Letter to the Editor: Safety in sovereignty: The necessity of Israel
This article was written in response to a Forum article published May 15, “The Palestinian Nakba: ‘48 and now.”
While the current situation between Israel and Palestine seems to be a modern singularity, it is, in fact, the culmination of thousands of years of methodic anti-Semitism. Animosity towards Jews is deeply rooted in global history, beginning with the pagan Greek and Roman scholars who ostracized the group for not yielding to the dominant pagan religions of the time. In antiquity, xenophobia dominated the social and political landscapes, and Jews became a convenient scapegoat for social woes.
Consistently expelled from one area to another by Roman powers and persecuted for their religion, the rise of Christianity would not give the Jews respite. Portrayed as responsible for the death of Jesus, the Jews were seen as instruments of deicide, as contempt was bred amongst the Christians. Beyond Christian disdain for Jews, the Quran also contains anti-Semitic rhetoric throughout, as it reads, “Allah has cursed them on account of their unbelief; so little it is that they believe.” This pervasive attitude from Abrahamic religions bled into popular consciousness, which resulted rampant violence against Jews in the Middle Ages, especially during the Crusades. Jews were also blamed for the plaque of the Black Death, as over 900 would be summarily burned alive for a perceived pact with the devil. Remarkably, and despite this vitriol, Islam was far more tolerant of Jews until the 20th century, leaving the most venal acts to Christianity.
This abominable treatment of Jewish people would continue on into modernity, culminating in the genocide during the Holocaust, where six million Jews were murdered and once again made the scapegoat for Germany’s problems. Hitler had an easy target in the Jews, as established territorial nations turned their backs yet again to a group that had never been the aggressor.
Jews have been consistently maligned since time immemorial, as rampant anti-Semitism has dictated attitudes that render Jews as less-than human. The Holocaust was the manifestation of thousands of years of collective hatred directed towards the Jews, and the current situation in Israel is reactionary born out of necessity. Zionism, or the establishment and protection of the Jewish nation of Israel, is the only available means for Jews to defend themselves against humanity’s wrath.
The establishment of Israel as a Jewish nation is not random; this had been the land of origin for Jewish inhabitants over 3,000 years ago, but they were forced to exile by Roman forces, yet there would remain a constant Jewish presence in the area. The land experienced changes of rule several times over thousands of years and would only see an Islamic presence in the seventh century, and Palestine as a recognized state was established in 1988. History shows that Jews are indigenous to the land of Israel, providing yet another element of complexity regarding the land’s rightful inhabitants. The claim of a separate nation called Palestine is a relatively new concept. In 1937, Arab leader, Awni Abd al-Hadi, told the Peel Commission, which ultimately suggested the partition of Palestine: “There is no such country as Palestine! ‘Palestine’ is a term the Zionists invented! There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria.” Ahmad Shukeiri, a chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), told the United Nations Security Council: “It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but southern Syria.” Palestinian Arab nationalism is largely a post–World War I phenomenon that did not become a significant political movement until after the 1967 Six-Day War.
After the creation of the state of Israel by the United Nations (UN), Israel was immediately besieged by six Arab nations that refused to accept the idea of a state of Israel. With the victory of the 1948 War of Independence, Israel issued a Proclamation of Independence that allowed Arab inhabitants to remain in Israel and coexist as citizens. Neighboring Arab nations were not as inclusive, as they forcibly displaced 800,000 Jewish citizens from their countries, which were then absorbed by Israel.
This brings us to the present, ongoing conflict inspired by the establishment of Israel on land occupied by Jews and Palestinians which could, theoretically, be resolved by a two-state solution, one that the former has historically embraced. This solution, not welcomed by the governing bodies of Palestine, is made more complicated by the fact that Palestine does not have a centralized government. The Palestinian Authority rules the West Bank, whereas Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist group known for its terrorist activities against Israel, has de facto rule over the Gaza Strip. Twice in the last 20 years, 2008 and 2000, Israel proposed giving up more than 94 percent of the West Bank and Gaza, these plans were rejected. Other offers, such as the 1947 Armistice Lines and the 1937 Peel Commission found approval amongst Israelis but rejection amongst Arab leaders. Israel offered to give the Palestinians 100 percent of Gaza, and 97 percent of the West Bank. These were also rejected. It is not Israel that has been unwilling to establish peace. Israel has been forced to increase security because of terrorist attacks with the intent to eradicate their country. Hamas will not accept any Jewish state. Hamas only wishes to destroy Israel. Hamas uses children as human shield and wants children to attend violent protests in order for terrorists to infiltrate and harm Israel and Israelis. It is Hamas that should be wholeheartedly condemned for using innocents as propaganda tools and shields, instead of Israel being condemned for defending their citizens from violent terrorists.
