IF I AM NOT FOR MYSELF

By Boris Shusteff

Eretz Yisrael is not something apart from the soul of the Jewish people; it is no mere national possession, serving as a means of unifying our people and buttressing its material, or even its spiritual survival. Eretz Yisrael is the very essence of our nationhood. (Abraham Isaac Kook)

In Czarist Russia the pogroms were often accompanied by a call "Kill the Jews, save mother-Russia!" Russia's transformation into the Soviet Union kept anti-Semitism alive. This was evidenced by a joke: "Kill the Jews and the bikers!" to which the punchline was, "Why the bikers?" On May 11, 1998 during the regular State Department briefing James Rubin said that "the United States believes in the principle of land for peace. So if the question is, might some land have to be given up in order for peace to be achieved, I think the answer is yes." Like in the above joke it is implied that it is Israel that has to give "some land" in order to live in peace with her neighbors. Nobody even tries to suggest the opposite, i.e. that it must be the Arabs who should leave Israel alone, on the tiny strip of land surrounded by incomparably bigger Arab territories. Nobody offers to leave Judea and Samaria in the Jews' possession "in order for peace to be achieved" -- they are the heart of the ancient Hebrew state, the land that gave the name to its people.

Arab campaigns to convince naive westerners that the land is "occupied by the Jews" and they have to give up the land can be easily refuted by the facts. Honest people, even if they do not burn with love for Israel and the Jews, nevertheless, admit the truth. Former Secretary of State James Baker is one of them. On May 4, 1998 during a Middle East Insight Symposium in Washington he proved this. When correspondent Hodah Tawfik from the Egyptian newspaper Al Aharam tried to put words in Baker's mouth by suggesting that Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem "are occupied Arab territories," he was simply shocked when Baker responded, "They're clearly disputed territories. That's what Resolutions 242 and 338 are all about. They're clearly disputed territories."

It is not strange that the Palestinian Arabs try to lay claim to this land. They hope that Israel's timidity will lead to the creation of another Palestinian state. While the Arabs' desire is understandable, it is not unique. There are at least several dozen other nationalistic movements with the same aspirations. Israel cannot become a beneficiary for every nationalism. History has already witnessed the artificial creation of a Moslem state - Pakistan, and it is highly debatable that the world became a safer place through this. Leaving aside any other reasons, Judaism itself is sufficient enough in explaining the inadmissibility of supporting the rights of the others at the expense of somebody's own interests. One of the great Jewish thinkers Ahad Ha-am wrote in 1910 in the essay Between Two Opinions:

"A nation can never believe that its moral duty lies in self-abasement or in renunciation of its rights for the benefit of other nations. On the contrary, every nation feels that its moral duty is to maintain its position and to use its opportunities to create conditions in which it can develop its potentialities to the full. ... In its Jewish sense, the precept 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself' can be carried out by a whole nation in its dealings with the other nations. For this precept does not oblige a nation to sacrifice its life or its position for the benefit of other nations. It is, on the contrary, the duty of every nation, as of every individual human being, to live and to develop to the utmost limits of its powers."

The Jews' habit to try to save the "entire world" is well known. The results of this kind of activity are well known too. Just recall the gratitude of the former Soviet Union to the Jews who embraced the Revolution and were among its most active leaders. Even more terrible was the fate of German Jewry who did so much for "Deutschland," in detriment to their Jewish interests.

Israel's attempts at being a foreman in building a second state for the Palestinian Arabs fall into the same category and could bring only disaster. That Israel tries to "think" for the Arabs is obvious. On May 16, 1998, speaking in New York in Temple Emanuel Shimon Peres said that "in 1993 the Israeli government decided that the creation of an independent, democratic, economically strong, demilitarized and friendly Palestinian state is advantageous to Israel." It does not matter that Arab desires do not coincide with Israel's plans and that they have a completely different design for the Middle East. Certainly they want a state, but to speak of democracy, demilitarization and friendliness of this state towards Israel is simply ridiculous.

