There You Go Again

End the occupation! My initial reaction to these words is quite simple, the Palestinians should cease their occupation of Jewish owned land. However, I am not that naive. My senses have been overloaded with hearing this statement.  The calls for ending the occupation are from misguided and misinformed individuals who maintain Israel is guilty of occupying land belonging to Palestinians. During the presidential debates in 1980 President Ronald Reagan repeatedly said “there you go again.”  How true his words ring today.

It seems only half the story is ever shared.  Israel is always portrayed as the bad guy, the aggressor. Truth be told, the Palestinians never had a state, land or country. The Land of Israel was given to the Jewish People by Divine decree and will. Yes, the Jewish People were exiled by God from Israel, but ownership was never denied or given away.

Oddly, calls for Israel’s destruction are met with a deafening silence. Just this week, Fathi Hammad, a Hamas Cabinet minister until 2014, called for Palestinians throughout the world to kill Jews.  The sad silence of the can only be translated to mean, Jews should die for what they have done to the Palestinians.     The world at large is under the mistaken assumption Israel is the bad guy, the evil doer. The world is led to believe the Jews “stole” land from the Palestinians (sic). However, the accusations of stealing land are not new.  The first Rashi of the Torah tells us we will always be accused of taking the land of Israel away from others.

However, in Parshat Balak we see a powerful idea.  We learn:

וַיַּרְא בָּלָק בֶּן צִפּוֹר אֵת כָּל אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה יִשְׂרָאֵל לָאֱמֹרִי:

And Balak the son of Tzippur saw all that the Israel did to the Emorites’

Rabbi A. Scheinbaum in Peninim on the Torah points out though Balak saw many of the miracles performed by God on behalf of the Jewish people, he ignored the message. He disregarded the fact Hashem was performing the wondrous deed.  Instead Balak zeroed in on “what the Israel did to the Emorites.” It was a war crime, look at how many Emorites were killed by the Children of Israel!  Balak discounted the fact the Emorites met the Jewish people in force with the intention of inflicting bodily harm.  The actions of the Emorites were not immoral, rather the Jewish people protecting themselves and, in the process, killing many Emorites was morally wrong. For Balak this was reality, the real “war crime.”

Regrettably, the mistaken perceptions in Parshat Balak are still present today.  We can only look forward to the day when the world opens its eyes and sees events through the lens of truth and not through the lens of bias or hatred. When Israel takes action, it is in response to an attack or danger.

About the Author
Evan S. Shore has lived in Syracuse for thirty years as the Rabbi of Shaarei Torah Orthodox Congregation of Syracuse. He received smicha from Rabbi Isaac Elchanon Theological Seminary, a division of Yeshiva University.
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