For the Sake of Clarity – A Thought Experiment

securityfenceIn Perspective: For the sake of clarity, a thought experiment

May. 14, 2009

He was in his 20s, the young man with the question after my lecture. He couldn’t have asked it more kindly or gently. Without a hint of cynicism or anger, he expressed what was clearly on the minds of many of the people his age in the crowd: “Can you justify a Jewish state,” he wanted to know, “when having a Jewish state means giving up on so many of Judaism’s values?”

Here’s what he didn’t say: Israel is the root of evil in the Middle East. It’s the cause of checkpoints, of roadblocks, of a big ugly wall that runs along a border no one has agreed to. The Palestinians are desperate, and in the massive imbalance of power, they have no chance and no hope. Israel is the nuclear bully in a region that, were it not for Israel’s existence, would no longer be on the front page. To achieve peace in the Middle East, Israel just needs to be subdued. Break Israel’s intransigence, and we’ll finally see progress.

That was his unspoken claim, and now it’s also the position of the Obama administration. At AIPAC’s recent Policy Conference, Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. John Kerry made it clear that for the US to support Israel on Iran, Israel must settle the Palestinian problem once and for all. It has been widely reported that Rahm Emanuel, in an off-the-record session, said precisely the same thing. After decades of tacit agreement that the US would remain silent about Israel’s nuclear capability, a State Department official publicly suggested that Israel sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, as if, on the eve of Iran’s going nuclear and with Pakistani weapons in danger of falling into the hands of the Taliban, Israel’s nuclear arsenal is the world’s most serious concern.

A new message is afloat – Israel is the problem, and the US has had enough.

Even the pope couldn’t help himself. His comments about the victims of the Holocaust were so tepid as to be outrageous, but he had no problem calling urgently for an immediate Palestinian state, as if Israelis haven’t tried to create one for decades.

The young American Jews in my audience, clearly struggling with the morality of a Jewish state, now have the Obama administration and the pope echoing all their misgivings.

I have no illusions that all this can be changed overnight, but with the upcoming Binyamin Netanyahu-Barack Obama meetings putting Israel into the spotlight once again, I’d like to propose the following thought experiment – at least to these young American Jews, and possibly to Obama himself.

IMAGINE THAT ISRAELIS decide that by Jerusalem Day, this coming week, they want a deal. So we take down the security fence. We remove the checkpoints. We open all the roads, and Gaza’s sea and air routes. We agree publicly to return to something closely approximating the pre-1967 borders, and we accede to the demands that parts of Jerusalem be internationally governed, or even put under Palestinian control.

Does this end the conflict? Of course it doesn’t. The Hamas Charter calls not only for the destruction of Israel, but for Islamic war on Jews everywhere. (Why do we consistently refuse to believe that Hamas means what it says?) What would change? The noose would tighten. The rockets would be fired from a shorter distance and the demand for the return of refugees (thus ending the Jewishness of the state) would persist. As was the case when Israel left Lebanon in May 2000 or Gaza in the summer of 2005, Israel’s enemies would smell a weakened, bloodied state and would prepare for the next stage of their war.

But peace would not have come. Much as we all want this conflict to end, does anyone really doubt that? There is, as honest brokers must admit, nothing that Israel can do to end this conflict.

NOW, HOWEVER, TRY the opposite side of the thought experiment. Imagine that the Palestinians decide that they have tired of the conflict, or their electorate begins its long-overdue rebellion and insists on a settlement. So the Palestinians, Hamas and Fatah, demand everything Israel’s agreed to above – an end to roadblocks and the wall, an opening of Gaza, a bridge or a tunnel between Gaza and the West Bank and a return to the 1967 borders. Let’s say that they even insist on Palestinian control of east Jerusalem.

But they also recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. They agree to an immediate and permanent cessation of hostilities and violence (this is a thought experiment, after all) and insist that any other outstanding issues be negotiated and resolved with the US and the Quartet as intermediaries. And they require Israelis to vote within a month, no longer, on whether to accept the deal.

