Wow – not only is it wonderful to see so much participation on this blog from local youth leaders, but the intellectual honesty, passion, and reasoned tone of the debate has been inspiring. The JewglePerth team welcome the use of this blog medium to show to ourselves (as the Perth Jewish community) and to those who visit our dialogue ( those who care to measure the pulse of Perth Jewry) what it is that we stand for, what we reason about, and how we showcase all issues and Jewish matters of concern in Western Australia.
The subject of conversation from the previous post has inevitably shifted from responding to anti-Semitism, to resolving the middle east conflict. Perhaps this is an unconcsious (or even less than subtle) expression of hope that if Israel makes peace with the Palestinians, the problems of anti-Semitism will diminish, if not dissapear. While I would like to believe that with all of my heart, sadly the hard experience of Jewish history teaches otherwise. With that said, it is not an excuse for not trying as much as possible to create a peaceful environment of coexistance between Israelis and Arabs.
I’d like to drill into this a little further. As recent interaction and dialogue between the madrichim of Bnei Akiva and Habonim has demonstrated, the aspirations of Perth Jews, as represented by these youth leaders, is not so far apart as we often perceive it to be. At the end of the day, I think we all want to identify with a secure Israel that is free to flourish as a Jewish state and develop its values, science, technology, and progress for the betterment of all. The issues we debate are not what we want, but how it is that we attain this.
Lets try and frame this from either end of the political spectrum, as represented by the different Zionist youth movements. First of all, some facts:
- There are close to 1.5 million Palestinian Arabs in Judea and Samaria and another 400,000 in Gaza. This in addition to the 20% of the Palestinian Arab population that are citizens of 1.2 million people. That makes approximately 3 million Arab people who currently live on the same land as 5.5 million Jews. Most of these Arabs aspire towards national self determination as opposed to living under Jewish soveriegnty.
- There is an irrefutable historic Jewish connection to the land of Israel that predates Palestinian national aspirations. This includes territories such as Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
- Israel withdrew from Gaza and its infrastructure was destroyed, its Synagogues razed within hours, and its security was instantly threatened.
- Israel has offered many peace offers which have consistently been rejected by the Palestinian leadership.
There are many many more facts to consider that all provide perspective to this discussion. But notice these are facts, and not opinion or conjecture.
Let’s start now at the political left of Zionism. There are ideologies that advocate that peace must be created by painful concessions, and some go as far to say that the Jewish character of Israel can be sacrificed in pursuit of such lofty ideals. More mainstream viewpoints in this sphere suggest that the barrier to peace is Jewish settlement, and that the removal of Jewish populations from the territories will create the confidence and groundwork needed for coexistence.
Lets jump to the political right. There are viewpoints, many religiously founded, that provide justification for Jewish settlement of all Israel. Some advocate that there is no room for any Arab statehood within the current borders of all Israel (as do the majority of Arabs advocatae that there is no room for Jewish statehood anywhere in Israel), and that population transfer is the only solution. They cite the equivalent population transfer of Jewish residents from neighbouring Arab countries over the past 70 years as a relevant factor. More mainstream viewpoints will still acknowledge the irrefutable Jewish connection to all the land, but still advocate some form of compromise for peace. However for the most part they insist on reciprocity, a secure and real peace based on unambigous recognition of Jewish national determination, and the removal of security threats to Israels borders.
As a summary this is all far too simplistic and very incomplete, but I wanted to put some framework forward as a prelude to sharing my own views. I would encourge your further discussion.
My own position, unsurprisingly, aligns to the political right, but possibly to the left of the mainstream religious zionist political movement. I sadly think that generational change is needed to realise peace, and that the best our current Israeli leaders can do is pressure the Palestinian and Arab world to recognise that Israel will always be prepared to reach peace, but will never be prepared to commit national suicide. Until such time as there is Arab leadership who proudly asserts that Israel is a Jewish country with the right to coexist with a genuinely peaceful relationship with its Arab brethren, then Israel sadly has noone to make peace with. The various attempts to invent such a leadership for the sake of political expediency have faltered. We as Zionists should not blame ourselves for this, it is not a mindset of our making. The onus needs to shift. Despite the denial of the media, there is one party to this conflict that has demonstrated through its actions that it can deliver concessions and compromise for peace. There is another party to the process that has not delivered anything other than violence and zero compromise, both practically and ideologically.
I do not think that settlements are the insurmountable barrier to peace that President Obama seems to suggest. Firstly, what most Israelis would refer to as occupation (Judean and Samarian territory) is not what most arabs refer to as occupation (they include Haifa, Tel Aviv and Netanya in their definition). Secondly, many of these places, such as parts of Gush Etzion, were purchased with money raised by the JNF prior to the establishment of the State, and have not been legally sold since. Thirdly, to cede to the green line means most of Jerusalem, including Har Habayit, is lost to Jewish soveriegnty. It is unimaginable in the context of Jewish history that the Jewish people could sacrifice their very destiny, the end of galut, for the sake of modern political rhetoric. There are many many more reasons.
It may be superfluous to argue about the legitimacy of settlement, because even if there is unanimous agreement on legitimacy, the practical need to deliver political self determination to the Palestinian people may require territory concession. I would advocate for that if I knew it was the purchase of peace. I would negotiate and trade portions of land as Israel’s recent Governments have tried to do. However only for real peace, and what is currently on offer is far from real peace.
No blog, least of all this one, will solve the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Ultimately it is the responsibility of the Israeli citizens who vote, pay tax and serve in the army to determine their political leadership and resulting peace initiatives. However understanding the perspectives, particularly those of Perth’s Zionist youth leaders and educators, is a necessary part of our own education process. As Diaspora Jews we look to Israel as our spiritual homeland, and we support its role as the centre of world Jewry and focus of our heritage, culture, history, ethos and religion.
Bnei Akiva, Habonim, AUJS or Netzer – as Zionists we are all on the same team. We need to educate each other, discuss our differing viewpoints, respect our differences, frame our views and be informed. Jewish survival for 4,000 years has been contingent on Jewish unity. So I say, even if we can’t convince our enemies, lets at least try to convince ourselves.