Passover and the Palestinians

A people liberated from slavery. No wonder Passover is a time when advocates for a State of Palestine feel drawn to play a modern day Moses. Let the people go!

Passover, many think, comes around for a melodramatic appeal to the conscience of Israel. Have pity. Remember that your people were enslaved in Egypt and so howled in torment that it galvanized the Almighty into action. Hear oh Israel the cry of people in bondage under you. Let the Palestinians go. Let them make unto themselves a nation.

Thus entreats a devotee of human rights, one of a great multitude that makes a good living from his devotion. Listen carefully to him. In what he says and in what he believes lie the fatal flaws of the type: the modern day Moses. Uri Zaki, one-time the US Director of an Israeli human rights outfit named B’Tselem (in the image of), thought he’d stir up American Jews with an impassioned Passover appeal. Let the Palestinians go free. What Zaki actually said was:

“Israeli settlements in the West Bank make it practically impossible for the Palestinians to realize their right to self-determination in an independent and viable state of their own.” (Times of Israel, April 16, 2011)

The fatal flaw in Zaki’s browned-off appeal lies where? Look for the duty of one party to give and the right of the other party to receive. Defrocked, this is human rights or, for do-gooders of the Jewish faith, tikkun olam – mending the world. It all boils down to the right of Palestinians to want things and the duty of Israel to proffer them. One is owed, the other owes.

A handful of billionaire thieves (Mahmoud Abbas at the head) have only to table demands and sit back while leaders of capricious conscience extort Israel to meet them more than half way. They’re a people absolved from adult behavior.

It seems to be the tale of a perennial spoilt kid, and it brings to mind a brilliant quip made by the famous Israeli ambassador, Abba Eban. I think it would be the first war in history that on the morrow the victors sued for peace and the vanquished called for unconditional surrender.”

It was a bittersweet joke. The Six-Day war had ended in a stunning victory for Israel and world leaders lined up to force bitter medicine down the victor’s throat: the remedy of land for peace. Today five decades later the remedy keeps Israel trying to keep Washington and Brussels keep boycotts at bay. One thing has changed: the stakes are higher. Today world leaders demand that Israel gives not land for peace but land for another failed Sharia state – unless Israel wants Washington and Brussels to stop trying to keep boycotts at bay. Blackmail, if you like.

Give the Palestinians what they want, for heaven sake. Never mind they lost wars they, or bigger brothers, started. Palestinians want everything, and they want it on their own terms, unconditionally. Possession may be 9/10th of the law, and Israel may have that possession, but who holds the Palestinians to law? They’re defined by rights. Other claimants for independence (the Kurds for one example) must drool when they look upon the lucky Palestinians.

And whose rights have to make room for these Chosen People? Who else’s but the Un-Chosen people making do with an already too-small slip of hostile homeland. But who cares about the Jews? When it comes to human rights the Palestinians in bondage garner all the care.

That was fatal floor one. Another fatal flaw in the modern day Moses is forgetting that a right to self-determination involves another and equal right: ownership. By all means let people make unto themselves a nation, but where shall they do that? On what land? On whose land? Other than the Kingdom of Jordan, no land west of the Jordan River ever belonged to a Palestinian people. Israel took the land in the Six-Day War when the Palestinian people as a collective were not yet born. Could Jordan ask for the West Bank back? No it couldn’t because it was never Jordan’s to have. At the time Israel snapped up the territory Jordan had no right to be there. Not even the Arab league has tried to make a case for the West Bank to go back to Jordan.

So the modern day Moses looks to Israel. At Passover time thoughts on bondage and liberation run riot. “We must allow Palestinians to enjoy the same basic rights to self-government and independence that we, the Jewish State, have been privileged to enjoy since 1948.” (Jerusalem Post, April 14, 2014)

David Newman, a professor at Ben Gurion University, goes on to write of “fundamental Jewish religious values” as recounted at Passover. It is incumbent upon the Jews of today, Newman says, to ensure that other peoples are not oppressed, even more when they are under “our own control and for whose wellbeing we have direct responsibility.” (Jerusalem Post, April 14, 2014)

After he weds rights to responsibilities, Newman pulls them asunder. Israel gets the responsibility and Palestinians get the rights. No modern day Moses recognizes reciprocity. The Jews are expected to part with more of their promised land, leaving enemies at liberty to rain down rockets on Israel’s metropolitan hub. Newman’s ‘fundamental Jewish values’ come with that sting in the tail.

Diplomacy, having no truck with biblical appeals, comes with the sting on its own. Looking back on American brokered peace talks, it’s easy to forget who the rightful landowner is and who the supplicant is. American Secretary of State John Kerry hammered the Israeli side for not dangling carrots that Palestinian leaders found juicy enough. Not even the Israeli side stops to recall natural law: an owner of property needs do nothing until a person with an eye on it brings an offer. Should that person be unwilling to meet the owner’s terms, the owner may carry on with his life.

Cornered, Zaki the Priest and Newman the Dean would have to admit that no law, or treaty, gives Palestinians a right to “self-determination in a viable state of their own.” There are only the Oslo Accords, trashed many times over. But even when the accords were in mint condition they conferred no rights to self-determination. The modern day Moses ignores principles of law while he scatters rights and responsibilities like confetti. Odder still, he’s often the first to insist that Israel abides by international law. 

Unpacking the biblical thunder in ‘Let Palestinian go free’ one discovers how fake it is. Responsibility comes without rights and rights without responsibility. The demand of the modern day Moses amounts to, ‘Give Palestinians what they want, for heaven sake.’

Well – why not, if only to satisfy some quirky view of fair play. The Jews got their state, why deprive the neighbors? It might even help Israel’s own security. So say do-gooders toying with real baddies. But look at the way they put their case. Palestinians have no responsibility to accept a Jewish state, a right firmly written into law. Again John Kerry, only thinking of Israel of course, scolds it for putting the spoilt kid out of temper by insisting it recognize the Jewish character of Israel. Other leaders throw up their hands with Kerry. Give the kid what it wants, for heaven sake.

Problem is, no one can fathom what it wants. And that’s another fatal flaw. Three times Israel offered what world leaders thought the Palestinians wanted. They were invited to establish a home that Palestinians could call their own. They were offered land to do it on. Yet they not just tore up three invitations but, launching Intifadas, threw the bits into Israel’s face.  

What of Gaza where Palestinians were in bondage before Gaza was given over, lock stock and barrel. All Palestinians had to do in Gaza was make unto themselves a nation. You’d think the modern day Moses would be happy. Think again.  “In 2005 Israel withdrew its forces from the Gaza Strip, which increased Palestinians' control over their lives…However, Israel continues to hold decisive control over major aspects of people's lives.” (Times of Israel, April 16, 2011)

Here was Zaki the Priest prodding Pharaoh to let the people go, after Pharaoh already had.  Everyone knows what they did with their freedom. But then, it is not for Gaza’s elect to uplift the lives of their people, or to build a nation. It is for Israel to do that for them.

Zaki the Priest and Newman the Dean fall in behind other Moses figures, all wearing blinkers. None see the bottom line from giving land away. Let the Palestinians have the Temple Mount, half of Jerusalem and Judea-Samaria – all parts in dispute – and Jews will start looking the part of colonial intruders. After all, what historical connections do they have to Tel Aviv?

‘Let the people go’ is all well and good. But at Passover time Jews ought to have their own freedom in mind. If they have to treat enemies with a strong hand and an outstretched arm so be it. Never again must the Jews be a footloose and powerless people begging other nations to let them in.