Will there be Israelis who object? Will there be residents of the West Bank who will resist leaving their homes? Yes, there will be. But would an Israeli plebiscite overwhelmingly approve the offer? Without question. In a matter of weeks, three quarters of a century of bloodshed and suffering would come to an end.

This, of course, is not going to happen, because all the new rhetoric notwithstanding, and all the confusion of today’s young American Jews aside, there’s always been one party that’s sought peace, and another that’s rejected it. It was true in 1948, and it was true in Khartoum. It’s no less true today.

It’s never been up to us, and it’s always been up to them.

But this simplistic thought experiment is worth considering not because it can be implemented, but because it brings one unfortunate truth into stark focus. Young American Jews ought to take note: Israel cannot end this conflict. It can weaken itself, but the only way it can bring peace to the region is to go out of business.

If that is what the peacemakers really seek, we’ll see that soon enough, with frightening clarity.

About Daniel Gordis

Dr. Daniel Gordis is Senior Vice President and the Koret Distinguished Fellow at Shalem College in Jerusalem. The author of numerous books on Jewish thought and currents in Israel, and a recent winner of the National Jewish Book Award, Dr. Gordis was the founding dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism.

43 Comments on "For the Sake of Clarity – A Thought Experiment"

  • Charles Oren says

    An interesting exercise! Here is one more possibility.
    Suppose the Arabs make a peace offer and Israel accepts it, or vice versus. Will that solve the problem?
    Negotiations between Arabs show that they seldom keep any agreement for a moment longer than it suits them. Alternatively, other factions immediately pop up to oppose the agreement signed by their leaders.

  • I doubt that your thought experiment would help. If someone believes that Israel is the root of evil in the Middle East, then they may well believe that if Israel accedes to all demands, the conflict would end. (Your thought experiment merely restates their question.)

    On the opposite side of your thought experiment, I ain’t buying a mere recognition of Israel’s right to exist and a declaration of an end to hostilities and violence.(Just because we consistently refuse to believe that Hamas means what it says doesn’t mean I need to believe everything it says.)

  • Joseph Alexander says

    One thing you forgot to point out is that the young man’s question is itself evidence that the existential Jewish value of a Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael (not to mention Jewish settlement throughout Eretz Yisrael, regardless of artificially imposed cease-fire lines) has been lost for so many people (Jew and non-Jew alike).

    It must be stated, and restated, in every possible forum: Zionism is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, and the State of Israel is the reestablishment of the Jewish people’s sovereignty over its own land. The fact that the Jews were prevented from realizing this reality for so many centuries is not their fault, but that of the various foreign invaders and occupiers who seized land that did not belong to them, murdered and/or expelled the Jews living there, and banned Jews from returning. The establishment of the modern State of Israel has righted this ancient wrong.

    In addition, Jews around the world must become reacquainted with the essential truth that the most natural place for a Jew to be is in Eretz Yisrael (whatever his or her religious inclination or political ideology). To say otherwise is to deny a fundamental element of Judaism and Jewish peoplehood.

  • David Stolow says

    And so, once again, someone has set out the deal. Everyone knows that this is the deal. The problem has been that neither side is prepared to accept it. On our side, given the continued strengthening of the settler movement and the Rabbinut at the expense of the secular, labor Zionism that gave birth to the State, there is a serious danger that the Greater Israel/ethnic cleansing crowd will prevail. Meanwhile, the Palestinians continue to refuse to accept the existence of a Jewish State and are on their way to re-electing Hamas to continue the war (and push Israelis further to the right). And so, the deal remains the subject of thoughtful columns such as yours but not much more.

    My immodest proposal would be for Netanyahu to tell Obama that Israel is ready to accept the Arab League’s latest iteration of the deal with the exceptions that Israel is recognized as a Jewish State and each side has to resettle its own refugees, with the other side (and its friends in the US, EU and the Arab oil states) paying reparations.

