Decency Abhors a Vacuum

The Jerusalem Post; January 28, 2011

The creation of Ehud Barak’s Independence faction, with its collateral damage to the already hemorrhaging Labor Party, puts Israel into that rare category of First World countries without a social-democrat-like party of any significance. Yet even Labor’s opponents ought not breathe a sigh of relief. Our ossified government, with no opposition to goad it into action, is passively presiding over the demise of much of what we have toiled to build.

True, the blame for the demise of Israel’s Left really lies with Yasser Arafat. When he unleashed the second intifada (more aptly called the Palestinian terror war) after Camp David sputtered, he proved once and for all that the Palestinians (at least under Arafat) had no intention of making a “land for peace” deal. The Left lost its plausibility, and barring a radical change on the Palestinian side, its demise became all but inevitable.

Blaming Arafat, however, is now irrelevant. Arafat is dead.

What matters now is what will become of us, and the picture is not pretty. Outside our borders, the noose is clearly tightening. The world is losing patience with the peace process, and with us, and is increasingly inclined to impose a solution. Numerous South American countries have recognized Palestine.

Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev, who could not even visit because of a Foreign Ministry strike which the enmity between Binyamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman prevented anyone from solving, then announced that Russia would follow suit. For the first time in history, the Palestinian flag was hoisted in Washington, DC. At the UN, a resolution condemning settlements was much discussed, and more than one American Jewish group suggested aloud that the Obama administration not veto it.

Anyone who imagines that (just because there is no fighting on any of our borders at the moment) the status quo is tenable is sorely mistaken. The writing on the proverbial international wall requires no deciphering. Without some serious attempt at making progress – even if Palestinian recalcitrance ultimately renders it wholly unsuccessful – Israel effectively contributes to its own marginalization.

DOMESTICALLY, TOO, we are doing ourselves enormous harm. Something ugly and dangerous is bubbling to the surface of society, endangering the very democracy and decency that have rightly been the very source of our pride for decades. There is a move for an investigation of the funding of left-wing groups (rather than a law requiring financial transparency for all nonprofits, which would have made much more sense).

Rabbis urge Jews not to sell or rent property to Arabs, effectively making rabid racism a rabbinically-sanctioned position, and rabbis’ wives follow suit, warning parents to distance their children from Arabs. (Just imagine a rabbi in the US saying that same thing about African-Americans!)

Recent polls show that one-third of Jewish Israelis oppose giving equal civil rights to Israeli Arabs, and in the modern religious community the rate is double.

At a moment in which the world (largely hypocritically) seems ever more inclined to decide that the State of Israel is morally corrupt and thus fundamentally illegitimate, elements of our society seem determined to provide them all the evidence that they need. We allow the world to draw the conclusion that we have no interest in moving some semblance of a peace process forward, and internally we allow a revolting ugliness to endanger our democracy, corrupt those of our children who are still decent and poison the world’s assessment of us precisely when we are most vulnerable.

Our emasculated political leadership – ossified by the unmanageable coalition it created – is endangering the very survival of the values and hope that have long led the Jewish people to live in – or rally around – this country. That is what makes the diplomatic vacuum that this government has allowed to develop so very dangerous. Yes, it is probably the case that no sensible deal Israel offers will be accepted. After all, why should the Palestinians make any concessions now, with their hand only growing stronger with each passing year?

YET THERE are at least two important reasons to keep Israeli initiatives at the forefront of the negotiations, no matter how fruitless they may prove. First, we have evidence aplenty that without them the world is going to impose a settlement on this region that will not be the one we want. Successive American presidents, Democratic and Republican, have been substantially less supportive in their second terms than they were in their first. We’ve seen the tenor of Barack Obama’s first term. Do we really want a second-term Obama working in a setting in which Israel has proposed nothing and seems perfectly comfortable with the status quo?

And no less important, an Israel not working publicly to move the peace process forward is one that says to its young people that the Arabs are our enemies, always will be and that, frankly, we don’t care that much. A young generation witness to a government that does not even make a pretense of working toward peace concludes that it will be at war forever. “We will fight,” young people conclude, “and when we have children, they, too, will go off to war in a conflict that will never, ever end.”

In that suffocating mind-set, instilling commitments to decency, liberalism (in the philosophical, not political, sense) and even democracy becomes almost impossible.

It may well be that there is no solution to the conflict in which we are now mired. But that is no reason not to keep trying. One day, our enemies might just decide that they want a future for their children better than the past they inherited. Even more importantly, however, the failure to try is poisoning us. We are already witness to what happens to a society when it gives up trying. Without some dramatic change in our diplomatic orientation and internal discourse, we are going to prove that one can, indeed, win a never-ending war, and still not survive.

