By Boris Shusteff
And the Lord thy God will bring thee into
the land which thy fathers possessed,
and thou shalt possess it. (Deuteronomy 30: 5).
Israel nowadays resembles a fish thrown out onto the seashore. The fish is flailing on the sand, desperately writhing from side to side. It is the same sand that it just recently touched with its fins swimming in the water. However, an important thing is missing - there is no water around it. Although there is plenty of air everywhere, and countless creatures happily live in this environment, for the fish the surroundings are extremely dangerous and if it can't return to the water, it dies.
By abandoning Judaism Israel has found herself in an environment where she can't survive. One may argue that Israel is a Jewish state and Judaism is in her nature, one may even say that there are religious parties in Israel and thus Judaism can't disappear, but these will be only words, since one of the main tenets of Judaism has been forsaken by Israel.
The Jews have forgotten why they were taken out of bondage. They have forgotten that they were told to "go in to possess the land which the Lord your God giveth you, and ye shall possess it, and dwell therein" (Deuteronomy 11:31). They started to squander the Land which as Moses said "the Lord your God causeth you to inherit" (Deuteronomy 12:10).
What level of degradation had reached the supposedly Jewish state if its prime minister goes to Egypt, the place from which the Jews "were brought forth with a mighty hand," and there says of the eternal inheritance of the Jewish people, "ten days from now we are going to convey another piece of territory to the Palestinians" (1)? A Jewish leader speaks of the land that God "didst swear unto our fathers, a land flowing with milk and honey" (Deuteronomy 26:15) as just "another piece of territory" ?
The root of our tragedy lies in our unwillingness to admit that the Arabs are defeating us because they are struggling for Land and we are fighting for peace, security, equality, coexistence and a dozen other beautiful words. The land is real, it is alive, it exists, it can be touched. One can smell the warmth of the freshly ploughed land. One can feel the moisture of the soil when one walks barefooted after the morning rain has just washed the face of the earth.
At the same time security, peace, coexistence are subjective and abstract concepts, words that belong, mainly, on a piece of paper. People can talk about them, discuss them, define them. They can have different opinions about them. For instance, the Arabs define terrorism as Israel's confiscation of land, while for the Jews terrorism means killed and maimed people.
Pragmatics struggle for land; idealists juggle with words. Alas, the idealist, when killed, nevertheless, needs the land in order to be buried. We cannot live without the land as well. We build houses on the land. We plant trees on the land. Man and the land are interconnected. It is not accidental that the word for land in Hebrew - "adamah" differs only by one letter from the word "adam" - man.
The Jews have brought to this world not only monotheism. They also gave to mankind the meaning of the word "homeland." They were the first to define it by establishing a state on the land they were told to possess by God. They taught that a nation must have defined boundaries and that it should not be expanded into an empire. The Torah reminds us about that. When the Jews were on their route to the promised land, they were told several times by God not even to think about anyone else's land. "Ye are to pass through the border of the children of Esau; contend not with them; for I will not give you of their land; because I have given mount Seir unto Esau for possession" (Deuteronomy 2:6). "Be not at enmity with Moab, for I will not give thee of his land for a possession; because I have given Ar unto the children of Lot for a possession" (Deuteronomy 2:9).
When they lost their homeland, they demonstrated an unsurpassed craving towards it. Eretz Yisrael was in their soul and their memory. Their love for the homeland did not allow other nations to forget even for a moment that the Jews were not only the people of the Book, but also the people of the Land.
For several thousand years nobody questioned the connection between the Jews and Eretz Yisrael, or Palestine, as it was called by the majority of the non-Jews. The Englishman Lord Alexander Lindsay wrote in 1838 that the barrenness and decay everywhere at that time in Palestine happened simply because of "the removal of the ancient inhabitants [the Jews]." He believed that it is the will of the Almighty that the "modern occupants should never be so numerous" as to prevent the return of the "rightful heirs" and that the once fertile land "only waits the return of her banished children to burst once more into universal luxuriance and be all she ever was in the days of Solomon" (2)
In 1844 a committee was convened in London for the purpose of forming a "British and Foreign Society for Promoting the Restoration of the Jewish Nation in Palestine." The Jews had nothing to do with this committee. It was a strictly non-Jewish enterprise based on the concept that "the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates" (Genesis 15:18).
The kingdoms of Judah and Israel, historically, never occupied anything like this area, and, perhaps, the Englishmen were generous because Palestine at that time belonged to the Turks. However, the common concept of Palestine with the boundaries from Dan to Beersheba and from the Mediterranean to Gilaed, to Moab east of the Jordan was indisputable. This was the land covenanted to Israel.
