A Reasoned Approach to the Israel-Palestinian Conflict VI

Part VI

The current situation

The current situation is unhealthy for both sides. Israel under Netanyahu is interested in extending the settlements in the Occupied Territories, that is, the West Bank, while the military and the Israeli police seem to be aiding the destructive activities of Jewish activists in the West Bank. The cadre of Jewish terrorists, which had been handled with kid gloves by the government, lately has become even more violent.

Internally, Israel has undergone a drastic shift due largely to demographics, as the number of religious Jews and the Jews from African nations (called mizrachim) has steadily risen. This population is joined by the Jews from Russia (who ironically include a large number of Christians). None of these groups are influenced by the democratic socialist secular ideas of the founders of the Jewish state, and in fact, the Russians, in general, have no appreciation for democracy. In short, they, like the new king in the Bible, “knew not Joseph.” The Zionism of the mizrachim always differed as it had a religious base.

In addition, an Israeli Jew today is unlikely to know an Israeli Arab. Jews live in Jewish communities (and many think it’s perfectly all right to refuse permission to Arabs to live there), and Arabs live in Arab communities. Nearly the only exceptions are Haifa and Jaffa, but even there, the familiarity is limited. I would imagine that at least nine out of ten Jews have never been inside an Arab house. Often when watching television commentators interviewing Arabs, I’m utterly embarrassed by their ignorance and implicit bigotry. They will bluntly ask, “Do you feel like an Israeli?” as if being an Israeli is a prerogative of Jews (like the commentator or interviewer). In short, for most Israeli Jews, Arabs are the other, the stranger, the one they can easily identify with terrorists.

Moreover, the Jews are beset by tribal divisions. The ultra-orthodox hate everyone who is not ultra-orthodox—including the Hasidim, and the State (especially Bibi’s party) has inflamed the discontent of the Jews from Northern Africa (mainly Moroccan Jews, called “mizrachi”) against the Ashkenazi establishment. The Jews in Israel are a people with little consensus and an underprivileged populace of “mizrachi” Jews who hate Arabs—and, as all underprivileged people everywhere, find solace in their hatred.

On the Palestinian side, it is also not in any way clear that the Palestinian leaders have given up the goal of reclaiming all of Palestine, so that today, Israel is led by someone who believes in a Greater Israel (including the West Bank) and the Palestinian Authority by leaders who believe in the return of all the Palestinian refugees to the area of Israel, which would end the existence of a Jewish state. The Palestinian Authority, which is quite corrupt, is also short of cash, so that there are constant rumors of its collapse.

Young Palestinians have opened a third Intifada, characterized by individuals knifing passersby. The Israeli government has ruled that in such cases the police can open fire with intent to kill. As a result, the number of killed Palestinians far exceeds the number of killed Israelis. In general, it seems that the general goal of the Israeli government is to make life as difficult for Palestinians as possible and in this way encourage emigration. Benyamin Netanyahu regards them as vicious, and the Israeli government frankly doesn’t give a damn about them. In an article in Haaretz, the noted sociologist, Eva Ilouz, compared life for Palestinians in the West Bank to that of slavery.

On 2 January 2016, Nidal Zahran wrote the following in “Quora,” when describing the difficulties of life in the West Bank.

Not only that the economy is unstable, but the level of Israeli control over the economy is just ridiculous. Israel, for example, does not allow telecom operators to provide 3G services. To this day we only have 2G!
A friend of mine tried to establish a farm. for 17 months he was running back and forth trying to get approvals from the military.

The Palestinian Authority is not the most democratic government. It is a slow moving oligarchy that is corrupt and often oppressive of freedoms. This however, is very little to what we face from Israel.

The entire Palestinian economy is captive to the Israeli military. We are subject to Israeli military law. Israel controls what and who is allowed in or out of the country. It controls who you can marry. Everything! so, being jailed for criticizing the government, is little compared to having every aspect of your life controlled by a foreign military.