    I have no more hope than you that the Palestinians are ready to agree to this and I certainly do not trust the Saudis or the Gulf States to deliver on the economics of the deal. But, at minimum, Bibi would relieve the perceived pressure from the Obama Administration, put the onus back on the Palestinians and their so-called allies and give young American Jews a much better place to take their stand for Israel and peace in their lives and on their campuses.

    My daughter, a Young Judaean and U of Michigan student, puts together Israel education programs sponsored by U of Michigan Hillel but aimed at students generally. Please tell Bibi that she could use the help.

  • I feel betrayed by the present US administration and deeply diosturbed by its emphasis on Israeli ‘concessions’ = no mention of what the Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims need to do for peace to come to the MidEast. Any thinking person with a knowledge of history KNOWS that Israeli has made many efforts to bring peace to neighbors who do not wish them to exist! Twenty one plus Muslim nations are not enough but one Jewish state is too much. The Palestinians and Arabs have been fed 60 years of propaganda by their fedaul overlords who learned Hitler’s lesson well: tell a lie often enough and it becomes the truth. So Isrtael is to blame for all their multiple problems. But look at the last 60 years and who has built a thriving state and economy? Certainly not the enemies of Israel who are sworn to her destrcution no matter how many years, or decades or centuries it takes.
    I’m reminded of a story: a man was very close to his mother yet when she died he could not shed a tear at her graveside. Some years later his father with whom he had been at bitter odds all his life died and the son shed copious tears. The raison d’etre for his living, hatred for his father, was gone and he had nothing in his life to sustain him. This lesson would be lost on the dictatorships of the Middle East I fear.
    So if Obama succeeds and he looks like a juggernaut, Israel will have won the battles and lost the war.
    We need to do more than just pray he will not succeed. As always, Dr. Gordis hits the nail on the head. Thank you.

  • I think we need to ‘level the playing field a bit’. It’s difficult because due to some deeply harbored anti-Jewish feeling, many of the Left seem incapable anymore of arguing Israel’s conduct on the merits and the backdrop of the conflict (the Right is a foregone handicap).

    So, I have another experiment to imagine. Let’s imagine we begin calling all the Arab towns and villages and cities in Israel, pre-67 Israel, as “settlements”. The object being if, as almost everyone assumes, all Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, or even most, will have to be dismantled and the resident Jews expelled a la 2005 disengagement in a future peace arrangement, then the Arab population of Israel will be facing approximately the same fate. If peace means a Jew-empty Judea/Samaria, well, an even ‘better’ peace would perhaps mean all Arabs in “Palestime”. That way, no friction or causes of hostility.

    Ah, but that’s immoral because, well, Arabs have historical rights in the country, etc., then fine, Jews also have historical rights, etc. in Shiloh, Hebron, Bet-El, etc.

    If anything, it returns the argument of a solution to the basics: do the Jews have any right – moral, religious, historical, cultural, legal, – to reconstitute their national home in any part of the Land of Israel?

  • Jack Arbiser says

    Might I suggest that your Jewish student in his 20s knows less about Jewish values than he does about Christian, Islamic, or pagan values? Most American Jews are led to believe that Jewish values mean tolerating everything, and that Jewish culture means lox and bagels. Secular Israelis are also fed a similar thin gruel of values, including that the history of 1st and 2nd Temple Israel is mythology, the Holocaust was partially the Jews fault, and the state of Israel was created by unprecedented ethnic cleansing and is thus illegitimate. The opinions that are expressed by our young, the pope and the Obama administration are merely the bitter fruit of postzionism. If I subscribed to these beliefs, I would be a fierce opponent of zionism (and Judaism).
    The simple fact is explained in Bilaams blessing “am levadad yishkon”- a nation that shall dwell apart. A Jewish state will never be seen as entirely legitimate, because it is a Jewish state. While we all want peace, we must ask ourselves-why do we merit peace?

  • Drjj says

    Excellent piece, indeed expressing with clarity the painful but undeniable realities of the Middle East and its conflicts.

    Everything else is bullshit.

