Swing of the Pendulum
By Mendel Weinberger
The current political situation in the State of Israel is quite puzzling. How could it be that an Israeli prime minister backed by a majority of the Knesset could engineer the expulsion of 10,000 Jews from their homes? How could the man who was called the father of the settlements, who vowed never to abandon Gaza, be the same man who moved heaven and earth in order to accomplish the goal of his political opponents? How could the State of Israel, which has been a refuge for Jews from all over the world for the past 57 years, create its own refugees? How could a government that has sacrificed its finest young men to conquer and settle the land, now send its own soldiers to retreat from it and tear down that which had been built?
Most of the disengagement detractors try to explain the recent turn of events by demonizing the prime minister and bemoaning the corruption of the government in general. If everyone has their price, they say, what chance does righteousness have to prevail?
The pro disengagement commentators wax poetic about the prime minister's realistic capitulation to the will of the majority of Israelis to live peacefully with their Arab neighbors and the reality of maintaining good relations with Europe and America. This justifies disengaging from a significant part of Israel.
What is missing in all this is an historical perspective of Zionism and an understanding of the means that Zionists utilized to fulfill their goals.
The religious anti-Zionist approach to the Jewish exile and return to the Land of Israel is based on what is written in the Torah. It is spelled out clearly in the Torah (Leviticus 26:14-45), that when Israel does not honor and fulfill the commandments of G-d, the consequences will be suffering at the hands of our enemies and exile from the land. The subsequent return to Zion will occur when we prove our loyalty to the Torah in exile and then G-d will remember us and bring us back. While living in the Land of Israel is always a mitzvah and there has always been a Jewish presence here, the hostility of the ruling powers and the difficulty of making a livelihood here has made it practically impossible for the majority to return.
Secular Zionists never saw things in this light. When the gates of the Jewish ghettos were opened up in Europe and Jews were allowed to enter educational institutions and participate in the business and political life of their host countries, many decided to drop their religious observance and assimilate into the lifestyle of their gentile neighbors. But for others a sense of Jewish identity remained and anti-Semitism continued to plague the Jews in Russia and other countries. They felt themselves to be a nation without a country, condemned to live an abnormal existence despite being accepted as so-called equal citizens in their home countries.
Political Zionism was born from the need to heal this aberration and return the Jewish nation to its place in the family of nations. Settling Jews in a national homeland, it was hoped, would halt anti-Semitism and allow Jews to govern themselves. The Labor Zionist movement added the idea that in order to return the Jews to normalcy, a new working class had to organized, one which would work the land and form the backbone of the new nation.
The approval of the UN to the founding of a Jewish homeland was an important step in the process of the return to Zion. While the help of private philanthropists was important for the purchase of land from the Arabs and the funding of Jewish settlements, official recognition from the world powers was necessary to legitimize the political goal of a Jewish state. Once this was accomplished in November of 1947, the Zionists could claim some measure of legitimacy for the proposed Jewish homeland.
The fact that it was not accepted by the Arabs wasn't important. Now Jews could fight for their country without the fear of being labeled aggressors. On May 14, 1948 Israel declared themselves an independent country. In the war that followed, the Israeli army showed its courage and was victorious over its enemies. This fact seemed to vindicate the idea that only the founding of a Jewish state could battle anti Semitism by allowing the Jews to defend themselves.
In the years that followed, the country was built, refugees were welcomed, and wars were fought by a people who were determined that the Holocaust would never happen again. The Zionist ideal was becoming a reality and Jews all around the world cheered the young country on. In June 1967 a truly miraculous war was won against four Arab armies who far outnumbered Israel in manpower and arms. As a result of that war Israel took the entire west bank of the Jordan River, the Golan Heights, and the Gaza Strip as the spoils of victory. Jerusalem once more became a united city and the capital of the State of Israel.
The euphoria celebrated in Israel and by Jews around the world was however dampened by a new concern. Previously, Israel was seen by the world as a small embattled country defending itself against hostile Arab armies. Now it was feared Israel would be seen as the aggressor by incorporating additional lands previously inhabited by Arabs into its territory. The Jewish leadership was in a quandary. Should it annex the newly acquired territories into the State of Israel and with them over one million Arabs? Or should they look for another solution? Fearing a state with more Arabs than Jews, plus the world opinion, they choose the second option.
