JUSTICE IS NOT AN EMPTY WORD
(An open letter to President Bush)
by Boris Shusteff
Dear Mr. President. You are the leader of the only superpower that dominates the world. When you speak, people listen attentively to every word that you utter. When lay people make mistakes, usually it is only they who bear the consequences. When the leader of a superpower makes wrong pronouncements, if they become enshrined in the policies of states, millions could end up suffering.
On November 19, speaking at Whitehall Palace in London, you said that "in 1918, Woodrow Wilson made a pledge; with typical American understatement, he vowed that right and justice would become the predominant and controlling force in the world." Two more times in your speech, you mentioned the word "justice." First, when declaring that "lasting peace is gained as justice and democracy advance." And a second time, when speaking about the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict you said,
"We seek justice and dignity. We seek a viable, independent state for the Palestinian people, who have been betrayed by others for too long. We seek security and recognition for the state of Israel, which has lived in the shadow of random death for too long."
These are brilliant words, Mr. President. If one takes them out of context and uses them as slogans, nothing can be more just and desirable. However, there is one small problem. If they are implemented, the word "justice" will immediately crumble like a sand castle, because the "state for the Palestinian people" that you described is meant to exist on primordial Jewish lands. World leaders are fond of making politically correct pronouncements. Very few of them are ready to honestly say the truth. One who was not afraid to speak the truth was Winston Churchill. He wrote in his memoirs:
"Ever since the Balfour Declaration of 1917 I have been a faithful supporter of the Zionist cause. I never felt that the Arab countries had had anything from us but fair play. To Britain, and Britain alone, they owed their very existence as nations. We created them; British money and British advisers set the pace of their advance; British arms protected them."
When you referred to "others," speaking of the long betrayal of the "Palestinian people" you forgot to mention that these others were first and foremost the Arab countries that were created at the same time that the world powers promised the Jews a state. Now, it appears that you suggest correcting the injustice committed by the Arab countries against their brethren at the price of instituting injustice upon the Jews. Do not misunderstand me; do not read ingratitude into these words. Your demand for "security and recognition for the state of Israel" is priceless. However, is it not strange, that after 55 years of existence, Israel must still prove that she has the right to exist? Is it not strange by itself that the President of the strongest country in the world has to appeal to the world community to allow the Jewish state to live? Is there any other country in the world whose right to life is questioned? Yes, Mr. President, you are absolutely correct. Israel deserves to live in security and be recognized by her neighbors. But the price for this recognition should not be to forfeit the soul of the Jewish people. You cannot speak in the same breath about justice while demanding that "Israel should freeze settlement construction, dismantle unauthorized outposts... and not prejudice final negotiations with the placements of walls and fences." Why in the world should Jews not be allowed to build and live in Judea? As a Christian you are well aware that God gave this land to the Jews. As a student of history you know very well that the British Mandate, the only legally binding international document pertaining to this piece of real estate, in Article 6 encourages "close settlement by Jews on the land."
You are concerned about the "daily humiliation of the Palestinian people" by Israel. This humiliation is the direct consequences of the policies of those you named yourself: "Palestinian rulers who ... maintain their ties to ... terrorist groups, the old elites, who time and again had put their own self-interest above the interest of the people they claim to serve." It is because of this same "elite" that Israel is forced to build "walls and fences," in order to stop the murderers who have taken the lives of more than 1200 Jews since the beginning of the Oslo process. By invoking the word "justice" you must be fair in everything. If you speak about the "humiliation of the Palestinian people," why are you nearly mute about the humiliation of the Jewish people? The virulent anti-Semitism that is spreading like wildfire all over the world not only humiliates them but also takes away their lives. Sorry, but simply using the word "anti-Semitism" twice in your speech will not suffice. It is too little, too late. You were wrong, Mr. President, when you said that anti-Semitism "poisons public debates over the future of the Middle East." It is not "public debate" that it poisons, but rather the minds and the hearts of people all over the world. It spreads hatred towards the Jewish people. It spews enmity against the Jews, with prominent public figures like Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis's stating that "today, we can say these little people [the Jews] are the root of all evil." It beats the drums of a new Holocaust if 59% of Europeans name the Jewish state the greatest threat to peace in the world, at a time when the leaders of Iran feverishly work to obtain nuclear weapons, for the declared purpose of annihilating the Jewish state.
Mr. President, you said in your speech that "Americans have, on occasion, been called moralists who often speak in terms of right and wrong. That zeal has been inspired ...by the tireless compassion of Lord Shaftesbury." This great man was among the first Christian Zionists who advocated the return of the Jews to their homeland. When Lord Aberdeen, Britain's prime minister at the time, asked him, "If the Holy Land should pass out of the hands of the Turks, into whose hands should it fall?" Shaftesbury's reply was unequivocal: "Not into the hands of other powers, but let it return into the hands of the Israelites." Lord Shaftesbury wrote in 1876,
"The old time will come back... the country [Palestine] wants capital and population. The Jews can give it both. ...To England then, naturally, belongs the role of favoring the settlement of the Jews in Palestine... The nationality of the Jews exists; the spirit is there and has been for three thousand years but the external form, the crowning bond of union, is still wanting. A nation must have a country. The old land, the old people. This is not an artificial experiment; it is nature, it is history."
Shaftesbury was not a lone advocate of justice in Palestine. It was a most natural act to restore the people who were brutally expelled from their land but never completely left it. You are absolutely correct, Mr. President, Americans knew how to tell apart right and wrong long ago. In 1818 American President John Adams wrote, "I really wish the Jews in Judea an independent nation." And in 1863 another great President, Abraham Lincoln said, "Restoring the Jews to their homeland is a noble dream shared by many Americans." Mr. President, it is hard to comprehend that a devout Christian like yourself could suggest conducting an artificial experiment in the Holy Land. Shaftesbury mentioned the three-thousand-year-long connection between Jews and the Holy Land. Palestinian Arab Professor Rashid Khalidi admits in his book "The Palestinian Identity" that the "Palestinians did not exist as a people before the First World War." Judea is the ancient homeland of the Jews, Mr. President. It is the old land of a very old people. This is the main reason why the experiment of trying to artificially implant artificially created people is destined to failure. Mr. President, you hinted at a solution for the Arab-Israeli conflict yourself:
"We must shake off decades of failed policy in the Middle East. ...In the past [we] have been willing to make a bargain, to tolerate oppression for the sake of stability. Longstanding ties often led us to overlook the faults of local elites. Yet this bargain did not bring stability or make us safe. It merely bought time, while problems festered and ideologies of violence took hold."
It is easy to define what has been wrong with policy in the Middle East: attempting to artificially carve an Arab state out of the Jews' biblical and historical heritage. Justice cannot be done by committing new injustice, and it would be unjust, Mr. President, to rob the Jews of that heritage. "A viable, independent state for the Palestinian Arabs" cannot be created by expelling Jews from Jewish lands. It does not even make sense from a practical standpoint, because such a state would be neither viable, nor truly independent. If indeed the Palestinian Arabs need a new state, it certainly cannot be in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. You are right, Mr. President: we must shake off decades of failed policy in the Middle East.
Boris Shusteff is an engineer. He is also a research associate with the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies