A Response to Eric Yoffe:"Confront the Extremists. . .
THE RABBI'S VIEW
A Response to Eric Yoffe:"Confront the Extremists. . ."
I find it very difficult to hold the right voice in response to Eric Yoffe's column. It is difficult to make arguments against propositions which are specious in foundation, and incendiary in their language, but it must be done, so I ask forgiveness in advance if I offend the sensibilities of the well-intentioned misled as I attempt to help them back onto the proper path by illuminating not only the proper path, but also the mines in the minefield through which they walk.
The questions that Mr. Yoffe raises are all of a single piece and can fall into a single category, or question. The question is a question of legitimacy, but there are levels to the question and to the answer. I would like to address some of the levels of the question of legitimacy.

Who is the "Legitimate Owner" of The Land?

For the first pass at solving the "legitimacy" of ownership we will start this discussion at the Biblical level, which we might accept as the origin of the conflict over the ownership of The Land. We track back to Genesis, in the TORAH, in which, on authority recognized by Jews, Christians and Moslems alike, The Land is deeded in perpetuity to the children of Avraham Avinu (Our Father Abraham). Since these three Religions also agree that this text points to Ishmael and his nephew Esau, as being legitimate descendants of Avraham, the general deed, as per this text doesn't solve the problem by pointing to a "clear title." The later texts of the TORAH, (still in Exodus) reiterate the deeding of The Land to the descendants of Yitzhak (Isaac), and Ya'akov (Jacob). The reiteration to Isaac still is a "cloudy" title, in that we must remember that Esau, unlike his uncle, was not "sent away." Of the three Fathers, only one Patriarch has (something of) a clear line of descendants called Bnai Yisrael, (Children of Israel). Jacob's name was changed to Israel as he returned home after his self-imposed exile to the land of Padan-Aram.
When the Children of Israel left Egypt, The Land was again promised, this time to the Children of Israel. This promise was reiterated at Sinai and again shortly after as Yehoshua bin Nun (Joshua), and Calev ben Yefune (Caleb) along with ten other "spies" selected from the Children of Israel were ordered to "spy out the Land" just prior to the intended invasion and reclamation of The Land Promised again! That was not the successful invasion, but the aborted planned invasion that led to the "40 Years in the desert."
From the moment of the invasion of The Land documented in the Book of Joshua, there has ALWAYS been a Jewish presence in some part of The Land. No matter who conquered The Land, or who overthrew the government by coup d'etat, or who invaded, there was ALWAYS a Jewish presence; Jews living in The Land. The list of "temporary," and "wannabe" conquerors is long and distinguished. The list includes a few Popes, and Kings of England. It also includes in the "wannabe" list, the great Napoleon Bonaparte, and some of The Land was even conquered by The Prophet Mohammed. I put Napoleon and Mohammed together since both failed in their intended conquest. Napoleon made it a few kilometers inland from Acco, while Mohammed, tried to convert the Jews living in Jerusalem to his new religion of Islam and when the Jews refused to convert, Mohammed declared that prayers should be recited in the fetal position with the head pointed to Mecca. This position points the nether parts toward Jerusalem, and that position (with respect to Jerusalem) was intentional on Mohammed's part, as "punishment" for the Jews not converting to Islam.
I will jump now to the Ottoman Empire, which "owned" The Land in the latter years of the eighteenth century of the Christian era. As per Ottoman Law there were very good records kept of who lived on the land of "Greater Syria" and of who owned that land, (in Ottoman eyes). Lands that were not held directly by the Ottoman government were mostly owned by absentee landlords and farmed by sharecroppers. With the rise of the Zionist movement, the Jewish National Fund began buying up The Land to be held "in Trust for the Jewish People." Often these Lands were purchased several times over by the JNF just to insure a "clear Title."
In the meantime, the Balfour Declaration, several British White Papers, and later a declaration by the League of Nations set aside The Land for the purpose of "establishing a National Homeland for the Jewish People." The British were given temporary Custody of The Land under a "mandate" from the League of Nations. The Land was then known as "the Palestine Mandate," or "Mandatory Palestine." The first step that the British took towards "establishing a National Homeland for the Jewish People" was to lop off all of The Land east of the Jordan River and give it to a Bedouin family. This land was known as Trans-Jordanian Palestine. The family made it a Kingdom and renamed it the Hashemite Kingdom of Trans-Jordan, and then later changed it to Jordan, (although they still call it the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan). That Kingdom consists of about 75% of the land allocated for the purpose of "establishing a National Homeland for the Jewish People."
The JNF continued to acquire lands by purchasing them and the Yishuv, (THE JEWISH SETTLEMENT) continued to grow. As the Yishuv grew and the economy of The Land began to grow, more and more Arabs moved into the area to benefit from the growing economy.
