A few days ago, Marc Goldberg wrote a TOI blog entitled “You’re the Reason BDS is Winning!” In it, he asks a series of rhetorical questions about Israel and its place in the world. Mr. Goldberg, I’d like to address some of your notions:
No, I don’t think BDS is the big threat against Israel. I think it is the newest symptom of people who use their anti-Israel stance to thinly veil their antisemitism. I think that it is a very popular fad that will soon be exposed for the bigoted movement that it is. I think it will ultimately fail. I think a bigger threat to Israel is the divisiveness amongst ourselves. I think that there are Jews who are too quick to throw other Jews under the bus just so the almighty international community will deign to tolerate us. Not to like us, mind you. Just tolerate us.
I can understand why the world is so disproportionately focused on our settlement expansion. It’s because the idea of a triumphant Jew is uncomfortable for most of the world. Everyone got so used to the submissive, obedient Jew we’d been throughout our long exile that they have trouble seeing us assert our own national rights. It’s similar to how the post-Civil War south had trouble seeing newly-freed slaves acting like white folk. So instead of racist epithets like “uppity nigger,” we get calls of “imperialist occupier.” But the sentiment is the same. Those who criticize us for building on our own land do so because they think we should “know our place.” Well, our place is no longer at the mercy of the whims of other nations. Just as African-Americans boldly sat at segregated counters and rode segregated busses despite white objections, and even despite resistance from the government, we’ll continue to assert our rights despite international objections and even despite international law. Racism in the U.S. didn’t end with the Civil War, and didn’t even end with the civil rights movement; it’s still around today. Similarly, antisemitism didn’t end with WWII, nor with the establishment of Israel; it’s still around. But I’ll be damned if that’ll stop us from standing up for ourselves and our homeland.
No, I don’t think that BDS is getting stronger due to settlement expansion, for the same reason that I don’t think rape is on the rise due to women wearing sexy clothes. Are you really saying we’re asking for it? That if we change our behavior, our enemies would leave us alone? If only we would comply with those who openly call for our destruction, they might relent and tolerate our existence? How dare you victim-blame like that? I find that question offensive.
No, I don’t think the settlements are a negative mark on our beautiful country; I think we have been conditioned to think so. Before Cindy Crawford became a supermodel, many girls were conditioned to believe that birthmarks were ugly. Before Bill Gates made it big, computer-savvy people were conditioned to see themselves as socially inferior nerds. Before “plus size” models were popular, women were conditioned to be ashamed of their natural curves. When we build in our ancestral homeland, we are asserting our national and historic rights. That is far from a negative mark. That is a source of pride. This is our land, and no amount of international or local propaganda will ever make me ashamed of making it thrive.
No, I don’t think writing pieces like this strengthen BDS sentiments, just as I don’t think a piece on racial equality would strengthen the sentiments of a member of the KKK. The hatred is there, regardless of what I write or don’t write. But you seem to imply that I should keep myself quiet so as not to strengthen BDSers. The idea that I can’t express my national pride for fear of arousing the ire of my opponents is absurd. Should Americans in the 1940s have stifled their national pride for fear of encouraging the Japanese? How could you possibly expect people to keep their opinions to themselves out of fear of emboldening their opponents? Again, that is a mentality more suited to a subservient vassal, not a free people who are proud and unafraid to stand up for themselves. Perhaps to prove my point even more clearly, your article will not galvanize right-wing Jews in their beliefs; and perhaps more importantly, the idea that your notions are offensive to me is not cause for me to demand you stop espousing them.
I do agree that the Palestinians highlighted in the media are not necessarily representative of the whole of Palestinian society. But the question I have for you is, why do you assume I didn’t? What does this straw-man non-sequitur have to do with settlements? You presume to know how an entire segment of Israeli population thinks? How arrogant! People who live in Judea and Samaria are not a monolithic group that can be lumped together into one category or another. We are a diverse spectrum of people with varying ideas and political notions. Just as I would be wrong to assume that every single resident of Tel Aviv is a gay Peace Now activist who eats nothing but ham sandwiches as they dance at a club on the beach every Friday night, you are wrong to assume that every Jew in Judea and Samaria is a gun-toting, Arab-hating right-wing fanatic.
