We made aliyah a decade ago. I am still asked, “What’s different from the United States?”
No News Is Good News
For one thing, the news is different. Rarely does US media report from Israel. There is too little interest. US business news is all about oil and Israel has none. Israel’s election got attention on the chance for creating a coalition government including ultra-nationalists and religious thumpers. The two-state solution is a heady topic, but not a viable campaign issue. Frankly, no news is good news for Israel.
Terrorist acts are not viewed as antisemitism. They are given short shrift. Antisemitism in the US is largely absent from news reports unless spouted by celebrities or violent. Otherwise, it masquerades as anti-Israel/Zionism that garners coverage as a political outcry.
Our wise elderly Jewish organization leaders figured out to get more press by spinning hate speech, attacks on Jews, and anti-Israel/Zionist demonstrations into a single tenacious web. For example, one spokesperson told The Jerusalem Post that US campus anti-Israel/Zionist incidents “may be characterized as antisemitic” (October 14, 2022). Media coverage seems on fire with stories and commentaries about antisemitism. All the new tactics have done is to spread misinformation and use incidents to enhance confirmation bias that ensures wrong is right and opens the door for extremists.
Read A Book
Reading a book has a host of benefits compared to opinions formed from listening to talking heads on television, radio scream-fests, and 15 seconds of social media edited reporting. Reading books changes the world order. Think Paine, Marx, Mein Kampf, and the Bible.
Rivka Shpak Lissak published a book about the Israel-Palestinian conflict, When and How the Arabs and Muslims Immigrated to the Land of Israel (Gefen Publishers, 2021). Everyone with an opinion on a two-state solution ought to read this book. Lissak adds to the knowledge base, offering a fact-based perspective.
One caveat is the book reads like a doctoral dissertation. It is heavily laden with over 350 pages with citations from other authors about the social, anthropological, and political history of Israel. The second note of caution is that Lissak has points to prove.
The book is an academic refutation of the Palestinian Authority’s position to “negate the existence of a Jewish past in the Land of Israel. Its goal is to rewrite history and spread this rewritten history to the whole world. It wishes to prove that there is no Jewish nation, Judaism is only a religion, the Arabs (whom they call Palestinians) are the ancient peoples of Israel, and that Jews have no right to the country.”
Lissak takes note of Jewish authors supporting the Palestinian narrative. Lissak recognizes and pays them some attention in two paragraphs in the preface, giving readers the option of pursuing oppositional positions on their own. That’s classy.
One Jewish State
Lissak wants to be clear that Israel belongs to the Jews. The Palestinians are not a people, nor are they the oldest inhabitants. She argues the Arabs trickled into Israel over centuries. Arabs only came in waves “from the last decade of the nineteenth century up to 1914 seeking work due to the economic development of the land by the Zionist movement and the Christian organizations.” Lissak argues “The Jews were the majority ethnic group in (Jerusalem) for over a thousand years, from the tenth century BCE until 70 CE.”
History curated by others and compiled by Lissak proves in her mind that Palestinian claims of historical rights are fatuous. Jews have been nationalists since Biblical times. Jews prayed as displaced persons for 2,000 years for a return to their national homeland.
Add to her line of thinking how Zionism replaced nationalism with patriotism. Mix-in Jews became willing to sacrifice their child soldiers for the good of the state. This is a recipe for making the case for a Jewish state.
It’s Really A Civil War
Lissak’s detailed collection of books and documents proving how few and later Muslim Arabs immigrated to Israel is an excellent effort using confirmation bias to prove the Jews deserve the state on this Land. But for me, Lissak makes clear the Israel-Palestinian conflict is a civil war. It is more akin to North and South Vietnam, North and South Korea, and Christians and Buddhists in China and Asia-Pacific. The IDF fights the Palestinians like the conflict is leftovers from when Arab armies invaded Israel. That’s why Israel’s images of soldiers invading cities and refugee camps, being attacked by fist-wielding children, and outgunning stone-throwers make the news more than on-the-ground antisemitism.
The Muslim Arabs settled in the Land and grew to see themselves not as Syrians or Saudis or Emirates but as Palestinians. Nationalism bloomed for the Jews. The ruling by Jews after 1948 fed the Palestinian national movement and Israel holding territory captured in 1967 inspired a sense of Arab as well as Jewish patriotism. The existence of one or two states and the boundaries of those states must be settled diplomatically or both Jews and Muslims will continue sacrificing their children. This is a war between two nations.
So far, the Israelis are winning by making the Palestinians bleed more than the Jews. But Jews seem to be tiring: almost 14% of the population lives overseas and fewer young Jews are entering the army combat units. Others are hoping politicians spouting extremist views will heavily influence the new government and drive out the Palestinians. Nationalism and patriotism are a straitjacket for political debate underpinned by misinformation and confirmation bias.