As a mom and mom-in-law to a couple of Hist-Con grads at UCSC, as a former Freedom Rider registering voters down South, an old Leftie, former senior research associate for the Freedom of Information Center in the old days before the FoI Act and Sunshine Laws etc. were passed … in short as a progressive, liberal Jew and firm supporter of Israel I wanted to say that in my opinion being anti-Zionist is essentially the same as being anti-Semitic because Anti-Zionism IS the belief that among all of the peoples of the world the Jews are the only ones who are not allowed to have a homeland.
Judaism is a peoplehood — some of us are religious and some are not. Just because the imperial Romans managed to massacre and disperse MOST, but not all of us, from Israel, giving it the slave name Palestine while they were at it, does not mean the Israeli-Judean people were forever righteously banned from that small sliver of ground between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River. Does it not strike anyone else as ridiculous that Jews can be accused of being occupiers of Judea, which designates the very name of the Jewish people?
Israel is hardly an “apartheid” entity — it contains seven million people, only five million of whom are Jews, and the non-Jews have full voting, education and citizenship rights. Israeli Arabs may volunteer but are not compelled to serve in the IDF (which is compulsory for all Jewish citizens).
Many Arabs, it is true, fled the fighting during the War of Independence and not all of them returned to their homes afterwards — though they would not have had to leave in the first place if the Arabs had accepted the U.N. partition of British Mandate Palestine instead of immediately attacking the newborn Jewish state. It is also true that most of British Mandate Palestine — 80% — was simply given to the Hashemite king Faisal Hussein, a reward for wartime services rendered. Hussein did offer citizenship to any Arab living in British Palestine.
Roughly 780,000 Arabs left what is now Israel during the war; and for their part the Arab countries evicted 800,000+ of their Jewish residents in what the Arab League designated as a “population exchange.” The Mizrahi (Arab Jews) were all taken in by tiny Israel, which at the time had very little infrastructure and not a drop of oil wealth. The Arabs who left Israel, however, were apparently now settled in the Arab countries but maintained as “refugees” on the perimeters, shunned by most of their fellow Arabs, a sort of permanent dog-and-pony public relations device. There is not an Arab-Israeli problem; there definitely is an Arab-Arab problem. There are now more than 3 million third-generation Arab refugees demanding a right of return, which would demographically speaking destroy the Jewish state. Arabs in Israel are treated as full citizens; Jews who lived in Arabic Moslem countries were always second-class citizens in what was referred to as a dhimmihood.
Israel does not have delusions of empire. The Golan Heights, Sinai, Gaza and the West Bank were taken by Israel immediately after the ‘67 “Lightning War” when the surrounding Arab armies were massed to attack and drive the ridiculously outnumbered Jews into the sea. The Golan was taken to prevent Syrians from lobbing down missiles on Israel kibbutzim; the Sinai and Gaza were taken from Egypt, and the West Bank — or Judea/Samaria — was taken back from Jordan, because attacks were launched on Israel from all those areas. When Egypt signed its peace treaty with Israel, former Warsaw ghetto fighter then Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin negotiated and returned the Sinai to Egypt. Now that Israel has restored Gaza to the Arabs, it has been so destructive that Israel has become reluctant to cede all of the West Bank to the Arabs living on what most recently had been part of Jordan.
Not everything the state of Israel does, not every leader and not every faction in Israel is 100% good. Personally, I think Ariel Sharon was a great man and true warrior whereas Binyamin Netanyahu lacks judgment, self-control, and perspective. Given the stress under which Israel lives, it is true that 1) there have been injustices committed against neighboring Arabs and yet 2) even the humblest farmer in the West Bank has been able to persuade the Israeli Supreme Court to declare portions of the separation wall causing to much hardship. More important, centuries of persecution have taught the Jewish people in general and Israelis in particular that it is a constant struggle to live as a moral man in what is at best an amoral world. And despite all this, the Israeli military and state acts with far more restraint and concern for the dignity of its residents than those institutions in other less threatened environments. The fact that the nation still has a lively soul and conscience is remarkable, perhaps unprecedented in history. The conquest cycle itself is inevitable: there are no innocent cultures. Zero. Finally, on a per capita basis, Israel produces more artistic creativity and scientific progress than any other country — and at the University of Tel Aviv, Dr. Rebecca Solomon’s breakthrough phage theory is being tested, and if successful, will halt and even reverse damage to the brain cells ravaged by Alzheimer’s Disease.
Israelis are sick of war. They want to focus on economic, water, and industrial development with the Arabs living on the left back boat. Despite the behavior of some Israeli minorities, the masses of Israelis would much prefer making peace to live side by side with the Arabs living in what remains of the state of Palestine. If Israel were truly disrespectful of the Palestinian Arabs, it would be hard to explain the staunch support they’ve enjoyed for decades from other Moslems, particularly Turkey and the Kurds.
The Arabs are much better at PR than the Israelis, period. Were this not so, people — particularly those blessed with a modicum of intelligence, such as yourselves — would be less inclined to rush to judgment against Israel. And if Jerusalem is (arguably) “holy” to all Moslems, then can someone please tell me why Moslems pray facing Mecca rather Jerusalem?
*Jean Sepharad Sherrell*