  • Michael says

    Recognize Israel?
    That reminds me of a schtick that Robin Williams does on this subject that goes something like- I recognize you. Didn’t we meet at the Fineman Bar Mitzvah last spring?
    I can’t even believe that platitudes are even are part of the discussion much less the desired end! All Israel needs is security and unless the world is prepared to attack those who attack Israel or even threaten to attack, what is the point of any “agreements”.
    Even if Hamas or Saudi Arabia and other Arab states agreed to “recognize” Israel what does that accomplish? Those are hollow words that do not guarantee security for Israel and even those words are nearly impossible for them to utter.
    No one, not the US, nor the quartet, nor especially any Arab monarch can be trusted to protect Israel.
    I can say that with conviction because they never have. The best they have ever done is watch while we were slaughtered and not directly participated in the slaughter. Not even WW2 was about Jews. It was Americans feeling threatened by Japanese and Germans. Well as an American I am now feeling threatened by Arabs and Muslims and Islamists at Israel’s doorstep and in Americas universities and backyards. The fact that American Jews are oblivious is the fault of us wanting again to assimilate. That is what got us into so much trouble everywhere in the Diaspora throughout history.
    Those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it. The only problem in our case is that history tells stories of our being intolerated and massacred.
    If the world cared they would grant us our country as depicted in the Bible. It is a meager and humble and desolate country with few resources that no one really cared for or cared about. We prayed for our return and it took thousands of years for our prayers to be heard.
    Jews are not welcome in many parts of the world and even many parts of the US, today. Where else are we going to be able to go?
    Rahm will be floating in a boat at sea with no safe harbor to land and then what will he have to say about US policy.
    I hate to base my remarks on the reality of recent history because it sounds so bleak but what else can we use as a basis for our conclusions.

  • Kalman Bookman says

    Three Names and four countries

    1. Neville Chamberlain
    2. Adolph Hitler
    3. Ahminadjab
    4. Germany
    5. Czechoslovakia
    6. Iran
    7. Israel

  • David Rubin says

    The Transcripts are available on the AIPAC website. With all due respect to my very good friend Danny – for whom I have the greatest respect and admiration – I do not see that Biden and Kerry said anything like the premise he stated in his article. And who cares what Rahm says behind closed doors? — in that context, he can be contradicted later by his own administration — that’s why it was said behind closed doors.

    I read the position of the Obama administration as saying that the failure of the Bush administration to engage in diplomacy in the Middle East hurt everyone. They now intend to engage. All players need to be prepared to contribute to the process. Sounds ok to me.

    The idea that the Fatah types must be supported is distasteful, but it is also Netanyahu’s plan. I don’t see much light between Obama and Netanyahu yet — let’s see what develops before we start going into a panic.

  • Sheldon Rabinowitz says

    Do I detect that time and the experience of watching the Arab instransigence has caused Daniel Gordis to move to the right?

    Islamic fundamentalists will never allow an infidel state to live peacefully in their midst!

    Israel is not obliged to commit suicide to satisfy policy of US State Department or President.

  • JWG says

    “NOW, HOWEVER, TRY the opposite side of the thought experiment. Imagine that the Palestinians . . . also recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.”

    Maybe deleting “Jewish,” as a third thought experiment, better frames the issue now confronting Israel, unfortunately.

  • E.Silverman says

    First, send this to every email in the White House that has any comments to make about the 2 state solution.
    Secondly, ask for their comments.

    It would be difficult to argue Daniel Gordis’s viewpoint.

