What Claim Do Jews Have to the Land of Israel?
By Larry Fine
For some time there has been efforts to de-legitimize the Jewish claim to the land of Israel. There has been demands that we relinquish our claim to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, that we give the Palestinians their own state, that we take out 'settlers' from the area of Judea and Samaria, that we recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state, that we freeze building, that we pull back to the pre-1967 borders, that we... basically... move back to where we came from, Europe and America.
Let's think for a second instead of just reacting. What claim do we Jews really have to the land of Israel? As a matter of fact, we can ask a broader question: What claim does any people have to any land area?
There are really two answers:
The first answer is that this people have always lived in a certain land and therefore it belongs to them. This answer is questionable: because someone lives on a land, does it belongs automatically to them? Who gave them the deed? Maybe someone else 'owns' the land? So we must answer that just living there is not enough, but they conquered the land either from other people or it was land that no one lived on and this or that people settled there generations ago. Therefore since the land was owner-less and someone came and worked it, it should belong to them. But if we say that one people conquered the land from an other people, doesn't that make them really merely vandal and thieves?
Where did France (as an example) come from that they claim it as an independent state other than the fact that the indigenous people there (who overthrew the feudal land owners) claim that the land that they live on is rightfully theirs and that the state belongs to those who live in that area. They live there; they make their own rules; give citizenship to whom they desire and refuse it to whom they reject, is this ownership? This is basically the claim of most European states which were at one time controlled by land owners who graciously allowed the peasants to work their lands in exchange for a bit of food and shelter – but those masses of peasants certainly were not the owners. Rather, there were revolutions all over Europe to take the lands from the greedy land owners and give it to the peasants – who now claim ownership. So their claim to their land is really by virtue of force and of occupation.
The Arabs also conquered the lands from those indigenous peoples who had lived there before, the murdering mobs subdued resistance and practiced conversion by force. So the lands that they claim as theirs is also based on the principle of the force of occupation, just like their European conterparts.
America is not much different in this manner either. They came to a continent where the native Indians lived and the immigrants basically conquered it from them. They killed who resisted and gave compounds to those who surrendered. So we see that here, too, the principle of the force of occupation seems to be accepted.
If this be true, that there is something called a principle of occupation, either by force or purchase, why can't the Israelis merely point this out to the world?
Before we answer that, we should look at the second claim to a land that we have not yet mentioned. This claim is not based so much on the above principle of force but more so on the principle that all the land belongs to G-d. He created it; He watches it and watches us, and it is He who decides just who can or can not live in a land. He gave the land of Israel to the children of Israel and when they sinned He drove them out and caused their holy temple to be destroyed. If He desires, He can bring His children back and so it seems like today this is His desire. This is a slightly different principle than that mentioned above, this is the principle that G-d rules the world and it is He, and He alone, who decides who will live where. If a nation is expelled from their lands, there is a divine reason to it. If another nation occupies their lands it is divinely ordained.
This line of reasoning corresponds with the first Rashi (commentator) on the Torah, on the first sentence in Genesis:
“Rabbi Yitzhak said: it was not necessary for the Torah to begin with this verse (In the beginning...) but rather it should have begun with the verse (Exodus 12:2) “This month shall be for you..” since it is the first commandment that was told to the Jewish People. So what was the reason that the Torah begins with the story of the beginning of the creation of the world? It states in Psalms (111:6) “The power of His works He tells to His people, to give them the portion of the nations.” The if the nations of the world come to the Jews and say, “You are robbers! You have conquered the lands of the seven nations of Canaan (the nations that lived in Israel before the Jews left Egypt)!” The Jews should say to them, “All of the lands of the world belong to G-d. He created the world and He gave it to whom He choose. When it is His desire He gives and when it is His desire He takes it from them.”
This answer, unfortunately, the Israeli government can not give the nations of the world, since it views itself as a secular government. They are embarrassed to mention G-d's name in front of the world. Only when the leaders of Israel will stand up and acknowledge G-d will they be able to say this. Why: Because it is an affront to the nations, the Christians and Muslims, since it contradicts their own ideology; but it is the correct answer.
The first answer, the principle of the power of occupation, the Israelis also cannot mention since the world has 'cleansed' itself (in their own eyes) and do not acknowledge that they are really thieves who took the land from the original land owners. The nations of the world like to flatter themselves that they have pure motives and are the owners of their land since they were the indigenous natives, but the Europeans really took the land from the feudal land owners several hundred years ago and the Muslims did the same to the indigenous population of what is not the Arab areas. Israel is embarrassed to tell them, you are not the original owners, you stole the land from the original owners and are now descendents of the original thieves. This is akin of exposing their lies; removing their clothing of false peity.
Only when the Israelis will recognize that it is indeed G-d who in His kindness has caused the Jews to return to their land, and they elect a leader that strongly believes in the existence of G-d and is not embarrassed to stand up in front of the nations of the world and shame them by telling them, you are the thieves and robbers that you accuse us to be. You have killed and conquered lands and now you deny us the right to return to our rightful lands? Shame on you, nations of the world!
G-d gives the land to whom He chooses and takes it away from whom he chooses. He has given us the Land of Israel and it is He who will protect us.
from the December 2010 Edition of the Jewish Magazine