Israel celebrated the 66th anniversary of its rebirth this week, and in so many ways it is stronger than ever.
We no longer need look to the Jewish press to discover Israel’s achievements: the pages of the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and every media outlet brim with reports on Israel’s start-ups, technological edge, research advancements, and collaborations with Apple, Intel, and Warren Buffett, to name a few, as well as the true miracle of the Tamar and Leviathan natural gas fields, the development of which will make Israel a net energy exporter. We should never fail to appreciate the incredible determination, ingenuity, and faith that it took to transform a sliver of arid desert into an international economic powerhouse.
More miraculous still is that Israel has maintained its morality in the face of enemies ever more persistent and pernicious. In Israel today, a debate rages over a soldier in Hebron who, alone and surrounded by Palestinian “youth” the soldier’s own age, who were taunting and threatening him, cocked his weapon in an act of self-protection, and was punished by Tzahal as a result. Tens of thousands of people support the soldier through social media, and one thing is clear: No nation but Israel takes such great pains to protect enemy civilians, even as it puts its own soldiers at risk.
The risks taken too often result in a loss of life. At a Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) ceremony I attended this week at Ben Porat Yosef Yeshiva Day School in Paramus, teachers just a few years past the army themselves, and students whose Israeli peers are but a few years from serving, spoke movingly about the sacrifices Israeli soldiers make to defend their homeland and protect each other. Performances of songs written by fallen teenage soldiers or their surviving loved ones powerfully conveyed the unwelcome urgency of their service to protect civilians still under constant attack, and the sincere yearning for a day when such sacrifice no longer will be needed.
And yet, after 20 years of Oslo, and despite making repeated offers that included parts of Jerusalem and nearly all the disputed territory, Israel is no closer to achieving peace than it was on that sunny day on the White House lawn. Perhaps it’s time to choose another path. Almost a third of Israel’s history has taken place under the Oslo process. Approximately half the Palestinian Arab population has been born since the process began. Yet with decades of Western support and tens of billions in financial aid – much of it stolen by their leaders – Palestinian Arabs have failed to adopt any of the hallmarks of a just society, including freedom of speech, religion, or assembly; rights for women or minorities; a functioning legal system; regular elections. The list goes on.
Secretary of State Kerry’s threatening statements that Israel must act now or lose its “best partner for peace” ignore the fundamental problem that peace is not made between individuals but between peoples. Never mind that the most “moderate” Palestinian leaders still regard Jews as subhuman, openly assert that all of Israel is rightfully theirs, and – wow! thanks! – only this month got around to publicly acknowledging the Holocaust as historical fact. The problem goes much deeper, to the populace, whom for generations has been trained to hate, starting in nursery school. Despite every carrot the United States and Europe could offer, Palestinian Arabs refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. They openly endorse terror and violence. And they fully expect to expel all Jews from whatever state they would found, a fact that seems to escape those who accuse the one integrated society in the entire Middle East of “apartheid.”
Thankfully, American Jews are beginning to recognize the need to respond forcefully to Israel’s detractors. After years of seeming ambivalence, more and more Jewish organizations now vigorously oppose BDS, the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations decisively rejected the bid of J Street – an organization that regularly hosts BDS supporters; receives significant funding from Arab, Iranian, and anti-Zionist sources, and openly supports the Fatah-Hamas alliance – to join its ranks. Organizations that support all Israelis, including those who live in Judea and Samaria, are growing quickly, as more and more American Jews recognize that these communities are ancient, legal, and critical to Israel’s security. And locally, more than 1,000 people traveled to Washington last week with Norpac, to let our leaders know where we stand. There, condemnation by Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Kerry’s vile “apartheid” comment drew a standing ovation. (If you missed it, or just can’t get enough, you can still lobby with ZOA on May 21. See ZOA.org for details.)
Israel is amazing and strong, truly a light unto the nations. But its detractors are strong as well, and they are willing to use every method available to undermine Jewish sovereignty in our ancient homeland. It is our moral obligation to defend Israel against this onslaught. We must never take the miracle of the Jewish state for granted. We must continue to publicly show our support, lobby our leaders, educate our youth, and visit the incredible realization of our 2,000-year-dream.