  • Don says

    I have read the several comments. Rabbi Gordis comments are timely (as usual). One thing is certain: that what is being said publicly is not what is being pursued privately. The collection of public statements directed mainly to the Palestinians (Pope included) is meant to move peace to the forefront of awareness. The most difficult thing to accept is faith that Israel is not being deserted.
    Hitler was accepted even though Mein Kampf had been published for nearly a decade. People thought he would moderate with responsibility.
    Rabbi Gordis, I have written you about your vision for a dialogue on what is a Jewish State. We are again being distracted to discuss whether Israel should exist.
    A constitution based upon Jewish concepts, a dimi status such as Muslim States have for non-Islamic population? The vision of Oslo: No violence, no governmental incitement to violence, mutual respect for religious sites, e.g. the Temple Mount, Hebron, Bethlehem and Nazareth.
    What else? An avisory panel on Jerusalem comprised of who: Arab, Jew, Armenian and Christian-the accepted four quarters? A religious Sanhedrin for the Jewish State.
    Would this mean an end to the demographic population explosion? An expulsion of the UN Refuge organization in Eretz Israel? Will Gaza strike at the non-disputed territory of Israel with the knowledge that the UN and the US will rebuild after every act of war?
    And what sbout Words? Can they kill? Can they convey dreams? Remember 1967 and Abba Eban? We need to stay focused on the problems of the Jewish State. When we do that we will have the best opportunity for peace. We may discover that the Jewish State is more than an international refuge to be located in New Jersey. I have never written before. Like Joshua we need to remember our roots but in Israel, God’s work must truly be our own. Don

  • Matthew Ortman says

    Mr. Gordis,

    You once wrote a phenomenol Op-Ed for the NY Times in 2002. You remember the piece, don’t you?

    I think it’s about time you wrote another.
    The World is asleep at the wheel, and someone needs to wake it up.

  • Galia says

    It is really simple.

    1. Israel must recognize the right of Palestinian state to exist and let Palestinians live.

    2. Israel must denounce violence.

    3. Isr. must stop using Holocaust memories for presenting themselves as victims. You are the 4th greatest military power in the world. No one believes you are victims anymore. Move on from that victim role to a strong, positive and confident leadership role in the region, to the force for peace. Stop whining please.

  • Ofer says

    Shalom Dr. Gordis,

    Regarding :

    For the Sake of Clarity – A Thought Experiment
    A Jerusalem Post Column

    You wrote:
    “It’s never been up to us, and it’s always been up to them”

    Well, one counter example should suffice:

    Israel was committed, by the Oslo accords, not to change reality in the OT in
    any fundamental manner .

    What happened?
    “we” (or “you”? not sure about the right term) *doubled*the number of settlers
    (talking hundreds of thousands) during those years. The conclusion seems to be
    clear: a lot was and is up to “us” (including the Avoda party), and not just to

    I’m sure Prof. Dershowitz. and Dr. Pipes will be quick to applaud, but you may
    wish to convince some Israelis who are outside the echo chamber. The Golda Meir
    narrative seems to be on the decline.


  • It is not possible to make peace with enemies determined to destroy you. Until this central issue is dealt with there is no sense talking about peace. In fact talk of peace in this situation is counter productive and hypocritical.  All other issues are secondary to this single factor: until the various Arab groups recognize Israel’s right to exist and give up their commitment to exterminate Israel, any talk about peace is meaningless. 

  • Ken says

    “Can you justify a Jewish state,” he wanted to know, “when having a Jewish state means giving up on so many of Judaism’s values?”

    I doubt that this earnest ignoramus has the foggiest idea of what Jewish values actually are. Anyway, the belief that Israel must be the purest of the pure to have the right to exist — a standard that exists for no other country — is fundamentally anti-Semitic.

  • Barbara Extract says

    You said it in the simplest, clearest terms possible. It is absolutely true: “It is not up to us; it is up to them.” So why is this not clear to the world? To the American Jews? To everyone?

    Very simple. The Arabs are masterful at PR. Israel’s PR is pathetic. They assume, because their cause is right, everyone will know. But no one knows. When they were bombed for 50 days without retaliating, no one knew. When they finally retaliated, the Arabs shout to the world, “They are killing our children!” When will Israel understand the need for PR? They’ll never get the understanding and support they need until they do.

  • Carl Sesar says

    It pains me to say this, but what was unspoken by the young American Jew in his question after Daniel Gordis’ lecture is that there is no justification whatsoever for the Jewish state of Israel’s existence Not only that, he looks forward to a day when Israel is no more, so that he is free at last from the heavy burden of her presence on his mind and in his life.