To give a couple of examples. We have a house in our village which is classifies as “Area C”, When we requested a waterline to be connected to the house, they could only install the line until the end of “Area B”, the remaining 5 meters require an approval of the military commander of the area, which is almost impossible to receive on any “construction” project!

For me to visit my wife’s family in Jerusalem, I need a permit from the Israeli Military.


A Reasoned Approach to the Israel-Palestinian Conflict V

Part V

Up to 1967 and afterward


In general, when discussing Israel, we tend to focus on the events after The Six Days’ War when Israel defeated the combined forces of the Arab armies again and acquired Sinai, Gaza, Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and the area that had been part of the nation of Jordan and was west of the Jordan river, the West Bank. But to understand Israel well, one has to return to the years after the emergence of the state and the ingathering of the refugees from the Holocaust in Europe.

The War of Independence had been traumatic. Over 6,000 Israelis were killed and 15,000 wounded in the War of Independence. The number sounds rather small, but in a population of 806,000, it was not. A friend of mine once told me that her mother had informed her that half of her high school class was gone. My former wife’s uncle was killed, as well. In short, especially among certain groups, it was likely that either a relative or an acquaintance was no longer alive.

After the war, the nation was in a precarious state. It was surrounded by enemies. It had little money, and, although the foundations of a government had been established well beforehand, buildings and bureaucracies and chains of command had to be established. Furthermore, the survivors of the Holocaust had to be absorbed. They had to be taught Hebrew and given a decent standard of living (more or less). By 1949, Israel had added close to 300,000 civilians and had a population approaching 1,200,000. Europe was busy recovering from the war, and the U.S. State Department, which regarded the Jewish state as a temporary nuisance that would eventually disappear in the Arab landscape, offered little if no aid. Food was rationed, and with the rationing came a black market, as well.

Israel was born in trauma, to which the horror of the Holocaust was added. The country never forgot its origins, never forgot that it succeeded out of self-sufficiency with the aid of Jews in the United States—and the willingness of Czechoslovakia to sell it arms. Never forgot that when it finally had earned its right to be one among the nations, no one came to its aid, and it was often regarded as a momentary pain in the neck. Throughout the 50’s, when John Foster Dulles, who courted Arab heads of state, led the State Department, Israel was persona non grata there and had to look elsewhere for allies.

This is useful to remember when considering Israel’s current political positions, which often seem to be based on distrust of outside interference.

After the Six Days’ War, Israel utterly changed. There were three causes for this: the nation became less socialist and more capitalist, which ushered in an influx of money and a change in the American State Department’s attitude. The poor, struggling country became rather wealthy. With Jerusalem and, at the time, Bethlehem, and “space to breathe,” the country became a popular tourist spot, which it hadn’t been beforehand. And, of course, the fact that Jews had returned to Jerusalem and won (another miracle) awoke messianic hopes.

There were, more or less, two camps in Israel after the conquest, although to some degree both encouraged Jewish settlement in the West Bank. As is known, Israel relinquished Sinai to Egypt in exchange for a peace treaty but kept Gaza, probably because Egypt did not want Gaza either and did not regard it has historically part of Egypt. Gaza was afterward abandoned. Israel signed a peace treaty with Jordan and agreed to the establishment of two states: Israel and Palestine, and the Palestinian Authority was established.

The two camps:

The Israeli left

What became known as the Peace Camp and afterward as “irresponsible leftists” by those on the right.

  1. This camp was made up primarily of Ashkenazim and the inheritors of the socialist, more universal traditions of the Israeli founders. Its position was that the secular Zionist aspiration has been realized with the formation of a State, and any additions had to be minor and generally connected to military considerations. It accepted the legitimacy of a Palestinian state. Yitzchak Rabin and Shimon Peres were its most prominent representatives – Rabin was killed and Peres would join a government where Netanyahu was prime minister, where he would serve as a convenient poster-boy of Israel to the West.

