There might not be any point to responding if it were only Shaul Mofaz who wondered why we need harp on Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
Mofaz has just barely managed to cross the Knesset entry threshold (having started out not too many months back with a 28- member parliamentary contingent). Since he nearly failed to hold on to his own seat, it’s safe to conclude that he doesn’t represent a powerful or even a relevant political camp. Therefore, what does any of his kibitzing matter?
Ordinarily it indeed wouldn’t, except that Mofaz’s professed failure of comprehension might reflect the intellectual indolence of others, alongside the trendy heedlessness popularized by assorted opinion-molders.
To hear them, it’s perfectly fine to embrace this particular incomprehension – be it expediently feigned or an actual inability to grasp the basic cause for the war waged against Israel.
The premise for the apparent incomprehension is that demanding recognition for Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state is all much ado about not very much. As Mofaz put it, “Do we need a seal of approval from the Palestinians? We know we are a Jewish state and we shall remain so eternally, whether or not the Palestinians recognize us as such.”
This pretty much echoes Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s oft-reiterated mantra, averring that the Israelis “can call themselves what they will.”
But Abbas goes on: “We will not recognize Israel as a Jewish state. We have rejected, and will reject, this demand. We know what Netanyahu’s intention is. He wants to undermine the Palestinian-Arab presence inside Israel and prevent the return of refugees.”
Yet what is Abbas’s intention? His refusal to recognize the Jewish state’s legitimacy means that he reserves for himself the right to Arabize the de facto entity provisionally known as Israel by overrunning it with millions of so-called refugees.
In other words, rather than be accepted as rightfully a Jewish state, Israel is regarded at most as a multinational temporary entity and a candidate for impending Arabization. It wouldn’t be left in peace unless it submits meekly to said Arabization and the eradication of its Jewishness.
This is a surefire recipe for perpetuating the conflict (albeit by mutating means) rather than ending it, as presumed pursuers of peace would ostensibly wish to do. The refusal to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state is tantamount to affirming an enduring Arab aspiration to obliterate the Jewish state, subsequent to an arrangement that would falsely parade as peace.
This goes right to the very heart of the conflict between Jews and Arabs – a conflict which had long predated Israel’s birth. This conflict isn’t and never was about a Palestinian state. There would have been no strife were the establishment of such a state the ultimate objective of the Arab world. A Palestinian Arab state could have been declared independent in 1948 – together with Israel – but no Arab would hear of it.
This country’s Jews cheered the 1947 UN Partition Resolution aimed at creating a Jewish and an Arab state. That resolution, however, was ferociously rebuffed by the entire Arab world. Hence it’s inherently dishonest to deny that the feud is and always was about the creation and continued existence of the Jewish state.
The Palestinians and the entire Arab/Muslim realm demand strategic sacrifices of Israel that plainly jeopardize its survival prospects. All Israel demands in return is that the war against it cease. That can only happen when the initial pretext for the attacks on Israel is annulled. Since Israel was attacked because the very notion of a Jewish state was anathema to its Arab neighbors, then discontinuing the state of war must start with recognition of the very legitimacy of a Jewish state that was rejected from 1947 onward.
Now, gallingly, the demand for recognition of the right of Jews to a state is extensively portrayed as an obstructionist tactic. That tactic moreover is portrayed as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s own personal negotiation-paralyzing pet ploy. Such spurious spins serve both in-house political rivals doggedly snapping at Netanyahu’s heels and foreign detractors whose automatic point of departure is that Israel can never be right.
Nonetheless, the still blatant refusal to concede the legality of Jewish sovereignty isn’t a semantic quibble. True, we know who we are regardless of Arab acknowledgement but that acknowledgement is not inconsequential.
To understand this we need to set aside the acquired postmodern contempt for history. The past isn’t insignificant. The present is a direct, ongoing attempt to resolve what was started yesteryear.
