Commenter on Open Zion delivers brilliant explanation of Israel – and a new cartoon!
On Open Zion this week, Tom Pessah, an Israeli Jew studying in Berkeley wrote a multi-point apologia for the BDS movement, promoting the ultimate goal of BDS, the supposed Palestinian “right of return”. Rejecting the very premise of a Jewish State, Pessah likens the proposed flooding of Israel with millions of hostile Arabs as something no more challenging than the mass immigration of Russian Jewry two decades ago.
“Basically, this would be a form of immigration comparable to the mid-1990s, when many Jews from the former Soviet Union came to Israel. This time it would be non-Jews “making aliyah.”
No big deal. Responding to the inevitable dropped jaws that would follow such a proposal, Pessah advises his fellow Israelis, “Deal with it“. Pessah ends his advocacy for Israeli self immolation with a challenge to slightly less strident anti-Israel activist, Kathleen Peratis.
“Kathleen, I want to challenge you: the next time you are on a panel, insist that a Palestinian also be invited to participate. And when she is, I want you to look her straight in the eye, tell her that you have democratic values, and then defend the idea that any young American Jew has more right to go and live in Israel/Palestine than she does. Even if she is from Jaffa or Haifa. If you truly believe these are democratic values, you should be able to do that. But if not, it’s time to stop cutting yourself off from the global non-violent movement for peace, justice and equality in Israel/Palestine.”
Now here comes the part I wanted to share with you. A one person literary Israel Defense Force who goes by the username of Bar takes up Parris’s challenge and in so doing dishes up one of the most passionate impromptu explanations of Israel that I have ever seen. I am reprinting Bar’s brilliant response from the comments section in full and urge you to just start reading, you won’t be able to stop until you reach the end.
I would take your challenge in a heartbeat.
With all due respect, she is as much from Jaffa as I am from Baghdad though I was born in Israel. Unfortunately, my family had to leave Iraq because it became untenable for Jews to live there. Our property was lost forever as was our community which was much older than this Palestinian’s. My family had to reestablish itself in a place where it could be safe and where its rights would be protected. That place also happened to provide a new and rebuilt community for us. It was in Israel, of course.
Why was Israel available to us? Because it was established to provide a home and a country for the Jewish people, in their historic homeland, for which we had been praying for over 2000 years, and where we would not be a harassed or victimized as we have been in those places where we were a defenseless community.
More important, this place became available to us because of mistakes made by Arabs, including Palestinian Arabs. The history is simple. All the attempts to build this country peacefully and in partnership with Arabs were destroyed by local Arabs, including Palestinians, and others from the region. They began attacking back when the Jewish community was small and poor and Zionism was a little-followed idea, and proceeded with pogroms and then a war. What they didn’t anticipate was that in this place, the Jewish nation would behave differently than in those places where they were the distinct majority and the Jews merely hapless victims. Yes, yes, I’m sure this woman’s parents weren’t part of the fighting, but the attacks were real and we had to deal with them regardless of whom, specifically, was targeting us.
The Arabs had never seen this before. In this place, because of the historical links to this homeland and because it was created to be a final refuge for Jews and a place for them to build their home, community and nation, they stood and defended. They lost many fighters and many were injured severely and otherwise, but they stood their ground and eventually won.
Unlike the Arabs, including Palestinians, who fought this war to eliminate every Jew from the areas they conquered, the Jews permitted many Arabs to remain and this group constitutes 20% of its current population. Their freedoms and quality of life are the envy of the Arab world. The country itself, despite the non-stop stream of politically motivated criticism against it, is the envy of the Arab world (and other nations, surely).
She has to live with the bitter knowledge that she is experiencing the consequences of her fellow Palestinians’ launching a war of ethnic cleansing and losing.
There is no longer room for this young woman in my country, Israel. It is being saved for other Jews who wish to join our community. She, like me and my family and a huge portion of our population, has to make her life in a new place. We had to resettle and rebuild through no fault of our own. She has to live with the bitter knowledge that she is experiencing the consequences of her fellow Palestinians’ launching a war of ethnic cleansing and losing. I know, I know, she didn’t do it herself, but I also did nothing wrong and still had to reconstruct my life, at great personal loss and cost.
By virtue of the fact that I helped to build this country from a backwater with an economy smaller than Syria’s into one of the world’s leading countries in many areas related to quality of life, and by virtue of my military and social service, as well as my sons’ who risk their lives to defend their country, I get to decide who will live in my country and what kind of country I’d like it to be.
I want it to be a home to any Jewish person who wants to live in a majority Jewish state.
You don’t have to agree. You can claim this is an ethnocracy, or that it doesn’t live up to your societal codes, but tough cookies, you didn’t have to go through what my parents and I and now my children had to go through in order to live here. This is our home; our community and our country. If you want one, go build one. As Tom says, “deal with it.” The sooner you get started, the better off you’ll be.
You don’t have to agree. You can claim this is an ethnocracy, or that it doesn’t live up to your societal codes, but tough cookies.
Oh, and by the way, please make no mistake. One of my problems with letting descendants of the people who attacked our community into our new country is that I originate from a country where civil war and the violence which was launched against the Jews are not so long in the past that I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be destroyed in this way – men killed, women raped, homes torched, synagogues destroyed, livelihoods harmed, childhoods destroyed. I now see Arab societies destroying themselves in Syria and Libya. I see no freedoms in places such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia. In Palestinian society, their elected representatives only believe in a single election and then cut off freedom of speech, journalistic freedoms, the right to congregate and demonstrate (unless the above are committed against Israel, of course) and all while they rob their people even as they distract them with disgusting and hateful incitement against Israel and the Jewish nation in general. This incitement, of course, is effective and ensures that the two people cannot live together any longer.
Her values are different from mine because my key value, that of preserving my Jewish and democratic community, is not hers.
I assume that this young woman sitting in front of me is nothing like those leaders who lead her people, or the fighters who are nothing more than coward terrorists targeting civilians. At least, I hope so. However, sadly, just as we had no choice in 1948 in discerning who was peaceful and who wasn’t because we were under attack and the attackers’ intention was nothing less than cleansing us from this place as they did in the part of Jerusalem they conquered, I have the same problem now. Her values are different from mine because my key value, that of preserving my Jewish and democratic community, is not hers. I have seen nothing that indicates that she understands the primacy of this value and one fundamental rule that any country inviting new residents and citizens to live within its borders must address, is ensuring it own survival. New residents have to abide by prevailing social standards and expectations.
I can’t afford to take the chance that if I somehow don’t provide borders for my democratic nation and defenses to ensure that its values and freedoms are maintained, that I will have to suffer what our neighbors are suffering. Too many families in our country have lost loved ones or given a great deal to fight for these rights. It is our right to live as we wish. Just as it is this young woman’s right to develop her new home and community along the values she considers important. She will have to do that elsewhere, though, not here.