JEWISH PATRIOTISM

An Open Letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

By Boris Shusteff

[Editor's Note: Pages referenced in parenthesis in this article come from Netanyahu's book, A Place Among the Nations.]

On September 3, 1998 Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview with the Turkish Daily News, "The more I am in politics, the more I realize that what ultimately governs the fate of nations is the ability to take the stand on major things. The public will follow suit. Those decisions of principle or the main policy decisions that emanate from conviction ultimately summon the public support." One of the "main policy decisions" that is required today is an abandonment of the false slogan of "land for peace" and the course that accommodates it. "Given the specifics of the West Bank, the slogan 'land for peace' is singularly inappropriate" (293). Shimon Riklin wrote on September 11, 1998 in the Israeli daily Makor Rishon:

"The ruins of approximately 1,500 rural and urban centers, dating from the Neolithic to the Ottoman periods, can be found throughout Judea, Samaria and Gaza. In addition, there are over 4,000 additional sites, from wine presses to graveyards, in these areas. Many of these locations relate to the history of the Jewish people in its land, from the time of its conquest and settlement in the 12th century BCE. Over 90% of the places mentioned in the Bible are located in Judea, Samaria and Gaza There is nothing which better expresses the unprecedented concession of a national homeland than surrendering the places which formed its character."

This is "not the first time in Jewish history that the Jews reclaimed these very lands from which they had been barred. More than twenty-one hundred years ago the Maccabees had done the same The Jewish leader Simon, [one] of the five Maccabee brothers[replied to Antiochus, the Seleucid king] who was convinced that the land was an inextricable part of his Seleucid Greek empire as the Arabs today are convinced that it is an inextricable part of their realm:

"We have neither taken foreign land nor seized foreign property, but only the inheritance of our fathers, which at one time had been unjustly taken by our enemies. Now that we have the opportunity, we are firmly holding the inheritance of our fathers." (182 - 183)

It is the spiritual idea that drives people to great achievements. It is the vision, the feelings that nest deep in their souls. This is why the rationalist Uganda Plan was defeated at the Zionist Congress of 1905. "The Jewish people's attachment to the Jewish land was more powerful, and only its force could ultimately harness the Jewish masses to concerted political action. Rabbi Nathan Mileikowsky, [Benjamin Netanyahu's grandfather] explained why he opposed and helped to defeat the Uganda Plan:

"For so many centuries the Jewish people had made so many sacrifices for this land, had shed their blood for it, had prayed for a thousand years to return to it, had tied their most intimate hopes to its revival - we considered it inconceivable that we would now betray the generations of Jews who had fought and died for this end. It would have been a terrible moral and emotional collapse. It would have rendered the whole Jewish history meaningless. We had to oppose it. (28 - 29)

"Successive Israeli governments did not bother to articulate the emotional connection that so many Israelis, including a significant number of the left, felt toward the land. Moshe Dayan captured the sentiment [of the Jewish return] a few weeks after the Six Day War in a ceremony on the Mount of Olives:

"We have returned to the [Temple] Mount, to the cradle of our nation's history, to the land of our forefathers, to the land of the Judges, and to the fortress of David's dynasty [the Old City]. We have returned to Hebron, to Sh'chem, to Bethlehem and Anatoth, to Jericho and the fords of the Jordan. [Editor's Note: Later Dayan turned the Temple Mount over to the Arabs in an act of great betrayal to the Jewish people.] When the Jewish people yearned to return to their land their souls were enthralled by the idea of returning to all those places that Moshe Dayan enumerated, and to many more that he did not, in the mountains of Samaria and Judea." (181 - 182)

Is it possible to comprehend that today we willfully abandoned Hebron, Sh'chem, Betlehem, Jericho and keep fiercely haggling over which places to betray in the mountains of Samaria and Judea? How low have we fallen if we voluntarily surrendered control over these territories to the gang of terrorists dedicated to our destruction?

Didn't we come back "for all the generations of Jews who had suffered oppression, degradation, and humiliation while they dreamed and prayed that we would return to this land?" (181). How do we dare to reject the "inheritance of our fathers" after we miraculously regained possession over it?

We are afraid to be patriots. What is a point of honor to all other nations has become a subject of shame for us. It took us almost two thousand years to transform the patriotism of individuals into patriotism of the masses and now it is dead again. More than one hundred and fifty years ago Moses Hess wrote in Rome and Jerusalem, that:

"the main problem of the Jewish national movement centers around one point, namely, on how to awaken the patriotic sentiment in the hearts of progressive Jews, and how to liberate the Jewish masses, by means of this patriotism from a spirit-deadening formalism."

Today we face the same problem, but in much more difficult circumstances, since our ties with Judaism have become substantially weaker. The fire of patriotism that burnt in the hearts of the Jewish people for two millennia was kindled by Judaism. It was the three indivisible components Judaism - God, Torah and Eretz Yisrael - thatsaved us during the nineteen centuries of our wandering and brought us back to our land. Through Judaism, our people came into existence as no other nation did: we first became a nation and only then settled in our land. It is by clinging to Judaism time and again that we were able to regain our might and vitality during our exile. The whole covenant with God meant that we were destined to live in this land. Because we hesitated for a moment to conquer it we were condemned to forty years of wandering in the desert. By relinquishing our land today, we are rejecting our nationality.

The Jewish state without its historic heart - the lands of Yesha - is senseless. It has no meaning and no purpose. Surrendering the lands of Yesha will inevitably lead to the disappearance of the Jewish people, to the end of Jewish history. We will join the ranks of the perished nations of antiquity. As Riklin wrote in his article, "After all, when the Jewish people becomes detached from the landscape of its birth, its link to the land, to religion and to Jewish tradition will in any case be broken."

The only way to prevent this is through the revival of Jewish patriotism. As Hess wrote, "It is only when we find that the Jewish heart is dead, that the Jews are no more capable of patriotic inspiration, that we shall have to despair" Ariel Sharon wrote in August 1998 in Yediot Achranot:

"I made a huge error over the past thirty years, by not sufficiently emphasizing the historical Jewish claim to the lands of Judea and Samaria. This land is the birthplace of the Jewish nation. The feeling that you rightly deserve to be in a certain place - which is an important component in security - is first and foremost dependent on your sense that the land is yours. The current generation of Israelis has not been taught the link between history and security. The previous generation lived with this strong sense of connection to the land. ...A person simply won't defend a land which he doesn't believe is his.."

On September 14, 1998 Dan Margalit wrote in Ha'aretz that he would be able to understand the logic of Israel having to pay the high price of "American arm-twisting, Egyptian anger, severance from Gaza, a loss of investments" if "Netanyahu adopted the policies of those who support a Greater Land of Israel. They believe that no price - neither terror nor unemployment - is too high for the integrity of the land." Margalit is right. The time is long overdue for Netanyahu to declare allegiance to the Greater Land of Israel camp. He did it in writing through publishing the book A Place Among the Nations, which is abundantly cited in this article (with pages referenced in parenthesis). Now is the time to loudly proclaim this to the whole world.

Arafat is playing with an open hand. He has unequivocally declared that on May 4, 1999 he will proclaim a second Palestinian state. It is Netanyahu's turn to announce the establishment of the first real Jewish state that encompasses the primordial Jewish land of Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Now that we have the opportunity, we should firmly hold on to the inheritance of our fathers. The public will follow suit. [9/19/98]

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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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