Lee Bender

The Peace Paradox of Israel

Since its re-establishment in 1948, Israel has sought to live in peace with both its Arab citizens and its Arab neighbors. Yet, there are several biblical injunctions that are seemingly in conflict with each other regarding Israel’s responsibilities to promote and seek peace, and protect itself from its enemies:

“Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey out of Egypt, how, undeterred by fear of God, he surprised you on the march, when you were famished and weary and cut down all the stragglers in your rear. Therefore, when the Lord your God grants you safety from all your enemies around you, in the land that the Lord your God is giving you as a hereditary portion, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!” Deuteronomy 25:17-19

“If someone is coming to kill you, rise against him and kill him first.” Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 72:1

You were slaves, treat strangers kindly:

“You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Exodus 23:9

“You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning.” Leviticus 19:13

“When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong.” Leviticus 19:33

“The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.” Leviticus 19:34

So, how to reconcile these instructions when Israel and the Jewish People have been dealing with Arabs in their midst who have declared an unending war on them and do not recognize their right to exist?
Those on the dovish-left generally emphasize the latter teachings regarding treatment of “strangers” as their primary argument for why the status quo is unacceptable and why Israel must immediately make peace with and territorial concessions to the Palestinian Arabs. These adherents always place the onus squarely on Israel, ignoring any responsibility on the part of the Arabs. It is the ultimate paternalistic argument and dangerously naïve.

Those on the hawkish-right generally emphasize Amalek and the classic Talmudic principle of self-defense. If there is homicidal intent, self-defense is not merely permitted, it is required. The sordid history of Arab pogroms, wars, and terrorism against Jews in Israel and elsewhere is self-evident.

Ultimately, the best Israel can do now is to manage the situation. Palestinian Arabs are not interested in true peace, and are clearly not ready nor prepared for it. They have brainwashed multiple generations– since the Oslo Accords in 1993 especially- and developed a culture of hatred, violence, demonization of Jews and delegitimization of Israel. The status quo is not unacceptable now – this is the best “peace” Israel can get now and for the foreseeable future. Israel must resist the pressure from the “peace-now-niks” for an instant “solution.” There simply is none.

Meanwhile, we must stop our insistence in the West that we know better than the Israelis as to the nature of their security issues and “what is best for them.” After all, they are a free and democratic nation. Instead, Israel must play the long game, and place the onus squarely on the Arabs to come forward with an open hand. The Arabs have rejected a state of their own within the Palestine Mandate living side by side with Israel six times since 1937, and continue to reject normalization and punish those who attempt to engage with Israelis.

So here is my suggestion: Let the Palestinian Arabs start by amending their charters (Fatah, PLO, Hamas) to remove the offensive provisions that call for the armed struggle and destruction of Israel, and the genocidal passages encouraging the murder of all Jews; cease engaging in terrorism and violence against Israelis; cease the teaching and preaching of hatred in their schools, mosques and media; cease naming streets, squares and stadiums for so-called “martyrs” who murder Jews; cease delegitimizing Israel in international forums and the UN; live up to their obligations under Oslo; affirmatively recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish People just as Israel has recognized the aspirations of the Palestinian Arabs — and then we can talk.

About the Author
Lee S. Bender co-authored a book, “Pressing Israel: Media Bias Exposed From A-Z” (Pavilion Press) with Jerome Verlin, and has been speaking about anti-Israel bias and activities to numerous schools, synagogues, churches and civic groups, and written dozens of articles published in local and national media. He is Co-President of the Zionist Organization of America-Greater Philadelphia District, a board member of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Philadelphia, Israel Advocacy Committee of Jewish Federation among other organizations. A former Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney, he has been in private practice as a trial attorney in Pennsylvania and New Jersey since 1995.