Evelyn Gordon has argued
that the debasing of Israel's image in recent years was due to Israeli concessions to the Palestinians. Gordon would have us believe that before 1993 everyone loved Israel, and everyone in the world recognized and honored Israel's claims to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Only the Oslo accords and subsequent concessions ruined this idyll. As discussed previously, this was hardly the case. Gordon forgot a few things like the Zionism is Racism resolution of 1975 and the first intifada, as well as Israeli offers of concessions in the West Bank beginning with the Alon plan of 1967.
Arieh Eldad takes Gordon's analysis to its logical conclusion, in an article entitled This land is our land
, and subtitled, "Hebron and Beit El, not Tel Aviv, inspired int'l community to support Jewish rights in Israel." The logical outcome of insistence that all of the land belongs to the Jews "by right" is that we must not give it up. He writes:
A nation that does not feel itself to be the rightful owner of this land will eventually be kicked out of it like a cruel occupier. Only if we renew our belief that we are completely entitled to the Land of Israel, if we openly declare any Arab sovereignty in the Land of Israel as a foreign occupation that must be fought and expelled - only then can we expect to have peace.
Gordon's logic leads inevitably to Eldad's conclusions. If you like Gordon, you have to love Eldad. A little reflection will recognize in these arguments the same ruinous maximalist logic of "rights" and "justice" -- always stated from a one-sided point of view -- that has characterized the Palestinian Arabs for the most part, and that has led them repeatedly to fanaticism and ruin.
Eldad also writes:
The source of the Jewish people's right to this land is God's promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, repeated to Moses and from Moses to Joshua. Joshua subsequently conquered the land, and all Jewish leaders since - judges, kings, rebels, true and false messiahs, rabbis and Torah scholars, Zionist and spiritual leaders - have guided the Jewish people for thousands of years in light of this promise.
We must observe however, that there were no political Zionists for thousands of years, and there was no state of Israel. The innovation of Zionism, and the reason that it succeeded, was that it recognized the existence of a Jewish nation, as opposed to a Jewish religion, with an historical tie to its homeland in Israel. Zionism, unlike Messianic Judaism, understood that the restoration of the Jewish people required pragmatic steps in the real world, compromise with reality, and a tough struggle.
This is God's promise, recorded in Genesis 15:18, to which Eldad refers:
In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:
Does Dr. Eldad think we will win friends for Israel by insisting that Iraq and parts of Egypt are rightfully ours, and trying to implement a claim to them?
Herzl, Weizmann and Ben-Gurion did not guide the Jewish people only according to the divine promise, but rather according to the promises they could get from world leaders, based primarily on Zionist accomplishments in Palestine and realpolitik, and not primarily on divine promises.
By anchoring Zionism and the political "flesh and blood" state of Israel in religious faith, Eldad is handing anti-Zionists victory in one of their favorite arguments: "Jews are a religion and not a people." A modern state cannot be based on religion. Moreover, while God promised all the land, it is a fact that the Jews did not hold sovereignty over all the land for more than a few decades perhaps in antiquity. Eldad refers to the conquest of Joshua. Joshua certainly did not conquer Gaza. According to the bible, until the time of King David large sections of the country were inhabited by Philistines, and Jerusalem was Jebusite city. Is Arieh Eldad willing to give up Tel Aviv in return for the West Bank?
The tie of the Jewish people to Israel is founded in our historic, traditional, cultural and religious association with this land. However, the claim of Zionism to legitimacy in the international arena is not based on the book of Genesis, but on the principle of national self determination recognized since the foundation of the League of Nations. The same principle dictates that the Arabs of Palestine have a right to self determination. If we negate their right, then we negate our own right. That can be our strength as well as our weakness, for if the Arab Palestinians reject our right to self-determination, they have voided their own right.
Eldad is trying to turn Zionism into something that it never was, a movement similar to the Hamas, which claims that all of Palestine is a holy waqf given to the Muslims by Allah. If we act like Hamas, we will be treated like Hamas.
Eldad does not tell us either, what he proposes to do with the millions of Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank. Will he make them citizens of the state? If so, how long will that state be the state of the Jewish people? Is he proposing to evict them? Does he seriously think that will help the image of Israel? Does he want to keep them forever as non-citizens, existing in a political limbo?
Those who wish to attribute the brilliant successes of Zionism to divine intervention may do so. Perhaps it was a benevolent providence that blessed our leaders with the wisdom to navigate a pragmatic course, to understand that "rights" can be implemented only in the framework of the possible, and that absolute "justice" belongs to the Lord. The Arabs of Palestine have on the other hand, usually listened to their Aryeh Eldads, and insisted on absolute satisfaction of every possible claim according to their notions of "justice." The result was that the Zionists got a country, and the Arabs got a Nakba - a disaster.
Eldad and Gordon are probably correct in attributing changes in Israeli image to Israeli policy regarding the territories. However, if there is a relation, it is opposite to the one they claim. Following the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, opinion surveys show a marked rise in support for Israel and a decline in support for the Palestinians both in Europe and the USA.
Let us, by all means, examine carefully what steps Israel should take or not take regarding the West Bank. The issues are critical for our survival. They require careful analysis and weighing of different alternatives, all of them risky. Such an analysis, however, is doomed from the start if it is going to be based on claims of divine right. In that system of thought, divine right trumps every other argument. "God wills it" leaves no room for any counterargument and makes rational discussion impossible. What argument could we bring against God's will? How could we convince the world that
God promised all of the land of Israel to us Jews, as Eldad claims, rather than to the Muslims, as Mr. Eldad of the Hamas claims, or to the Christian Church, as St. Eusebius claimed? As there are more Muslims and Christians than Jews, many more, the results of such a dispute would hardly favor Eldad.
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