Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Chosen Land - 1974

Written in 1974
In the year 135 the Judean fortress of Bethar fell to the Roman legions of the Emperor Hadrian.  In a bloody confrontation tens of thousands fell.  The leader of the Judean revolt, the legendary “son of a star,” Bar Kochba, was found dead, and the people of Judea were scattered to the four corners of the earth, there to begin an Exile unprecedented in persecution, in stubborn survival, and in faith in return.
Hadrian, furious with the stubborn and rebellious people, undertook to totally eradicate their pernicious faith and to wipe out the memory of their nationhood and land.  Edicts were issued – accompanied by the death penalty in case of violation – forbidding the Jewish Sabbath to be observed, outlawing the circumcision of children, and banning the study of Torah.  Under the supervision of the procurator Rufus, the plow was drawn over the city of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount as a sign that Zion was forever buried and plans for a new city, Roman in form and pagan in character, were drawn up.  The name Jerusalem was erased and the new city called Aelia Capitolina.  A column was erected in honor of Hadrian, and memorials, temples, and statues dedicated to Roman, Greek, and Phoenician gods defiled the Holy Land.
One other thing was done.  The name of Judea, the home of the Jewish people, was changed to “Palestine”.  Had Hadrian suppressed this desire to erase the memory of Jews and their state, and not changed its name, it is conceivable that the Jews of Israel would be faced today with “Judean” terrorists.
The time has come to declare a policy for Israel and its Jewish supporters that clearly, loudly, and pointedly proclaims that there never was, there is not now, and there never will be such a thing as a “Palestine” people or state.  The Land of Israel, Eretz Yisroel, is the land of the Jewish people, and no one else’s in all its historical boundaries.  In the face of public and strident Arab hate and threats to destroy us totally, all those who live under the illusion that “compromise” will bring peace and security to Israel are either fools or knaves.
The only hope for the Jewish people to preserve their own state and existence, a right claimed by all peoples, is to hold on to every inch of the land they liberated in 1967, push with all their strength for a massive Jewish immigration and settlement in all parts of the land, and promote a program that will convince the hostile Arab minority both in the liberated lands and in the “little Israel” of pre-June 1967 that their own best interests would be served by emigrating to other lands.  Let us examine these points more carefully.
On a clear night more than three millennia ago, a man named Abraham stood in the desert and heard the voice of G-d say: “…Lift up now thine eyes and look from the place where thou art, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it and to thy seed forever.  Unto the L-rd is the earth and all that is in it.”  The creator of the universe, who gives and takes away, gave unto his people the Land of Israel as theirs, alone and without reservation.  This is the Jewish claim to Israel.
Upon this claim the children of Israel returned from the slavery of Egypt to liberate the land and create their Kingdom.  Upon this claim they lived there for hundreds of years from the time of Joshua until the destruction of the first Temple.  Upon this claim they returned from their Babylonian exile to set up yet another Jewish state that survived hundreds of years more.
On this claim they wandered through two millennia of exile, never forgetting, daily repeating their claim to the land from which they were driven, surviving until political Zionism realized the vision that the believing Jew had kept alive.
There is a Jewish people, the same that began with Abraham.  There is a Jewish state, the home of that Jewish people from the time of the first divine promise.  This is the Jewish claim.  It is not a request.  It is not an offer.  It is not a plea.  It is a claim and it brooks no denial.  We have no home but Israel; we have no claim to any home but Israel.  But within this one small state, that claim is absolute.  The Land of Israel is the land of the Jewish people, whose claim to sovereignty over it – all of it – is clear and as ancient as G-d’s decision to grant hat sovereignty.
A “Palestine” people?  The concept is a contradiction in terms.  There is either a “Palestine” or a Land of Israel, and we declare for the latter.  There is no “Palestine” and if there is no “Palestine,” there is no “Palestine” people.  Arabs?  Yes.  Those Arabs who dwell and who dwelt for years within Eretz Yisroel are indeed part of the Arab people or nation and we respect and recognize that definition.  But, they are not “Palestinians” for there never was such a concept.  The Arabs who wandered into the Land of Israel while it lay desolate and empty of its exiled Jewish sons and daughters came as trespassers and interlopers.  The passage of time, no matter how much time, cannot make legal that which is illegal.  The claim of Arabs to have lived within the land for years or centuries is irrelevant in terms of a claim to Arab national sovereignty.  And how much more so when “Palestine” was always looked upon as nothing more than southern Syria. As individuals who arrived and lived in the Land of Israel while there was no Jewish state, they are free to live and prosper.  Under claim of national right, they are entitled to nothing.  Jews have a sovereign national right to the land as a people and under this, each Jew has a right to live in Israel.  The Arab, with no national sovereignty claim, may ask to be allowed to live in Eretz Yisrael, but can expect nothing more than that.
It is this most basic concept that gives Jews not only the right to their own state, but the right to a state within the entire boundaries of the Land of Israel.  Neither a fictitious “Palestine” nor a no less fictitious “Jordan” are anything more than interlopers within the boundaries of Eretz Yisroel.  To be sure, the Jewish leaders in 1947 reluctantly accepted a Jewish state whose boundaries were not only absurdities but enclosed only a small fraction of Eretz Yisroel.  Their acceptance of these boundaries in no way meant acquiescence in any foreign claim to parts of Eretz Yisroel but a willingness to accept a desperately needed state and a condition of peace.  Their motives were not acquiescence in or recognition of foreign claims, or the waiving of Jewish rights, but a desire for peace and a postponing of Jewish claims until the Messiah comes and resolves kushyot v’bayaot (problems and difficulties).
