Sunday, May 4, 2008

Incontrovertible 'Right to Exist': Israel at 3,060

It's sad that a piece like this even needs to be written, defending the very 'right to exist' of a sovereign nation, or as Cynthia Ozick puts it, "the scandal of calling into question a living nation’s existence—ought to shame the prevaricators and defamers, whether they be professors in universities, media distorters, ‘peace activists’ who justify terror, morally deformed intellectuals, self-deceiving unconfessed haters, or merely the herd of the easily led."
Since the 'cat is out of the bag' though, and the prevaricators and defamers are making their case for raising this as a legitimate debate, here is my response. The original, longer version that was not published, is included in the "read more" link, as is the article as published in its entirety.
david brumer
seattle

SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinion/361594_israel04.html
Israel's incontrovertible right to exist

BY DAVID BRUMER
GUEST COLUMNIST
The creation of Israel, the modern flowering of an ancient people, was one of the few redeeming acts in a century of atrocity and shame. Yet, as the Jewish state celebrates its 60th birthday, a chorus of defamers sees the modern incarnation of the Jewish people in their homeland as a historic injustice. For some in academia, the media and even the United Nations, Israel's very "Right to Exist" is considered a subject for legitimate debate. It's ironic, too, since few nations can claim the kind of historic legitimacy and connection to a place as can the Jewish people.
For more than 3,000 years, Jews have been spiritually as well as corporeally bonded to the land of Israel. In 1921, Winston Churchill proclaimed, "It is manifestly right that the Jews, who are scattered all over the world, should have a national center and a national home. And where else could that be but in this land of Palestine, with which for more than 3,000 years they have been intimately and profoundly associated?" For French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the recreation of a sovereign Jewish state "is the most significant event of the 20th century." He described Israel's re-establishment as "the 20th century's miracle" and noted that "defending its existence is an international duty."
So why, 60 years later, or 3,060 years, if you will, is Israel living under such a barrage of existential threats? Why does Israel still have to prove itself worthy of being included in the family of nations? Why indeed is Israel singled out as the one nation on Earth whose very existence is questioned? Cynthia Ozick bristles at the "the scandal of calling into question a living nation's existence ... The Big Lie that demonizes Israel and contaminates the viler estuaries of what is nowadays dubbed 'the international community' ... ."



Yet among "progressive" intellectuals, especially in Europe, it is axiomatic that Israel is not merely "not doing enough to for peace in the Middle East," but is responsible for Islamist "outrage" against the West; that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict remains at the core of the Arab world's grievances, and, if only this conflict could be solved, peace would ensue. Leaving aside the illogical nature of this proposition (al-Qaida and other radical Islamists have as much a gripe against Christian nations whom they see as usurping their place in history), it is hard to find a country that has striven more for peaceful co-existence with its neighbors than Israel. No nation has taken more demonstrable risks for peace. Israel proved its intention to live in harmony with its neighbors when it enacted peace treaties with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. Israel has shown its willingness to make painful sacrifices in the name of peace, withdrawing from all of Gaza in 2005 while evacuating more than 8,000 Israeli citizens from their homes.
Israel has said yes to virtually every partition plan put forth in modern times while the Palestinians have said no, starting with the Peel Commission in 1937, which would have given the Palestinians nearly 80 percent of the land between the "River and the Sea." In 1947, the Palestinians again rejected statehood on 45 percent of the land, while Israel agreed to the remaining 55 percent divided into three cantons (60 percent of which is desert). Finally, in 2000 Israel offered the Palestinians more than 96 percent of contiguous West Bank land and all of Gaza in the hopes that the century-old conflict could end. The Palestinian response to that offer was the Second Intifada, more aptly understood by Israelis as a Terror War unleashed against the Jewish State.
Yet Israel continues to be viewed as the obstacle to peace in the Middle East. Israel, which at 60 continues to be a vibrant, secular democracy. Israel, which is accused of human rights violations and even apartheid, remains an oddity in the Middle East where gays participate openly in military service; all women have the right to vote, with 17 of them serving in the 120-member Knesset (Parliament). Another 12 members are Arab-Israelis, with three parties representing the Arab segment of the population. And all Israeli citizens, Christians, Muslims and Jews, enjoy freedom of speech, the press and unfettered religious expression, as well as access to education, modern health care and the professions.
Of course, Israel is far from perfect, and legitimate criticisms launched against specific conditions and policies are expected and welcomed. It is the demonization and delegitimization of the Jewish state that is as baffling as it is malevolent. Israel, which has produced more Nobel laureates per capita than anywhere else in the world, a nation of highly educated and motivated people, producing cutting-edge technologies in medicine, science and business; and all this in the face of ongoing threats -- and actualities -- of war, and the unwillingness of too many of its neighbors to accept Israel's very right to exist as a Jewish nation. The world might better applaud the miracle of Israel's rebirth in its deliberately tiny ancestral land as a model of decency, tolerance and intellectual vibrancy, for these are the true criteria of legitimacy, and focus its urge to deligitimize on societies that celebrate (and wish to spread around the world) the values of suicide-bombing, uncompromising intolerance, and irrationality.
David Brumer is a media analyst, writer and consultant on Middle Eastern affairs. He is on the advisory board of StandWithUs Northwest and is a member of Israel Bonds Speakers Bureau. Visit his blog, BRUMSPEAK, at brumspeak.blogspot.com
© 1998-2008 Seattle Post-Intelligencer


