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What is the biggest danger to Israel and Zionism? Is it Iranian nuclear weapons? The Hezbollah? The Hamas? Giving up a neighborhood of Jerusalem?

The biggest danger to Israel cannot be Hezbollah or Hamas or even a Palestinian state. In the past, we faced much larger threats from the armies of states, and we defeated them. We defeated them because we had the will to defeat them. Iran is a potent threat, but that threat can be dealt with. Iran has no borders with Israel, unlike Egypt, Syria and Jordan, which faced us in previous wars.

Jerusalem is very precious to all of us. But Israel existed for 19 years without East Jerusalem, and there were quite a few Zionists then. If we are forced to give up East Jerusalem, or a part of East Jerusalem, we can wait patiently for the day when the world recognizes our claim. Those who say that Zionism would come to an end if Israel must give up a piece of real estate were never Zionists in the first place, or do not understand what Zionism was all about.

The biggest danger to Israel is the danger from within. As Yochanan Visser, himself a "settler," pointed out in his letter to the Jerusalem Post and in his article, settlers who defy the authority of the state, who attack national institutions like the IDF, can destroy us.

What made the difference between the politically impotent and defenseless Jewish people of the past and the reborn Jewish people that emerged clearly, in our own perception, and that of the world, after 1948 and 1967? A singular event started the process in motion - the Zionist Congress convened by Theodor Herzl in 1897. Herzl did not realize any of his dreams in his lifetime. He did not conquer a millimeter of territory. Herzl and the Zionists defeated no armies. But Herzl gave the Jews the vital ingredients that made possible the rebirth of the Jewish people: national organization, national cohesiveness and unity, and an understanding of the importance of national sovereignty. Herzl understood the challenge of Jewish unity. In Herzl's opening address to the first Zionist congress, he told the congress: "Zionism has already managed to accomplish a wondrous thing, previously thought to be impossible: the firm bond between the most modern elements of of Judaism with the most conservative." As we know, the bond was not complete. Ben-Gurion likewise emphasized the theme of unity in a famous speech in 1944: "Unity is the imperative of our mission and our destiny. Nonetheless, of all the values of our movement it is the one that is perhaps most honored in theory and least respected in practice. We may now be attempting to become rooted in the homeland and laboring to create an independent life but the habits of disunity and anarchy which grew wild among us in the course of hundreds of years of exile and subservience cannot easily be corrected."

The worst period in the early history of ancient Israel was the time of the Judges, of which the Book of Judges states more than once, In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes. The gift of men like Herzl and David Ben-Gurion is that they were able to overcome the futile, petty and egotistical quarrels of Diaspora Jewish life and rabbinical Judaism, and to produce a united people, ready to undertake sovereignty.

What happens when these elements are missing? We have only to look to our Palestinian Arab neighbors to find out what happens. Without a real national leadership and a real concept of sovereignty, the Palestinian polity in 1948 degenerated into a chaos of warlords and clans. There was no king, and every man did that which was right in his eyes. This sad scenario repeated itself in Gaza in 2005, when the Palestinians had a real chance to begin building a model mini-state, but instead produced an anarchic, tyrannous feuding factional hell of religious extremists. A modern society cannot function with a feudal organization, which is the alternative to a sovereign state.

In a state, the only authority in matters of state, law and order is the elected government. This is halachic law as well. "Deena de Malchuta - Deena." (Talmud, Nídarim 28a) - The law of the sovereign is the law. If this was accepted by Jews for the murderous Roman empire, it must certainly be true of the government of the Jewish state. Just as we cannot permit draft dodgers to make their own law, we cannot permit a group of settlers, or this rabbi or that rabbi to make their own law.

In the West Bank, near Yitzhar. settlers built an illegal outpost, contrary to the decisions of the Israeli government. A project that is counter to the decision of the Israeli government does not enhance Israeli sovereignty. It challenges and violates that sovereignty, for sovereignty requires the ability to maintain order and assert authority. When the outpost, which could not be defended properly, was attacked, the settlers rioted senselessly, murdering innocent people, and then gloated about their deed: Settlers: Raid on Palestinian homes was healthy, necessary act. Everyone did that which was right in their eyes. This is the approach and psychology of hooligans, like the gangs of the Palestinian Grand Mufti Hajj Amin al Husseini. It substitutes futile, childish and brutal impulses of revenge and cruelty for a responsible strategy of defense.Attacks by Palestinians should be publicized. They should be met by appropriate responses that find and punish the attackers and those who send them. But they are not an excuse or justification for this behavior. Hurting defenseless people at random is not a rational response to terrorism, no matter what the provocation. It will not stop terrorism. It is precisely the response that the terrorists want to provoke. It cannot be the basis of a national defense strategy or a national political life.