In return for peace and a genuine recognition of the Jewish right to a state, Jews were willing, not to give up their rights, but not to press for rightful claims.  But when the Arabs chose to deny any Jewish right and went to war, the Jewish claim to all the land that fell to its armies became clear.  What happened in 1948 and again in 1967 was that Jewish land returned to its people.  We do not seek war; one Jewish life is not worth all the Jewish land that is under foreign rule.  But when war is forced upon us and Jewish bodies fall, then the historic land that returns to us remains – never to be returned.
What is the Arab of Eretz Yisroel?  A human being, and we respect him for that and must treat him accordingly.  What else is he?  A member of the Arab nation, and we respect him for that. But he is no more than that: he is not a “Palestinian” belonging to a “Palestine” state, because both designations are fictitious.  The Jewish claim rests upon divine grant and historical continuity based on that grant, and even if there were no questions of security, the state and boundaries of that state would be Jewish for historical reasons alone.
Yet there is a security question, a question that goes to the heart of the existence of the Jewish state and the lives of its inhabitant.  This question of security concerns the liberated lands, the Arabs who live there, the Arabs of pre-1967 Israel and, indeed, the entire Arab-Israel conflict.  All of these problems from a security standpoint have given rise to a number of dangerous illusions that we must look at carefully and dispel.  We fail to do so at our own peril.
The first illusion can be stated as: “If only Israel shows ‘moderation,’ a willingness to ‘compromise’ and is prepared to make ‘concessions’ to the Arabs peace can be achieved.”
Anyone who thinks this way encourages the destruction of Israel.  Despite pious hopes and impious pressures, the fact remains that there will be no peace between Jews and Arabs so long as there remains a Jewish state of any kind, no matter how small.  Regardless of what concessions Israel might make to the Arabs – be they the modest concessions of a Golda Meir or the maximalist concessions of the Israeli Left – all of the land that is now Israel is considered by the Arabs to be part of “Palestine.”  There is no difference to the “Palestinian” between the soil of Hebron on the West Bank or that over which are build the Jewish costal villas of Herzliya and Savyon.  “Shehem (Nablus) is like Tel Aviv and Haifa and Jericho are both mine,” sayeth the Arab nationalist.  So long as there remains a Jewish state with the name of Israel, the Arabs will never agree to peace.  
If that is a depressing prognosis, far better for pundits to be depressed than for Israelis to succumb to false hopes and be exterminated.
 One finds it difficult to understand those who claim that a return of the lands liberated in 1967 will bring peace closer.  If that is the major drawback to peace in the Middle East, what in the world did Nasser want in 1967, when the Arabs had all the territory they now ask to be returned?  On June 4, 1967, as the Arab world was consuming itself in an orgy of hate and describing in intimate details what it was going to do when it captured Tel Aviv, all the areas it now wants returned as the price of “peace” – the Sinai, the Gaza strip, the West Bank of the Jordan, the Golan Heights – were in its hands.  What was the fight about then?  And what was the fight about in 1956 when Nasser, with Soviet aid, prepared to wipe out an Israel that was not sitting in Hebron and Sinai as it does today?  And what in heaven’s name did the Arabs want returned in 1948 when the United Nations Partition Plan created a grotesque and impossible Jewish state that encompassed a mere 13 percent of the land originally mandated by the League of Nations?  In all the wars that the Arabs forced upon the Jews since 1948, and indeed in all the terror and pogroms of the Arab nationalists since 1919, the aim was clear: no Jewish state at all.  This proposition, I put it, is unacceptable for the Jews of Israel.  Thus, without a change of Arab heart, which is nowhere to be seen, there will be no peace.
One laughs - but is not amused - at those who point to the statements made by certain Arabs that they are now willing to accept Israel's existence.  In the face of the volumes of hate, threats, and solemn oaths to wipe out Israel, what conceivable faith can be placed in such obviously politically motivated statements?
Having failed to wipe out Israel militarily and perceiving the need for world support, the Arabs must carefully, although temporarily, shelve the old truths and present a more modest and balanced image.  "Throw the Jews into the sea?  Heaven forbid!  All we seek is a return of what is ours."  It is an unfunny joke.  The clear fact remains that even if an Arab leader exists who would seriously accept the existence of Israel, he would not  long survive the signing of a pact and the pact would not long survive him.
Any pull back by Israel to the impossibly dangerous border of June 1967 would be followed by a denunciation of the peace agreement by Arab opposition elements and Israel would be faced with a fait accompli accompanied by at least three days of world sympathy.
Concessions?  Compromise?  Moderation?  Foolish exercises in self-delusion and self-destruction so long as the Arab believes - as he does - that Israel is a bandit state and that the Jews have stolen "Palestine." 
It is because we - more than the Jewish leftists and liberals - understand and respect the reality of Arab nationalism, that we realize the futility of expecting the nationalist to give up his dream.  Would we lose our hope?  Neither will the Arab nationalist.
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