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.

57 Comments on "Decency Abhors a Vacuum"

  • The truth is that there is not much of a social-democrat party of any significance in the United States anymore, either.

    In the private sector, union membership is down to 7% of the workforce and barely 10% including the public sector (and military), representing a 70-year low. Almost everyone, from both major parties, is looking to cut the social safety net and if you listened to the State Of The Union, you heard more about maximizing corporate profits than you did about living wages for their workers.

    Interestingly, Israel and America both are mired in perpetual wars and face massive problems that stem from, and result in, income inequality and cultural polarization.

  • Leo Berg says

    What happened to you? Netanyahu is not trying to move forward. Need I spell out to you all of the actions he has taken, to no avail. We have to wake up to the fact that there is no one to talk to. The recent Leakes have proven that. Any statement made by an Arab leader to try and compromise on any issue, spells his doom.

    Am Levadad Yishkon is us, now, and we can’t run away from that. We have to learn to figure out how we deal with that, and not blame each other for not reaching a peace agreement with no one.

    Your article is very surprising, and echoes the cries of all the Peace Now generation, we are bad and the Arabs are just dying to make peace with us.

    Hope your next article will balance this one, and face the music.

  • Daphna Oren says

    The palpable heartache in your words is more insistent than usual. As if you anticipate mourning. Which has already started – you see the who the children of Israel are. Your perspective, that of a parent, is the recognition that once a child decides he cannot master a task, that task will not be mastered. The course is set.

    As you have noted before, however, life – Jewish life, historical life, daily life – is full of miracles. We will see them if we look for them, seek them out and recognize them. How will Jews believe? Your voice is at the edge of despair. You have children – do you see that they have hope, even if we must use no individuals as a barometer, if a barometer exists…

  • Rabbi Raphael Kanter says

    “Israel effectively contributes to its own marginalization.”

    The truth has never been uttered more succinctly. I who criticize Israel do not absolve the other side but call upon their brethren Jews to do the right thing.

    Rabbi Raphael Kanter

  • Lisa Snider says

    Daniel, thought-provoking column, and I agree with Mrs. Oren about the noticeable despair in your tone. It’s alarming because your last book was so full of hope.
    In this column, though you don’t mention the recently leaked Palestine Papers by the Guardian and Qatar-based Al Jazeera. Do you think all the documented Palestinian concessions are true? If so, What was Israel thinking that prevented acceptance of the incredibly good deals being offered/concessions being made? I’ve been puzzled by this for days…

  • William Bilek, M.D. says

    I count myself among the many who have worked for, and supported our state of Israel, for many years. I have always maintained, and continue to do so, that those of us outside the country have no right to publicly criticize Israeli government policies, particularly on security issues.

    This pre-supposes, however, that those within the country, particularly the “leadership”, are working in the best interests of the country, and its people. I have increasingly come to doubt that that is true. More and more, I see what I interpret as self-serving behaviour by the politicians, arising out of greed, pride, self-agrandizement, with the “little people” being dragged along, with a simple shrug of the shoulders (“ein ma la’asot”). The country tolerates media and political actions that can only be described as “treason”. A few, like Isi Leibler, Caroline Glick, and you, Prof. Gordis, are weakly trying to raise the alarm. But it seems no one is listening.

    Those who love Zion, within and without the country, must go beyond simple, plaintive bleating, and ACT!! to mobilize NOW!!! Citizen action to force a government of national unity, with clearly set, realistic goals to present to the U.S., the U.N., the Arabs, and the world. Netanyahu vs. Lieberman, vs Barak, vs. Livni vs. Shas are individually fiddling away, while Israel and the Jewish people are burning. It is time to act, to stop the madness.

  • J. Read says

    Heart-breaking and true. Good for you for saying it and for staying there with your family.

  • Noa says

    Thank you once again Dr Gordis for an inciteful, if somewhat sad perspective. Also to William Bilek MD. Your last paragraph is a true clarion call.

  • Martin says

    Daniel how could you write such an uninformed homily.

    Gordis says — as it so typical of the “left” — Israel should do more to advance peace–fill the vacuum– as if its not done enough so the conflict is all Israel’s fault. In the same breath he says the conflict is insoluble How can he be so misinformed. Decency is not like Nature.

