By Boris Shusteff

"Lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations." (Numbers 23:9)

The Jewish State is at a crossroads. It desperately wants peace, but Arab terror and hatred are the only response to its overtures. The more Israel tries to accommodate her enemies the more contempt she gets in return. The Arabs regard the concessions made to them thus far (unprecedented from the Israeli viewpoint) as absolutely insufficient. The latest phase in the search for peace, named "Oslo," has placed Israel in the most dangerous situation since its 1948 War for Independence. However, the main threat to the Jewish State originates not from the 50,000-strong Palestinian Army, nurtured and armed by the Jews themselves, it lies in the psychological sphere.

The Jews are losing the only weapon that can eventually bring peace to the Middle East. By trying to be like other people, by yearning towards Western "normalcy," by ignoring that we are the "chosen people," we are ruining our only chance to melt the ice of Arab hatred. By suppressing the Jewish nature of the state we destroy the only valid argument that can be understood by the Arabs - our uniqueness.

The late Dr. Yaacov Herzog, one of Israel's most prominent public figures, brilliantly explained in many of his speeches what Israel must do in order to endure. The title of the book that contains his wisdom gives the answer to the secret of Israel's survival. The book is entitled: "A People That Dwells Alone." Herzog said in one of his speeches:

"The belief of political Zionism [was] that the idea of a 'people that dwells alone' is an abnormal concept, when actually the concept of 'a people that dwells alone' is the natural concept of the Jewish people. ...Not only in order to understand how it has managed to survive, but no less from the point of view of its right to exist, must one invoke this phrase" ([1] p. 52).

If one looks at Jewish history one realizes how correct Herzog is. For more than four millennia we have dwelled alone in the world. Whether living in our own state, in other countries, or surrounded by the walls

of many ghettos, whether fighting against the Roman Empire or revolting in the Warsaw Ghetto, whether massacred by the Nazis or chastised by the United Nations, we have almost always stood alone. No other people wanted to help us and share our destiny with us. No other people was destined to share it.

We are God's chosen people. We never said that we were better than other people. We know that we are different, and the rest of mankind knows this as well. "Jewish chosennes has always meant that Jews have believed themselves chosen by God to spread ethical monotheism to the world and to live as a moral 'light unto the nations' (Isaiah 49:6). All other meanings imputed to Jewish chosennes are non-Jewish" ([2] p. 43).

There is nothing in the Torah, which is where the concept of chosenness originates, that even hints at any Jewish superiority or privilege. We were not chosen because of certain merits or qualities. "Every nation is equal before God - 'Are you not as the children of Ethiopia to me, children of Israel?' states the prophet Amos" ([3] p. 43). The chosenness did not imply privileges, only obligation and suffering. All our history proves our uniqueness. There is no other people in the world that survived without a state for almost 2,000 years and preserved its religion, language and character. There is no other people in the world that, for two millennia, cherished the thought of returning to the Land and carried a boundless devotion to it in its heart.

It is not only we ourselves who understand that we are unique. The rest of mankind agrees with us. How many great philosophers, writers and political leaders were trying to find an explanation for our resilience, uniqueness and immortality? It is this uniqueness that reinforces our right to Eretz Yisrael. Herzog said in one of his speeches:

"As long as the external world agrees that the Jewish people is a unique phenomenon in human history, that its course in history is separate and distinct from all other historical processes, that it is both a stranger and a sojourner at one and the same time - belonging to the world civilization and yet distinct from it, and that this is truly the essence of the Jew, it cannot deny the Jewish claim to the Land of Israel in favor of the so-called Arab nation, which was allegedly expelled from its land." ([1] p. 51)

The historic fact is that, before the beginning of World War I, the non-Jewish population of Palestine never constituted a distinct nation. Ever since the Jews were exiled from Eretz Yisrael, the land never had a bond with any other people, in the sense of a real spiritual, geographical, political, national or tribal tie. Herzog said that the twentieth century decided that "a nation living in a particular territory is entitled to independence from any colonialist regime" ([1] p. 51). Even if we assume that the Arabs who lived in Palestine would have developed into a nation in the land of Palestine, this concept of independence could not prevail over the concept of Jewish uniqueness.