The Israeli right

  1. Curiously, although Arabs will often talk about the good relations between Arabs and Jews, the Likud party led by Benjamin Netanyahu has always had a large proportion of Israelis from Arab countries who on no uncertain terms despise Arabs. The right has grown stronger over the years. It combines two basic views, a secular view that regards all of Greater Israel as part of the State of Israel and a religious view that regards Jews as having a natural, God-given right to the lands on the West Bank. The right today—and especially the religious right—no longer refers to the State of Israel but to Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel. The religious right, among the settlers in the West Bank has become increasingly more violent—and racist.


It’s difficult to describe Palestinian positions, especially as I am not a Palestinian. In some respects, the Palestinian position has undergone the greatest change.

The religious position

  1. I will begin with the religious position, primarily because it has essentially not changed—nor can it. If anything, it has adopted the al-Husseini conviction that the Jews are the scourge of the world. Today’s representatives are Hamas and Hezbollah, and, at a distance, Iran—and ISIS. The religious embodiments of the Palestine are all intolerant, military dictatorships.

The secular position

  1. The history of the secular Palestinian movement is quite complicated in this period. To a great extent, the Palestinian national identity was created in exile, and, as a result, it has never has had a state to which it might refer to. Its national identity is—to its own disadvantage—amorphous and inevitably nostalgic for a condition that no longer exists. In addition, the Palestinians never established the foundations of a state while in exile. Their national movement was always a military one.
  2. The Palestinian Charter was created in 1964, during the Arab League summit in Cairo, three years before the Six Days’ War. In terms of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the charter established numerous obstacles to any peace process. At the time, Jordan ruled the West Bank of the Jordan, and the charter explicitly states that no harm will come to Jordan’s rule. Much of the rhetoric of this charter, however, remains among the most fiercely anti-Israeli.
    1. The Jews are a religion and not a nationality and therefore can have no historic claim on Palestine. “Furthermore the Jews are not one people with an independent personality because they are citizens of the countries to which they belong.” “Zionism is a colonialist movement in its inception, aggressive and expansionist in its goals, racist and segregationist in its configurations and fascist in its means and aims.” In Article 17, the charter claims that the partitioning of Palestine and the establishment of Israel “are illegal and false, and in another article, “the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate system were frauds.” As I’ve written above, the Palestinian position often returns to the absolute certainty of post-WWI, as if not nearly 100 years have passed. [1] Someone else must analyze the irrefutable force of illusion in the Palestinian vision of a nation, since it is, objectively speaking, a belief without much connection with a reality other than nearly 70 years of oppression.
    2. In addition, the charter calls upon all Arabs to participate in the liberation of Palestine as a “national duty.”
  • The charter would subsequently be altered after the Oslo Accords.
  1. From 1968-1974, the PLO and its various arms performed a number of terrorist acts against innocent civilians. A partial list follows:

22 November 1968 Bomb at Jerusalem market kills 14, including two Arabs.
6 March 1969  Bomb at Hebrew University injures 28 students.
13 February 1970  47 killed when Swissair plane blown up.
22 May 1970 Eight children killed when school bus shelled.
10 May 1972 Japanese “Red army” kill 27 Christian pilgrims at Lod airport.
5 September 1972 11 Israeli athletes murdered at the Olympic Games in  Munich.
29 October 1972 Lufthansa plane hijacked. Munich killers released by  Germany.
11 April 1974 PFLP machine-guns 18 men, women and children in an  apartment house near Lebanese border.
15 May 1974 PFLP invades a school at Ma’alot in Northern Israel, killing 20  children.

