Whatever we say or do these days about the situation in Israel, we should always keep in mind the central issue: After almost two thousand years of horrible and unparalleled suffering the Jewish people, at last, have established an independent Jewish state in the land of their forefathers. All previous attempts to establish a Jewish state elsewhere failed. A dissolution or destruction of Israel, especially at this stage of Jewish history, would be a calamity beyond description for Jews everywhere. Everyone with a minimum sense of responsibility should do all they can to prevent that from occuring.
Viewed from this perspective, the supporters of the policies of the current Israeli government should realize some of the reasons for the unease and fears of those who have apprehensions about the motivations of this government and the consequences of its policies. How can such persons trust a government whose leadership includes those who do not believe in the historical rights of the Jews to Eretz Israel, in the rights of all Jews to live there, and in their democratic rights to free speach and assembly.
A few examples: A Cabinet minister (Shulamit Aloni) declared that "the statute of limitation" of the claim of the Jews to the Land has expired long ago. She is the leader of Merets,the second largest party in the coalition. She says she might resign soon, but even if she will still be around and she is not the only one there holding this view. Rabin, too, shortly before his murder called the Torah "an antiquated real estate catalogue". The person who was recently nominated to head the Jewish Agency and the Zionist movement (Avrum Burg) repeatedly acknowledged that the man who influenced him most was the late Yishayahu Leibovitch. The latter called the Israeli soldiers who served in Judea and Samaria "Judeo-Nazis", and he claimed that Judaism has no relation to territory, i.e. to Eretz Israel. He was not placed under police investigation for using inflammatory language. Rather,many intellectuals and journalists referred to him as the "moral conscience of the nation." I find this designation quite strange. When I was his student he told us that he "is not a moral man." He behaved only according to (his interpretation of) the Halacha, whether or not it agrees with morality, he said. So, it was not morality but the political implications of what he said that attracted his admirers.
Shimon Peres, the current Prime Minister, told a woman who exercised her democratic rights to question his policies, to go back to where she came from, thereby taking the liberty to negate the essence of the Law of Return. Several other Cabinet members have also tried to undermine this central pillar of what Israel is all about. Recently, some American Jews who oppose current government policy were not admitted to Israel. The Labor party has a long history of selecting who should be admitted to Eretz Israel, going back to the immigration certificates during the British Mandate.
Ever since the Oslo agreement between Rabin and Arafat was sprung on an unaware and unconsulted nation, the freedom of speech and assembly of Israeli citizens was progressively restricted, sometimes brutally. This was accompanied by a goverment- sponsored smear campaign against those opposing government policies. In March 1995 Rabin was quoted as saying "the terror organizations are succeeding because the Likud has become a collaborator of Islamic Jihad and Hamas." Similar accusations were made by others, such as the writer Amos Oz. Since the Rabin murder Israel has become, for all intents and purposes, a police state.
There is also the question of credibility. How can people trust the Government in view of the stark contrast between the policies it has pursued and the platform on which it was elected. In November 1992 the Labor party was elected on a platform which included:
* no negotiations with the PLO andNow they are doing the opposite without going back to the people to secure their approval. How can one trust new assurances given by a government that violates its own commitments?
* keeping the Golan heights.
The need to go back to the people is further illustrated by the Knesset vote on Oslo 2. The government secured a majority of one vote. And this one vote was cast by a person who was bribed with a Mitsubishi car, according to President Weitzman. Moreover, the above majority of one, in a vote which will have a major impact on the future of Israel, is based on the votes of five Arab members of the Knesset representing two Arab anti-Zionist parties. By now, due to the capitulationist policies of government, even many regular Israeli Arabs now call themselves "Palestinians" and have no vested interest in Israel as a Jewish state. The Government opposed proposals by Knesset members from various parties, including Labor, that a larger majority should be required for issues affecting the viability and survival of the state, as is common in most other democracies including the U.S.
The Cabinet's conception of "democracy" is another major cause for concern. There are clear indications that they either do not comprehend what democracy means or, more likely, are cynically using the term as a tool of repression against those who oppose or have questions about their policies. The Minister of Education, no less, admitted on television that children were instructed to inform on "inflammatory" statements by teachers. As of two weeks before the time of writing, at least one teacher was suspended on these grounds. This is only one indication that East European totalitarianism is live and well in Israel.
Can you call it a "democracy" when the government runs rough-shod over the half (or more) of the nation that does not agree with its current policies? What could be the ultimate result of contempt for and suppression of opposing opinions if not increased resentment and underground activities? One has the strong impression that this government and their intellectual coterie talk mostly to each other. Is this a good way to get a real understanding either of the Arabs or of those Jews who continue to hold that Eretz Israel is the focal point of Jewish yearnings, a conviction which began with Abraham, through Moses and sustained ever since the Babylonian exile to this day? Thus, what on the surface looks like pragmatic policies is in reality a self-induced capitulation of Jewish national rights, both in practice and in principle. Don't they understand that a shrunken state is a vulnerable state? That a split nation is a weaker entity? That a demoralized military is less capable of stopping enemies , whether in the form of terrorism or a large- scale invasion?