Original, full length version
This month Israel will celebrate its 6oth birthday in its modern incarnation as the nation of the Jewish people. For some, this represents a historic injustice. In fact, there are intellectuals, world leaders, and even United Nations special rapporteurs who consider Israel’s very ‘Right to Exist’ a subject for legitimate debate. It’s ironic too, since few nations can claim the kind of historic legitimacy and connection to a place as can the Jewish people.

For over three thousand years, Jews have been spiritually as well as physically bonded to the land of Israel. More than 3,200 years ago, Moses prophesied: “Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back.” And indeed from our most recent exile in 70 A.D. during Roman Times, we were scattered to the corners of the earth, only to be reunited in what Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France has said, “is the most significant event of the 20th century.” He described Israel’s re-establishment as “the twentieth century’s miracle” and noted that “defending its existence is an international duty…Israel introduces diversity and democracy to the Middle East. It is a miracle that out of the remnants of the scattered Jewish people, such a state has arisen.”
Israel is the only place on earth, iterates Britain’s Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, where Jews have been able to rule themselves and defend themselves. Israel is the only place where, during 4.000 years of history, Jews have formed a majority. Where Jews have been able to create a nation and a society according to their own laws and values. Only in Israel can Jews speak their ancient tongue, live by the Jewish calendar, walk where their ancestors walked and perpetuate the Jewish narrative.

On May 14th, 1948 Israel’s towering leader David Ben-Gurion read from the Declaration of Independence:

Eretz-Yisrael--The Land of Israel--was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.
After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people remained faithful to it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.
Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland… On the 29th November, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz-Israel. This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their State is irrevocable.
This right is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State.



So why, 60 years later, or 3,060 years, if you will, is Israel living under such a barrage of existential threats, from the physical to the philosophical? Why does Israel still have to prove itself worthy to be included in the family of nations, and fight for the right to be? Why was Israeli historian Yaacov Lozowick compelled to publish a defense, entitled Right to Exist in 2003, a book that prompted Cynthia Ozick to write,
Lozowick meticulously unravels the Big Lie that demonizes Israel and Zionism and contaminates the viler estuaries of what is nowadays dubbed ‘the international community.’ The title alone—the scandal of calling into question a living nation’s existence—ought to shame the prevaricators and defamers, whether they be professors in universities, media distorters, ‘peace activists’ who justify terror, morally deformed intellectuals, self-deceiving unconfessed haters, or merely the herd of the easily led.

