil rights than Arabs living in almost any Arab state. The Arab press in the West Bank has been among the liveliest and freest in the Arab world, and it routinely attacks its "occupier." When was the last time a Syrian, Iraqi, Libyan or Saudi publicly attacked one of his or her leaders?
So, what is the solution to the conflict?
As long as the status of the entire country remains ambiguous, the terror campaign against Israel will continue. Israel should stand up and put an end to the ambivalence around Jewish ownership of the land. Israel must state clearly that "There will be no more negotiations on even a single inch of the land of Israel. We have attempted to negotiate land for peace with our neighbors; we have offered them 98 percent of the territories and an independent state side-by-side with our state. Yet they have reciprocated by sending suicide bombers to our pizza shops, cafes, supermarkets and streets. They have blown to pieces hundreds of innocent Jewish men and women. One cannot give land to leaders who have taught their people to celebrate Jewish death."
Israel should allow anybody who wishes to depart for another country to do so. Then it should go in and reclaim its permanent sovereignty over all of the territories. This will save not only countless Jewish lives, but also scores of Arab lives. It will once and for all purge the region from continuous bloodshed and terror.
Israel's withdrawal last week from many of the terror-loaded territories due to the intense world pressure was foolish. Politics superseded security; morality was defeated by fear. To demand Israel's withdrawal is similar to one demanding from a surgeon to stop the surgery before finishing because the sight of blood is repulsive. The short-term cover-up of the terror nests will only allow the long-term blossoming of the terror organizations.
The best way to bring about genuine peace in the Arab-Israeli war is by Israel putting an end to any future negotiations on the land. Israel must assume full security and military control over all of the territories under the united banner of a single country, Eretz Israel.
This is not an occupation. It is the land of Israel, given by G-d to the Jewish people. It is moral and just. Let's set the record clear once and for all: This is Jewish land, not Arab land. The Arabs who wish to desist from killing Jews will enjoy cultural and religious freedom, civil rights, gender equality and freedom of expression, privileges most of them have never experienced in their own countries. Those who cannot tolerate living under a united Jewish country should be welcomed to emigrate.
All other suggested paths are merely romantic delusions that will bring continued grief to innocent Jews and Arabs. Let all Jews and people of moral standing unite and encourage Israel in its campaign to bring life and peace to all good people in the region, Jew and Arab.
Rabbi Yosef Y. Jacobson is respected as a master of illuminating and
personalizing deep concepts of Kabbala and Chassidus. He lives in New
York City. He is a columnist and book review editor of the Algemeiner
This article appeared on the True Peace website January 16, 2004.
(http://www.TruePeace.org). It is archived as
"dedicated to educating the public regarding the current
situation in Israel, based on Torah sources, with special emphasis on
the opinion and teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe."
This article appeared on the True Peace website January 16, 2004. (http://www.TruePeace.org). It is archived as http://www.truepeace.org/FullArticle.asp?f=60
TruePeace.org is "dedicated to educating the public regarding the current situation in Israel, based on Torah sources, with special emphasis on the opinion and teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe."
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