Everyone Knows: The Jews Are Thieves
“Palestinians deserve an end to the occupation …”
U.S. President Barak Obama, 5/12/15
“The European Union has issued new guidelines for the labeling of products from illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories …”
The Guardian, 11/11/15
“Palestinian frustration is growing under the weight of a half century of occupation …”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, 1/27/16
Everyone Knows: The Jews Are Thieves
Nine hundred years ago, Rashi, the great biblical commentator, addressed the issue of Israeli occupation. Rashi’s comments are astonishing, absurd and breathtaking. Let’s take a look:
The book of Genesis begins with the creation of the heavens and the earth, and this puzzled Rashi. If the Torah is primarily a book of laws and commandments, shouldn’t God have skipped the whole creation thing and gotten right to the point, namely, the commandments given to the Jewish people?
Rashi’s answer is astounding.
Rashi says that the Torah begins with the account of creation in order to preempt a canard that will one day be leveled against the Jewish people. In his words —
“The nations of the world will accuse the Jewish people of stealing the land of Israel. (Imagine that.) Therefore, to cut such a perfidious accusation off at the knees, the Torah begins with creation so that the Jewish people will be able to respond, “God created the world, the entire earth is His, and He chose to give the Land of Israel to the Jewish people.”
Rashi’s words are astonishing, absurd, and profoundly insightful.
Rashi lived 900 years ago and wrote at a time when Israel had been under Muslim rule for four hundred years, Christian Crusaders were marauding their way across Europe to wrest the Holy Land from the grasp of Islam, and only a tiny Jewish community remained in Jerusalem. It’s simply astonishing that he could not only envision a day when there would be a Jewish state in Israel, but that he could imagine a world that included a mechanism for THE NATIONS OF THE WORLD to collectively accuse the Jews of “stealing” the land from it’s rightful inhabitants.
The response that Rashi proposes to the accusation of occupation is that the same God who created the world, also gave the land of Israel to the Jews.
Tell me, would such an answer ever fly with the likes of Mahmoud Abbas, Khaled Mashaal, and all the teachers and preachers that educate Palestinian children to believe that the Jews stole their land? Is there even one American, EU, or P5+1 diplomat that would take such talk seriously?
I can just see it now —
Bibi gets Obama, Ban Ki-moon and Abbas on a Skype conference call and tells them that God gave Israel to the Jews. Abbas immediately relays the news to Hamas, Obama texts Kerry, Ban calls an emergency session of the General Assembly, and everybody apologizes profusely for having ever hassled us.
With all due respect Rashi, that’s about as likely as the cow jumping over the moon and the Browns winning a Super Bowl.
It’s absurd! What in the world was Rashi thinking?
Rashi was no fool, and I believe that what he was trying to tell us was this: When truth is presented with conviction, nothing can stand in its way. And, when all is said and done, the only weapon the Jewish people may ultimately have at our disposal is the power of truth.
The Arab/Muslim-Israeli conflict has always been about one fundamental issue — the right of the Jewish people to the land of Israel.
I suspect that what Rashi wanted all Jews to know, including those in the Knesset, is that while a powerful army, a strong economy, and strategic alliances are critical, the truth is also a weapon, in fact, the most powerful weapon of all. The starting point for how we Jews, as a people and a state, need to relate to the past, present and future of Israel is that it is a precious and priceless gift from God; not the EU, not the US and not the UN.
There, in the dark depths of the Middle Ages, Rashi knew that just like the day would come when the Jewish people would return to Israel, the day would also come when, united, the nations of the world would declare with one voice — you Jews are thieves.
And in that moment of global confrontation, our response should be?
The truth. A truth asserted by the Jewish people, collectively, and with unified conviction: Israel is ours. A gift and an inheritance, ripped away from us by ruthless invaders. A birthright we never relinquished no matter how many occupiers besieged and raped our land. Jerusalem, held in the hands of Romans, Christians, Muslims and Ottomans, was nothing more than stolen property held by the thieves of history — our history.
How this mysterious ingredient called truth works I don’t exactly know — perhaps there is a metaphysical force at work here — but somehow, some way, when the entire Jewish people can speak with one clear voice and say from the depths of our collective soul that the land of Israel is the eternal homeland of the Jewish people — that will turn heads at the UN, have a dramatic impact on the “process,” and will make all the difference in the world.