These policies reflect the so-called "post- Zionist" literature produced by pseudo- intellectuals in Israel. Those writings are practically carbon copies of what longtime enemies of Israel have been spouting for years. The superhuman efforts and sacrifices which resulted in the establishment of the Yishuv and culminated in the State of Israel and the revival of the Hebrew language (which are among the most impressive accomplishments in human history) are denigrated by these writers. They falsely portray this history as a series of "exploitations", of "colonialism" etc. This reflects the internalization by these groups of the cleverly orchestrated propoganda the enemies of Israel (not only the Arabs) have been spreading.
What is particularly unsettling about this phenomenon and some statements and policies made by the current government is the striking similarities it has with the "Galut mentality", an ailment the establishment of Israel was designed to cure. The Diaspora Jews were mostly powerless, dispersed minorities, cotinuously bombarded by antisemitic fabrications, including character assasinations and blood libels. The way the Jews faced this was a combination of efforts to convince the gentiles that the Jews' presence is beneficial to them; while at the same time internalizing some of the false accusations resulting in the emergence of "self- hating Jews".
Mr. Peres' "vision" of the future of the Middle East often appears like a continuation of the Galut mentality. Israel's image does not emerge as anchored in the inalienable national rights of the Jewish people. Rather, it sounds more like attempts to convince the Arabs that they will benefit from the existence of (a shrunken) Israel. Instead of borders, it will have joint projects with the surrounding Arab states. In the Diaspora the gentiles, even those despising the Jews, usually welcomed Jewish doctors. But accepting Jewish soveregnty is another matter altogether.
The Egyptian Professor Ibrahim, who recenty came to Israel to participate in a conference (the first time for Egyptian intellectuals to do so in the sixteen years since the Camp David accords!) said that now he feels that the that the prospects for a tolerant Middle East are very good. He has come to view the last hundred years as an aberation, he explained. Otherwise,in his view, "the last fourteen centuries were periods of harmony between Moslems, Christians and Jews". The last hundred years, let us remind ourselves, is the period of organized Jewish Aliah to Eretz Israel. Fourteen centuries ago is when the Moslems conquered the Middle East and North Africa. Moslems consider areas they conquer "Zone of Peace"; the rest of the world is "Zone of War." I suggest to the readers to consult history books about what kind of tolerance and equality the Jews endured under Moslem rule. (See DHIMMI by Bat Yeor, which contains a compilation of Moslem documents detailing anti-Jewish laws and atrocities).
Mr. Peres even proposed that Israel become a member of the Arab League. This is as good an illustration as any of the attitude of Peres and the post- Zionists toward Jewish dignity, national rights and history. This bankrupt attitude is also reflected in his urging that we forget the past. What nation that wants to live forgets its past? If you forget your past others will take away from you both your past and your future. Recently Arafat said that Jesus was a "Palestinian" and nobody batted an eye. As recently as the 1940's the Arabs, including their intellectuals and local leaders, stated that "there is not and there never was such thing as Palestine" and that the Arabic-speaking residents are Southern Syrians. But now it serves their anti- Israel interests to invent a "Palestinian history," claimed to go back to even before the destruction of the Second Temple. (Incidentally, the fact that there was a Jewish Temple, let alone its location, is never mentioned in Moslem literature.)
No one bothers to expose this newly fabricated "history". On the contrary, and not surprisingly, some Israeli intellectuals go along with it. In November 1993 the Israel Antquities Authority initiated digs around the Qumran caves looking for more Jewish books and documents written (in Hebrew and few in Aramaic) during the period of approximately between 150 BCE and 70 CE. The then chairman of the Israel Archeologists Association, of all people, was quoted in the Chicago Tribune of November 20, 1993 as saying about these digs: "It's a kind of an unclean business, doing this snatching operation just a few months before the area goes back (Sic!) to the Palestinians." For the record: No area in any part of Eretz Israel was ever under Palestinian Arab control. There was nothing to "go back" to. Through the Oslo agreements Israel is creating the first ever Palestinian Arab autonomy. If Israel continues to allow matters to drift it will help create a Palestinian Arab state, another violation of the Labor platform for the 1992 elections. And this will not the end of their ambitions. There are further "stages" in the PLO plan, as is made abundently clear by Arafat and his minions. But the current government refuses to hear these messages. Peres even dismissed a tape of a speach by Arafat as forgery, while Arafat confirmed the speech.
The spitting on and cursing of Israeli soldiers as they were withdrawing from Shchem (Nablus), and the burning of Israeli flags there are not expressions of gratitude or friendship, nor peaceful co-existence on the part of the Arabs. They view the withdrawals as their victory and an enhancement of their claim to nationalism. This, in all likelihood, will further their effort to invent a history of ancient roots. The need for this is enhanced by the realization that a significant number of those who now call themselves "Palestinians" are descendents of relatively recent immigrants, especially from Egypt and Syria. Such "historical" claims inherently require the blotting out of the actual history, namely the history of the Jews.
