Wednesday 17 August 2016

The Historical Entitlement Argument Does Not Work

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The link between the Jews and the land of Israel is undeniable.  The extent to which Jewish history has played itself out in this land makes it inconceivable that a Jewish state could exist anywhere else in the world.  We feel this link every day as we pray to be in Zion and the rebuilt city of Jerusalem, and we experience it every week in our readings of the Torah that mention places that still carry the same names to this very day.  The festivals that we celebrate are frequently associated with particular places in this land, and the graves of our revered forefathers and mothers are within our borders.  Perhaps, most of all, the site of the holy Temple, destroyed almost 2,000 years ago in the city of Jerusalem, remains the holiest site in our religion and culture.  Despite offers to create a Jewish homeland in other parts of the world, Jews through the generations could never have accepted a  Jewish state anywhere other than in the land of Israel.
In spite of this, the international community continues to question the rights that Jews have to be in the land of Israel, and to have their own homeland there.  This forces Israelis into defending why they have the right to state in the land of Israel.  The main argument that Jews use to justify their right to be there, is on the basis of historical links and entitlement.  Typical justifications include the fact that it is written in the Old Testament about the borders of the Jewish state, or that there has been more then 2,000 years of continuous Jewish presence in the land.  This is true despite numerous attempts over the years to expel the Jews from the land of Israel.  It is my view, however, that the ongoing attempts to prove rights to the land by Jews via these avenues, serve to weaken the claim rather than to strengthen it.  Even the act of trying to justify the rights at all represents a weakness in my eyes.

Israel is the only member of the UN whose right to exist is continuously questioned, and whose future existence is openly threatened.  Other members of the UN have no qualms in calling for Israel's destruction, knowing full well that this comes without any consequences.  Without the support of the members of the international community who should speak up against such atrocious threats and behaviour, Israel is drawn into the vacuum and feels the need to defend herself.  While this is a natural response to such vile threats, the act of going on the defensive only goads the bullies into increasing their attacks.  This creates a vicious circle which has no end to it.

Under UN partition plan in 1947, independent Arab and Jewish states were approved to be established in the former British mandate of Palestine.   This was confirmed by a two-thirds majority of states present and voting at the UN General Assembly.  Despite the fact that 13 countries voted against the plan and a further 10 countries abstained, the will of the 33 countries who voted in favour of the resolution was implemented.  This concluded any questions about who would have the right to live in the land, and to set up their state there.  The fact that the Arabs rejected the plan and refused to establish their state as envisaged does not detract from their right to do so, nor from the right of the Jews to do the same.  This was clearly laid down in resolution 181(II) and passed on 29 November 1947.

The justification for a Jewish state in the land of Israel is embodied solely in the UN resolution that presented this right.  Since the moment that the resolution was passed, the arguments surrounding historical entitlement or continuous presence (or anything else) were effectively set aside and became less significant as points in order to prove entitlement.  Perhaps these matters were considered in the extensive work and report issued by the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP).  Now that the recommendations of the committee have been accepted, the partition plan approved and the State of Israel established, there is no room to question this any further.  And it is certainly not acceptable to call for the destruction of the State of Israel, a country that was set up by a UN mandate with a two-thirds majority.

By continuing to put forward the argument of historical links and rights to the land, Israelis effectively give detractors justification to ignore the importance of the UN vote.  This negates the vote, and its legal significance.  It also gives  people the opportunity to open all types of debates to negate the historical rights arguments.  Not everybody believes what is written in the Bible, and it is almost impossible to conivince them otherwise.  Similarly, the debate whether or not Jews have really had a continuous presence in the land of Israel.  Facts of history are frequently difficult to prove unequivocally.  This is an argument that can never really be proved or won, in one direction or the other.  It is futile, and shows only that Israelis are happy to reopen this debate that cannot really prove anything in either direction.

The time has come to stop using arguments to justify Jewish presence in the land of Israel, that simply serve to weaken its right.  This is not to say that the historical link is unimportant to the Jewish soul.  On the contrary, this is what drove the Jews to fight so hard for their homeland in this place over so many years.  Now that this homeland is a reality, these arguments are no longer useful as political arguments, and are mostly unhelpful.  Instead, the vote by the international community that legitimised the Jewish homeland in Israel is the one and only relevant argument.  And, while it is true that the map of Israel today is not quite the map that was approved by the UN in 1947, it is equally true to note that the Arab state that was approved in that same UN vote was never accepted.  Instead, the land that was earmarked for the Arab state has simply been used as a springboard to try to destroy the Jewish state.

The Jewish state could never be anywhere else, other than in the historical Jewish homeland.  Now that this has been accepted by the UN and the international community in a legally binding vote, the argument about historical entitlement should be ceased.  It is simply no longer relevant as a political and legal argument, and not helpful to Israel's cause.

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