Those who carried out these attacks dragged the name of Israel in the mud, and reduced us to the moral level of Palestinian terrorists. They damaged some of Israel's most vital assets. The first is national sovereignty. The second is the good will of the world and the third and perhaps most important, is our own belief in ourselves. If we become a nation of barbarians who murder innocents, nobody will support us, and we will no longer have the essential faith that our cause is just.

A settler youth is quoted as saying, "...[P]eople in Israel, especially because of the media, forget that this is an enemy who wants to kill us. We understand that here." Each man does that which is right in his eyes. In fact, people in Israel understand very well who this enemy is and what the enemy wants to do. This ignorant youth is playing with matches over a big can of gasoline. This is serious business, not a game for children. This is a serious enemy and a serious conflict. If it is not handled with the utmost discretion, it could involve over a billion Muslims arrayed against Israel and really determined to wipe us out. This is not a turf war to be solved by gang brawls between rival groups of hoodlums. The war for Israel's existence requires unity, organization, planning, self control, bravery and sacrifice, not random acts of hooliganism. The next stage of the evolution of this cancer should be obvious. The hilltop youths who obey different rabbis will compete with each other for how much mayhem they can cause, and then they will turn on each other. Israel will turn into Gaza.

The Palestinians damaged their cause, perhaps irreparably, with violence, suicide bombings and racism. In this way, they lost the possibility of statehood in 1948, and again in 2000 and lost the respect of the world. The young man in the article and his friends are trying to lead Israel down the same disastrous path.

Ami Isseroff

Original content is Copyright by the author 2008. Posted at ZioNation-Zionism and Israel Web Log, http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000602.html where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Disributed by ZNN list. Subscribe by sending a message to ZNN-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by e-mail with this notice, cite this article and link to it. Other uses by permission only.

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Replies: 4 Comments

Ami, you simply aren't making any sense. Ze'ev Jabotinsky noted that it was an insult to the Arabs, to think that they would peacefully yield land they lived in to immigrants from overseas; and he was right. It's even more of an insult, to expect Jews to peacefully yield land that not only they but dozens of generations of their ancestors, have lived on since about 1400 BCE (and before than, counting Abraham and his family) -- the more so, when the Bible explicitly commands the Jewish people to drive out the inhabitants and rule the land. You can mince this into religious gobbledegook all you want; it's still an incredible insult to Jewish integrity, courage and indeed even obedience to God.

Willingly giving up the land of Israel, without a fight (whether it be against the Arabs, or against the IDF that's doing their work for them) is insulting to Judaism, cowardly and unGodly. Ask any Irishman, whether it is honorable to cede Irish land to the English; or any Arab, or any Turk, or any American. Do you think many American would seriously consider giving Alaska to the Russians? Or California to Mexico? Or Florida to Cuba? Or Vermont to Canada? Keeping Jammu and Kashmir has meant nothing but trouble for India; but they haven't ceded it to Pakistan; The Chinese will not even discuss giving up Tibet or Xinjiang; and the Russians are not letting go of Chechnya: Nobody does those things, unless they are forced to or they are dingy. Why should Jews make an effort to stand out, as the world's biggest idiots?

I love the Jewish people, and I do not want to see this happen; but it seems the easiest way to make a Jew scorn one's advice is to genuinely care for him. So go ahead, be crazy. Give away Yesha, and Yerushalayim, and Tel Aviv. God can get Himself a people from somewhere else.

Michael A. Shoemaker, Thursday, October 2nd

If the Palestinians were genuine about peace they would not be demanding any of Jerusalem. We Jews have already lost a third of Baghdad to the Arabs yet we have accepted the status quo and do not want to turn the clock back. The Syrians recently ceded Hatay province to the Turks, a province populated by a majority of Syrians! Which just goes to show that 'land for peace' is nonsense.

lyn, Tuesday, September 16th

I did not write that it was good to give up East Jerusalem. But it is not the end of Zionism or Israel as many insist.

As for feeding crocodiles, it is unfortunate if we have to make these concessions and the risks are known. However, it is better to bend than to break.


Ami Isseroff, Tuesday, September 16th

I agree 100 percent with you about the inadmissiblity of settler violence. I disagree with you about Jerusalem, however. Jerusalem is more than a piece of real estate, and to give up a slice will only feed the crocodile.If Israel can't show that every inch of Jerusalem is precious, its callousness can only be interpreted as weakness by Israel's enemies.

lyn, Monday, September 15th

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