Israel: This Land is Your Land AND My Land

There were about thirty in the audience, including eight of my students in the Israel Leadership Fellows program, their mentors, a few parents, and other interested adults.

Steve Lear, a veteran speaker for JCRC and founder of the “Challenge of Peace” program on the Israeli-Arab conflict over a dozen year ago, had everyone’s attention. He had just finished laying out the issues, the players, and his own understanding of a conflict he has spoken about hundreds of times.

Steve divided everyone into small groups and began firing challenging questions.

To a group of students Steve said, “Arabs feel that they are paying the price for the Holocaust, that collective guilt post World War II enabled the creation of a Jewish state on Arab land. A section of Germany should have been carved out and given to the Jews. They say, ‘Why did Jews have to build their state in Palestine?’ How do you respond to that?”

Silence. Then Jack Bass, a student in the Israel Leadership Fellows Program raised his hand and said:

“We are indigenous.”

Three words.

I drove this lesson home in the first weeks of the Israel Leadership Fellows Program, recounting a speech delivered a few years ago by Judea Pearl, father of murdered Wall Street Journal writer Daniel Pearl. Judea Pearl characterized Arabs and Jews as “equally indigenous” in the land of Israel and said that when Arabs can acknowledge this truth we will be on our way to solving the long running conflict between our peoples.

Photo credit: Israeli Ministry of Tourism

Photo credit: Israeli Ministry of Tourism

In fact, denial of Jewish history in this land is a staple of Palestinian propaganda. A thoroughly depressing catalogue of such fabrications can be found at Palestinian Media Watch.

What makes these lies so worrisome is that many of them are peddled by Palestinian Authority representatives themselves. It is against this backdrop of denial of Jewish history in the land of Israel that Secretary of State John Kerry attempts to lay out a framework for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

How can the Palestinian people ever accept such a framework if they have been taught that Jews are an ersatz people with no legitimate right to call Israel their home?

Furthermore, the BDS movement (Boycott, Divest, Sanctions) is built upon the edifice of Israel as an “illegitimate colonial enterprise” and equates Israel with the apartheid regime that existed in South Africa. BDS has three objectives: it seeks an end to Israeli occupation, equal rights for Arab citizens of Israel, and the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees and their millions of descendants.

Flooding Israel with millions of Palestinians would spell the end of the Jewish state and that is the end-game for the BDS movement.

Many of the tactics used against the truly odious regime in South Africa are being employed against Israel –academic, cultural, and economic boycotts, divestment from companies that do business with Israel, and more. Note the brouhaha surrounding the Israeli company Soda Stream, with a factory located in the West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim, a factory that provides good jobs to Palestinians, Israeli Arabs and Jews. These high minded boycotters couldn’t care less if their actions lead to the loss of jobs for Palestinian workers. Bringing down Israel is what matters.

Moral preening by the anti-Israel crowd is on full display as “Israeli Apartheid Week” events take place this week and next in cities and on campuses around the world. Masquerading under the banner of human rights, the movement makes a mockery of the word “apartheid” and the conditions that black South Africans suffered under for decades.

Ishmael Khaldi is an Israeli-born Beduin serving in Israel’s diplomatic corps in London. A few years ago, as a diplomat in the San Francisco area, he penned this response to Israel Apartheid Week:

I am a proud Israeli — along with many other non-Jewish Israelis such as Druze, Bahai, Bedouin, Christians and Muslims, who live in one of the most culturally diversified societies and the only true democracy in the Middle East. Like America, Israeli society is far from perfect, but let us deals honestly. By any yardstick you choose — educational opportunity, economic development, women and gay’s rights, freedom of speech and assembly, legislative representation — Israel’s minorities fare far better than any other country in the Middle East… If Israel were an apartheid state, I would not have been appointed here, nor would I have chosen to take upon myself this duty. There are many Arabs, both within Israel and in the Palestinian territories who have taken great courage to walk the path of peace. You should stand with us, rather than against us.

Indeed. Standing with Israelis and Palestinians who seek peace requires a more nuanced view of the painful compromises that each side will have to make. How much easier it is to embrace radical chic and simply heap all the blame on Israel.

The BDS movement is saturated with hubris and hypocrisy. These so-called champions of human rights aim to make Israel a pariah among nations, while overlooking the appalling abuses of human rights that take place throughout the Middle East.

Check out this brochure on human rights in the Middle East, produced by Stand With Us, and see for yourself. No matter how many times I look at the comparison between Israel and her neighbors I am shocked yet again.

Study the facts on women’s literacy rates, whether women are free to travel without a male relative’s consent, or whether honor killings are punished.

How many countries have an uncensored media? None — except Israel.

In which countries is there legal protection for LGBT people against discrimination and hate crimes? None — except Israel.

And so it goes, with the freedoms we take for granted either non-existent or severely limited in every Middle Eastern country — except Israel.

This information was shared with my Israel Leadership students a few weeks ago by Sam Farber, a passionate advocate for Israel who is a Stand With Us high school intern.

Sam concluded his session by asking each student to draw a picture of what Israel would look like if Israel were a house. An astonishing variety of images emerged. Sam shared his picture last. A simple house. Some trees. And a wide-open door that welcomes us home.