    Like Obama, he sees with perfect clarity the deadly results of the thought experiment proposed here. Obama will nod, smile, and sleep well for having brought “peace” to the region and to the world, while the many Jews, young and old, who voted for him will take comfort in believing that Israel, now fully redeemed, died nobly for the cause.

  • Paul Hoffman says

    No, that won’t work, either. I’ve tried the “opposite side of the thought experiment” with the following result: Yes, the Israelis will quickly agree. The Palestinians will have their state. The roadblocks and walls will be gone. But peace will not last, and Israel will be quickly snuffed out because the Palestinians will have retained the most deadly weapon of all: two generations of children, many now mature, procreating adults, and a system that perpetuates bitter hostility born out of decades of ceaseless campaigns of disinformation and gross misperceptions. Israel’s partner will be a people whose enmity towards Isarel remains fixed indelibly in their minds, to be passed on to the next generation. Within only a few years, the “friendly” palestinian government will be replaced or overrun. Isarel will have its piece of paper, but not peace unless fundamental attitudes and relationships change. And while peace is eventually possible, NOT NOW! It will first require two or more generations of serious, brilliant, dedicated work in the areas of economics, education, political science and social relationships.

  • Sylvia says

    THank you, Danny – for a while I thought those of us right of center were losing you. (We sat with you & your family at shabbat lunch during an AJC mission, & our daughter lives in Baltimore) Sylvia Pardes

  • Ofer,

    Actually, the Oslo Accords didn’t deal with any issue called “settlements”. Even Wikipedia includes this statement:

    “Permanent issues such as Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, Israeli settlements, and security and borders were deliberately excluded from the Accords and left to be decided.”

  • Galia,

    even Robert Malley and Hussain Agha recognize what you seem incapable of, “historical experience”. Here’s something from their June 11, 2009 article in the NY Review of Books:

    “Aspirations reflect historical experience. For Israel’s Jewish population, this includes displacement, persecution, the life of the ghetto, and the horrors of the Holocaust; and the long, frustrated quest for a normal, recognized, and accepted homeland. There is a craving for a future that will not echo the past and for the kind of ordinary security—the unquestioned acceptance of a Jewish presence in the region—that even overwhelming military superiority cannot guarantee. There is, too, at least among a significant, active segment of the Israeli population, a deep-seated attachment to the land, all of it, that constitutes Eretz Israel.”

  • Meir says

    It is interesting to me that you did not challenge the premise of the young man’s question, or, conversely, take it seriously. In fact, at least in your account of it, “he didn’t say: Israel is the root of evil in the Middle East.” Perhaps that is what he meant; but it is disturbing that you make the leap unprovoked, at least within the terms of the text.

    So, is the young man right? Does a Jewish state preclude Jewish values? If so, what makes it a Jewish state? That it is populated with and governed by Jews? What makes them Jews? If it is merely what is written in their DNA, and not what is written in their Torah, that seems like a slender reed. It certainly is insufficient (pace Joseph Alexander, supra) to impose any claim on my allegiance.

    Daniel, do you believe that living Jewishly is courting suicide? I know that you have too much understanding of, and love for, Jewish learning to think that. All states, including a Jewish one, have the right to self-defense. The world applauded Entebbe; it cheered (in secret) the attack on the Osiraq reactor. The world may have decried the loss of civilian life in the Gaza operation last winter, but one can make a strong case for its conformity with Jewish values. But the very human–but not very Jewish–daily humiliation of ordinary people crossing through the checkpoints; the destruction of centuries-old olive groves (“is the tree of the field a man, that it should be besieged by you?”); the hardening of one’s heart against the suffering of another: these are neither compatible with Jewish values nor necessary to the security of the Jewish state.

    The Jews do not have to answer to any other peoples. Uniquely, however–because “you alone have I known”–they have to answer to the One who chose the Jews to bring “Jewish values” into the world.

  • Laurie Siegel says

    Thanks, Danny, again, for telling it like it is. It always takes two to be in a relationship.

