Sascha D. Freudenheim on 7 Oct 2000 21:26:32 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] The Case for Israel Revisited

By A. D. Freudenheim.  Originally published in two parts on, this part II.

The Case for Israel Revisited, Part II - (With apologies to Frank
7 October 2000

In 1967, in the aftermath of the 6 Day War, reporter Frank Gervasi
published The Case For Israel.  Exploring the aftermath of Israel’s
three major wars to date, Gervasi sought to position Israel as part of a
reality that, by late-1967, the Arab states were only just beginning to
accept as permanent.  From his vantage point at the King David Hotel in
Jerusalem, Gervasi wrote that if the Arabs were serious in their demands
for the return of the West Bank and other territories, “then it would
behoove them to move quickly from belligerency to peace.”[1]

These days, things look quite different.  The belligerence in the region
in the last few weeks has been largely the product of the Israelis.  It
is now they – the established power, no longer a country of struggling
refugees in the shadow of the Holocaust – who must move quickly, to
achieve and cement peace with the Palestinians.  Israel must do this not
just in order to provide its citizens with the opportunity to live a
life free of war, but in order to achieve, finally, the acceptable moral
position that it has asserted since its establishment in 1948.

A nation-state whose existence derived from the belief that in order to
have true self-determination, the Jews must have a political entity and
land of their own, Israel was established as exactly that: a “Jewish
state.”  That phrase embodies not only the political need for
independence, but the religious obligations inherent in accepting the
mantle of Judaism.  According to Jewish law, these include the
responsibility to treat all human life with respect, to treat the
strangers in your midst as you yourself would wish to be treated, and an
admonition against the abuse of power, both physical and psychological.

For too long, Israel has been allowed to have it both ways, desiring
acceptance in the community of nations as a free and open democracy,
while brutally oppressing its minorities, and striking out at its
neighbors – actions that are distinctly in violation of Jewish law.  A
truly Jewish state cannot blatantly disregard Jewish law, which makes no
distinction between the value of a Jewish life and the value of any
other.  A truly Jewish state cannot refuse to recognize its power over
others, and must accept that it should wield that power only in
self-defense.  A truly Jewish state must acknowledge its moral
responsibilities and seek to lead other nations to peace, not away from

Israelis would say now, as they have in the past, that they are only
protecting themselves; that they are acting in self-defense; that the
Palestinians, given an inch, will instead try to grab a mile; and that
the Palestinians do not respect human life or the rule of law.  These
are poor excuses.  Israel must recognize that it is no longer an
aggrieved nation.  The current fighting began not with a Palestinian
attack on Israeli sovereignty, but with a foolish display of Israeli
hubris on the part of one of its leaders.  It was a deliberate
provocation.  Today, the Palestinians took provocative actions of their
own, destroying the Jewish holy site of Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus, after
the Israeli’s withdrew from the area.  Now especially, Israel must
resist the urge to retaliate.

That the Palestinians have jumped at the opportunity to “protest” is
undeniable.  Nor can the Palestinians be absolved of their own moral
responsibilities, to respect human life and to seek peace.  But for now,
Israel bears the greater responsibility because it has the greater
assets.  It must not be scared of its superior strength: it must
acknowledge and respect it.  Does it need to send overwhelming force to
stop protestors?  No one – least of all the Palestinians – doubts
Israel’s capability for war.  Israel should step back from this current
round of fighting, making a clear statement that it will not be
provoked.  It must acknowledge its responsibility for escalating the
hostilities and for killing its weaker neighbors.  Israel must not only
appear contrite – it should be so.  For years it has proved itself an
embarrassment to the very notion – the very Jewish notion – of “human
rights.”  Now is the time for the State of Israel to acknowledge what
that concept means, to strive to live up to the high moral position it
has claimed for itself and of which it is not only worthy, but is, in
fact, quite capable.

[1] Gervasi, Frank: The Case for Israel, New York: Viking, 1967.  P. 173

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