On November 29,1948 CE, the United Nations voted to "partition" the remainder of British Mandatory Palestine into two States; a Jewish State and an Arab State. Reluctantly, THE JEWISH SETTLERS accepted the UN Resolution. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, (A Nazi collaborator), told the Arabs in the remaining areas of British Mandatory Palestine to leave so that the armies of the neighboring Arab States could "Drive the Jews into the Sea." When the dust settled, THE JEWISH SETTLERS had a larger State than they (we) would have been willing to settle for, and Seven Established Arab States had bloody noses. By this time there were several SETTLEMENTS on the ridgeline running south from Jerusalem toward Bethlehem. This group of SETTLEMENTS was called Gush Etzion. In the period leading up to the (first Battle of) The War of Independence, these settlements were systematically attacked and their residents were killed by marauding "bands" of "Arab irregulars" until the SETTLEMENTS had to be abandoned. The Jewish Settlement in Hebron was also attacked and eventually abandoned. Hebron had been a site of continuous Jewish presence until the riot and massacre of the Jewish citizens of Hebron in 1929, from which time it was abandoned until its liberation in 1967.
The UN passed some resolutions asking for us to negotiate boundaries, and we were willing, but they weren't. The first Battle of the War of Independence ended with a UN brokered cease-fire, and a cease-fire line that came to be known as the Green Line. It was originally called the Green Line, because it was drawn in green marker on the map. As time progressed toward 1967 CE, many more battles were fought and the Green Line became a line on the ground; green on our side, brown on the other side.
In 1956 CE, Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal. Great Britain, France, (and maybe even the United States), backed the "Sinai Campaign" to force Egypt to relinquish the Canal to the British (as it had been British until the "nationalization"). After the IDF conquered all of the Sinai Peninsula, the British, French, and the United States forced Israel to retreat to the Green Line.
It is important to note that from the end of the first Battle, at the time of the UN Supervised Armistice, Egypt retained control of the Gaza Strip, and Jordan retained control of Judea and Samaria and Eastern Jerusalem. The Palestinian People didn't exist, and none of the residents of these areas were granted citizenship by either of the Occupying powers. Or for that matter, by any of the Arab States which offered them some shelter, (usually accompanied by employment in menial labor positions). The REFUGEES, as they were now called, were under the care of the UN - specifically, under the care of UNRWA - The United Nations Refugee and Works Agency, an agency specifically and solely designed to care for and feed the (Palestinian, sic) REFUGEES. Unlike all other refugees in the world, who were resettled and integrated into various countries, the Arab REFUGEES in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza were never resettled or integrated into any other state.
The UNRWA hired local people to administer their programs and the local people used UN monies to publish hate materials and called them "schoolbooks." The UN has always denied "responsibility" for these materials. I agree with the UN; they demonstrated no responsibility on any level with regard to the education, or health care of the REFUGEES.
The terms of the Armistice included provisions for Jews as well as all other religious pilgrims to pray at all Holy Sites throughout the land that was once British Mandatory Palestine. The terms also included the status of Jerusalem, (all of Jerusalem) as an international city with guarantees of passage by the UN. The Hadassah Hospital, and the Hebrew University campus were on Mt. Scopus, in the Jordanian controlled part of the city, as were the Western Wall and all of the Temple Mount. Jews were never allowed access to any Jewish Holy sites in Jordanian Occupied Territory. As we found out after the liberation of Judea and Samaria, during the period of the ILLEGAL JORDANIAN OCCUPATION of Judea and Samaria, Jewish Holy Sites were ransacked and gravestones from cemeteries were torn up to be used as paving stones and urinals in hotels in Eastern Jerusalem.
In 1967 CE, Israel responded to attacks from its neighbors, Egypt and Syria. In the ensuing battle, the IDF made quick work of the Egyptian army, and had the Syrian army on the run. The government of Israel was in contact with the king of Jordan and advised him that Israel would not open fire on Jordan unless provoked. After three days of battles the governments of Egypt and Syria convinced the Jordanians to open a third front to help relieve pressure on their armies. In Six Days, the Israel Defense Forces recaptured all of the Sinai Peninsula, and liberated all of Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria as well as Gaza, and captured the Golan Heights, from which the Syrians had been shelling Israel's SETTLEMENTS, such as Machanaim, and many of the other Kibbutzim in the north of Israel.
We built this country. We accepted the Jews who had lived in all of the Arab countries and who were expelled after the foundation of the State of Israel. We accepted Jews from all over the world who said that they would rather live in Israel, than live without Israel. We welcomed real REFUGEES from South Vietnam when nobody else wanted to open a single door to them. We agreed to peace talks. We built a real economy. We built scientific institutions and industrial powerhouses. We welcomed Arabs from the Territories and employed them in meaningful high paying jobs in Israel, while government after government lacked the guts to "draw a line," and give Israel a border.
But government after government of Israel SENT PEOPLE to the new cities which the Government Built as a "security shield," and To SETTLE The Land, which the government knew, is Israel but never had the backbone to declare as Israel. Government after Government has engaged in "making facts on the ground." Government after Government in Israel has been elected either on a platform of "Land for Peace" or, as the Sharon government was, elected on a platform of NOT following in the footsteps of the "Land for Peace," people.

