When the Subject Changed
from Land to Religious Ideology in the Former British Mandate of Palestine
For many years, at least since 1948, the conflict in the
former British Mandate of Palestine was between two peoples, Jews and Arabs,
over land. In 1967, the Jews ratcheted up the stakes by capturing the entirety
of the British Mandate west of the Jordan River. The Jews also took some of the
French land that was Syria, now known as the Golan Heights. For the most part,
this territory was gained for security as well as religious purposes. The
latter was the relatively minor issue of the two but was important to many Jews
for access to much of the Old City of Jerusalem had been denied the Jews,
including access to the holiest place in all of Judaism, the Western Wall of
the destroyed ancient Temple known as the Kotel.
1967, despite the entirety of the Temple Mount being under Israeli control, Arabs
were allowed to maintain the oversight of the area above the Kotel where the Dome
of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque are located. That Rock is the top of Mt.
Moriah, the site at which Abraham’s hand was stopped from slaying Isaac by an
angel of God and where Muslims believe Muhammad ascended to Heaven. It’s not
all that far from the site of the Crucifixion and the 14 Stages of the Cross
and the Via Delarosa so this is a very HEAVY place, full of religious meaning!
Since 1967, local forces and western nations have attempted
to negotiate a settlement of the on-going battle between the Arabs and the Jews
who occupy the land that was the British Mandate of Palestine without success.
Essentially, since the atrocity at the Munich Olympic Games, this has been a
political struggle, when the
term “Palestinian” entered Western consciousness in Germany in 1972 as far as I
can remember. That phase, let’s call it the land phase of the conflict, may be
coming to an end.
With the rise of Al Qaeda, and its war on the West that
actually began over 20 years ago with the first bombing of the World Trade
Center in 1993 and went on to Tanzania, the USS Cole and then 9/11, the forces
of the Arab world have shifted their focus from land in the British Mandate to
an all out war on the West couched in the trappings of a contorted form of
Islam that is an embarrassment to true Muslims who want nothing to do with
these maniacs. ISIS has taken this to the next level by combining religious
zealotry with the need for territory and the development of a modern Islamic
Caliphate. They also seem to have a blood lust not seen in these parts since
Biblical times, which says a great deal after the Crusades. The Heaven phase has begun anew.
A few weeks ago, 4 Israelis, all rabbis and three with
American passports, were killed inside a synagogue in an incident that left the
murderers dead and the collective breath of the world held. An Israeli Druze
soldier died later from his wounds defending this Jewish holy place. Will this
be the spark that sets off another intifada and will that intifada engulf the
region in a religious war? The answer
may well be yes and perhaps, it is time unless some rapid action is taken to stop it.
The battle lines were drawn over 100 years ago when two
peoples wanted to inhabit the same land, the British Mandate of Palestine and
one of them wanted that land to become a democratic, Jewish nation. This became
more crucial after the Holocaust made it clear, if it wasn’t already, that the
world could not be trusted to live in peace with the Jews so the Jews had to
find a land of their own. They had found one 3000 years ago and so the logical
thought was, why the heck not go back? So, we did, with the help of the British
and Americans who must have felt badly about having 6 million of us die in the
war. After all, as a friend said recently, how many lives would have been saved
if the Americans and British had invaded Germany in 1938 after Kristallnacht?
Millions on all sides.
Now it looks like the final battle is coming for this one
will be about both land and religion and that is always a deadly combination. I
see no solution on the horizon for now. What was once a debate about territory
only has been blended into one about ideology as well and so clarity will be
the victim. As the Israeli journalist Ari Shavit said at the JCC recently, the
Iron Dome should win the Nobel Peace Prize for it saved many lives in Tel Aviv
and many more in Gaza. If the Gazan rockets had hit the city and killed a few
hundred Israelis, the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) would have been obligated to
completely level Gaza.
As the coming days make this awful situation murkier and
bloodier, please be aware of a few things. There is no solution to the dilemma
of Israel having its current territory, being a Jewish state and being a
democracy for in about 20 years, most of the people living inside the territory
that is now Israel or even that was Israel before 1967 will not be Jewish. If
Israel is to be a democracy, it cannot have two classes of citizens, Arab and
Jew and I saw that with my own eyes having lunch in the Old City two months
ago. Arabs are treated as second-class citizens in Israel by some Jews with
short memories. Or, if Israel is to be solely a Jewish state, then non-Jews had
better leave for there is no compatible solution to having the current Israeli
borders surround a Jewish state that is a democracy with at least 2 million
non-Jews, the population of which is growing faster than that of the Jews. As
usual, everyone cannot have it all.
If you thought you would get to the end of this blog and
find a tidy solution, forget about it. I have none. The best I have heard
belongs to Dr. Isaiah J. Fidler, aka Josh, one of the most famous of Israeli
scientists that we were lucky enough to have come to our shores in America for
both scientific insights and his unique sense of humor. His suggestion modified
the West Bank and the rest of Israel. Jerusalem is on the west side of the
wall. East Jerusalem, is up for discussion.
wall they wish to live on, the eastern Palestinian side or the western Jewish
side (it’s all still all Israel).
than the oversight of both by the Israeli central government for 100 years.
line wall, may well not have full rights as Israeli citizens if those rights
undermine the Jewish nature of the state. Jews on the eastern side would also
have fewer rights than their Arab neighbors.
must find a different set of answers, but they cannot look to the West to
negotiate the solution. Only the principals can do that. America would love a
local solution to occur, but America cannot be the catalyst for this reaction
because, frankly, I don’t think the John Kerrys or Hillary Clintons of the
world really get it.
will miss that pastry shop in Bethlehem, but if these folks cannot find a way
to live with each other after 66 years, it is unlikely that they ever will so
let’s save some lives.
morning on CNN, Alan Dershowitz correctly pointed out that there is not a moral
equivalence between the actions of Israelis to protect its citizens and the
actions of terrorists as occurred in the synagogue Tuesday morning. He resents
the term, “cycle of violence” for he believes this equates the actions of the
IDF with those of the terrorists. He’s right, but it doesn’t matter. The world
has made that leap and the carpet bombing of Gaza does not help the Israeli
cause even though it was a response to the tunnels and the rockets. There are
no winners here and there is no moral high ground. So let’s just say as much
and move the two fighting forces into their corners for 100 years.
is beyond sad that this should have to be the case, but I see no other
solution. Israel has become a major, westernized, economic secular power with a
strong Jewish identity that must be maintained. The majority of the Arab world
is in permanent chaos, fighting with itself more than with the Jews (see ISIS
or Yemen for a Sunni vs. Shiite mess) and producing nothing but oil as a means
of economic growth while keeping most of its citizens and all of its women in
chains. How could Israel ever be compatible with an Arab world?
that the radical Arabs have mutated Islam for nefarious purposes that even make
other Arabs and Muslims blush, what can the Israelis do but walk away?
centuries the Jews would run when times got hard. We will not run again, from
Israel or from the United States. So I suggest that the United Nations get real
and start building that wall on the green line if the nations of the world
really wish to prevent more carnage like we saw at the Jerusalem synagogue,
because this time, the Jews have the guns, too and this time we will not go
down without a fight.