The Arabs want another Moslem state which shares the values of sister Arab countries, a state that hates and despises the Jews. They are very clear in their plans. Below are just few of countless examples. On May 22, 1998, in an interview with the Israeli weekly Makor Rishon, Sheikh Ikrama Sabri, the Mufti of Jerusalem, appointed by Arafat, expressed his sentiments in the following way,

Moslems have no knowledge or awareness that the Temple Mount has any sanctity for Jews. why should we allow the Jews to share in places which are holy to us and to Islam?. The Moslems will never permit anyone to enter the Temple Mount. If the Jews really want peace, they must absolutely forget about having any rights over the Temple Mount or Al-Aksa Mosque. the Western Wall also belongs to Moslems, ...[it] is just a fence belonging to a Moslem holy site.

Hani al-Hasan, Arafat's adviser for strategic affairs, said on December 15, 1997 during the inauguration of the first exhibition of the Palestinian revolution, "We will establish an independent sovereign Palestinian state over all the territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with Jerusalem as its capital, which will be totally empty of settlers." In the same meeting Staff Brigadier General al-Majaydah declared that "peace is a strategic option for our people, on condition that it realizes our hopes and ambitions." These hopes and ambitions are enumerated in the Palestinian charter, which still remains unchanged and calls for Israel's destruction.

On May 26,1998, in a speech delivered at the Arab League ministerial meeting in Cairo, Yasir Arafat repeated the immediate goals of the Arabs:

"We set it as a goal for ourselves that the peace we are seeking in this region must return occupied Arab and Palestinian territories to their Arab owners; end the Israeli occupation; and eliminate its disastrous impact on the Palestinian, Arab, Islamic, and Christian lands and holy shrines; and enable our Palestinian people to make their national dream of liberty and independence come true on the blessed land of Palestine. It was on this basis that we signed the peace of the brave."

The above examples are enough to notice that what Israel wants for the Arabs has very little in common with what they want for themselves.Hence it would be much more logical for the Jewish state, to stop "worrying" about the Palestinian Arabs and start to think "what is good for the Jews?" This suggestion is especially valuable because it comes from an Arab. On March, 8, 1998, Daoud Kuttab, the director of the Institute of the Modern Media at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem wrote in The Jerusalem Post: "A word of advice to Israeli leaders: Do what is best for your people and let Palestinians decide what is best for them."

Kuttab is absolutely right. Israel must do what is good for her. The logical consequence of the idea of absolute justice, which lies at the core of Judaism, will then bring her to the necessity of strengthening the Jewish state through annexation of Yesha. It is obvious that the inclusion of the lands of Judea, Samaria and Gaza into the composition of Israel will make the state more viable. Israel needs this land "to develop her potentialities to the full."Judea and Samaria should become the magnet that will attract more and more Diaspora Jews to their historic homeland. Every inch of this land breathes with Jewish history and culture. This territory is desperately needed for security reasons too. On February 27, 1998, the New York Russian daily Novoe Russkoe Slovo published an interview with Arieh Stav, the editor of Israeli magazine Nativ. This what he said:

"The use by our neighbors of chemical and bacteriological weapons could inflict heavy damage to Israel, especially taking into account, the absolutely unreasonable concentration of the population in the center of the country. Under these conditions any normal state would have long ago created an infrastructure that would allow in due moment to evacuate the population. However we have nothing like this! ... Next to the Gush-Dan region there lies Samaria, which is relatively scarcely populated. It is here, at arm's length! Just build the roads and set necessary conditions for this kind of operation. If I were a religious person, I would say that God himself took care of us by creating this incredible opportunity to solve the problem. The homeland itself offers the answer."

It is absurd for the Jewish state not to care for itself out of fear of being blamed of being "non-democratic, racist and selfish." As the best selling author of How the Irish saved Civilization, Thomas Cahill wrote in his new book The Gifts of the Jews, "Democracy... grows directly out of the Israelite vision of individuals [as] subjects of value because they are images of God, each with a unique and personal destiny... Thanks to the Jews, it is truly self-evident that all men are created equal."

The Jewish state should not be ashamed to care for herself. "If I am not for myself, than who is for me?" should become the motto of Israel's day to day activity. This would be not an egotism but a healthy instinct of a healthy nation. Rabbi Abraham Kuk wrote, that "our national life, both intrinsically and in its relationship to all mankind, has a long career. We have existed for a long time, and we have therefore exposed ourselves in many ways. We are a great people, and our mistakes are equally great; therefore our woes and the consolations to follow them are both on the grand scale." We cannot afford the mistake of not settling and developing the lands of Judea, Samaria and Gaza.5/31/98

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



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