  1. From September 1970-July 1971, Jordan experienced a civil war brought about by Yasser Arafat’s attempts to undermine King Hussein’s government. In the end, about 3,000 Palestinians were killed and the armed forces of the PLO, including Arafat, were exiled to Lebanon.
  2. From December 1987 until the Madrid Conference in 1991, though some date its conclusion to 1993 with the signing of the Oslo Accords, there was an armed uprising in the occupied territories marked by civil disobedience—this was the First Intifada.
  3. On 13 September 2016, the Oslo Accords were signed. The Israeli government recognized the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, while the PLO recognized the right of the state of Israel to exist and renounced terrorism as well as other violence, and its desire for the destruction of the Israeli state. A Palestinian Authority was designated for the Palestinian enclave. Future negotiations were to set a permanent agreement between two states, while deciding on the future of Jerusalem and the Jewish settlements on the West Bank. These negotiations were never successful.
  4. The Second Intifada started in September 2000, when Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount, which was regarded by Palestinians as highly provocative, was greeted by Palestinian demonstrators throwing stones at the police.
    1. “Both parties caused high numbers of casualties among civilians as well as combatants: the Palestinians by numerous suicide bombing and gunfire; the Israelis by tank and gunfire and air attacks, by numerous targeted killings, and by harsh reactions to demonstrations. The death toll, including both military and civilian, is estimated to be about 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis, as well as 64 foreigners.” Wikipedia, “Second Intifada.”

For many Israelis, the Second Intifada was the major blow to any belief in the desire of Palestinians for peace.

[1] A friend told me about a meeting between Israeli Arabs, Palestinians, and Jews, where the Palestinians spoke ardently about returning to their lands, and the Israeli Arabs told them there was nothing to go back to—the land has changed beyond recognition.

A Reasoned Approach to the Israel-Palestinian Conflict IV

Part IV


In 1948-49, everything comes to a head, and what in some respects was quite clear or might be described in relatively compatible terms for both Palestinian and Jews altered radically.

The Jewish Claim

For the Jewish yishuv, there were three critical events that defined their perspective on their State: a. the UN proposal to partition Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab section; b. the attack by neighboring Arab states; c. the victory.

  1. After the British threw up their hands, the UN decided on a partition plan for what was defined as Palestine. In the plan, the areas that were mostly Jewish were consolidated into one area, and the remaining area was designated as an Arab state. The Jewish area was quite small, while the Galilee, Nazareth, Jerusalem, and the Negev remained under the Arab administration. Jordan remained under King Abdullah. The Jews, under David Ben-Gurion, accepted the plan. The Arabs rejected it.
  2. When Israel declared its independence as a state (in the small area designated it), the armies of the neighboring Arab states attacked. In theory, they should have easily wiped out the Jewish army with its paucity of arms; and their goal, as they told their Arab listeners was to quickly overwhelm the territory and wipe out the Jews. Those Arabs who left of their own free will could speedily return to their homes.
  3. The Jews won and with the win acquired relatively vast areas (for a tiny country) without much Jewish population.

To a great sense, the Jewish viewpoint is as simple as that stated above. We agreed to partition, we were attacked by Egyptian, Syrian, Jordanian, and Iraqi armies, and against all odds, we won. Regarding the Palestinians, many fled as refugees do in any war; the relatively wealthy (such as in Jaffa) fled expecting to quickly return, and toward the end of the war, Palestinian Arabs were also expelled as a possible fifth column, especially in areas with a small or even negligible Jewish population.

The Palestinian Claim

The Palestinian version is quite different as anyone who is at all acquainted with the Palestinian narrative knows. The Partition Plan often does not appear (or when it does, it is dismissed as the product of Western colonialism) nor does the attack by Arab armies. In the Palestinian narrative, Israel, a creation of the West and therefore of Western imperialism/colonialism is solely responsible for the loss of Palestine and the expelling of all the rightful natives from its midst.

There are numerous reasons for this blatant hole in the historical account.

  1. The first is that the Palestinian moral position of its right for self-determination in 1918-1919 has, among many of its proponents, essentially remained unchanged. If anything, it switched from 1919 to 1948; i.e., we were in the majority at both times, and therefore by right, we should have had a state.

There are, however, several other equally important factors:

  1. The fight against Israel was not fought by the native population.
  2. With minor exceptions, the native Arab population had no national identity until after the land had been lost.

