Yom Ha’Atzmaut 2022

You want to criticize Israel? By all means, do so. Go right ahead. Criticize the corruption in government. Condemn the Right Wing’s cozying up to authoritarians and dictators. Criticize the lunatic messianic cultists of the settlers’ movement, and their supporters in government. Condemn the settlers who attack their Palestinian neighbors with impunity as the IDF turns a blind eye. Criticize the grabbing of more and more land, just because we can. Fine

Criticize Israel all you want.

But do not question Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state among the nations. You want to bring us to book for our crimes? You want to prosecute our misdeeds? Great. But do not condemn Israel as illegitimate.

And if you want to condemn settlers for burning down Palestinian olive groves, then condemn the incendiary balloons sent into Israeli agricultural territory by Hamas. If you condemn the wall around Gaza, take note of the same fortifications on the Egyptian side of the border. If a Palestinian who attacks Jews on the streets of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem is shot and killed, don’t forget to note that they were killed for murdering Israelis. Which side indiscriminately launches missiles at, and deliberately targets, civilians? This sword is double edged. It cuts both ways, unlike a shamshir.

Israel may have problems in the way non-Jewish Israelis are treated, but there is no apartheid, such as we know classically from South Africa. Does Israel have racial tensions? Of course. But would you call the treatment of minorities in 1950s America “apartheid?” If not, how does Israel merit this singular honor?

You can even criticize the origins of the modern Israeli state, and what was done to establish her. But remember; no one was hunting down, murdering, dispossessing, and expelling Arabs around the world for simply being Arabs. Arabs were never marked especially for extermination.

Perhaps we do have a lot of work to do in learning to treat the stranger as ourselves, but don’t presume to deny our historical connection to our own land.

In order to achieve peace, both sides will doubtless have to make compromises. And as we all know, a good compromise leaves everyone dissatisfied. The Chinese have a saying, referring to arguments and other conflicts, which translated, goes something like, “Even if you are ten parts in the right, give back three parts to your opponent, so that they can step back with some dignity.”

And one more thing: Anti-Zionism is antisemitism. There is an old maxim that goes, “Never attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence.” But the corollary to that is, “Sufficient levels of incompetence are indistinguishable from malice.” Anti-Zionism is an easy shield to hide behind for an antisemite. Perhaps it is not technically Jew-hatred—after all, even Ahad Ha’am disagreed with Herzl’s vision—but the sheer number of antisemites hiding behind that terminology have made it meaningless, except as an identifier for Jew-haters.

Antisemitic attacks have been on the increase around the world, from vandalism of synagogues, to assaults on anyone openly wearing recognizable Jewish accoutrements, to the exclusion of Jews on university and college campuses in North America. These are people who do not live in Israel, who are not responsible for Israeli governmental policies, and who have no effect upon Israeli policy. But they are targeted because they are Jews. And it’s always about “Free Palestine!” or, “I’m not antisemitic; I’m just anti-Zionist.” But here’s the thing: why do such people attack Jews rather than protest at Israeli embassies and consulates? Because anti-Zionist zeal is a cloak for their Jew-hatred.

Now, to be fair, Jews are linked to Israel. Our religion is linked to the land itself; many mitzvot cannot be carried out except in Israel. So, it seems to me that the idea is to hurt Israel by hurting Jews— unless they honestly think that Diaspora Jews have any influence over Israeli politics. Anti-Zionists don’t want to free the Palestinians from occupation; they want to wipe Israel from the map.

The refrain the protesters chant is “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free!” From the Jordan to the Mediterranean. This is not a call for an independent state alongside Israel; it is a call for Israel’s destruction. From the very beginning, every peace offer has been rejected. Palestinians have been fighting a guerrilla war of terrorism since the earliest days of Israel’s establishment. I do not excuse what Israel may have done to the Palestinians in pursuit of security, and I am sure there are crimes for which the appropriate Israeli officials need to be brought to book. But there is a monumental difference between protesting against the Israeli policies you may not like and calling for the destruction of a state and the genocide of its people.

In the beginning of the Partition Plan, we Jews did not get everything we wanted, and the Palestinians certainly did not. But we accepted what was given, because something was better than nothing, and from a foothold, we could build something. The Palestinians never accepted what was offered. For that matter, while Jordan controlled the West Bank, and Egypt controlled Gaza, no one thought of, or demanded, a home for the Palestinians until after 1967, when Israel gained control of those territories.

So I suppose my point is, criticize all you want. I don’t think we, as Jews, or Israelis, should be held to a different standard than anyone else in the world. But do not presume to see our state as illegitimate. There was no place for us in your worlds. We were cast out, exiled, hunted down, and murdered with industrial efficiency. You don’t get to cry sour grapes now that we have stood up and refuse to allow our knees to tremble at your threats and hatred anymore. And ‘others’ don’t get to run to you, crying, “Make them stop hitting us when we hit them!”

We are Jews. We are Zionists. And no one but we ourselves get to determine our future and our security.

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