Monday, June 07, 2010

Does Israel Have a Right to Exist?

Hamas is condemned because it refuses to accept the right of Israel to exist. A good case can be made for Hamas on historical and moral grounds. It may  have been a mistake to establish the state of Israel in 1947 by bringing in thousands of mostly European Jews to a land largely populated by hostile Arabs and where few Jews had lived until well into the 19th century. Jewish possession of the land had been lost for more than a thousand years.

The result has been constant hostility, hatred, wars, and violent conflict with no end in sight. It is the source of Muslim hatred of Europe and America,  constant turmoil, and a threat to peace in the entire region. The notion that Palestine belongs to the Jews on the basis of a divine promise three thousand years ago is plausible only to those who find it plausible, including Jewish and Christian fundamentalists. Granted, some solution was needed for the constant persecution of Jews in many lands including Europe and America, but in my opinion the formation of a Jewish state in Palestine was probably  not it.

 A distinction needs to be made between accepting the moral right of Israel to exist and the full acceptance of the fact that Israel does exist, will exist, and must be dealt with accordingly with all the implications thereunto appertaining.

For practical reasons Hamas needs to come to terms with Israel as a reality, no matter how much they despise the fact. But pragmatism does not flourish in the presence of deeply rooted ideology and hostility toward Jews. The refusal of Hamas to  accept  this inexorable reality practically, if not theoretically and morally, is fraught with dire consequence for Jews and Arabs. To contest the full implications of the actuality of Israel as a Jewish state is futile and will be the source of continuing bloodshed and hateful agitation on and on. Sending missiles to explode in the cities of Israel solves nothing and perpetuates hatred and retaliation.

On the other hand Israel needs to stop the settlements and withdraw to their 1967 borders. This swap of land for peace needs to be accompanied by some plan, probably internationally mediated, for compensating Palestinian refugees for loss of their homes and livelihood because of their expulsion from Israel in the years following Jewish statehood. Israel needs to start treating Arabs in their territory with decency, and full respect and guarantee them all civil and personal rights that Jews have.

This is not likely to happen on either side. This, after all, is the Middle East where too few are willing to say with Yitzhak Rabin “enough of blood and tears.” So "two communities of suffering" (Edward Said) will continue to suffer and bleed and hate  until reason or sheer exhaustion leads to a resolution tolerable  to both if not loved  or welcomed by either.

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