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Part of the reason for the apartheid claim, especially when leveled by Jews, is that we just want to be like everyone else and we keep using structures and definitions conceived of by others. Thus we find ourselves ensnared in false dichotomies like Jewish OR democratic. But we can enlarge the space to allow ourselves to hold both. We can conceive of and build new structures ourselves from our own ethical and biblical tradition that are not bound to the feudal history of old Europe.
So for example, when we consider building our society here in Israel, rather than starting where Christian Europe (and by extension, America) has ended up, for example “all citizens need to have equal voting rights,” and then build our society starting from that point; we can rewind and start at a more basic level from our own tradition like “all humans are created in the image of God and therefore need to be treated with dignity and respect” and “we need to love the stranger because we were once strangers in a strange land,” and use that as the basis upon which to build our society. This is not to say that we won’t have to deal with the issue of voting, and deal with it in an ethical and just way, but rather, that we need to first annunciate what our own foundational beliefs are instead of simply obligating ourselves to use the exact tools crafted by others.
Today we find ourselves in a position where we have land and the land has “strangers” in it. I find it hard to accept that based on some greco-roman infused, European post-feudal philosophy of government, these circumstances mandate us to either turn the entire country over to those strangers or to push all the strangers into one segment of the land and then cut off that land, leaving them to the whims of a semi-colonialist, European supported, corrupt thugocracy. It’s time we realize that no matter how much more comfortable we are with the assumed moral purity of weakness and victimhood, we actually are the adults in the room. We don’t have to be ashamed of our status and power. Rather, our tradition obligates us to use our position for good.
So again, we are here in our land and there are strangers here as well. How will we treat them? What will we do with them? We need to find a rigorous, modern, legal, ethical and just way to give liberty to all inhabitants of our land while not giving up the entire project. We need to do this using our own ethical and biblical traditions, not by some sort of weak mimicry of Europe and America.
We created the moral standard by which to judge such a system, only we have forgotten and have become entranced by the twisted moral algorithms of other nations. I am not saying that Western countries are bad or immoral, only that they took our original traditions, refracted through the lens of Christianity, and further modified through their own historical experience (which included no small measure of bigoted xenophobia and violent antisemitism) and built their own political philosophy. And while we obviously live in the world order which they created and will remain aware of it in whatever endeavors we pursue, we are in no way obligated to simply transpose a carbon copy of that system onto ourselves.
However, crafting a new society from foundational beliefs and traditions requires a solid ethical mind. It requires purity of heart. It requires rigorous work and discussion and thought and argument. Some will say this is just an elaborate way to justify the oppression of another people. Some will liken it to an attempt to recreate and morally justify another apartheid state whereby we can use slave labor to build our country on the backs of another people while stealing their wealth and natural resources. To them I would point out that we have no need for slave labor; we wish to work ourselves. We wish to work and to pay a fair wage to anyone wishing to work with us. In addition, this land has precious few natural resources – its natural resources are us. We do not come here to steal the land’s mineral wealth from its native population. That is indeed a common story; but it is not ours. That is an unfortunate story which has often been perpetrated by those with power against those without. And we now have power. We know it. We are even afraid of it. But this very knowledge ensures that we will keep this from becoming our story. We see what has been done in the world in the name of power or privilege or progress or manifest destiny and want no part of that story. We can and will build our own story. And it will be good and just and fair. For us and for the strangers among us.