It was easy for the world community to assign to Britain the mandate for Palestine for the purpose of reestablishment of the Jewish National Home, since the boundaries of this Home were unquestionable. When today one disputes Israel's right to Eretz Yisrael, one should be reminded that the allocation of the land to the Jews happened concurrently with the establishment of "six independent Arab states that emerged to enjoy sovereignty over 1,250,000 square miles"(3). Just compare this vast area with the meager 8,000 square miles of the land offered to the Jewish state in 1947.
It is also worth mentioning that those who lament today the fate of the "homeless Palestinian Arabs" should first listen to the Palestinian Arabs themselves. They should read the resolution entitled "The Unity of Palestinians and Jordanian Masses" that passed in March 1971 at the Eighth Palestinian National Congress. It declared that "a national link and a territorial unity forged by history, culture and language tie Jordan with Palestine from the earliest period" (5). The resolution went on to describe the Palestinians and Jordanians as "one people" and it explained the previous emphasis on Palestinian distinctiveness as having been necessary for "a specific historical phase" (5). In today's "historical phase" the Palestinian Arabs are again transformed into "a distinctive people," but this cannot change the fact that they already have their sovereign country - Jordan, which is more than three times the size of Israel.
No country in the world ever asked for anyone's permission for its existence. All great democracies went through a phase of conquering and displacement of indigenous populations. The triumph of force lies at the foundation of all the countries in the world. Nobody has the right to demand from Israel that she abandon the land which she gained by defending herself. In the first place, it is immoral and unjust. The United Nations can't apply the request of "inadmissibility of acquiring the land through wars" to Israel without applying it first to other nations. It should start with America, Russia, France, England, or countless other countries who fought to establish their boundaries in the twentieth century, two millennia after the Jews came into possession of Eretz Yisrael.
Even in the easiest of all possible cases, where the real estate deed was already written by God's hand, mankind was unable to register it in the book of nations. The original area envisaged by the Balfour Declaration for the Jewish state constituted approximately 3% of the former Turkish provinces. It was whittled down to less than 0.8% through the establishment of Jordan. After the partition resolution it shrunk further to 0.5%. Moreover, the partition plan in essence was a profanation of the idea of the Jewish state. Israel was left "without Hebron where the Patriarchs are buried, without Shiloh where the Ark of the Covenant was housed, without Dothan where Joseph was sold, without Bethel were Jacob dreamed, without Jericho where Joshua triumphed, and without Bethlehem. What final awful silence would have met that remarkable Jewish state proposed by the best minds of the United Nations - a Jewish state without Jerusalem!" (4)
It was not the League of Nations and it was not the United Nations that "created" the Jewish state. It was God's will that forced the Arabs to reject the partition resolution, and to try to destroy Israel in several wars that only led to the expansion of the Jewish state. To their shame, the Jews themselves have not realized this remarkable connection between the most authentic deed to the Land, given to them by God, and Arab hostility. They do not see the direct relation between the Arab military attempts to capture the Jewish land and the present size of the Jewish state. Otherwise they would have long ago explained to mankind that the more the Arabs try to attack them, the closer Israel can grow in size to the ancient "kingdoms of Judah and Israel." And if the Arabs in their mad hatred towards the Jews will attempt to use unconventional weapons, then the world will live to witness the Jewish state on "the land from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates."
Dr. Thomas Clarke wrote in the middle of the nineteenth century about Palestine that "it would be safe only in the hands of a brave, independent, and spiritual people, deeply imbued with the sentiment of nationality... Such a people we have in Jews... Restore them their nationality and their country once more and there is no power on earth that could ever take it from them" (4). The time came to prove Dr. Clarke right. [02/02/00]
1. http://www.nandotimes.com. 1/30/00
2. Lindsay, Alexander, Lord, "Letters From Egypt, Edom and the Holy Land", London, 1838.
3. Marie Syrkin, "The Palestinian Refugees: Resettlement, Repatriation, or Restoration?" From the book "Israel, The Arabs, and The Middle East," Edited by Irving Howe and Carl Gershman, A Bantam Book, 1972.
4. Barbara W. Tuchman, "Bible and Sword", Ballantine Books, New York,1984.
5. Carl Gershman, "The Failure of the Fedayeen". From the book "Israel, The Arabs, and The Middle East," Edited by Irving Howe and Carl Gershman, A Bantam Book, 1972.
Boris Shusteff is an engineer in upstate New York. He is also a research associate with the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies.