Professor Henry Sbrebnik is to be congratulated on his recent thoughtful opinion piece, "Israel and the Complexities of Jewish History" (Journal Pioneer, July 30, 2018), which tries to be balanced, while devoid of the usual clichés and rhetoric invoked by Zionist apologists. His personal frustration is evident when he says the current situation is "madness." But trying to square the proverbial circle however, is difficult.
Unfortunately, he ignored a number of important issues. In the first instance, he, like many Zionists and Israeli historians, talk about Judaism's religious or historical attachment to Israel. However, even in biblical times, according to Genesis (a chapter in the Torah, or Old Testament), Ishmael, Isaac's older half- brother by Abraham, was also promised a great nation because he, Ishmael, was also of the seed of Abraham. In Genesis, it is said that He "would make a nation of the son of the bondswoman, Ishmael (21:11-13)." Thus, Scripture clearly states that Ishmael and Isaac were both promised a nation. But one group's homeland, is another group's Nakba ("catastrophe").
Second, it is an historical fallacy to pretend, as Zionists often do, that Palestine was an uninhabited area. Jewish immigration to predominantly Arab Palestine in the 1920s was already creating ethnic and political tensions. Interestingly, Orthodox Jews at that time rejected the idea of an Israeli state because for them Israel is a spiritual concept.
Third, Professor Srebrnik fails to confront Israel's history of lawlessness and violation of international law regarding occupied territories. At last count Israel has failed to comply with some 120 UN General Assembly resolutions. Why? Apologists for Israel should explain why Israel is exempt from international law. The international community has ignored Israel's self-proclaimed special status for too long.
Fourth, Israeli was originally founded as a secular country with a Labourite ethos. Today Israel is becoming a theocracy and is rapidly abandoning any pretense of being a liberal democracy. Israel is becoming an ill-liberal society that is increasingly run by the rabbinate which dictates marital and dietary practises, as well as promoting gender segregation. Orthodox Judaism is becoming the official state religion; some U.S. rabbis compare Israel to Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Fifth, the passage last week of the so-called nation-state law for the first time turns Israel into a formally segregated country, where Palestinians, representing 20 per cent of the population, are being deprived of their rights. The right-wing government has gone to considerable lengths to erase any history of Palestinians before Israel's formation in 1948. By any other name this is apartheid.
Sixth, and last, Mr. Sbrebrnik has perhaps understandably avoided any mention of what is to happen to the Palestinians, and whether the two-state solution is still viable. This is a major issue and cannot be avoided. So, let me offer a few random thoughts on the subject. In the first instance, the Palestinians must realize that the Israeli's aren't going away, nor are the Palestinians. Israel hasn't broken the spirit of Palestinian resistance. Second, the Israeli's must acknowledge that the Palestinians have legitimate grievances. Third, from this it flows that the Israeli's owe the Palestinians reparations. According to the prestigious Foreign Affairs magazine, former U.S. president Clinton in the last days of his administration tried to cobble together a monetary package to buy peace. The spoiler in this is if Netanyahu, emboldened by Trump, tries to expel the Palestinians to Lebanon, Syria or Jordan, as has been threatened.
Ultimately, peace will depend on the will of the parties to strike a mutually satisfactory arrangement. Personally, I have always believed that when people have a stake in something, the less likely it is that they will destroy it. In short, if Israel wants peace and wants to win the hearts and minds of the Palestinian people, they should put together a package providing them with infrastructure, including housing, schools, and medical services.
Israeli must stop being an occupying power. They can lead from strength and be magnanimous, or they can act as conquering, petty, tyrants. This will require a dramatic rethink and reset on the part of the Israeli's who subscribe to the draconian "eye for an eye" philosophy. History however, has shown this to be a futile and counter-productive approach. "Honey catches more flies than vinegar" the alternative for Israel is perpetual military instability.
A good starting point for peace is Rabbi Hillel's adage, "What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man."
Richard Deaton, Ph.D., LL.B.
Stanley Bridge, P.E.I.