    It’s not that I do not understand and even feel sympathetic to genuine tearful moralizing –a notable Jewish genetic –but for heaven’s sake why is it so difficult for otherwise impressively intellectual Israeli “doves” to see it’s not the occupation — it’s not the settlements — it’s not the treatment of Arab civil rights — and with a country with so many parties it’s certainly not a failure of democracy — it’s not that the majority of Israeli do not want peace, but not without security even, if it come to that, at the expense of democracy — but, Dear Daniel, your homily would have been better delivered to the Arabs. Let them rush in to fill the vacuum. To understand the conflict let me paraphrase a political slogan , “It’s the ethnicity, stupid.”

  • HOWARD STEVENS says

    Thank you, Rabbi Gordis, for a clear-headed analysis.

    One quibble: I am vexed by the “land for peace” terminology. It is really “land for justice.” To many, Israel is an international goniff. It took land it is not entitled to and now seeks “compromises” in order to restore the theft. On Jerusalem, Israel has dishonored the brit made with the world in 1947. As the good rabbi suggests, this a more serious threat to Israel than Arab intransigence.

    Gordis notes time is not on Israel’s side. The voices of the ancient prophets grow louder. Will they be heard? If not now, when?

  • Ze'ev says

    Perfect!
    This, in my humble opinion, is your best column ever.
    Yishar Koach!

  • Moishe (Thomas) Goldstein Toronto Canada says

    Hi, Daniel.

    Respectfully, in the pragmatic short term, peace is not the burning issue.

    Rather, it is Palestinian statehood.

    The world already wants to see, and very soon will demand, statehood for Palestinians.

    And if we are smart enough to give Palestinians statehood immediately, and worry about the details later, we may just find that peace will find its chance.

    Enjoy a Shabbat Shalom U’Mevorach.

    Moishe

  • David says

    Israel and Israelis are not the problem no matter how critical we or are others are about our attitudes. The problem lies solely with the arabs who need to be convinced that hating us less will result in a better life for themselves.

  • Those who love Zion, within and without the country, must go beyond simple, plaintive bleating, and ACT!! to mobilize NOW!!! Citizen action to force a government of national unity, with clearly set, realistic goals to present to the U. As the good rabbi suggests, this a more serious threat to Israel than Arab intransigence.Do you think all the documented Palestinian concessions are true? If so, What was Israel thinking that prevented acceptance of the incredibly good deals being offered/concessions being made? I’ve been puzzled by this for days… William Bilek, M. But it seems no one is listening. More and more, I see what I interpret as self-serving behaviour by the politicians, arising out of greed, pride, self-agrandizement, with the “little people” being dragged along, with a simple shrug of the shoulders (“ein ma la’asot”). says: January 28, 2011 at 3:18 pm I count myself among the many who have worked for, and supported our state of Israel, for many years., the Arabs, and the world. Netanyahu vs., the U.Gordis notes time is not on Israel’s side. Lieberman, vs Barak, vs.S. I have increasingly come to doubt that that is true. Good for you for saying it and for staying there with your family.. On Jerusalem, Israel has dishonored the brit made with the world in 1947. It took land it is not entitled to and now seeks “compromises” in order to restore the theft.N. HOWARD STEVENS says: January 28, 2011 at 7:04 pm Thank you, Rabbi Gordis, for a clear-headed analysis. Gordis, are weakly trying to raise the alarm.D.This pre-supposes, however, that those within the country, particularly the “leadership”, are working in the best interests of the country, and its people. Read says: January 28, 2011 at 6:08 pm Heart-breaking and true. It is really “land for justice. It is time to act, to stop the madness. J. The voices of the ancient prophets grow louder.One quibble: I am vexed by the “land for peace” terminology. I have always maintained, and continue to do so, that those of us outside the country have no right to publicly criticize Israeli government policies, particularly on security issues. The country tolerates media and political actions that can only be described as “treason”. A few, like Isi Leibler, Caroline Glick, and you, Prof.” To many, Israel is an international goniff. Shas are individually fiddling away, while Israel and the Jewish people are burning. Livni vs?

  • Martin says

    Howard Stevens observes :” To many, Israel is an international goniff. It took land it is not entitled to and now seeks “compromises” in order to restore the theft.” How cute!

    Howard, we cannot let that pass. The “to many” you imply are simply stupid, or uninformed, repeating untruths till people write that myth passing it on as if it is true and setting the hook-nosed Jew up for a charge of rapaciousness he is reputed to have, Howard, the Jews did not just “take” land–a homeland for Jews was given to them — forgot God for a moment — by the international community who had the authority of title to bestow it on the Jews. The only problem is when a dispute arose they no interest in following through and enforcing their decision. In which case the beneficiary does the best he can.