I don’t wonder why the Palestinians hate us so much. If I were losing a fight for almost 50 years, I would also hate the winning side. Anyone who wonders why the Palestinians hate us is extremely naive. I do wonder, however, why Israeli Arabs self-identify as Palestinians and also hate us. According to your theory, any Arab with equal rights (as Israeli Arabs have) and not living under “occupation” (as Israeli Arabs aren’t) should be content to live under Israeli rule. Yet so many Israeli Arabs rally to the cause that “Palestine will be free,” and just so you don’t think it’s only the territories, they preface it by specifying “from the river to the sea.” Could it be that they have a problem with all of Israel, not just the settlements?
I agree that Mayor Nir Barkat was mistaken when he essentially begged Washington to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Not because Washington is justified in ignoring our claim as long as we “occupy” our ancestral heartland of Judea and Samaria. Rather, because no one should beg for recognition of something that’s already theirs by right. To paraphrase former prime minister Menachem Begin, Jerusalem was the capital of the Jewish people thousands of years before anyone ever heard of Washington. We are a sovereign nation with a democratically elected representative government which unified the eastern half of Jerusalem with the western half in 1967, annexed that territory, and codified that annexation as law in 1980. We do not need anyone else’s permission to declare our own capital. If other countries want to put their embassies in Tel Aviv, or Ramat Aviv, or Ramat Gan, or Gan Garoo, let them. But our capital is Jerusalem regardless of what the rest of the world will or will not recognize.
This “little piece of dirt” which, as you accurately noted, is cherished by many of your countrymen will not ensure the end of the of the Jewish national project, as you gloomily predict. This “little piece of dirt” will ensure our very survival. Not only because of its advantage of high ground, which you so easily dismiss (despite the fact that modern tacticians still prize higher ground as a necessary element to security). It guarantees our national survival because it has thousands of years of our history which you also dismiss as incidental. Because without that “little piece of dirt,” what claim do you have to Tel Aviv? Without it, all the claims of land-grabbing begin to ring true. Without it, maybe we are foreign colonizers, just as our enemies accuse. Only when we cherish this “little piece of dirt” can we justifiably claim the rest of Israel as our home. Only when we hold our heritage dear can we justify the sacrifices we’ve made to stay here, terrible and costly though they have been.
People don’t join BDS because they’re against racism; they join because they’re anti-Israel. They join because they don’t recognize the right of the Jewish people to have a home. If you think it’s only about the settlements, you’re fooling yourself. Their de facto battle cry makes clear their intentions: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” That includes Tel Aviv. That includes Haifa. That includes Jerusalem, even the western side.
I support settlement, and I’ll tell you the truth. It’s not that Jews must live where Jews once lived, but it’s only right that Jews may live there. If we gave up that territory, Palestinian leaders have already gone on record as saying that Jews will not be permitted to live there. Is it fair that we should be denied the option of living in the heart of our people’s history? Is it fair that the birthplace of the Jewish people should be off-limits to its descendants? Also, how can BDS supporters claim to champion equal rights for all when they’re fighting the cause of such open bigotry? No Jews allowed? Imagine if the situation was reversed and Jews decided that no Muslims could live in various parts of Saudi Arabia. Or if we demanded that they divide Mecca and give us half. How absurd would that situation be? Yet some among us tolerate the reverse here.
I agree that BDS and Breaking the Silence are not the real threat to Israel’s future. And it certainly isn’t me. It’s not even you. It is the divisiveness between me and you. If I could rewrite your piece’s headline, it would read “We’re the Reason BDS is Winning.” It’s the fact that we see each other as enemies when we should be relying on one another for support. We should both be striving to build up and enrich this one little sliver of the world that Jews can call home. That includes building homes, even in places that others claim as their own. I will live in Judea so that you can live in Tel Aviv. I will raise my family in the bright flare of conflict so that you can enjoy your family in the shade we provide.
I will fight for you. Will you fight for me?
If so, we can beat BDS together. We can beat Breaking the Silence together. We can beat anything together. If we help one another, if we treat each other as brothers instead of as enemies, there will never be any more threats to Israel’s future.