I don’t think any other country in the world has to explain why it has a right to exist, why it has the government it has, where its capital is, or why it is normal. And yet, Israelis spend a ridiculous amount of time doing just that. From regular Israelis on the street, to our Prime Minister and our President – we seem to constantly be explaining ourselves over something that really should be obvious after 66 years.
An international guest came to Israel from India a few months ago and when I offered to give him a tour of Jerusalem, our capital, he was surprised. “Isn’t Tel Aviv the capital of Israel?”
“No, never,” I responded.
“But that’s what we were taught,” he said.
“Well, they are teaching you wrong. The capital of Israel – always has been, always will be, is Jerusalem.”
We have a right to exist for so many reasons. My favorite phrase is simple – by right and by might, by history and by justice, this land is ours. We were here 2,000 years ago – no one else was. We were here 500 years ago and 300 years ago. There were no Palestinians even 200 years ago, only a series of nomadic tribes. No, I’m not using this opportunity to de-legitimize them, I’m explaining why we don’t have to legitimize ourselves. We had this land and lost it and still Jews remained here – always, there were Jews here. In large numbers, then small numbers and no again in large numbers.
We have a right to be here according to international law. The League of Nations offered 50% of this land to the Arab population and 50% to the Jewish population. The Jews agreed; the Arabs chose war. Why is that simple fact ignored again and again. They CHOSE war in 1949 and lost. End of story and end of the Palestine that might have been. They were given an opportunity and chose to say no. Since they waged the war, it is hard to see, according to international law, how we are the occupiers.
When the dust settled and an amazed world saw that we were still here, an agreement of sorts was worked out – that lasted for 7 years until they attacked again in 1956. The post-1956 agreement lasted 11 years, until 1967. So, for 19 years, there was a set of borders until the Arabs made it clear they were going to attack again. Three years before those borders (that the Arabs agreed to) fell, Palestinians created the Palestine Liberation Organization, which promised to use force and terror to accomplish what they had failed to accomplish in 19 years.
Three years AFTER this organization was created, the Arab world again began beating the war drums. This time, we didn’t let them and we made the first move (with Syria and Egypt only; Jordan was told that we were not going to attack…and so they attacked us). Again in 1973 and again and again since then.
And yet we are constantly being told we don’t exist, that we don’t have a right to exist as other nations, that we have to justify our right to be here in our land. We can’t pray at our holiest site lest we offend the Arabs; we aren’t invited to international symposiums on fighting terror lest our very presence infuriate and alienate the nations currently most involved in waging terror.
We have the land from the Jordan to the Mediterranean – because Jordan attacked and lost; because 5 Arab nations invaded a tiny country hours after it was declared not because we had any intention of occupying or stealing land. This is historical fact and yet so many are unaware; so many want to start history at whatever point they want to justify their agenda. Let’s begin in 1967, and ignore the fact that the Palestinians chose war and then literally started two wars in less than a decade…or better, let’s not ignore it and deal with the true history of the Middle East as any normal country would do.
Americans came to their land less than 300 years ago. We know clearly from whom they took the land…and yet does anyone question the United States’ right to rule from the Atlantic to the Pacific? When Americans speak of their history, do they start in 1925 or 1776 (or even before)?
But all of this has been said before. And so today, let me offer a different explanation for why, despite all this history and conflict we are normal. As almost any Israeli can tell you, we are normal today not because of politics but because of sports. Yup, sports. I’m so not into sports, but even I am excited that we won the European championship. Maccabi Tel Aviv swept into victory and took Israel along for the ride. Shouts were heard, cheers and more…just like in any country!
There are so many reasons why we aren’t normal – and it’s important for us to remind ourselves every once in a while that a normal country doesn’t accept even one missile fired at its cities by its neighbors, while we pretty much accept it as a weekly, sometimes daily, event. Normal countries don’t have to issue separate pages at the airport on which to stamp proof that they have entered and exited – they just stamp in the person’s passport, but not us.
Normal countries put “Made in ” on the products they manufacture. Israelis are quiet about it and so we can quietly laugh on the side because so much of our technology IS being used (and paid for) by countries that hate and deny us. And yeah, the joke’s on them.
So last night – just as any normal nation would, Israel erupted in pride and joy. We won the European championship! We are the champions!