They immediately gave over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to the Wakf, invited Arabs who had fled Hebron to return and decided not to annex the newly acquired lands. They opted to leave them as administered territories. Israel's leaders expressed their willingness to give back the Golan Heights and the Sinai in return for a peace treaty with Syria and Egypt. They bent over backwards to appease their Arab neighbors, yet their hatred for Israel remained as strong as ever.
In September 1978, Menachem Begin signed the Camp David Accords with President Sadat initiating the principle of land for peace. The act in a very real sense inaugurated a new phase in Zionist history. Some called the new understanding of Israel's role as "Post Zionism". This understanding of history states that the ends of Zionism have been accomplished.
The state has built the infrastructure and housing for millions of Jews. Political, military, educational, and artistic institutions have been created. Millions of refugees from all over the world have been successfully absorbed. Now Israel has the physical security it lacked as strangers in Europe and North Africa. Israel must address the real problem of the Arab minority who have been displaced and treated unfairly.
Arabs from the territories were given the opportunity to work in Israel, to educate their children, to take advantage of health care, and generally to live at peace in Israel. The only thing they were denied was the right to vote and the obligation to serve in the army. What was the result of this offer to live peacefully?
The first intifada, which began in 1987, led by none other than Yasser Arafat. Stones, Molotov cocktails, and even hand grenades pelted Israeli soldiers at every opportunity in a concerted effort to turn international opinion against the Jewish State. They succeeded in a big way and we saw the ugly head of anti Semitism rise up disguised as criticism against Israel.
The Zionist goal of normalization of the Jewish people in their own state as a solution to the problem of anti Semitism began to fail. By 1993 the leadership in Israel decided on a new tack, the Oslo Accords. This would be the first step towards the creation of a Palestinian State. Arabs were given autonomy over certain cities, arms to enable them to create their own internal police force, and a political instrument to govern themselves - the Palestinian Authority. Yasser Arafat, the infamous terrorist, was invited back to Israel to lead the P.A. He gladly obliged. But instead of making peace with Israel, he took whatever was offered and fulfilled none of his obligations in return.
Terrorist attacks continued, this time more deadly now that the terrorists were armed. World media portrayed the terrorists as freedom fighters and the Israeli army as oppressive occupiers. Anti Israel sentiment increased and again the leadership in Israel felt the only way to stop it was to give more and try to appease the insatiable Arab appetite. In what can only be considered a slap in the face, Yasser Arafat declined an offer of 90% of the West Bank in return for a peace treaty.
In the year 2000 the second intifada began after a visit to the Temple Mount by Ariel Sharon. Suicide bombings became the modus operandi of the Arab terrorists. Israel became a very unsafe place to live as Jews were killed and wounded by seemingly random attacks against civilians. Again world opinion turned against Israel and sided with the Arab terrorist organizations. The Israeli leadership stopped negotiating with the Palestinian Authority.
Ariel Sharon's unilateral pullout of the Gaza Strip in July 2005 began what I believe is a new phase in the Zionist endeavor. As a secular Zionist, Sharon saw that there would never be a peace treaty with the Palestinian Authority. So he decided to give them land without any obligation whatsoever on their part. And if Jews would be uprooted from their homes, so be it.
This is the new Jewish "Anti-Zionism". This phase too has as its goal the solution to anti Semitism. The Jewish People will gain the love of the gentile nations by uprooting settlements, destroying homes, and creating our own refugees. We will reverse the process of building a Jewish Homeland and put ourselves into the familiar role of victims. This could perhaps be the twisted thinking of Israel's leadership today.
Will this new strategy work? Experience teaches that it probably will not. Whatever happens, anti Semitism continues. The Sages say, "Esav hates Yaakov (Israel), this is an eternal law". If this is so, Israel will never be able to eradicate anti Semitism by any act of appeasement. What we can do is to recognize the hand of G-d in current events. Divine Providence has allowed Jews to live in the Land of Israel as free, independent people. We should cherish this gift, stand strong and proud and not be willing give up an inch of land.
If we exert all of our efforts to safeguarding the land and the people of Israel, the other nations may not love us, but they will respect us. Once the other nations respect us, this will be the start of the true solution to anti Semitism in our day.
from the January 2006 Edition Jewish Magazine