Thursday, May 08, 2008

255. Happy Yom HaAtzmaut # 60 !!!

My daughter has a weekly column in the Oregon Daily Emerald, "The Independent Student Newspaper at the University of Oregon". Here is today's column (Cartoon is from from Dry Bones, and is 18 years old, but I like it.)

Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Zionism misunderstood

In today's political climate, you might think I am hesitant to admit I am a Zionist. The very word itself carries a heavy stigma. Still, after years of broken dialogue, incessant violence and determined defense, I am happy to say that today Israel turns 60, and despite how you might feel about my homeland, I am hopeful for the future of a dynamic and thriving Israel.

You might not agree with me. In fact, many of you might even go so far as to equate Zionism with racism. Perhaps you blame the entire ideology for the suffering of the Palestinians. Or, maybe you just go out of your way to deviate from Bush's ideas and America's policies. It's okay; you're a self-proclaimed progressive; you root for the underdog.

I wish I could say that your stance is unique, but it's not. In fact, it's fairly common to disagree with the establishment of Israel. After all, if a major point of reference is a biblical text and the claim that God promised the land to Abraham, then who, in liberal, free-thinking academia, can possibly acknowledge this idea? We're skeptical, and for all we know, the Bible could be a result of some profound, inspired psychedelic trip.

One could also argue against the Balfour Declaration of 1917, the League of Nations Mandate, the UN partition of 1947, the admission of Israel into the UN in 1949, the diplomatic relations Israel has with most other states and most importantly, the stable democratic society that flourishes and continues to thrive today. I mean, honestly, how ethical are governmental institutions anyway?

Still, it is worth nothing that, despite contrary propaganda and common misconceptions, the Jewish people have every right to their homeland. The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, Russian Pogroms and the Holocaust have actually demonstrated that the Jewish people need a homeland. They need a less formidable answer to "The Jewish Question."

It's not as though, after the Romans forced them into exile in 70 CE, the Jews returned 1,800 years later demanding their home back. In actuality, Jews maintained ties to and a continuous presence in their homeland for 4,000 years, including a language and a distinct culture. Throughout history, Jews have cultivated present-day Israel, planting the seeds for economic opportunity for Jews and Arabs alike.

Pursuant to the 1947 Partition Plan, the British Mandate of Palestine was divided into two countries, and while the Jews accepted this proposition, the Arabs rejected it outright and sought to destroy the Jewish state.

For more than 30 years, until the peace treaty with Egypt, the surrounding Arab states maintained a state of war with Israel, including boycotts, the support of terror attacks against the civilian population and the open proclamation of an objective to destroy them. Yet, Israel did not attack or retaliate except in self-defense. In fact, it has returned land to Syria and withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula. It has withdrawn from the Gaza strip and several parts of the West Bank. The only reason that the Israelis have attained more land than the Palestinians is due to actions taken in self-defense.

These cooperative gestures, rather than being effective as precursors to a peace, were taken as signs of weakness. Withdrawing from the Security Belt in Southern Lebanon only brought Hezbollah 20 miles closer to Israel's northern border. The withdrawal from the Gaza Strip resulted in terror for the citizens of the Israeli city of Sderot as Gaza became a launching pad for long-range missiles.

How ironic is it that despite the fact that terrorist organizations fund suicide bombers and launch rockets into Israel, Israel is constantly berated for not cooperating with them?

It is unfortunate that the Palestinians are so misrepresented by their own government and are forced to live in difficult circumstances, enduring checkpoints and shortages of necessities. While Israel welcomed and absorbed Jewish refugees forced out of the Arab countries, the displaced Palestinians have become pawns in the hands of Arab countries anxious to promote hatred of Israel and Jews throughout the world.

Israel is one of the smallest and youngest countries in the world. Yet it has become an epicenter for medical and technological breakthroughs, economic prosperity and a vibrant culture, and has done so in the face of a constant struggle to defend its people and justify its very existence.

While the word "Zionism" has evolved into a demonizing pejorative, the concept itself actually has nothing to do with the Palestinian people, warfare or the displacement of others. It is a declaration of support for the establishment of a Jewish homeland. It is a statement of solidarity among the Jewish people and an outcry against several millennia of oppression and genocide. It is necessary and legitimate. It is anything but racist.

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