How not to Defend Israel
Experience has taught me that some of the worst anti-Israel polemics come from those who think they are defending Israel. In an age where large sections of the planet have access to the internet, the old methods for defending Israel will not work. Tired shibboleths will fail and prove to be counterproductive. Zionists are using old strategies to fight a new war; and Israel is losing the propaganda battle.
A classic case of this is Newt Gingrich's recent statement that Palestinians are an "invented people." Well, we all knew what he meant, and surely his motives were right; but the statement was abysmal.
We Americans invented ourselves in 1776. Prior to that, the colonials were fighting for the rights of Englishmen, not independence. The Argentines, Mexicans, Chileans, much of Latin America invented themselves in 1810 when revolution ripped through two continents. It didn't matter whether Newt Gingrich was right or not; what mattered was that his point was meaningless. Nations and peoples invent and reinvent themselves all the time. Instead of helping Israel, that statement backfired and Gingrich ended up looking foolish, except to stalwarts.
The next argument often used is that the UN voted to partition Israel in 1947. Well this sounds good; but the fact is that only the General Assembly voted to partition Israel. After the Arabs walked out, the whole matter degenerated into war. It never went to the Security Council, which was necessary for legal standing.
Zionist supporters, at that time, made a point of this in defending Israel's expansion beyond the 1947 partition lines. They did not feel bound by the General Assembly vote, either. To uphold the General Assembly vote may inadvertently give the Arabs standing to claim everything back to 1947 partition boundaries. With an educated anti-Zionist population on the internet, that weak argument will be chopped to shreds.
Of course, none of this invalidates Israel; but it does mean that the old facile arguments will no longer hold. The internet has upped the ante.
Another mistake is to cite the Balfour Declaration as justification when it was merely a recommendation.
"His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."
Altogether noble and wonderful, but it has no legal standing. The Balfour Declaration devolves to the realm of good wishes.
Of course, then the San Remo Conference of 1920 is brought up whereby the British were empowered to set up the Palestinian Mandate as a homeland for the Jewish people by the authority of the League of Nations. The problem is that the document has a fatal flaw. In typical British fashion, the document used weasel words to talk out of both sides of the mouth. It incorporated the Balfour Declaration's insidious escape clause.
...it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine...
This is no minor issue. In 1939, in the infamous MacDonald White Paper, the British used that escape clause to cut off Jewish immigration to Palestine, thereby damning millions of Jews to the gas chambers.
His Majesty's Government... would indeed regard it as contrary to their obligations to the Arabs under the Mandate, as well as to the assurances which have been given to the Arab people in the past, that the Arab population of Palestine should be made the subjects of a Jewish State against their will.
We rarely hear about this in Anglophilic America, but many Israelis consider the British to be passive accessories to the Holocaust. When the British finally decided to speak "unequivocally," it was in favor of the Arabs.
Perfidious Albion; but treacherous though it may have been, it was legal. The San Remo Document provided Britain an escape clause. It matters not what the conferees said in 1920, they did not have the guts to declare themselves unequivocally in favor of the Jews at that time; and they muzzled their support for the Jews in ambiguous language.
Anti-Zionists know this flaw quite well. Churchill himself in his White Paper of 1922, inadvertently alluded as much:
Phrases have been used such as that Palestine is to become "as Jewish as England is English." HMG regard any such expectation as impracticable and have no such aim in view. Nor have they at any time contemplated, as appears to be feared by the Arab Delegation, the disappearance or the subordination of the Arabic population, language or culture in Palestine.
Just exactly what were the English contemplating? Apparently not much more than a kosher version of an Apache reservation in a greater Arab state.
When I bring this up to Zionist supporters, in an effort to hone their skills, it is I who am criticized as trashing Israel, when all I am doing is pointing out the fallacies in their apologetics.
Another myth which may hurt Israel is that the land was empty. Actually, while some parts were empty, there were approx 550,000 people on the land by 1900, almost all of them non-Jewish, admitted by even Jewish sources. Most of these Arabs were not new arrivals. Some were, but not all. High Arab birthrates could explain most of the Arab increase after that, between 1900 and 1947.
Of course, Mark Twain is quoted where he proclaims how barren the land is in one area; but what is ignored is where Twain speaks of a highly populated Nablus (or it would not have been highly cultivated).
The narrow canon [sic] in which Nablous, or Shechem, is situated, is under high cultivation, and the soil is exceedingly black and fertile. It is well watered, and its affluent vegetation gains effect by contrast with the barren hills that tower on either side -- Innocents Abroad
Twain, though sympathetic to the Jews, was not reliable. He was given to poetic exaggeration.
More reliable is Napoleon's defeat at Acre in 1799. Acre's defense would not have been so stiff had the land been empty. Oddly enough, during his campaign, Napoleon entertained the idea of creating a Jewish state.
Israelis, and the Jewish people, make a serious tactical mistake in how they defend Israel. They seek approbation from the world's legal systems for their actions. Herzl tried to get the support of the Kaiser, before the Zionists had lucked -- if lucky it was, given later actions -- upon British support. All of this was a search for respectable approval. All of it failed.
The world's legal systems are flawed. Men are not perfect. If Israel can be justified by a UN vote in 1947, it can be dissolved by a UN vote today. In a sad parody of a Jewish prayer, "What the United Nations giveth, the United Nations taketh away; blessed be the name of the United Nations."