  • galia says

    I suggest you do another excercise. If you are Israeli, think of Palestinians as your friends, extend them your blessings, understand what it means to be in their shoes. Palestinians, think of Israelis in exact the same way. No remembering the past. No dwelling on Holocaust memories. No victim conciousness, no fears projected into the future. Whenever each and everyone of you is willing and able to do this excercise, then there will be peace!

    Peace starts not with goverments but with people. With the comments that I read here i don’t see any desire from the side of Israelis for peace. It must be even harder for Palestinians who just have lost over 1400 people, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers, and struggling to find food and some home, who believe terrible injustice has been done to them.
    When Jews learn to see past Hamas Charter and Hamas learn to see past the “Protocols of the Eldest of Zion” then we’ll have a chance for peace. Until then there will be man made hell in Palestinian land.

  • Maryam says

    Well, my question is: “Is Israel a legitimate state?” One built by the British, who never owned Palestine, given to those who complained of the Holocaust. Why? Why has it been given to the Jews without the consent of the Arabs? Does a state which needs so many innocent lives need to exist?

    If the Jews wanted a homeland, why weren’t they given one in Germany, which had oppressed them? Is this the reward of being so tolerant towards Jews and welcoming them into the their homelands the Muslims are getting, when all the European countries were kicking them out every short while?

  • Ken says

    Maryam is refreshingly honest – Israel should be delegitimized, presumably as a prerequisite to its destruction.

    Maryam, out of curiosity, do you believe that the Arab Muslim presence in the Middle East is legitimate? You do know that Arab Muslims are native only to a small corner of Arabia, and conquered the rest of the region about 1300 years ago. Out of curiosity, where do you live? Were you or your ancestors the original inhabitants of that place? Can you prove the legitimacy of your residence in that place?

  • Ken says

    galia writes:

    “When Jews learn to see past Hamas Charter and Hamas learn to see past the “Protocols of the Eldest of Zion” then we’ll have a chance for peace.”

    In other words, galia believes that there is an equivalency between Jews who fear an unabashedly genocidal and very real document and Arabs who believe in a ridiculous forgery.

  • elcid says

    I believe that all new American administrations have started their term with the same attitude towards this seemingly insurmountable problem. They find out soon enough that the Palestinians don’t want peace (their raison d’etre would disappear)and then they make all the right political noises as if they are working on a peace deal, knowing full well that it will never come to pass. We need to understand that we live in a surreal political world where pragmatism and common sense have no place. Israel must ignore the one eyed criticism and carry on regardless and wait for the American administration to see the light, as they did in the past.

  • How sad, banal and trite.

    Danny – you could do better!

    What about the settlers’ who continue to attack innocent Palestinian farmers? Or the ongoing home demolitions? Check out the work of Rabbis for Human Rights!!!

    Both peoples must take responsibility and stop blaming the other and stop thinking backward.

    President Obama has it correct and its time for neo-cons, and the right to get it!

    Try another thought experiment: “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, and study war no more.”

  • I just love Rabbis who quote the Bible. Rabbi Art writes: ‘Try another thought experiment: “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, and study war no more.”’

    Let’s try Yoel,4,10 – “Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning-hooks into spears; let the weak say: ‘I am strong.'”

    Oops. That’s a bit neo-con. God works in mysterious ways.

    And as for this: “What about the settlers’ who continue to attack innocent Palestinian farmers? Or the ongoing home demolitions? Check out the work of Rabbis for Human Rights!!!”

    Well, what about them? It would seem that for you, Rabbi, all the wicked evil deeds of Arab (note: not “the” Arabs like in “the” Settlers) pogromists (1920, 1929, 1936-39), the fedayeen, the Fatah, the Hamas, the Islamic Jihad do not spoil, cancel or injure any of the “rights” those RHR clergymen promote for them but a few Jewish revenants all who are either denounced by their fellows or arrested by the authorities somehow convince you we Jews do not belong in Shiloh, Hebron or Elon Moreh? Or that their violence is worse that Arab violence? Arabs can blow up restaurants, buses, etc. but Jewish rights are canceled due to the demolition of houses with court approval?

    What rabbinical seminary did you graduate? What philosophy course did you take?

