Time To Stop Pretending- Peace Talks Are Not Based Upon Fairness

Daniel Gordis has another very powerful dispatch called Back to the Mishnah. I encourage to read the whole thing and not just the excerpts that I share with you here.

In this particular dispatch Gordis provides an explanation for why the Palestinians continue to make ridiculous claims about our having no connection to Israel whatsoever.

“Now,” you might be tempted to say, “Isn’t this all just a tempest in a teapot?” After all, who really cares what Abu Mazen or Saeb Erekat say about Israel as a Jewish state? Arafat is dead, and Abu El-Haj is pretty irrelevant to most of the world. What’s the big deal? Let Israel call itself Jewish, and let the rest of the world say and believe what it chooses. Why should we care?

We should care because these people are very strategic. And what they’re engaging in here isn’t mere public relations. What they’re doing is preparing the ground for the next assault not just on the definition of Israel as a Jewish state, but on the Jewish state itself. And if you believe, as I do, that without a Jewish state, the Jews have a bleak future, indeed, then what they’re actually doing is preparing the next assault on the Jewish people, period.

How so? The Palestinians have come to realize that they’re not going to destroy Israel with suicide bombers and Kassams. True, Nassrallah can put up a good fight in the summer of 2006, and lead Israel into paroxysms of self-doubt about the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the IDF. But even Nasrallah himself later admitted that “You ask me, if I had known on July 11 … that the operation would lead to such a war, would I do it? I say no, absolutely not.” Without planes, without tanks, without the weaponry of Israel’s army, they can train and train and do more and more damage, but they can’t ultimately win. (Iran poses a new sort of threat, of course, but one hopes that that will be dealt with unambiguously before too much more time passes.) Suicide bombers and terrorists can make Israel miserable but they can’t destroy the state.

What then? Well, the Palestinians have decided, the war can be won demographically instead of militarily. And one of the key ways of winning the demographic war is to deny Israel’s Jewish character. For if Israel is not a Jewish state, what reason could there possibly be not to allow the millions of Palestinian refugees back into Israel? Israel’s objection has been, of course, that doing so would turn Jews into a minority in Israel almost overnight. As long as Israel is meant to be a Jewish state, that’s a powerful argument. But if Israel’s not necessarily a Jewish state, then what difference does it make if Jews are a minority? They’re a minority in America is that so terrible? The only reason not to allow the refugees into Israel would be callousness, or worse, racism. “Is racism what the Jews are all about?” Abu Mazen is getting ready to ask the world. It’s actually a pretty clever setup.

That’s why this is not a tempest in a teapot. That’s why smart people like Abu Mazen, Yasser Abed Rabbo and Saeb Erekat utter what sound like idiotic sound bites. They’re not trying to win a debate they’re trying to win a war. And as the Mishnah can be read to suggest, the more you claim, the more you’ll get. So we claim half, they claim the whole thing, and before you know it …

And one more piece for you

Back to the Mishnah. Permit me one more reading, even further out on the proverbial interpretive limb, but still…. It’s not about fairness, or justice. It’s not even about realpolitik and “street smarts.” It’s about love – if you love this contested entity so deeply and such passion that you genuinely believe that it should all be yours, and deep in your heart, you can’t imagine sharing it with anyone else, then your “opponent”, who likes it and wants it – but doesn’t love it – doesn’t stand a chance. Love always wins.

“What’s love got to do with it?” one might ask, with apologies to Tina Turner. Love has everything to do with it. The non-compromising stance of the Palestinians may sound backward or unsophisticated to us, but to their own population, it communicates pure, unadulterated love, and a non-negotiable sense of entitlement. “We love this land. It’s always been ours, and no one else’s. We won’t give it up. It belongs to us, and only to us.” Exactly what we say when we love someone.

And on our side? Love is not to be found in the abundance it used to be. I had occasion to interview a small group of Israeli high school kids a short while back, for a friend in the States who needed the transcript for a project. My only job was to sit around a table with them and talk to them, while a photographer snapped some shots, and a reporter fiddled with a tape recorder.

Read the whole thing. It is worth it.

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  1. Jack's Shack January 8, 2008 at 4:53 am


    It is a good question. Clearly the sample Gordis is working with is too small to come up with any “real” conclusions.

    However, I would add that there is a difference between Nefesh B’Nefesh Olim and Sabras.

    And to me that is one of the big questions. I hope that Gordis is wrong, but what if he is not.

  2. Daled Amos January 7, 2008 at 5:33 am

    On the issue of Love of the Land, I am not so sure Gordis is right.

    Consider the Palestinian emigration, to the extent that fatwahs are being issued. True, there are Yordim too, but there is nothing remotely parallel among Palestinians to the work Nefesh B’Nefesh is doing.

    Does the rhetoric of the Palestinians come from Love of the Land or the hyperbole of the Arab culture and Islamic pride?

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