Happy Birthday Israel!

Today is the 60th anniversary of the creation of the modern state of Israel. I know it’s not politically correct to support Israel these days, but I do. There was a time when I was quite critical of the way it responded to terrorist attacks, as it was reported in the mainstream media, but the more I learn about the history of Israel, and about its enemies, the more I wonder at Israel’s forbearance.

Though I am strongly against solving problems with violence, it is hard for me not to feel that Israel has a right to defend itself, a right to merely exist. It is surrounded by hundreds of millions of people who would like nothing better than to finish what the Nazi’s started, and have in fact tried it several times in the last 60 years. How can we, who recoil at images of the Holocaust, criticize Israel for trying to prevent another Holocaust?

The fact that Israel still exists is something of a miracle, and I wonder how long the miracle will last. As we have seen recently with Rwanda and Darfur, the world is not in the habit of doing anything to stop genocide, and has a pretty lousy track record when it comes to protecting Jews in particular. The UN has been very critical of Israel’s actions, and I worry that if (or when) Israel’s neighbours start another war, Israel will be on its own. I don’t even want to think about what would happen if Israel lost.

Israel has a right to exist. That land has been occupied continuously by Jews for thousands of years. History has also shown that Jews are never safe as a minority; they must have their own country. The Palestinians cannot return; there are too many of them now. They need to resolve their internal differences, form their own country, and start building for the future. Living in the past and being consumed by vengeance is only keeping them in misery. I think that if they ever decided to move on with their lives they wouldn’t find a better friend than Israel. Israeli Jews have a long history of helping their Arab neighbours to develop, and I’m sure they would do the same again. The Palestinians just have to say the word; they just have to say shalom.

Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel
Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel
[click image for text in English]

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11 comments on “Happy Birthday Israel!

  1. Dave says:

    Hurrah!
    Yes I agree with you completely.
    Dave

  2. Sylvia says:

    Thanks, Dave. I guess you're the only one who does!

  3. Caroline says:

    Hi! I'm a regular visitor of your weblog, never posted any comments, but I just wanted to say that I completely agree with you. It really is hard – especially in France – to show your support to Israel today. 🙂

  4. Sylvia says:

    Thank you for visiting and commenting, Caroline! I'm surprised there hasn't been a change in opinion in France after all those terrible riots. 😦

  5. abe says:

    The problem with saying that “Israel has a right to exist” is the unavoidable implication that the displacement of Palestinians is justified. The British were being generous with Arab land when they helped establish Israel–and declarations celebrating Israel, without acknowledging the dept the country owes to Western colonialism and implicit racism (screw the Arabs) are morally bankrupt. Moreover, Israel's crimes aren't merely a matter of history but ongoing–the country keeps three hundred thousand of its residents in the West Bank, and then indignantly whines about terrorism when the Palestinians lash back. To celebrate Israel is to celebrate this unavoidable double faced nature of the country. The Arabs, therefore, have every right to resent and object to its very existence.

  6. abe says:

    Moreover, Israel wanting “peace” is the equivalent of a thief wanting “peace” after he's robbed you.

  7. Sylvia says:

    It's not exactly historically correct to say that the Palestinians were “displaced.” When Israel was created, not only was more than half of the British Mandate land given to the Palestinians (who had never controlled any territory before), but Palestinians in the Israeli section were offered full citizenship. Those who accepted the offer now live with more rights and freedoms than they would have in any Muslim-dominated country. (A recent poll showed that the majority would rather live in Israel than any other country in the world.) The rest voluntarily left, probably believing that the Arab countries would soon eliminate Israel and they would get not only their properties back but also be able to confiscate Jewish properties. Certainly there were skirmishes between private citizens, but as far as I know there was absolutely no government action to expel the Palestinians.
    As you know, Israel's neighbours attacked only hours after its independence was declared. Obviously that attack did not succeed. It seems to me that if one country (or a group of countries) start a war, lose that war, and lose territory, they have no right to ask for that territory back. They gambled and lost. Israel has already been more than generous in returning most of the land it has taken after being attacked several times, and yet its neighbours (including the Palestinians) are not satisfied. It's absurd—you can't be the aggressor, over and over again, and claim victimhood at the same time.
    It's unkind of you to say that Israelis “whine” about terrorism. Attacking civilians is despicable and cowardly, especially when it is done from behind human shields such as family homes and schools.

  8. abe says:

    You miss the glaring fact that the British were being generous with Arab land. You cannot randomly carve out a country from a region like that and not have conflict ensue. It wasn't “inherently” wrong for the Arab countries to resist Israel's creation even by means of war. It sucks that they lost the war and, consequently, lost more land. But their initial effort is as moral, if not more so, as Israel's foundation. It's like attacking someone who steals something from you–but they best you and steal more of your stuff. The fact that you lost more stuff is tragic, but the fact that you tried to get back your stuff in the first place isn't necessarily wrong.
    Of course those Palestinians would like to live in Israel–it is their homeland. And again, Israel maintains 300,000–if not more–of its citizens among a much larger Palestinian population. You cannot whine about terrorism from Palestinians when that is the case. Is an Israeli living in the West Bank “innocent” to a Palestinian? No, they are occupiers.
    Israel of course has it easy–they are already largely in possession of what they have stolen, and so they can simply sit and say they want “peace.” Therefore those who object to the wrong of Israel's creation must inevitably seem to want the opposite.
    Israel coming into existence was contingent upon Arab weakness and Western might, like many other narratives of Western Imperialism. Its victims are still living, and the wrong is still ongoing. Thus declaring “support” for Israel is to accept the essential displacement (which is what it amounts to, even if they “voluntarily” left thinking the Westerners would be kicked out) of the Arabs who lived in that land prior to its creation and endorse Western Imperialism.
    ADDITIONALLY, the Arabs who live in Israel live there as second class citizens anyway. Even during Apartheid many Africans wanted to live in South Africa. Does that justify the government of South Africa?

  9. abe says:

    When you “support” Israel, you support this:
    http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2008%5C05%5C31%5Cstory_31-5-2008_pg4_4
    How inexplicable that Palestinians resort to terrorism!

  10. Sylvia says:

    You forget that the land was part of the Ottoman (Turk) empire before the British Mandate and the modern state of Israel. It didn't belong to the Arabs, though they lived there along with the Jews and Christians who had lived there for millennia. The Ottomans entered World War I against the Allies, lost, and lost territory. It's not “imperialism” when you are the aggressor and lose. It's just how war works, and goes to show that it is the wrong way to solve disputes. It doesn't show who is right, it just shows who has the better army, which means nothing.
    Before that the land was controlled by various caliphates. And before that it was Christian, as was all of the Middle East, most of Central Asia, and North Africa, for centuries. And before that, Israel was Jewish for over a thousands years. They could just as easily say their land was stolen by the Romans and then the Caliphs, and has finally been restored to them.
    If the world was really anti-Arab, the UN would have given the entire territory, including the parts of Biblical Israel that went to Jordan, to the Jews. Instead they got less than half, and only part of Jerusalem, and were and are satisfied with that. I think they have been more than reasonable.

  11. Sylvia says:

    It's unfortunate that those settlements were bulldozed, but as the news story says, they were built without permits on Israeli land. If Israeli settlements on PA land are wrong, then aren't Palestinian settlements on Israeli land wrong? You can't have it both ways.
    This is the problem with violence. If you use it, you have to accept it when it's used on you. Better not to use it at all and negotiate.

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