Who is the "Legitimate" Government of Israel?

The Government of Israel is a Parliamentary government made of one house of 120 seats. The Prime Minister is the leader of the government and maintains that position as long as he can hold a majority in the Knesset, (Legislature). The Prime Minister is supposed to be the head of his party. Until recently, the party with the most seats in the Knesset chose the Prime Minister after the general election. The current Prime Minister of Israel ran on a platform of not yielding an inch of Israel. He was going to abandon the Oslo process. He was going to make peace through strength. Sharon backed the settlements.
And now, faced with major opposition by the citizens of Israel, and within his own party, Sharon has brought back those he "kicked out," because without the support of the Labor Party, the government would collapse. A Democracy, or even a Democratic Republic only is legitimate as long as it holds the support of the people governed. There is good reason to doubt that the Sharon government has the support of the people.
The People are the only "Legitimate" source of power.
As a further indication of the illegitimacy of the Sharon government, the legislation authorizing the payments to the ISRAELIS BEING FORCEABLY REMOVED FROM THEIR HOMES passed without a majority in the Knesset. This was how the legislation finally made it after all the manipulation of the coalition by Sharon to "guarantee" approval.

"Extremists" is a Religious Term

As you may know by now, Judaism as promoted by the School of Hillel the Elder, supports the concept of "the Golden Mean." We all promote the idea that extremism is an evil. There are few epithets worse than "Extremist." But of course, the question is who is an "extremist." Dennis Prager used to say that each of us knows that we embody the "golden mean: Everyone less observant than I is an Apikoros; and anyone more observant than I is an Extreme Orthodox."
Surely a homesteader in a (new?) town who moved to that town as long as thirty years ago at the urging of the government is not a proper pawn in the chess game of global power politics. Surely a homeowner who has raised a family in the house that the government is promising to tear down has a right to protest. Surely, a person who has defended his country for a lifetime and has put his life on the line every day living the life of a moving target for the terrorists, has a right to complain when the government that he elected to protect him sells him out.
Don't you think that a government that gives away land, and frees terrorists time after time in the hope of reciprocity that never has materialized is more "extremist" than the honest members of the Yishuv THE JEWISH SETTLERS IN THE NATIONAL HOMELAND FOR THE JEWISH PEOPLE?

What is a "Legitimate" Response to a Threat on (Y)Our Existence?

Throughout Jewish history, we have been beset by enemies. The threat to our existence is so constant and consistent that we take time to mention it at the Pesakh (Passover) Seder (Religious Service/Meal). We recite, "In every generation, they come against us to destroy us." In every generation we have been required to face this test, but of all the instances three stand out. On Pesakh, we celebrate our leaving exile and returning "home" to The Land as our response to the threat annihilation. On Purim, we celebrate self-defense as our response to the threat of annihilation. On Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) we mourn the period in our recent history when the Jewish communities of Europe were slaughtered, while the world stood by and watched.
George W. Bush is the President of the United States of America. His job is to "protect and defend" the people of the United States of America. Israel is NOT one of the 50 States. Governments have not friends. Governments only have allies. Allies are those who support and advance each other's needs and priorities. When the needs and priorities are no longer the same, the alliance weakens, or ends. France and Germany have determined that their interests and priorities are no longer identical to those of the United States, and we see the results of this decision in their foreign policy.
Arik Sharon is the Prime Minister of Israel. His job is to "protect and defend" the people of the State of Israel. His first consideration should always be the safety and security of the people of the State of Israel. He has three models to choose from: Pesakh, Purim, or Yom HaShoah. To make it abundantly clear to those who need to have it spelled out:

We have nowhere to run.
We will not be slaughtered again.
We must defend ourselves.

America is NOT Israel's "friend." The interests of the United States of America are not identical to the interests of the State of Israel.


And on a personal note, General: Wars can either be won or lost. If you are not intent on winning you are going to lose. This is the true lesson of Vietnam.


2005 Rabbi Haim Cassorla

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