  • Miriam says

    I have to agree with 2 of the responders. Israel is no more in trouble than the US. Politicians are, to quote an old joke, poly tics ie, out for themselves, like so many tics on the little people.
    Palestine will be declared a state, whether we like it or not, so we might as well beat the world to the punch and agree to it…

  • Meir ben Avraham says

    Martin, you probably think Amos and Jeremiah were self-hating Jews. Daniel, what you have described (and what some of your readers engage in) is sinat chinam. Baseless hatred brought us exile the last time. To paraphrase Santayana, those who do not remember Jewish history are doomed to repeat it.

  • Eric says

    As an American oleh living in Israel, I can clearly confirm that Rabbi Gordis is spot on. The status quo is untenable. Without some dramatic changes in society, from the grassroots and from the top, we’re on a path to darker times. There isn’t much that the Diaspora can do here. It’s up to Israelis alone. Whether they will wake up in time is the big question. Probably a 50/50 shot.

  • HOWARD STEVENS says

    To Martin:

    My point is that the “homeland for Jews” given “by the international community” did NOT include Judea and Samaria, nor unfettered possession of all of Jerusalem.

    Wholly apart from the Palestinian issue, the refusal to recognize this legal and historic reality is certainly not helping Israel’s standing in world opinion.

  • Frances says

    While there are definitely innumerable problems here and much to lament, there is also much that is positive and hopeful. I don’t like to condemn Israel for all the things that it does wrong without also speaking of all the good qualities that are also present.

    Given that there is no prospect for peace with the Palestinians — not because we don’t want it but because they don’t — it makes no sense to keep pretending that we can work toward such a concept with them. They’re not having any part of peace-making which doesn’t mean that we have consider ourselves at war with them, or that our children will have to fight them — we have pleanty of other enemies much more likely to go to war with us than the Palestinians. I believe we should be telling the Palestinians that we want to live in peace as neighbours, and when they’re ready to change the curriculum in their schools, stop inciting their children to kill us, recognize us as a Jewish state and realize that there will never be a return of refugees, nor will Jerusalem ever by divided, then we can talk. Until then, we’re going to have the status quo no matter how many times we say we’re discussing a “peace plan”.

  • William Bilek, M.D. says

    To Howard:
    You are certainly entitled to your opinion. And venues such as this are exactly where such opinions should be voiced, and the issues discussed – not in the New York Times, or with our government representatives.

    My opinion is different from yours. The “homeland for the Jews” was not “given” to the Jewish nation, any more than the Greek or Bulgarian homelands were “given” to those nations. The international community (finally) recognized the legitimate and historic rights of the Jewish people to a nation in part of their ancestral homeland. The land that was eventually parsed off the original promise was reluctantly accepted by the leadership of the Yishuv, along with the internationalization of Jerusalem. The refusal of the Arabs to accept that same offer rendered the complete proposal null and void – all the more so after the U.N., and the international community refused to honour their own resolutions, and acceded to the violent outcome of the Arab attacks. That is the “legal and historic reality”. The future of those disputed, unallocated territories remains to be determined through negotiations and a peace treaty.

    As for Israel’s “standing in world opinion”, I am afraid that nothing short of national suicide will assure us of any permanent improvement there.

  • HOWARD STEVENS says

    To Dr. Bilek:

    You may be letting your heart get the better of your head.

    The extraordinarily difficult decision of the Yishuv was unconditional. It was NOT based on Arab acceptance. It was NOT based on any promise that the UN or any member would enforce the partition resolution. To now declare the resolution “null and void” also means Israel’s basis for existence under international law vanishes!

    Regrettably, the current political leadership of Israel lacks the courage and foresight of the founders who unilaterally agreed to partition knowing they stood alone against an implacable foe and an uncaring world.

    Today, Israel benefits in no substantive way from its continued occupation and its position on Jerusalem. The intransigence is based retaining Knesset power and avoidance of hard, principled decision-making. The best interests of Israel are not being advanced by its government.

    As for world opinion, all of the major democratic governments fully support Israel’s existence and maintain excellent relations – economic, intellectual and security – with Israel. If their respective electorates begin to think of Israel as a stubborn, thuggish entity, things will not bode well for maintaining these important connections.

  • William Bilek, M.D. says

    To Howard:
    I don’t believe that a protracted personal discussion is appropriate on Prof. Gordis’ blog.

    Please feel free to contact me by e-mail at:
    amisr18@gmail.com

  • Irv White, PhD says

    I’m overwhelmed by the clash and clang of the multiple cries of response to your article, Danny. It’s as if we’re all catapulted back to the Tower of Babel where each is trying to construct a tower of truth. The desperation of our utter passivity in the face of macro-cosmic events beyond our immediate control indeed sets off fear responses in all of us.

