A photo from January 2009 of an F-16 bombing Beit Hanoun, Gaza. Photo by Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images
By Jerry Haber, Magnes Zionist
July 24, 2014
I was sent today a blog post by a self-described “progressive” rabbi entitled, “I’m Done Apologizing for Israel.” After repeating the standard hasbara talking points the rabbi concludes, “We must do what we can to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else.”
The rabbi and I are in fundamental agreement about this conclusion. Israelis have the right to protect their own people and are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. But that “anyone else” includes the Palestinian people, and, as a progressive, he surely doesn’t hold that Israelis are more deserving of life and quiet than they are. So the rabbi must hold that the Palestinians have the same right to protect their people, and the same right to self-defense that Israel does. Like Israel, they have the right to wage war, not with primitive rockets, but with tanks, missiles, and fighter jets. The Palestinians have the right to do whatever it takes to provide themselves with the security and pride that the IDF provides Israelis. Furthermore, the Palestinians, like the Israelis, have the right to determine their own destinies and not depend on others to treat their wounded, or to provide them with building materials, or to ration different products, or to restrict their movement in the name of the other’s security. The Palestinians do not have the right to restrict the importation of materials into Israel, to control where Israelis can fish, to blockade Israeli ports, to restrict Israeli movement – unless, like the Israelis, they consider it vital for their security.
Perhaps the rabbi may reply at this point, “Hang on — in principle, I grant that Palestinians have these rights, but first they have to prove to Israel and to the world that they can run their state in a civilized manner.” In other words, unlike those Israelis who chant “Death to the Arabs,” who pull up chairs and cheer when the IDF drops bombs on Gaza killing overwhelmingly civilians, who call for revenge and bombing Gaza into the stone age, and who justify holding millions of people indefinitely in an open-air prison, in the name of security, in short, who control not only their own lives and destinies, but the lives and destinies of millions of other in a horrendous occupation – the Palestinians must be held to the same moral standard that Israel was held to before it could have a recognized state, an advanced military, and self-determination.
Fair enough. So here is my proposal for the progressive rabbi. Let Israel unilaterally withdraw from all occupied territories and place them for ten years under a UN trusteeship. At the end of those ten years, during which the Palestinians equip themselves with a powerful army, the Palestinians will unilaterally declare a state, and will continue forcefully expelling from its lands those Israeli settlers, whether peaceful or not, who are a perceived threat to its territorial contiguity. If Israel wishes, it can attack the Palestinian state, but that state will be justified to retaliate, and if successful, it will be justified, in the name of its security, to seize additional territory, turn millions of Israelis into refugees, bar their return, expropriate their land, place some of them under occupation, and the rest under military rule. Then, when the Israelis under Palestinian occupation elect a political leadership that has a military wing, the Palestinians can arrest the politicians and place the Israelis under a siege.
Only when Palestinians achieve this moral bar – and it is not an easy bar to attain — will the Israelis and their supporters be expected to recognize the State of Palestine.
In fact, their recognition of the Palestinians state will be considered a precondition for the recognition of their own state, a demilitarized state that will be established on a fraction of the historical Land of Israel.
Jeremiah (Jerry) Haber is the nom de plume of Charles H. Manekin, an orthodox Jewish studies and philosophy professor, who divides his time between Israel and the US.