Territorial negotiations are exceedingly difficult, as Hamas employs terrorist tactics to prevent resolution, forcing Israel to be in a constant state of military defensiveness. Hamas has argued for a one-state solution, despite recent lip-service to the contrary, as they condemn Zionism rather than Jews and Judaism. This distinction is transparent at best; Hamas is able to tolerate Jews as long as they do not have the protection that sovereignty supplies.
Palestinian leadership wants to revert borders to what was established by the 1949 Armistice Agreements, discounting the territory gained by Israel in the Six-Day War, which expanded the latter’s territory threefold. Israel won the land when they were unconditionally invaded by their neighbors who refuse to acknowledge the right of Israel to exist. Using the history of the world as a basis for what can be properly considered new territory, Israel rightfully won this land in war.
This historical context leads to the current conflict in Gaza; as this month, on May 14, 40,000 Palestinian “protesters,” albeit we usually do not call people armed with explosives protesters, descended upon the Israeli-Gaza border with the intent to destroy the border and cause injury and death to Israelis. The Palestinians were organized and inspired to act by Hamas. Israel would have been exceedingly naive, something they cannot afford to be, if they failed to prepare a military defense in response. Lest anyone question the intent of the Palestinian protesters, consider Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar’s words of what this action was intended to accomplish; “We will take down the border and we will tear out their hearts from their bodies.”
While Israel distributes pamphlets alerting citizens to stay clear of the conflict area, Hamas furthers their propaganda by using human shields and forcing civilians to stand amongst a large terrorist organization. This is the same Hamas that instead of spending money on their people, spends money on rocket launchers and tunnels to kill Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers. Of the 40,000 Palestinians involved in the rushing of the Gaza-Israeli border, in the words of Salah al-Bardawil, a senior Hamas official, “In the last round of confrontations, if 62 people were martyred, 50 of them were Hamas.”
While these deaths contribute to an overall tragic loss of life on both sides, it is a proportionally small number, and one that shows incredible restraint on the part of the Israeli defense. Every country in the world would, and has the right, to defend their borders. In fact, had it been a large number of other countries, the death toll would have inevitably risen. Again, this was not a peaceable demonstration led by civilians, but a manipulative tactic organized by a terrorist organization designed to weaken Israel; had the IDF not retaliated, then the tens of thousands of protestors would have undoubtedly destroyed the border and claimed the lives of untold Israeli citizens.
Change, especially on the vast scale of establishing and strengthening a nation, always comes at a cost. The Palestinian concept of Nakba, or catastrophe, used to describe the displacement of 700,000 Palestinians during the war of 1948 and the ensuing, is the reason proclaimed by Palestinians as the basis for their “protest” for the “right of return.” Their experience of turmoil and instability cannot be discounted, as civilian casualties on both sides of the conflict are devastating. However, placing the blame of violence squarely on Israel is shortsighted and does not consider the key political players involved in this conflict, especially considering that a fundamentalist, anti-Semitic, terrorist group is at the helm of ruling Palestine.
Conflict too often breeds tragedy, and few groups understand the scope of personal loss better than Jews. Passivity has never served the Jewish people, and the need to exert militaristic force is central to protecting a people that have been the world’s scapegoat for multiple millennia. Jews have been vilified, persecuted and indiscriminately removed from places of inhabitation, and Zionism is a natural reaction to this systematic mistreatment. History has taught the Jews that they must defend themselves, as there is little recourse to be found elsewhere. To argue that things have fundamentally changed regarding tolerance is naive at best; anti-Semitism has remained firmly entrenched in both the Christian and Islamic worlds, and the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict is yet another example.
The ongoing Palestinian protests, including the one on May 14, have less to do with reclaiming their own state and more to do with annihilating Israel. While some ignorantly argue that Israel is engaging in “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians from the area, they are discounting the many attempts made by Israel to establishing a two-state solution. They are discounting the fact that Hamas, a terrorist organization, refuses Israelis humanitarian aid, including medical supplies. Hamas breeds violence and corruption. Hamas pushes Israel to rightfully institute security measures and combat terrorist activities. Hamas does not care about their people. Hamas’s only objective is the annihilation of Israel. This is why Hamas does not spend foreign aid on their citizens’ lives and building hospitals, but on weapons and terrorist activities. Jews, who have actually endured extermination of their people under the guise of ethnic cleansing, are defending themselves to ensure that this will not happen again. To attribute to Israel the actions of ethnic cleansing is an effective way to inspire increased anti-Semitism among already intolerant groups but is devoid of fact.
As it stands, Israel’s military prowess is necessary in securing the safety of its population. Anti-Semitism is alive and well, as is evidenced by the terrorist-fueled conflict between Israel and Palestine. Israel has every right to protect herself.