Why indeed is Israel singled out as the one nation on earth whose very existence is questioned? Just last month, the cover of The Atlantic Monthly featured a large Jewish star with the heading, “Is Israel Finished?” as the cover story. Curious choice of words, since the article itself was a thoughtful piece by journalist Jeffery Goldberg, actually entitled “Unforgiven.” It explored the divide in Israeli society since the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, exemplified by the rift between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and renowned literary figure and moral spokesperson, David Grossman, who lost his son, 20 year old tank commander Uri Grossman, in the waning days of the Lebanon campaign. To be sure, the article examined the precariousness of Jewish life in such a sea of hostility that is the Muslim Middle East. But nowhere does Goldberg suggest that Israel is finished as a nation. While real threats like Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and demographic tides are considered, the question remains why Israel’s existence as a nation of the Jewish people continues to be called into question.
There seems to be an underlying belief that Israel is not doing enough to move the region towards peace. That the Palestinian-Israeli conflict remains at the core of the Arab world’s problems with the West, and that somehow, if only this conflict could be solved, all the other calamities would be diffused. Leaving aside the illogical nature of this proposition (Al Qaeda and other radical Islamists have as much a gripe against Christians whom they see as usurping their place in history), it is hard to find a nation that has striven more for peaceful co-existence with its neighbors than Israel. No nation has taken more demonstrable risks for the sake of peace. This yearning is enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence and indeed goes back to biblical times, when our prophets intoned about turning “swords into plowshares” and visualizing a day when the lion and the lamb would lie down together. Israel proved its intention to live in peace with its neighbors when it signed and enacted peace treaties with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. Israel has shown its willingness to make painful sacrifices in the name of peace, relinquishing the buffer zone it had established against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon in 2000, and then in the summer of 2005, withdrawing from all of Gaza and evacuating over 8,000 Israeli citizens from their homes.
Israel has said yes to virtually every partition plan put forth in modern times, starting with the Peel Commission in 1937, which would have given the Palestinians 80% of the land between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea. In 1947, when the United Nations approved the creation of a Jewish homeland in Israel, the Palestinians again rejected statehood on 45% of the land, while Israel would have settled for the remaining 55% divided into three cantons, with over 60% of that land comprised of desert. The ensuing war launched by five Arab armies against the fledgling Jewish state resulted in Israel’s de facto borders until the Six-Day War of 1967. Finally, in the summer of 2000 at Camp David and later in the year under the Clinton Proposals at Taba, Israel offered to relinquish over 96% of contiguous West Bank land and all of Gaza in the hopes that the century old conflict could at last come to an end. The Palestinian response to that offer was the Second Intifada, more aptly understood by Israelis as a Terror War unleashed against the Jewish state by Arafat and his minions. Sadly, Palestinian intransigence has each time cost their people a shrinking map of a potential Palestine. History moved on with each successive Palestinian rejection.
And yet Israel continues to be viewed as the obstacle to peace in the Middle East. Israel, who at 60 continues to be a vibrant, thriving, secular democracy. Israel, who is accused of human rights violations and even apartheid, remains an oddity in the Middle East where gays participate openly in military service; all women have the right to vote, with 17 of them serving in the 120-member Knesset, or Israeli Parliament. Currently 12 of those 120 members are Arab-Israelis, with 3 parties specifically representing the Arab segment of the population. Ishmael Khaldi, the Israeli Deputy Counsel General for the Western United States, is an Israeli-Arab and the second highest Israeli government representative in Western America. And all Israeli citizens, Christians, Muslims and Jews enjoy freedom of speech, the press and unfettered religious expression, as well as access to education, modern health care, and the professions.
Of course, Israel is far from perfect and legitimate criticisms launched against specific conditions and policies are both expected and welcomed. It is the demonization and delegitimization of the Jewish State that is as baffling as it is malevolent. Israel, who has produced more Nobel laureates per capita than anywhere else in the world, a nation of highly educated and motivated people, producing cutting-edge technologies in medicine, science and business; and all this in the face of ongoing threats—and actualities--of war and the unwillingness of too many of its neighbors to accept Israel’s very right to exist as a Jewish nation. The world might better applaud the miracle of Israel's rebirth in its deliberately tiny ancestral land as a model of decency, tolerance, and intellectual vibrancy, for these are the true criteria of legitimacy, and focus its urge to deligitimize on societies that celebrate (and wish to spread around the world) the values of suicide-bombing, uncompromising intolerance, and irrationality.
David Brumer
David is a media analyst, writer and consultant on Middle Eastern affairs. He is on the Advisory Board of StandWithUs (SWU) Northwest and is a member of Israel Bonds Speakers Bureau. In 2005 he was awarded “Congressional Recognition for Excellence in Public Diplomacy in Support of Israel ” on behalf of his work with The Israel Project (TIP). David is also a geriatric social worker and psychotherapist. Visit his blog, BRUMSPEAK, at http://brumspeak.blogspot.com/

3 comments:

Lao Qiao said...

Right to exist? Have Jews ever had the right to exist? As the Haggadah says, "In every generation they rise up against us to destroy us." The Holy One, blessed be He, makes sure that no more than one-third of the Jewish population is killed per century.

abe said...

The problem with saying that "Israel has a right to exist" is the unavoidable implication that the displacement of Palestinians is justified. The British were being generous with Arab land when they helped establish Israel--and declarations celebrating Israel, without acknowledging the dept the country owes to Western colonialism and implicit racism (screw the Arabs) are morally bankrupt. Moreover, Israel's crimes aren't merely a matter of history but ongoing--the country keeps three hundred thousand of its residents in the West Bank, and then indignantly whines about terrorism when the Palestinians lash back. To celebrate Israel is to celebrate this unavoidable double faced nature of the country. The Arabs, therefore, have every right to resent and object to its very existence.

Lao Qiao said...

In 1947, Palestine was one-third Jewish. The UN decided to split the country in half, and the Arabs rejected a state. They rejected it again in 1967 with the Three Noes of Khartoum. They rejected it again at Taba in 2000.

They could have a state today, although not as big a state as they could have gotten in 1947 or even in 1967. If they did so, the world would shower them with money. They could have both independence and wealth. But they are thoroughly idealistic. They can't be bribed with their own rich nation. They have to do what is just, in their opinion--to die in a jihad while killing Jews. The world loves them for their selflessness.