    But, please, let’s hold our breath for awhile and not jump to intellectual conclusions about our own intransigence or culpability in those events. Danny, your previous understanding and wisdom of the past several years has not dissipated because of Egypt, Netanyahu, Lieberman, or other factors in this dark-appearing day of behalah and confusion.

    I’m convinced that the burden of justice in the destiny of Israel still falls squarely in the Moslem Arab court. This does not mean that we should cease from using our best knowledge and instincts to come up with some new way of approaching this almost intractable historical struggle. But the blame game is not appropriate at this moment either out of despair or out of impatience.

    Irv White

  • bobby says

    BRAVO,you said it like it is! Never give up the pursuit of peace. We are here to stay and so are they. there is plenty of blame for past failures to go around. However the other side behaves we must continue to pursue truth and democracy, it is this struggle which will insure our survival and has sustained the Jewish people. Israeli leadership, like much of American leadership, is made up of politicians rather than statesman. Carry the righteous banner and world Jewry will support Israel forever.

  • ARTH says

    I agree with Gordis but take two exceptions:

    1. The building of settlements gives the
    Arabs and their sympathizers a legitimate
    issue and prevents Israel from being able
    to say the issue is recognition of its
    legitimacy alone. In other words, Peace may be
    impossible but nevertheless, the
    enterprise of the settlements
    provides a legitimate grievance
    against Israel and also
    throws oil on the fire of their fears
    about it.

    2. The nature of politicians in Israel, as
    well as all of its official sectors is
    that of cynicism and opportunism.
    Gordis’ idealism
    about being in, living in, and being a
    part of a Jewish state blinds him to the
    reality of Israel which is total
    cynicism and opportunism, which is
    understood in Israel incorrectly as
    “worldliness” and “maturity.”

  • David says

    Arth,
    The building of settlements in Israel is a legitimate action. What is illegitimate is the repeated UN condemnation of Israel’s actions. Never forget that possession is 9/10 of the law and it is this principal that positions Israel in good stead when expanding new settlements.
    David

  • Fred says

    Many people I know are astounded by Israel’s policies of apartheid, ethnic cleansing and racial laws against non Jews. This comes as a surprise to people who thought Jews valued equality under the law. It’s clear our understaning of Judiasm was wrong. There is one Judaism when Jews are a minority among others it seems, and another when they have the majotity and all the power. Pretty shameful. Did Israel never hear of the Golden Rule?

  • ARTH says

    David: Legitimate or not, the settlements will never be accepted by the world or by the most moderate of Arabs. It is not accepted by the other people who live there, who regard it as a robbery of their lands and water, not to mention their civil rights. You saying that it is “legitimate” changes nothing and the settlements gives those who would be against Israel a legitimate taanos, or issue, with Israel. I agree with Professor Yehoshua Porath who believes that Peace is impossible with the Arabs but, nevertheless, considers the entire settlement enterprise a waste of resources and a political liability which is considered objectively legitimate.
    If Israel has held the territories without building on them, then it could say to the world that it is waiting for its recognition but the distraction of “the occupation” and the settlement building makes that impossible.

  • Fred says

    I’ve noticed that my first comment has not been approved. Do you only include comments within a narrow spectrum of opinion? Are your readers so fragile that they can’t tolerate other points of view? Are you afraid that Israel’s policies are so against human rights and equality under the law, that they are indefensible? If the Jewish people are afraid of open discussion, and want to censure it, then Israel is truly in a deplorable state.
    Fred

  • David says

    Arth,
    I too agree that peace is impossible with the arabs which is why I say that building settlements is legitimate. It follows therefore that if Israel were not to build settlements for its expanding population, it would to its own detriment, be blindly accepting foreign interference in its internal affairs. We have seen the benefit of vacating land in exchange for peace in the Gaza strip, there is no reason to believe that vacating the West Bank and the Golan will have a different result.

  • Fred says

    What about the commandment Thou Shalt Not Steel? Does this only apply to Jews in Judaism? What about roads for Jews Only? Don’t uou see that you are racists towards non Jews? No country treats Jews this way, but you treat nonJews as though they have no rights. Jewish supremacy is a racist ideology, similar to the South African model. From reading people’s comments, they are either blind, stupid or so indoctrinated with Jewish supremacy that the concept of equaity under the law is meaningless to Israel and most Jewisn people. Your readers seem to lack a moral conscience when it comes to nonJews. Scary stuff. I don’t think you’ll print this nor my other comments, but your readers should know what many nonJews now think of Israel and the Jewish people because of Israel’s apartheid policies. Continue to suppress other views, and you live in the dark. Mazel Toff.
    Fred

  • Fred says

    Thank you for posting my comments. I’m glad I wasn’t censored.

