As I and other progressive Zionists have observed time and again, supporters of Israel can now be divided into two camps: those who believe Israel can do no wrong and/or should at least, never been criticized publicly (in front of the goyim); and those who realize that Israel is no longer a fledgling endangered state that must be supported at all cost, even if it means we compromise on the ethical and moral teachings of Judaism.
Among the political and religious right-wing of Israel, there are not surprisingly, die-hard tribalists who will tell you in the same spirit of religious and national fanatics of any religion or country, that Israel’s cause is God’s. God gave the Jewish people the land of Israel so no one else can claim a right to live there let alone rule over it without Jewish permission. Politically conservative Israelis and their supporters in the Diaspora, will readily share with you voluminous examples of Arab terrorism, murder and inhumanity to justify Israel’s mistreatment and indifference to the Palestinians.
In point of fact though, many Zionists in Israel and the Diaspora don’t subscribe to such reactionary, chauvinist perspectives. While we most certainly do believe in, love and support Israel as the national Jewish homeland, in recent years we have raised our voices individually and through new organizations such as ‘J Street‘ to declare that we will no longer compromise our values and understanding of God’s laws that clearly state that all people are entitled to be treated with respect and dignity. Sadly, those who lack the will, the intellect or the emotional maturity to discuss sensitive, crucial issues related to the rights and interests of the Palestinian people are too often inclined to call us names like: traitors, worse than the Arabs, self-hating Jews, etc. We consider the source and move on.
Last week, a judicial committee in Israel, headed up by former Justice Edmond Levy, informed the Israeli political establishment and the world that in their opinion, all the settlements in the occupied territories, should be legalized. This position is a direct challenge to the peace process, to numerous UN resolutions, to the policies of the United States and much of the Western World who have been encouraging Israel to reach a settlement with the Palestinians ASAP, for 45 years! Israel, by the way, promised as much in the treaty is signed with Egypt in 1979.
The continual expansion of settlements in militarily ruled territory are tangible evidence of Israel’s reluctance to actually find a two state solution with the Palestinian people in spite of political rhetoric to the contrary.
Not only were progressive Zionists outraged and troubled by the Levy Committee recommendations to sanction all settlements west of the Green Line, so were many moderate Israelis and Zionist in the Diaspora. After all, the Levy committee’s conclusion ostensibly slammed the door in the face of Palestinian nationhood and any hope of Israel and Palestinian Authority ever achieving a genuine peace. Apparently, even moderate Zionists are, thank God, not prepared to surrender their prayers and hopes for peace on the whim, “it would be nice to have peace but it’s up to God who is of course, on our side to make that happen; what can we do? We’ll just keep chanting Oseh Shalom b’mromav and confiscating Arab land for settlements that serve no other purpose than to being politically provocative.
In today’s New York Times (7/19), two past Chairs of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations (CPMJO), Julius Berman and Kenneth J. Bialkin, in the same arrogant, out of date, inappropriate tone and tenor of the Levy Committee, informed the world that it is the consensus of most Jews in the world that the settlements in the West Bank do not pose an obstacle to peace. The good news is that both men have not been at the helm of the CPMJO for 30 or 40 years now. The sad news is that they can still use the “past chairman” title to speak their peace, insinuate that they speak for anyone other than themselves and get published in the New York Times.
The sad truth is, friends and supporters of Israel like Bailkin and Berman, and Justice Edmond Levy for that matter, don’t realize that it their brand of post-Holocaust Zionism and its inability to recognize the rights of the Palestinian people, is actually hurting the State of Israel.
The Zionist dream was not and must never be about the Jewish community giving the world in general and Arabs in particular, the proverbial bird and saying, after the Holocaust, WE ARE THE ONLY PEOPLE WHO MATTER. Zionism is about the Jewish people renewing and revitalizing a national homeland that has a rightful place in the assembly of all nations as an equal, not as a collective of victims of persecution who are entitled to special treatment at the expense of the rights of others.
The rejection of Israel’s existence, terrorism, murder, unabated cultural anti-Semitism among Arabs, does not give me as a Jew a right to take my Torah, my values, my love for justice, equality and civil rights for all of God’s children, and throw them out on the ruins of the latest bus bombing of Israelis in Bulgaria or anywhere else. The longer Israel uses its military to rule over 2 million people who have no vote or say in who governs them, the more disingenuous it is for Israel to call itself a democracy. Democracy demands citizenship rights for all people, not some. And we know that by giving the Palestinians ‘the vote,’ Israel will no longer be a Jewish State. Therefore, we have no choice but to protect and save Israel by helping the Palestinians to create their own national homeland.
The longer Israel drags it feet in coming to terms with the reality that the Palestinian people are neither a nation of criminals nor a flock of animals to be herded about and treated as second class human beings, the fewer friends and allies Israel will have in this world.
The die-hard political and religious right in Israel are destroying the Zionist dream. With the same passion and sincerity that they habitually invoke, I can state without reservation that I believe that God desires that Israelis who subscribe to the universal ideals of Torah and love Israel more than they hate the Arabs, will prevail.