Israel's claim to the land can be better defended apart from legal systems.
1) History: This is incontrovertible. The Jews were in the land.
2) Archeology: You cannot sink a shovel in Israel without bringing up Jewish artifacts
3) Continuous Presence: Though not a majority until 1948, Jews were always trying to return. They were constantly being kicked out whenever their presence grew, only to return again.
4) DNA: There is evidence showing that most Jews have a genetic connection to the Mideast. DNA destroys Koestler's claims of a Khazarian origin for the Jews. Not all Modern Jews are descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but clearly most are.
5) The Bible: If you believe it. There is no double talking equivocation in the Abrahamic Covenant. No escape clause.
The first four are not debateable.
No congress or parliament can rewrite history. Many try, but all have failed. Historical artifacts are beyond debate. A Roman coin saying Judaea Capta can undo mountains of Arab academic papers denying Jewish history. During every period of history, historical records speak of Jews in the land, often with an aim to expel them. DNA, which is history writ in genome, cannot be fudged.
These facts do not depend on this treaty or that treaty. They are not dependant on some foreign power showing good favor to the Jewish people. The last case, the Bible, offers the Jews the protection of a power far more reliable than Britain or the U.S. Congress.
These, and only these, should be used to defend Israel. Everything else can be manipulated by anti-Zionists, and have been, quite effectively.
The Arab is not stupid. What does he care about Western Law? If San Remo was legal according to Western precedent, the Arab feels bound by Sharia, and ignores Western jurists. Why should he feel obliged to respect Imperial British and French demarcations upon the Islamic Ummah? The force of Western decrees faded with the collapse of Western Power. This is the folly of the infidel. The Romans, the Crusaders, the Mongols, the Turks have all gone. The Arab remains.
The Arab has to be presented with facts not subject to subjective jurisprudence, either Western or Islamic.
What is more amazing is why the Jewish people use such an appeal to legalism to defend Israel. That is the greater issue.
The Jewish settler does not depend on the UN for building his settlements. He cites the Bible as his authority. We might criticize the settler for brutal actions, or property theft, which have been documented on occasion -- and where proven, such be condemned -- but at least he does not base his claim to Israel on flawed legal theory. In this he is to be admired above so many talking heads with degrees. His actions may not always be pure, but his logic is irrefutable.
If I might opine, the tendency of Zionist apologists to seek legal justification is a fatal flaw. Every ethnic group has its virtues and its flaws; the Jews are no different.
If there is a flaw in many Jews, it is the tendency to conflate legality with morality. This no doubt stems from the elevated view of law (Torah) in Jewish culture. What is legal is right. This may be true were the world perfect, but it is not. It would have had some justification if the legal sanction being sought were biblical, but all too often what was sought was sanction from man-made law; and that would prove tragic for the Jewish people, as we have seen.
So, there is a tendency to seek legal approval for Israel's actions. Herzl sought the protection of Germany. Weizmann got the approval of the British. The Zionists got the Mandate from the League of Nations. It was all legal, signed, and sealed. It was all worthless.
The ironic thing is that the first and second Aliyahs (prior to 1917) occurred without any help from world powers. Early pioneers from Eastern Europe and Yemen got up and left on their own. Eliezer Ben-Yehuda did not need state sanction to resurrect Hebrew; he was often condemned by the rabbis for trying to bring it out of Torah study. Yet these prospered.
Jews have succeeded most when they have acted on simple faith apart from legal approval. When they have sought the world's legal approval, they have failed; often catastrophically.
From a Christian point of view this would make sense. Christians, while respecting law, place faith, grace, and love as higher standards.
This may be the one fatal flaw in Jewish history.
Two thousand years ago, a teacher came along, who by all accounts was very popular with the Jewish people, though not the Jewish leadership. They were afraid of him. He would not buckle under to their rules and legalisms. So they connived to bring him before the Romans; doing so at night, because they knew the Jewish people would not approve.
The Romans offered to let the teacher go, finding no fault with the man. But the leadership told the Romans, "We have no king but Caesar."
Whatever one thinks of that teacher, one thing is clear: For the past 2,000 years, the Jews have been seeking legal approval from worldly powers -- Caesar by another name.
A tragic transaction was made at that moment; the Jewish leadership, without the approval of the Jewish people, placed the Jewish people under worldly rule, under Caesar.
Since then, the Jews have been seeking the approval of Caesar. Herzl tried getting help from the Kaiser, whose very title means "Caesar." When that didn't work, Weizmann tried getting help from Britain. Then the Zionists trusted the League of Nations. Now, they yield to our own Congress.
They want Caesar's favor.
What they should remember is that a mere forty years after those high priests said, "We have no king but Caesar," the Romans sacked Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple, renamed the land Palestine, and started the process of evicting Jews.
Caesar is not reliable!
So if you are a Zionist, and meet me in a chat room; please do not appeal to Caesar's documents in your defense of Israel. There is no point to it.
Mike Konrad is the pen name of an American who is not Jewish, Latin, or Arab. He runs a website, http://latinarabia.com/where he discusses the subculture of Arabs in Latin America. He wishes his Spanish were better.