The Palestinians were pawns of their fellow Arabs, who planned on dividing the territory among themselves and had no intention of creating a Palestinian state. It is normal for a national identity to be forged when fighting against the foreign invader or those who come to colonize, for example, in Kenya, Algiers, or even the Netherlands. But in this instance, the national identity was forged out of defeat. The great Palestinian event is the nakba, the catastrophe. The name says everything. When catastrophes occur, the victims are in no way responsible. The Jews acquired the role of the colonialist oppressor—they and only they were responsible for the catastrophe. And thus, it is important that all the Palestinians who left were expelled. They were the majority—and they were expelled. If they were also responsible for the nakba, if they had left of their own free will or if they had left because of battle, then they would have had themselves to blame, as well, and not only the Jews.

There are an additional two factors that must also be considered..

The first, which in the course of nearly 70 years has had its ups and downs in influence, is the religious aspect. In strict religious terms, Israel can never be legitimate as this region is part of the historical Islamic hegemony. There can can be no relinquishing of the land. This is essentially the position of Hamas, the Hezbollah, and Iran to this day.

The second begins primarily with Haj al-Husseini, and that is the anti-Semitic aspect. I am quoting from a booklet he authored for Muslim soldiers enlisted in the Nazi SS division in Bosnia. The quotes are relatively long, but they reveal the pernicious core of much of the extreme Palestinian criticism of Israel today. Note also the mixture of religion and nationalism, which characterized the Grand Mufti.

For us Muslims, it is unworthy to utter the word Islam in the same breath with Judaism since Islam stands high over its perfidious adversary. Therefore, it would be wrong to carry out comparison of those two generally different counterpoints…

Jews are known in history only as a subjugated people. Their vulgar nature and insufferable stance toward the nations that offered them hospitality, and toward their neighboring nations, are the reason that those same nations had to resort to [certain] measures in order to suppress a Jew’s efforts to obtain his desire by force.

The history of antiquity shows us that the pharaohs were already forced to use all means against Jewish usury and Jewish immorality. Ancient Egyptians finally expelled the Jews from their land. Led by Moses, the Jews then arrived in the Sinai desert…

Following that, the Jews spread like locust [sic] all over the Arab peninsula. They came to Mecca, to Medina, to Iraq, and to Palestine, which is the land of milk and honey. The group of the Jews that came to Syria and Palestine was now under Roman rule. The Romans, however, soon discerned the peril that threatened the land from the Jews, and so they introduced harsh measures against them. Besides that, a serious, contagious illness of plague erupted, which was by common opinion brought into the land by Jews. When even medical doctors stated that the Jews were indeed the source of the infection—and their opinion was obviously correct—there arose among the people such upheaval against the Jews that many Jews were killed. In addition, that event is the reason why the Jews have been called “microbes” in Arabia to this very day.

The Arabs have a particular understanding for introducing forceful measures against Jews in Germany and for their expulsion from the country. After the [First] World War, England and America enabled the Jews to settle in Palestine and to establish a Jewish state there. Jewish excrement from all countries assembled there, rascally striving to seize the land from Arabs. And indeed, they succeeded in buying land from the poorest of the poor and from unscrupulous landlords. By doing so, they took poor widows’ bread and stole food from children to fatten themselves. When the Arabs opposed the Jewish settlement, the Jews did not shun bloody murders. So they robbed many families of their livelihood and threw the families into misery and troubles. (God will punish them for those disgraceful deeds).

The Jewish struggle against Arabs is nothing new for us, except that as time passed, the location of the battlefield changed. Jews hate Muhammad and Islam, and they hate any man who wishes to advance the prosperity of his people and to fight against Jewish lust for possessions and Jewish corruption.[1]

The article continues with descriptions of Jewish conspiracies against Muhammad, including an attempt by a Jewess to poison him!

I have one other historical note regarding the 1948-49 conflict. Recent releases from French archives have revealed that British agents in Arabic countries, working without the knowledge of 10 Downing Street, were instrumental in encouraging the Arabs to attack the Jewish settlement and proposing the division of the conquered land among the victorious nations. I mention this because even here, colonialism played a decisive role. The claim by Palestinians that only Israel is the ugly creation of Western colonialism is a false one; their wanderings are also the result of the invisible hands of colonialist agents.

