Peter Buchsbaum

The State of Israel shall live

Israeli Flag on Masada (source: Jeff Nyveen, Flickr)

I leave for Israel on a JNF mission soon. So, I devoured the NY Times Sunday Op. ed about Israel being more of a fortress than a home now. The essay originally in Hebrew by an Israeli writer, David Grossman, broke the Times’ usual pattern of unsympathetic characterization of the Jewish State. Grossman writes that only Israel is confronted by a rhetoric of hatred that denies its right to exist. He asks why do so many ape the venom spewed by Iran and Hamas whose avowed purpose is the genocide of 6 million Israeli Jews.

As Grossman writes, Jews were almost obliterated during World War II. We are not settlers or colonials; we do not have another place to go, unlike the Europeans of the 19th century. We came to Israel not as invading settlers, but as refugees fleeing first from the Czars, and later from the relentless hatred of the Nazis, as well as antisemites and their kindred haters, for example, in interwar Poland. After 1948, over 800,000 of us were expelled from some of the same Arab nations, like Iran, that now wish to destroy Israel. We have a 4000-year history in the land, reflected in our Torah, prayers (such as on Pesach), and archaeological evidence. While we may not have always been fair to the Arabs in the land, we are not aliens in it.

In short, the characterization of Israel as a settler colonialist state is a lie and a slander. Those who propagate such claims should be compelled to listen to and sing ‘HaTikvah,’ written in the 1880s when we began to realize we would never be fully safe in Europe. They should also reflect on why the leaders of the 600,000 Arabs in pre-state Israel were unwilling to accept their unfortunate fellow Semites as neighbors.

The land, which now accommodates ten times as many people, was far from full. While countries today are urged to help refugees, in the late 1930s, when we most needed a refuge, the land was closed to us. Furthermore, it is often forgotten that the locals engaged in pogroms, such as the destruction of the old Jewish community in Hebron in the 1920s and riots against their Jewish neighbors in the late 1930s.

Israel, while not without flaws, upholds principles of religious freedom. The Muslim calls to prayer resonate across its cities, a stark contrast to the limited presence of synagogues in Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, Israel boasts a free press, holds elections, and actively involves its Arab minority in governance, as evidenced by their recent inclusion in the coalition and representation in the Supreme Court. Despite these achievements, detractors persist in calling for Israel’s destruction, with some even endorsing acts of violence.

As Grossman emphasizes, there must be dialogue among the peoples of the region. Other warring groups, such as the Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, and the races in South Africa, have had some success in overcoming decades of hatred and conflict. However, it is a fantasy to expect avowedly genocidal organizations like Hamas to be interested in a solution unless they change. There cannot be a solution with a group that murders, rapes, tortures, and kidnaps citizens of a neighboring country, then attempts to hide its genocidal intent by using its own fellow residents as human shields, and continues to advocate genocide.

In America, it is imperative that we continue to advocate for Israel as a haven for Jews and expose falsehoods about it. We have a responsibility to engage in this effort, not to blindly support the current Israeli government, but to promote truth and advocate for peaceful coexistence. As the Talmud teaches, while we may not be obligated to finish the task, we are not free to abandon it.

About the Author
Peter Buchsbaum is a graduate of Cornell University and Harvard Law School. He clerked for Joseph Weintraub, Chief Justice of NJ and served as a Judge of the NJ Superior Court from 2004 to 2013 after a career as prominent municipal land use lawyer. Peter has been listed in Who's Who in America for over 25 years. Today, he sits on the WUPJ North American Advisory Board and Co-chairs its Legacy Committee Chairs. He has been an officer of Har Sinai Temple in Pennington, NJ; and he is a co-founder of J-PLAN (the Jewish Pluralism Legal Action Network), which advocates for marriage equality in Israel.
Related Topics
Related Posts