Without historical context there can be no valid evaluation of Israel’s existential predicaments – certainly not of crucial continuities. That’s why those who seek to obfuscate and skew do their utmost to erase telltale fundamental perspectives and portray whatever they focus upon as vital, isolated concerns. Disinclination to retrace the steps which, for better or worse, brought us hitherto messes with our perceptions and dictates profound misperceptions.
Those whose time count begins on the morning of June 5, 1967, invariably seek to advance a predetermined agenda, whereby all that preceded Israeli ”occupation” is discarded, as is everything that triggered the direct outbreak of hostilities.
Their bottom line is to persuade the uninitiated that Israelis woke up one sunny day, and overtaken by uncontrollable and inexcusable territorial appetites, invaded their peace-loving neighbors’ homes and usurped them arbitrarily. The cruel conquistadors then illegally settled in their neighbors’ property, which impelled the downtrodden natives to resist the interlopers.
The propagandist logic here is unmistakable. Justice demands a return to the status quo ante – in other words to the situation as it was on June 4, 1967 (while failing to mention that on that date Israel was existentially vulnerable, surrounded and threatened with extinction by the aforementioned neighbors who blusterously bayed for Jewish blood).
An equally popular distortion is that all regional misery resulted wantonly out of the blue from Israel’s birth in 1948. Everything which led up to that turning point is assiduously ignored. Tendentious rewriters of history prefer we forget that the conflict didn’t begin in 1948 but reached its culmination then.
Forgotten quite expediently are recurrent pre-1948 massacres by Arabs shouting “Itbach el-Yahud” (“Slaughter the Jews”), denial of asylum to Jews fleeing the Holocaust and, not least, active and avid Arab collaboration with Nazi Germany.
The logic of this misrepresentation too is unmistakable. It inescapably leads to Israel’s utter delegitimization. If Israel’s inception is the original sin, then the only rightful long-term remedy can be Israel’s termination.
But while Israel’s independence formally began in 1948, its struggle didn’t. The Arabs brutally opposed the Jewish community which existed in this country pre-World War II and which was ripe for statehood before the Holocaust. The “Great Arab Revolt” of 1936-39 – fomented by the still-revered Haj Amin al-Husseini and financed by Nazi Germany – delayed Jewish independence.
The Arabs denied asylum here to desperate Jewish escapees from Hitler’s hell. Thereby they doomed these refugees to death. The blood of these exterminated Jews indelibly stains Arab hands.
But that’s not all. Husseini, in the role of pan-Arab prime minister, spent the war years in Berlin, where he chummily hobnobbed with his financers and hosts – Hitler, Himmler, Eichmann et al. He broadcast Nazi propaganda, recruited Muslims to the SS and actively foiled the rescue of any Jews, even children, during the Holocaust.
This country’s Arabs were avidly pro-Nazi, saluted each other with Heil Hitler, flaunted the swastika, hoarded arms, harbored German spies and planned to heartily welcome Rommel’s invading Afrika Korps.
The war which the entire Arab world launched against newborn Israel, three years post-Holocaust, was explicitly geared to complete Hitler’s unfinished mission. Not only was there no attempt to camouflage this genocidal goal, but it was broadcast boastfully for all to hear and be intimidated.
Its declared aim was to thwart UN General Assembly Resolution 181, adopted on November 29, 1947. That resolution called for the partition of western Palestine into two economically integrated states – one Jewish and one Arab.
Eastern Palestine, comprising nearly 80 percent of the total, was arbitrarily ripped off by the British Mandate in 1922 and handed over to a princeling from what has since become known as Saudi Arabia. Emir Abdullah’s gift-package was artificially dubbed Transjordan, a country entirely unheard of in human history and whose bogus nationality is today known as Jordanian. It is, in fact, the product of the first division of Palestine.