[1] Havel, Boris, “Haj Amin Husseini’s Anti-Semitic Legacy,” Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2015

A Reasoned Approach to the Israel-Palestinian Conflict III

Part III

Up to 1948: the arguments of critics

The Palestinian claim

The number one argument against is that the Palestinians were never a people or a nation or anything cohesive, neither in 1918 nor in 1948. Even today, there’s a different dialect for Jaffa, Gaza, Jerusalem, and the Galilee. This is true but irrelevant. If it were relevant, then there would be no Kenya, no Angola, no Lebanon, probably half of the African countries of today. It’s further said that the Arabs in Palestine, despite claiming to have lived here for centuries or even thousands of years are relative newcomers. If we take, for example, the number of Muslims in Jerusalem in 1896, which was 8,560, it is quite clear that the population mushroomed in the twentieth century. Whether the population flourished beforehand depended on the investment of the Ottoman Empire in the region. For instance, in the 16th century, when the Cotton Market prospered in Jerusalem due to trade with Egypt, Safed flourished as well as a textile center. In addition, the Arabs in Palestine and in the Middle East in general moved around quite a lot. Jaffa was destroyed in the 19th century and was largely settled by Egyptians (the neighborhoods have Egyptian names); Acre was attacked as well; Haifa was a fishing village. In the 18th century, the Galilee was ruled by a Bedouin. No doubt, the oldest residents in Israel/Palestine are the Samaritans. Palestinian claims that they have been here thousands of years are mostly nonsense; just as are Jewish claims pointing to David’s kingdom as giving Jews legitimization. But the falsehoods (however loudly proclaimed) do not deny the Palestinians right in 1918 at the end of WWI to a state.

The Jewish claim

There are numerous arguments against the Jewish claim, and like the arguments against the main Palestinian claim, none of them hold water and many of them show a profound misunderstanding of the history of the Jews.

The first is that the Jews are only a religion and not a people. This is false. It is true that in every Western country, Jews are regarded as members of a religion, and the Judeo-Christian tradition, especially in the U.S., is proudly proclaimed from both civic and religious pulpits. But this does not mean the portrayal is fully accurate. The first mention of the word “Jew” is in the Book of Esther, where Mordecai is called, “hayehudi, the Jew.” The initial meaning was both geographical and political: he or his ancestors came from the State of Judea. Over the centuries, there were Jewish communities throughout the Mediterranean basin, and they maintained their ethnic and religious identity through marriage, custom, and ceremony. I’ve been told that Jews are “tribal.” Because of its negative connotations, I don’t like that appellation. The Jews are a people, much like, let’s say, the Thai, who wherever they go maintain their local customs and religion. Anyone can join Thai Buddhism if he or she wishes.

In addition, although the Jewish settlers in Palestine in the 19th century were religious, those who came in the early 20th century and were the ones who established the foundations for a state, were not. The opposite: they were often anti-religious. Religious Jews remained in Europe. Jews who rejected the religion and defined themselves as a people became Zionists.

The other complaint often leveled at Israel is that it is a colonization and a creation of the West and Western imperialism.

As I have stated before, the settlement by Jews is unique; no settlement other than that of American blacks in Liberia is comparable. Like the settlement by the American blacks, it was a return to a homeland. On arriving in Liberia, however, the American blacks discovered that despite Africa being their homeland, they were culturally apart; in this regard, they were colonialists. Similarly, the Jews were also culturally colonialist. They didn’t speak Palestinian Arabic (although several would learn), and they regarded themselves as culturally distinct. The best example of this is the creation of Tel-Aviv, which began as a Jewish suburb of Jaffa. The Jews wanted better sanitary conditions, better roads and schooling for their children—in short, they wanted to be modern, and they regarded the modern as a Western attribution. So—the Jews were not colonialist and yet colonialist, and certainly, the Palestinians regarded them as such, although it should be mentioned that in the 1930’s, there was already a conscious attempt in Jaffa to imitate the better aspects of Tel-Aviv.