    Fred

  • David says

    Fred,
    What is scary is your lack of knowledge and denial that Erez Yirsael was founded as a state for the Jewish people and extends from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean. Those who live in Israel do so by choice. Those who are not Jewish and remained in 1948 also did so by choice believing that the Jewish state would not exist for very long. They were not welcome in 1948 and are not welcome now. The majority have proven to be undesirable residents. Most of the world did not accept the state of Israel in 1948 and nothing has changed in 2011 including your antisemitic rant.

  • William Bilek, M.D. says

    Fred,
    While you are permitted to have opinions, and even to post them on web sites, such as these, your opinions are clearly based on a total lack of information. My guess is that you would be unwilling, and unable, to engage in an exchange that would challenge you to back up, and stand behind some of your irrational statements.

    Still, I suppose it is to your credit that you take the time to read articles such as those by Prof. Gordis, even if you are unable to comprehend them.

  • Martin says

    Fred argues Jews are not playing fair. I believe I have given his posts an objective reading. I do believe he is correct in that Jews everywhere have a well deserved reputation of “treating the other as you would have them treat yourself.” In fact, Jews are sometime said to be too accommodating to a different point of view. But will he not concede what we have here is a difference that cannot be resolved in good faith as long as the party you are trying to treat as yourself is trying his best to cut off your head? Will the Arabs reciprocate and follow the “Golden Rule” he demands of the Jews and recognize the state of Israel? There’s the different reality he need to presuppose if he would understand Israel’s dilemma wanting which makes his points meaningless.

  • ARTH says

    David: The building of the settlements would make Peace impossible regardless of if one regards it as subjectively “legitimate” or not. Without the settlements, it would be far easier for Israel to win its campaign for world public opinion, but because of the settlements and the control of these territories in general, Israel will be blamed and already is… This is not my opinion, this is the objective truth. AR

  • David says

    Arth,
    If Israel was not Israel occupied by Jews, I would agree with you however, this is not and will never be so. Conceding anything to the arabs has not changed world opinion for the better in 62 years, on the contrary, it has been interpreted by the arabs and perhaps the rest of the world as a weakness resulting in increased worldwide antisemetism and anti-Zionism.
    I’ll say it again, from a position of strength in negotiations, should the enemy decide one day to negotiate in good faith, possession is 9/10 of the law.

  • Howard Stevens says

    I believe ARTH’s posts have succinctly and intelligently framed the issues.

    The Israel Declaration of Independence states in part that Israel:

    “will promote the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; will be based on the precepts of liberty, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed or sex; will guarantee full freedom of conscience, worship, education and culture; will safeguard the sanctity and inviolability of the shrines and Holy Places of all religions; and will dedicate itself to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

    No matter the technicalities of law (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli_settlement#Legal_status), the current government’s stance on the “settlements” does not conform to these fundamental principles in my view.

    Israel can adopt a dog-eat-dog, might is right, we got the guns you got bupkes, posture but I submit this would not be the Israel that so many struggled and died to achieve and would not be an Israel likely to thrive.

  • Fred says

    What I am talking about is equality under the law ahd equal protection under the law, which Israel does not now have for it’s non Jewish inhabitants, and especially in the occuppied territory, where a severe form of apartheid now exists, where there are settlements for Jews Only and roads for Jews Only. The Jews can drive freely from the territory to Tel Aviv, the sea, or anywhere else, whereas the non Jews are kept behind a wall, and cannot even travel freely behind this wall.

    How educated people like yourselves can make justifications for these gross violations of human rights, shows that you have cut yourself off from your own humanity, and have decided that a Jewish supremist state, was far more to your liking that a state that values equal rights under the law.

    Israel’s demolition of houses of nonJews to build Jewish Only housing, and the settlers burning of olive groves and killing of non Jews withot serious investigation and prosecution of these crimes by the Israeli authorities demonstrates how far the Jewish people have sunk in their morality. The fact that most of you seem clueless to this is scary stuff.
    Fred

  • David says

    Fred, You are wrong again. Equality under the law requires respect for the law. The majority of arab inhabitants do not respect the existence of the state or the laws and therefore do not earn a right of equal treatment. You have a warped sense of equality if you consider that your fellow resident should be treated equally when he does not respect your existence.

  • ARTH says

    David, Not building settlements is “weakness”? How?

  • David says

    Arth,
    That’s a no-brainer !

  • William Bilek, M.D. says

    Fred,
    If you wish to continue posting you will have to answer directly to some questions.

