Friday, October 30, 2015

The Real Existential Threat To Israel

And its not the Palestinians, or the Israeli Arabs.  However, that's not what you might conclude from reading this recent Op-Ed piece in the New York Daily News.  Its author blames the recent stabbing attacks against Jews by Israeli Arabs on a mindset in which Israel's Jewish population is just another colonial occupier of what is truly Arab land, as the Ottoman Turks and British were before them.

As the husband of a Jewish wife and stepfather to two Jewish children (to say nothing of my two Jewish grandchildren), and as a supporter of democracy, I take a back seat to no one in defending Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state and homeland.  But, if democracy is to mean anything at all, that should mean that we are free to question what way or ways are best to ensure Israel's existence. And here, the author falls short.  He doesn't have good ideas or bad ones.  He simply has none at all other that a vague assurance that "we'll stay, and tough it out — whatever the world thinks of the steps we have to take — for as long as it takes."  (Emphasis added.)

It's that phrase "whatever the world thinks of the steps we have to take" that I find chilling.  All the more so since he cites polls showing that Israelis "overwhelmingly would like to get out of the West Bank and live peacefully alongside a Palestinian State that would recognize Israel."  This is a large part of the problem.  Instead of getting out of the West Bank, Israel under its current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has come close to obliterating the Palestinian presence in the West Bank.  Take a look (courtesy of

Under Netanyahu, Israel has implemented a systematic plan of development in the West Bank that has as its goal the systematic absorption of the region into the rest of Israel in everything but name, even at the expense of uprooting Palestinian families from homes they have occupied for decades. And this has been done without any extension of rights to those who have been uprooted.  This, combine with the wall the Israelis subsequently erected between the West Bank and the rest of the country, has effectively turned the West Bank Palestinians into refugees--and Israel, hitherto a beacon of democracy in a region of autocrats, into what can only be considered an apartheid state.

It might be somewhat easier to believe both the Daily News Op-Ed author and the polls he cites if none of the foregoing facts were true.  Sadly, they are very much true.  And it only further dehumanizes the Palestinians to pretend that none of this has anything to do with the wave of stabbings.  Let me be clear:  nothing justifies the stabbings.  But the "whatever the world thinks of the steps we have to take" mentality only serves to illustrate the ancient maxim that two wrongs never make a right.  Sadly, since the 1948 Israeli declaration of independence, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict shows how, time and again, two "rights" can continually combine to make things wrong.  

So, if getting tough is not the answer, what is?  Is it as simple as getting rid of Netanyahu?  Sadly, no. Does the answer lie in somehow convincing the Palestinians that their leadership is less interested in protecting them than they are in maintaining ties to the petrostates that are funding them?  Even if we thought we had that much magic in our persuasive abilities, it wouldn't be enough to stop the leaders and the petrostates from bullying the Palestinians into becoming living weapons for a demented vision of what Islam is supposed to be.

Which is tragically ironic.  Because, ultimately, it's not the petrostates that are funding this madness. It's we, the people of the United States, and the rest of the world that has built an entire civilization around the petroleum underneath the petrostates.

Almost forty years ago, Jimmy Carter warned us that "the struggle for energy independence is the moral equivalent of war."  For the Israelis and the Palestinians, that is especially true.  Both nations--and I do not use the word nations lightly here--are the victims of a system of energy production that is as vicious as it is unsustainable.  Without American, and for that matter international, dependence on Arab oil, the entire international community would be able to bring its full weight onto the side of the Israelis and the Palestinians against the petrostates that are using their Arab "brothers and sisters" as human proxy weapons, to appease the fundamentalists within their own borders.

We think we need oil.  We don't need oil.  And G-d knows that neither Israel or Palestine need oil. They need peace.  They deserve peace.  It's never been more within our power to give it to them, especially given the current state of sustainable energy.  The time was really yesterday, but I'll settle for now.  Get off of oil, America, and give peace in the Middle East a chance.

Amen.  And Shalom.

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