It should also be noted (as this is often ignored) that from the end of WWI to the establishment of the State of Israel, the Jews were diligently building the infrastructure of a state: that is, there was an indigenous, local development not dependent on the decisions of Western powers. The opposite: the British Mandate tried to severely limit the number of Jews allowed into the country. It’s true that the development of the Jewish yishuv (settlement) was also encouraged by monies collected from Jews throughout the West (including Eastern Europe) to purchase land. Until 1948, all the Jewish land was legally purchased. The Arabs, under Haj Amin Husseini, asked for help from the wrong imperialist, as he courted Hitler to encourage him to enter Palestine and kill all the Jews.

A Reasoned Approach to the Israel-Palestinian Conflict II

Part II

The Basic Palestinian and Israeli Positions (Up to 1948)

The Palestinian Position

The crux of the Palestinian argument is easy to state. In 1918, at the end of WWI, when the West carved out nations in the Middle East, there were 60,000 Jews in Palestine and 600,000 Arabs. By all rights, the Arabs ought to have been given a state. Instead, they were robbed. Certainly, if one’s perspective stops at 1918 or 1919 when the British Mandate was created and the Jews were promised a homeland in an area that was overwhelmingly Arab, from an Arab perspective, the injustice is blatant. I would like to point out two things: Palestine and the Arab population therein included what would become Jordan and by 1865, there were probably more Jews living in Jerusalem than either Christians or Muslims in the city (depending—of course—on who you ask). By 1922, Jews formed over half the population of Jerusalem. This is just to give another perspective.

The Jewish/Israeli position

The Jewish position is actually more complicated than the Arab one—and it has to be recognized right away that it is somewhat unique. The only migration comparable to the settlement of Eretz Yisrael/Palestine by the Jews is the return of American blacks to Liberia to set up a state[1].

There are three aspects to the claim of the Jews’ right of return. The first is that the Jews are a nation. The second is that they have been dispersed due to persecution, and the third is that they have always looked toward Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel, as their homeland. This right does not rest on religious reasons or the fact that 2,000 years ago, there was a kingdom of Judea. If the Jews had not maintained Eretz Yisrael as an ideal for 2,000 years, they might as well have gone to Uganda. In Jewish literature, Palestine was always called Eretz Yisrael.

Both the Palestinian and the Israeli arguments are legitimate, and therefore to some extent (or to a great extent), the conflict was inevitable.

[1] I’m thankful to Dr. Cuthbert Simpkins for pointing this similarity out to me.

A Reasoned Approach to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict


Amidst all the clamor and mutual accusations, I thought I would set out clearly, in an unbiased a fashion as possible, the claims by both Palestinians and Jews regarding Eretz Yisrael/Palestine. My father taught me that there are always two sides to every story. And, of course, this liberal position, weighing one side’s claims against the others, is in itself a bias that many on both sides will find fault with—and even, perhaps, insult. This blog will have six parts (one part appearing per week):

  1. Introduction
  2. The basic Palestinian and Israeli positions (historically up to 1948)
    1. The Palestinian Position
    2. The Jewish/Israeli Position
  3. The Arguments of Critics
    1. The Palestinian Claim
    2. The Jewish Claim
  4. 1948-49
    1. The Israeli Position
    2. The Palestinian Position/Understanding of the Events
  5. 1967 and afterward
    1. Israel
    2. Palestine
  6. The Current Situation

Several disclaimers are in order. The first is that I am in Israeli, and therefore, however hard I try, there will obviously be some bias in my presentation of both sides; in fact, the very attempt to present both sides as equal will most likely be held against me. In addition, I’m not going to talk about the atrocities committed on both sides or about the supposed ethnic cleansing because quite frankly, they don’t interest me and I’ll let historians squabble over this for centuries to come. I am making one exception, since I mention PLO terrorist acts. My excuse is that historically this was a role the PLO deliberately played out, and when it failed to reach its goals, the PLO changed course. I realize, as well, that from the Palestinian viewpoint, Israeli air attacks, which also killed innocent victims, were labeled terrorism.

