A cogent and much-needed op-ed by Rabbi Shaul Marshall Praver of Congregation Adath Israel in Newtown, CT:
The Talmud says, “When good will exists amongst brethren, both can dwell together even on the razor thin edge of a sword, but when good will does not exist amongst them, even the full expanse of the earth lacks sufficient space to contain them.”
Israel”, “Jew” and “Zionism” are beautiful words. Yet repetitive racial slurs concerning these words make them sound ugly and pejorative.
Zionism means scorched desert wastelands transformed into magnificent gardens and green farm lands. Zionism means oppressed downtrodden Jews becoming uplifted and able to affirm their continuity from Biblical times. Zionism means Jews living proudly once again in their ancient homeland. Zionism means the collective creativity of Jews of every ethnicity coming together to build a free civilization.
Zionism means the opportunity to enact an ancient dream that will not die. Zionism means establishing a modern civilization that shares a messianic vision of making earth a little more like Heaven. Zionism means sharing Israeli’s blessings with the world.
Zionism is not Racism. Jews come in every race and ethnicity. Zionism is not an apartheid State: While Jews are the Majority in Israel, Arabs vote and are represented in the Israeli government. Zionism is not Colonialism: Jews won the war of Independence against the British colonists and lay claim to only Israel.
Furthermore, Israel is no more a racist state for creating a haven for Jews then Saudi Arabia is a racist state for creating a haven for Arabs. Whosoever points an accusing finger toward Israel in this regard will find four fingers pointing back at them, because Israel is a democratic state where freedom of religion is enjoyed by a multitude of ethnic groups. Charges of racism are empty and inflammatory.
Jews are willing to share their land with the Palestinians. But peace also depends upon the willingness of Palestinians to share their land with the Jews. Please ask yourself a basic question: If Israel laid down her weapons and retired her army, navy and air force, how long do you think it would take for Israel to be conquered by Muslims? Days? Weeks? Or Months?
Now, ask yourself the question in reverse. If all of Israel’s neighbors laid down their weapons in the same manner, is it likely Israel would attempt to conquer Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia? I believe honest answers to these questions clarify the essence of the conflict. Namely that only one party seeks the destruction of the other.
Israel has suffered many horrible terrorist attacks in restaurants, hotels, city buses, trains, beaches, streets, universities, school buses, highways, banks, grocery stores, private homes, kibbutzim, parks, caves and fields. And if, God forbid, these same attacks occurred in the United States, our military would respond with decisive force and alacrity. Losing such a war on terrorism would be tantamount to losing one’s country and losing one’s very civilization; it is not an option.
For half a century, Palestinians have professed an interest in acquiring a state of their own. Several attempts to grant Palestinians their wish were made, starting with the 1948 U.N. Partition Plan and concluding with the offer made by former Israeli Prime Minister Barak in 2001 at Taba, 98% of the requested land – including east Jerusalem, as per Yassir Arafat’s request – was offered. But even that offer was answered with war. For many, it would seem that Barak called Arafat’s bluff; revealing the peace process to be a process of war.
Due to these harsh realities, the Sharon administration has pursued the building of a security fence and has just completed the disengagement of all the Jewish communities from Gaza. Yet a million
Arabs live in Israel and enjoy democratic rights and freedoms. Is
this fair? Why can’t Jews live under the Palestinian flag just as Arabs live under the Israeli flag? The Sharon administration say it’s a practical matter; Israel no longer wishes to deploy its Army to
defend a small number of Gaza Jews. But wait! Stop! Think! Is there a need for a Palestinian Army to protect Israeli Arabs? No! Israeli
Arabs need no protection; they are safe as citizens of Israel.
Israelis simply want peace and would much prefer spending their time, tending their gardens, doing art, finding a cure for cancer, composing and performing world class music, and inventing more incredible bio-pharmaceuticals and computer technology. Real time internet applications, cellular telephones, color printing are just a few examples of the technology developed in Israel. There is so much brainpower and creative energy emanating from Israel’s diverse ethnic population that benefits every person on the planet. Yet even at a time that Israel pursues territorial concessions for the sake of peace, many people lack the ability to say even a few kind words. I will say to them then, “Zionism is Beautiful!”