    You said, ” equality under the law ahd equal protection under the law, which Israel does not now have for it’s non Jewish inhabitants,” Please point to where this is true. All citizens of Israel have equality before the law. Prove specific points where this is otherwise.

    ” in the occuppied territory, “. Israeli law does not extend to the administered territories.

    “apartheid”. Please define the word, especially as it applies to the state opf israel, and give specific examples.

    “roads for Jews Only”. This is completely false. There are roads that are open to Israelis only (Arabs and Jews, and Christians) but not residents of the administered territories. This was not always true, and the action taken was necessary AS A RESULT of repeated terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens on unprotected roads.

    “The Jews can drive freely from the territory to Tel Aviv, the sea, or anywhere else, ” Not true. Israeli citizens are prohibited from going to any of the Area A territories, and are restricted from others. Before the Intifadas started, all people, Jews Arabs, Israeli citizens and people in the administered territories had free access to all land, and the length and breadth of israel. This ended when the terror started in earnest.

    “whereas the non Jews are kept behind a wall, and cannot even travel freely behind this wall.”. There was no security fence before the terror began. And there are many Jews living in areas beyond the security fence, which has, indeed, decreased the terror attacks inside Israel.

    “a Jewish supremist state,” Please show specifically where, and how, this applies to Israel.

    “Israel’s demolition of houses of nonJews”. Please specify cases where this was done, and why.

    “withot serious investigation and prosecution of these crimes by the Israeli authorities ” Please specify cases that occurred but were not investigated or prosecuted as indicated.

    I am definitely not “clueless”. I would request that you post SPECIFIC responses to my questions. It is far too simple to spout lies and baseless accusations. BACK THEM UP, or stop prevaricating!!

  • Fred says

    Of course it’s apartheid. Settlers steal the land from nonJews (forgetting all about God’s commandment, unless it doesn’t apply to nonJews of course) with the assistance of the Israeli government. The settlements are for Jews only, and they take 90 per cent of the water resources. The Israeli governmnet builds roads for the settlers that the nonJews cannot use. The settlers can go wherever they choose in Israel proper, nonJews cannot go beyond the wall or even freely from one village to another behind their prison wall.

    One doesn’t have to be a genius to know that this is apartheid. If you don’t know this information, you are ill informed.
    Fred

  • I am dismayed reading this article Dr. Gordis – so “even-handed”, negative and depressing. But I am truly shocked by the comments comung by some of the readers, especially Fred. You sound like you swallowed Al Jazeera hook line and sinker. It might serve you to make some effort to get acquainted with our heritage and history, ancient and modern, from Jewish and historical sources. Most of all, we should discard using “apartheid”. which is totally false, but has been cinnically used by our enemies to slander Israel. When Mark Twain visited Palestine, he was shocked to see a neglected and poor, poor country – Jerusalem was a backwater with scorpions outside its walls, and swamps throughout the land. It was the young, idealistic Zionists who came and restored some of the land, with some getting malaria. My cousin was one of them. When I visited Jerusalem, the Hotel I stayed in was managed by an Arab.The taxi we took, a beautiful Cadillac, was owned by an Arab who showed us the beautiful house he lived in. Arab students are in the Technion in Haifa, in other universities as well. They receive the best of medical care in Israeli hospitals. There are Arab doctors working together with their Jewish counterparts. What our people have accomplished in a short time is nothing less than miraculous. My trip poignantly drove home the truth that the Arabs are so incited to hatred that a young boy from England, studying in Jerusalem, lost his way and wandered into the Arab section,. He was knifed to death.
    .

  • HOWARD STEVENS says

    Jewish Israelis also use the term “apartheid” in criticising inequality in treatment. For an extended treatment, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel_and_the_apartheid_analogy

    My own view is that using inflammatory language does not help the discussion and impairs a frank analysis of the very real circumstances of injustice toward the Arab residents of Israel.

  • Martin says

    What happened to cause Arabs to revolt against their governments at this point in time. Was Israel finally defeated? In a few months, readers will go through libraries or newspaper archives and wonder “What happened?”

    The thinking behind so many Middle East Experts was that the only issue in the Middle East worth taking a stand on was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and argued with passionate intensity while the oppression of Arabs by Arabs was a no problem. Do we now consign all the articles, speeches, books and expert lectures on the Middle East to the trash can? Do you mean to say, after all, it was not Israel that prevented self-government of the Arab people? How is it possible for so many who claim expert knowledge could have turned their eyes from Arab Governments tyranny of it’s own people? It had to be Israeli settlements, Palestinian brutality, and all the numerous and endlessly repetitive proclaimed evils of the “Zionist Enemy”.