  • I checked:

    Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, 1989 and University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 1978.

  • galia says

    Mr. Medad
    You are openly justifying violence citing Jewish Bible. How exactly are you different from radical Islamists that you think of as your enemies?

    Is that what they teach you in your rabbinical seminary?

  • Ah, Galia, you misunderstand.

    First, would you be more comfortable, being a Christian, if I quoted Jesus’ words from the New Testament?

    Matthew 10:34 – “I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword” or Luke 22:36 – “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one.”

    But the real point was that I was pointing out to the Rabbi that one cannot quote Scripture one-sidedly and expect to discourse on modern political events based on that biased perspective. The Bible, either as a religious tract or a moral guidebook, should be taken as a whole. And, if in the Bible some Prophets desire a strong Israel, to quote a defeatists sentence and ignore others is not being a good Rabbi nor an excellent political activist, if one plays a guitar or not.

    It’s not a fair or ethical way of discussing the right sof Jews in their land. I am not asserting a final conclusion but simply pointing out a bit of selective quotating which I personally have bno sympathy for in an argument.

    Either the Rabbi was being unfair in hiding the verse in Yoel or he didn’t know of the other verse. Which is worse, you decide.

  • galia says

    Mr. Medad,

    My beliefs as Christian are that Jesus teaches peace, love and goodness. It is my interpretation and my understanding of Jesus, that he never meant for anyone to actually pick up a sword and murder his enemies for any cause. That is simply not Jesus that I believe in. His words are at most symbolic for a spiritual warfare we are to fight on a personal level whatever it is on our way to inner peace.

    Jesus says, thy shall not murder. Under no conditions, no exceptions.

    But that’s my take on it. That’s my religion.

    I agree with you that religious writings should not ever be quoted during a political argument and should never be part of politics, it’s messy enough without it. But it’s not what this blog post is. Rabbi suggested it for a sake of an exercise, an experiment that this post was about. And I believe that it’s a powerful argument for peace.

    Do you want peace? Mr. Gordis pessimistic and hopeless take on this issue offers no solution. Do you have one?

  • Roddy Frankel says

    Galia, you are right to say that religion is personal, that scriptures are full of symbolism, parables and allegories. But, getting back to Jewish settlements, you do not have to believe in scriptures to defend the rights of Jews to return to their holy land. It is a basic human right. No one would consider telling Arabs they have no right living on “European Land.” Why the double standard? If you are concerned about land deeds and building permits, let the Israeli courts handle those issues. Three hundred thousand Jews live in the West Bank. Anyone who promotes their deportation is no better than the Russian Cossacks during the Jewish pogroms.

  • galia says

    On Jews “returning to holy land”, following symbolism of the scriptures, to live in Holly land is a metaphor for living in a state of inner peace with oneself and outer peace with your neighbors. Were the returning Jews attempting to achieve that and not to acquire all the land for themselves (the Zionist agenda) we would have seen different situation. Jews lived peacefully next to Muslims in Palestinian land for centuries.

    It’s a basic human right that one can travel and stay in any land, “holly land”, “european land” wherever one wishes to go.
    As for staying and taking over someone’s land by means of war or illegally, that’s a different matter. An illegal immigrant is to be deported. That’s the law of any land, Israelis are no exceptions. So let’s not confuse basic human rights with legal rights. There is no “double standard”.

    Honestly, i don’t trust Israeli courts. There is an obvious bias and discrimination against Palestinians and lack of justice.

  • Danny says

    If the motive for removing settlements and forfeiting sovereignty in the west bank and east Jerusalem were to achieve a complete peace then indeed i would not get us instantly to this goal.

    But doing these things is surely a matter of self-interest: ie to save israeli democracy and allow our country to hold onto its values.

    The difficulty of achieving peace shouldnt stop us from taking steps to avoid letting the west bank slip into a state of apartheid (something which there is a real danger of) The continuation of the status quo will only result in the majority population (palestinians) becoming subjugated to the minority population (settlers).
    We cant just wait for the palestinians to act for this will be too late.

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