Herzog said in one of his speeches that, "we were not just some nation of homeless, persecuted refugees that has won a foothold here, some nomadic tribe spewed out by Western civilization, which, for lack of an alternative, has found a refuge in Palestine" ([1] p. 54). We had a much stronger bond with Eretz Yisrael that not only kept alive our dream of returning to the Land, but also kept us alive as a people. The major blunder of political Zionism was in not understanding that we cannot follow the "normal" route. The founders of socialist Zionism thought that we would return to Eretz Yisrael "along the ordinary twentieth century road. Scores of peoples had started to get some kind of independence after World War I and we too would win independence here [in Palestine]. The world would recognize this independence, and we would become a normal people, liberated from the burden of exile, accepted all over the globe" ([1] p. 51).

In the beginning it appeared that this plan could work. The community of nations, first through the League of Nations and then through the United Nations, confirmed and reconfirmed our bond with Eretz Yisrael, encouraging the creation of the Jewish state there. It was not the Jews who voted for the establishment of a Jewish state, but the rest of mankind. The world community, well aware of our uniqueness, of our habit to "dwell alone," did not see any "racist" tendency in this "strange" habit of ours.

While the Western world was well aware of our uniqueness, the Arabs saw the Jews as the bridgehead of the Western invasion into their domain. In his book The Arab Mind Considered, John Laffin wrote that, to the Arabs, "Israel is a bastion of imperialism, and the Israelis are representatives of the hostile Western world. Israel was planted at the heart of the Arab world for various vicious purposes" ([3] p.166). Gamal Abdel Nasser wrote about these "vicious purposes" in April, 1954:

"Our Arab countries have not ceased for centuries to be the goal of the imperialists' attacks and enmity, as if imperialism wanted to avenge an ancient wrong on the nation that brought civilization to their countries with the conquests of the Caliphate after Mohammad" ([3] p.166).

Herzog explained that the Arabs' "undying hatred towards the Jews" was not simply a struggle over refugees or borders, but that it was "A struggle against what they regarded as the intrusion of a foreign body into an area in which it did not belong; as if, by the very fact of our appearance, we had destroyed the basis of their equanimity for generations to come; as if this were a force that not only had no right to be there, but was liable, in that it had no such right to deprive them of their right to exist, in the profoundest sense of the term" ([1] p. 53).

For the Arabs we were "just some nation of homeless, persecuted refugees" and they thought that it would be easy to destroy us. When we prevailed against all odds, first in 1948, and then in 1967, something changed in the way the Arabs saw us. They began to understand that, perhaps, things are not simple as they seem at first glance. According to the Koran Allah gives victory only to those who deserve it, supports only the righteous course, and the Jews were defeating the Arabs time and again. As Herzog put it, they started to realize that we settled in Palestine "not for lack of an alternative. They are beginning to wonder whether, after all, it is not something much deeper. I believe that the prospects of peace or war depend on this Arab perplexity." ([1] p. 54)

Our victory in 1967 was our golden chance to eliminate any doubts concerning our right to Eretz Yisrael once and for all. In order to persuade the Arabs to recognize our right to the Land, it was necessary only to annex Judea, Samaria and Gaza and to declare to the world that we fulfilled our obligation to conquer the Land and to settle there. The Arabs would require no more explanation to prove this point than a quote from their own holy book.

"Bear in Mind the words of Moses to his people. He said: 'remember, my people, the favor which God has bestowed upon you. He has raised up prophets among you, made you kings, and given you that which He has given in no other nation. Enter, my people, the holy land which God has assigned for you. Do not turn back, and then lose all'" (Koran 5:20,21).

This was our golden chance then, and it is our golden chance now, too. It is useless to use the concept of independence to prove our right to Eretz Yisrael. The unquestionable argument of our uniqueness is definitely much stronger. Since it applies to the whole of Eretz Yisrael, no one can say a word demanding our retreat from a single inch of our Land. Upon the altar of twentieth century nationalism we have already sacrificed almost four-fifths of our patrimony for the sake of the Palestinian Arabs.

All our attempts to become a "normal" people will lead only to disaster and to our extinction. We are the people that dwells alone. We can survive only as a Jewish state on our God-given Land. We were chosen to be different, and we remain different. It is our uniqueness that makes our right to Eretz Yisrael unquestionable. Only if our unique need to dwell alone and our separate path is understood by the Arabs, can we be accepted as part of the Middle East. Only then peace will be possible. 03/17/01


[1]. "A People that Dwells Alone. Speeches & Writings of Yaacov Herzog." Edited by Misha Louvish. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1975.

[2]. Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin "Why the Jews?" Simon & Schuster, New York, 1983

[3]. John Laffin. "The Arab Mind Considered." Taplinger Publishing Company, New York, 1975.


Boris Shusteff is an engineer. He is also a research associate with the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies.

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