    All the revolutions for democracy now seem to have nothing to do with the Arab/Israeli conflict, except in London where, for better or worse, there is still democracy so Muslims may still freely wave without fear “Death-to-America, Death-to-Israel” placards, not death to Qaddafi. Have the professors and experts taken notice?

    The Left’s incredulous reasoning is to blame Israel for causing the Arab nations to become tyrannical dictators thus preventing the people from a democratic society as if, but for arrival of Israel, democracy flourished in the Middle East in 1948. It was antagonism to Israel everywhere that served the interests of dictators. If not Israel to demonize, who then? I guess we need to change our text books or our Professors need to go back to school. What are the issues we need to argue over now?

    To paraphrase: “Israel was not the problem, stupid “

  • HOWARD STEVENS says

    “The Left’s incredulous reasoning is to blame Israel…”

    You ought to really educate yourself some day. You will find the “Left” is all over the place on Israel as is the “Right.”

    Ignorant bigotry is unhelpful.

  • martin says

    You ought to really educate yourself some day.

    Thank you, kind Sir, for your advice. I will try. But it does becomes hard and one becomes impatient after years of following that unnecessary conflict. Is it not the case that the most elite of Israeli intellectuals believe if only Israel would cease the occupation peace will bloom as a Rose in the desert. The consequences to security not to mention survival is never thought through or results in wishful delusional fantasies. I would have hoped a discerning reader would have understood my words were to suggest the Left feels everything is Israel’s fault.

  • martin says

    Thank you for your advice. I will try. But it does becomes hard after years of following that unnecessary conflict. Is it not the case that the most elite of Israeli intellectuals believe if only Israel would cease the occupation peace will bloom as a rose in the desert. The consequences to security not to mention survival is never thought through or results in wishful delusional fantasies. I would have hoped a discerning reader would have understood my words were to suggest the Left feels everything is Israel’s fault.

  • HOWARD STEVENS says

    I don’t know who the “elite” intellectuals are, but comments from Israel that most concern me suggest that the consequences of continued occupation threaten Israel’s security by causing ever declining political support by needed allies. This is the most serious danger as so many of these nations supported Israel’s creation and feel betrayed.

    I don’t know what two-state “peace” will look like, but certainly creating a viable, legitimate separation will reduce the boil. Then, any continued Arab intransigence will be clearly morally and politically unsupportable and Israel’s favor with the rest of the world will improve.

  • David says

    Howard,
    I’m sorry to disappoint you, however your last paragraph makes no sense and has been proven to be counter-productive. I remind you of Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon and the Gaza strip. There is every reason to expect the same arab response if Israel was to withdraw from Judea and Samaria.
    Where is the worldwide condemnation (with consequences) against Hamas for their daily barrage of rockets against Israeli civilians ?
    Prove me wrong !

  • Martin says

    My dear Mr. Stevens;

    Surely you are educated, if not an intellectual, on the Middle East. However, you do bring a smile to my lips when I read your last comment. May I ask how much longer can we wait for “…..continued Arab intransigence will be clearly morally and politically unsupportable” Is 60 year not long enough for you? If not, how much longer, Mr. Stevens, are you willing to bet on Israel’s survival.

    I smile again when you observe “Israel’s favor with the rest of the world will improve.” Really? Can you just image the exhilaration by the majority of friends of Israel in the United Nations. Your analysis of Israel’s international standing leaves much to be desired.

    Please forgive me, but I just cannot help smiling when you causally remark ” consequences of continued occupation threaten Israel’s security by causing ever declining political support by needed allies.” What allies? Didn’t I already tell you that is exactly the line of Israeli intellectual “doves” with whom you obviously feel as they do about the issue of occupation? I have no idea what you have been reading, but after becoming educated, you perhaps be willing to consider perhaps no occupation; peace; no occupation, no Israel.

    Your astute insight as you pontificate on Israel continues to amaze me. Thank you.

  • Howard Stevens says

    David, note that I am not advocating a unilateral withdrawal, but one premised on suitable agreements with the PA to assure multi-lateral security and other essential details.

    Hamas’ violence has degraded its standing in “worldwide” opinion.

    http://www.voanews.com/english/news/Israel-Urges-UN-to-Condemn-Gaza-Rocket-Attacks-112315879.html

  • David says

    “Suitable agreements with the PA” – Howard, you are making an assumption that has no chance of success. The PA by definition are incapable of standing by an agreement. They have no elected leader, no intention to recognize their contract partner’s existence, no mandate to act or speak for their people. They have repeatedly proven that their form of negotiation is not backed by honorable or honest intentions. You need to understand the mentality of these people before making such an assumption.

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