Although on paper Jews received 54% of the remainder, they actually got three non-contiguous slivers, the largest of which included the Arava, eastern Negev and the Negev’s far south (down to then-nonexistent Eilat). Most of the moonscape terrain wasn’t arable and was certainly unsuitable for large-scale urban habitation. Another bit was wedged in the eastern Galilee around Lake Kinneret. The most densely populated mini-slice was an unimaginably narrow noodle along the Mediterranean, where most Jews congregated and which was chillingly vulnerable. Within it was enclosed the Arab enclave of Jaffa, while Nahariya was left outside the Jewish state.
Jerusalem and Bethlehem were to comprise a “corpus separatum,” an international zone, this notwithstanding the fact that Jerusalem had an undeniable Jewish majority going back at least to the beginning of the 19th century (there were no censuses beforehand). But organized Christianity couldn’t abide the affront of Jewish dominion in the holy city.
Untenable and implausible though this hodgepodge partition was, Jewish multitudes rejoiced in the streets. At that point it didn’t matter how nightmarish and absurd the disjointed territorial splinters assigned to them were.
What mattered was that for the first time in 2,000 years Jewish self-determination – if even on a ridiculously diminutive and fragile geographical fragment – appeared increasingly like a viable reality, despite immediate Arab venomous denunciation of any compromise whatever with any Jewish entity.
This is what it was all about then. This is what it’s still about. This is why it still massively matters. This is why Mofaz is so fundamentally wrong.
All Israel asks is that the Arabs belatedly accept 1947’s UN Partition Resolution, which they violently violated merely because it provided for a Jewish state. That Jewish state became the Arab casus belli. The Jewish state still is the Arab casus belli.
Peace cannot begin to be made before the malignant characterization of Jewish statehood as a casus belli is recanted convincingly and comprehensively once and for all.
Thanks Sarah! As usual I need to read your article again to try to get the full value of it, but I so much liked the phrases that you used that I wanted to comment now.
“intellectual indolence” “incomprehension” “trendy heedlessness” “postmodern contempt for history”
You nailed the spirit of the times (at least in USA), so exactly.
One of he phrases we use in USA for people who succumb to cults (there is a lot of it about) is “drank the kool-aid”. Rommel drank the kool-aid early, as he was so entranced, by German patriotism, and executing military technique to perfection, that he didn’t realize what was going on until after El Alamein, where he was personally betrayed by the cult leader. After that he tried to overthrow the evil regime, but it was too late of course, and the opponents of the regime were hopelessly over-matched when it came to conspiracy, etc.
You are dead wrong about Rommel…Rommel would have helped to MASSACRE ALL of the Jews of then British Palestine, if he would not have failed at El-Alamein…!
Rommel was a NAZI !
The SS was already at standby on the Greek island of Rhodos…
Where does she say that. Chris, I suggest you re read her article.
Ethan, I replied to the first talkback…oh well…
Sarah you once again made an elaborate piece of political analysis…
BUT: Judea and Samaria is Israels heartland and the only peace possible, must be the acceptance of the Arabs, to live PEACEFULLY inside the state of Israel, the same way in which Jews have lived peacefully inside Arab states in the past.
To try, to create an Arab state inside of Judea and Samaria has nothing to do with peace, but with war…with the DESTRUCTION of the Jewish state !
Sadly Sarah, this is a story that won’t have a happy ending this side of eternity, but then again, I’m not telling you something you don’t already know…oh well, such is life.
Thankyou Sarah. I’m sick and tired of the “peace at any price” crowd. How many times do the Arabs and their allies have to say that any Israeli compromise is only a “step closer to Israels destruction”. And yet Ehud Barak still calls for “painfull sacrafice” in the quest for peace. What’s he smoking? There can be NO compromise until the Palestinians/Arabs recognise Israel!
Born of his love of country, Mofaz’s heartfelt sentiment is mistaken for yet another reason: the malignant characterization of Israel as a casus belli is not confined to Arabs, or to the Muslim world in general — or, for that matter, much of the whole wide world — but is shared by more than a few of his fellow Jews in Israel, and in America as well, in light of what they deem to be Israel’s intolerable shortcomings, not the least of which are the Jewish state’s putatively criminal oppression of and stiff-necked, unconscionable denial of a state to those sworn to destroy her.