I’m not going to discuss Gaza, as well.

This little essay began with a goal of being quite brief, and to my dismay, the more I wrote, the more explanations I found necessary to include. Nevertheless, obviously, there are many events I do not cover nor wish to cover here.

Please if you comment, reasoned arguments would be appreciated. I realize this is a volatile subject for many in this world.

St. Paul and Homosexuality

At a  gathering around the dinner table, a friend came out to his mother and siblings. His mother, an Evangelical Christian, informed him that according to Paul in Romans, he had been abandoned by God. That led me to read Romans and to the passage Christians often refer to when assuring gays they are promised damnation—and discovering, as I would often do after coming to Israel, how a Jewish perspective can offer a different reading, perhaps closer to that of Paul’s, on his text.. The following is taken from the New International Version of the Bible.

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

The question, really, is what is the essence of wickedness? It is, as Paul explains further on, idolatry.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.[1]

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.[2]

The King James Version is, in many ways, clearer, perhaps, closer to the original, not glossing over it with modern interpretation.

22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

23 And changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.[3]

24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:

25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.[4]

The differences between the ITV and the King James versions are telling, and in many respects, they are the differences between a Christian reading (“sinful desires” and “sexual impurity”) and a more Jewish source that still uses the language[5] of kashrut and the halacha (“uncleanness,[6]” “lusts of their own hearts,” “to dishonor their own bodies”). In the Jewish tradition, the body is designed for two things: to recognize and praise God and to procreate, for the first commandment given to Adam was “be fruitful and multiply.” To lust after flesh is to make the body sacred and to treat it as one treats idols; those who lust after flesh forget they are meant to procreate. It is clear from the passage that for Paul all sexual pleasure can be understood as idolatry, not just lesbian and homosexual variants, which are extreme in that no procreation is possible.

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.[7]

Idolatry leads to the perversion of all righteousness. Curiously, the grab-bag of sins that follows parallels the list of sins for which Jews request forgiveness on the High Holy Days: a betrayal of God leads to a betrayal of one’s fellow human beings, from gossip to slander, from insolence to thievery and murder.

28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.[8] 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.[9]

Man is created in tselem elohim, in the image of God. The word that is translated as image in English has far more resonance in Hebrew than in English. After all, we can upload images on our computers, but we can never upload a tselem. The word appears only once in the Bible. The word tsel in Hebrew means shadow, and a more accurate feeling for the word would be to translate tselem as reflection. Man is an image of God as a reflection of him. In the Jewish tradition, that we are created in God’s image is a fundamental assumption that branches out to mean that we have been given the conscience to recognize God’s existence, we have been given moral and ethical duties, and we are to treat all human beings similarly as images of God: he who saves one life, saves the world. Therefore, if we are idolatrous, we betray our fundamental nature. If we are unclean, we betray the commandments of Him in whose image we are created.

It is possible to read this passage as a specific condemnation of same sex lusts, but that would be to incorrectly understand the context in which Paul was writing. All sexual acts based on the fulfillment of lust are wicked in Paul’s eyes; they are no less the embodiment of idolatry in man than genuflecting in front of idols.



[1] Romans 1, 18-23, New International Version (NIV) of the Bible.

[2] Romans 1, 24-25, ibid.

[3] The word in Hebrew is sharatzim, which appears in the Book of Genesis and, although they may be reptiles as translated above in the ITV, they are also crabs and snails and many other decidedly not kosher animals.

[4] Romans 1, 22-25, King James Version (KJV) of the Bible.

[5] A human body, as a creation of God, is meant to be unblemished. Tattoos are a form of desecration and of treating the body as a thing, an idol.

[6] Cleanliness is one of the primary virtues in the halacha and in kashrut. See Purity and Danger, Mary Douglass.

[7] Romans 1, 26-27, the NIV.

[8] This may be the earliest list paralleling the sins enumerated in the Avinu Malkenu prayer on the High Holy Days.

[9] Romans 1, 28-32, ibid.