Some might think that we should not worry about these falsifications because of the ovewhelming evidence of Jewish history in Eretz Israel. But given the fact that there are many, including the PLO, who have expressed doubts that the Holocaust ever occurred, even though it happened in this century, we cannot count on the truth by itself to overcome the new lies. Typically, the current Israeli "forget the past" government is not even sensitive to this issue. In a briefing for academics, organized last year by the Consulate General at Chicago, the invitees had a big surprise. Besides the expected presence of the Israeli ambassdor they found there Professor Khalidi, a PLO insider, to whom the Ambassador, after embracing him, referred some of the questions for his answers. If my memory serves me right,Khalidi was a pioneer in claiming that the Arabs of Eretz Israel are descendents of the Cannanites. Since such claims are heard from time to time, one wonders how can this be reconciled with a more Arab claim to be the chidren of Abraham? What about the claim of the Khalidis who used to proudly declare that they were the descendents of the first Arabs who came with the Moslem conquest of Jerusalem in the Seventh Century? And, while we are at it, what about Hannan Ashrawi who was presented in the "Nightline" program a few years ago that made her famous, as one having roots there going back 400 years. Later she "corrected" the record by saying "we were the first Christians". This extends her roots to almost 2,000 years. She must be Jewish, then, because all the twelve apostles and the people they preached to were Jews. Oh, well. Arafat's senior religous adviser, Abdel Salam Abu Shuheide, outdid both of them. He recently declared flat out that "Jerusalem has been an Arab city throughout history."
The above illustrates that we should examine very carefully what is presented to us as "facts" and seek out the agenda these are designed to serve. And let us not try to hide from facing the truth that the Arabs'ultimate goal is the disintegration and/or the destruction of Israel. I invite the readers to come up with even one statement made by an Arab recgnizing the right of the Jewish people to their own independent state in their homeland, not just a statement that Israel is a fact now. This does not mean that the Arabs are necessarily worse than other people. But, for various reasons this is their agenda. What is the agenda of the current Israeli government? They say It is "peace". From the way this government "negotiates", it looks more and more like "peace at any price". And the price keeps growing. This is the view not only of "right wingers", "Orthodox Jews", etc. but also of Laborites such as those who are forming a new group,"The Third Way", even (former?) Peace Nownics like the writer Hillel Halkin, as well as an increasing number of retired officers, voice their concerns in spite of government intimidation.
A very troubling pattern emerges from the above. A government which is:
* based on votes of less than half of the Jewish population of Israel,
* composed of people with ,at best, confused ideas about what has been the purpose of establishing the Jewish state of Israel,
* not knowing who is a friend and who is an enemy of Israel,
* pushing down the throat of a deliberately misinformed nation momentous concessions at breakneck speed,
* undermining Israel's democracy by persecuting those who have ideas different from the Government's about what is good for Israel.
Such a government has to be made to go back to the people, telling them the truth before it further emasculates the Jewish state of Israel. We are all urged to support and cheer this suicide process masquerading as a "peace process." The government and the "post- Zionist" intellectuals are shamelessly exploiting the tragic murder of Itshak Rabin to silence any opposition. In one TV interview after another members of the Cabinet say that they will "crush them" in the name of "democracy". The targets of such "crushing" are not the enemies of Israel but other Jews who do not see the current policy as leading to peace for the Jews. That a vigorous loyal opposition is part and parcel of a democratic process has escaped the attention of the Labor/Meretz government. At the time of this writing, news reports indicate that the distinguished novelist Moshe Shamir (no relative of the former P.M.) is under police investigation for something he allegedly said some time ago. Three rabbis who were invited to appear in a discussion program declined for fear they might be arrested if they say something the government does not like. Is this democracy?
Heads of various Jewish organizations in the U.S., who were told unequivocally by Rabin only two weeks before his death to confine themselves to fund raising and Aliah are now in a stampede to support the "peace Process." They are elated to rub shoulders with such worthies as the foreign minister of Egypt, an implacable enemy of Israel, or the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia one of the most reactionary regime in the world and which has been persistently and actively anti Israel. What about President Clinton touted as "the best friend of Israel ever". And he said "Shalom Haver" to the dead Rabin. But he also emasculated the overwhelming vote of the Congress on Jerusalem; and the U.S. abstained in a vicious anti Israel vote regarding Jerusalem at the UN general assembly.
I urge members of Jewish communities everywhere to consider the above, use their own sources to study the facts and decide what they can and should do to help guarantee the future viability of Israel.
Eliezer B. Ayal, a new contributor, is a Professor of Economics, University of Chicago. Professor Ayal is a specialist on economic development, in particular in Southeast Asia. He is a former member of the Palmach (citation for bravery during the seige of Jerusalem and was involved in the capture of Negev (War of Independence), Israel Air Force, and is published widely on issues dealing with security and military affairs in Israel and the Middle East.