Being “pro-Israel,” they want a Jewish state that “they can feel proud of,” and only until such reservations are satisfied, and their moral preening is assuaged, Israel will forever remain on their blacklist.
Sara Honig is a fine historian and penetrates to the heart of the matter…comments above on cults are more real than people imagine…the Muslim populations of the Middle East…for different reasons..constitutes one of the most brainwashed regions of the planet…until this is recognized not much can change…we humans can do much better…S H Cohen
Sarah has, as always, provided a succinct and coherent narrative of the Jewish-Palestinian conflict and why it cannot be resolved without a metamorphosis of the latter’s
raison d’être. That being unlikely, what is to be done?
That is a hard question to answer, given the internal strife in Israel.
Why is there is no solid Jewish support for Sarah’s position and
why is the last election is widely understood as being primarily concerned with domestic
disagreements and hardcore ideological and religious conflicts among Israelis?
Given the realities as Sarah describes them, the Israelis appear to be on a path of
self-destruction. The Jews in Europe were also fractured and conflicted and didn’t see
the tidal wave coming. Many of their class and religious conflicts are still extant.
Luckily for the Jews, the Muslims are also conflicted.
The Arabs may be conflicted now – but were they to initiate a war with Israel – all their personal conflicts will disappear as quickly as they can scream :-“ikhmat al Yahud” and they’ll rise together to slaughter the Hebrews – but the latter will continue to fight against each other – the pro-peace against those who wish to save the country . Mofaz,was,is and will remain a moron – he was the strongest proponent of withdrawing from Gaza and the Philadelphi corridor – which led to two Gaza “wars” with our best men being killed and maimed.
Micha’el Sar’ya Bloch
My name is Rena Nasar and I’m a student at Baruch College studying journalism and Middle Eastern affairs. I’ve started a blog of my own (although I admittedly don’t post that often) about my opinions concerning the Middle East (the link above). I’m someone who has a strong interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and I dedicate my work to portraying a positive image of Israel on campus.
I just want to reach out to tell you that I love your blog! You offer a refreshing perspective that is both factual and heartfelt and I really appreciate what you have to say.
Today’s JPost column should be included in Israel’s basic curriculum. It should be re-published annually (minus the Mofaz element) and distributed to news organizations worldwide. It has been my teaching to those outside our country willing to listen. I will copy it and give it to people in the United States on our upcoming trip. Thank you, thank you. Shabbat Shalom.
I thought your article “Why it Matters” was brilliant and “hit the nail right on the head”. This message has to be constantly repeated so that people will understand finally what this conflict is really about. Keep up the good work. I thoroughly look forward to your columns.
Kudos to you for your March 8th blog.
“Palestine” another British/French invented territory whose geography is wholly based on Jewish land and history as historian Barbara Tuchman wrote long ago.
Sarah. Both my husband and myself are big fans of your column.
Kol ha kavod to you for regular marvelous columns in the Jerusalem Post, but the one from this weekend (8th March) is particularly pertinent and powerful. May every leftist Israeli read and understand your point in this brilliant article.
I look forward to reading your weekly column in the Jerusalem Post.
You always make for an interesting and enlightening read. I also appreciate your specific choice of wording used to convey your message. It certainly keeps my English vocabulary sharp and more sophisticated. I have been awaiting the opportunity to purchase your book, but Amazon says it is out of stock. Do you know when it will be available ? Also, is there anywhere it can be purchased in Israel ? I think it would make great reading over Pesach !
I eagerly await your response.
The book will be unavailable till March 19, but can be pre-ordered from Amazon.
Debunking the Bull will soon arrive at book stores in Israel (mostly Steimatzky). It can already be ordered from individual stores.
It can additionally be obtained directly from the publisher:
6 HaTzvi St.
It is also available on Amazon:
And on Barnes and Noble:
Please try again. Many have already done so. Thanks much for your support.