Uri Pilichowski
Author, Educator and Father - Brother to All

Yossi Klein Halevi, ‘It is more important to be smart than correct’

This past weekend Yossi Klein Halevi wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal entitled, “Israelis, Palestinians and the Necessary Injustice of Partition.” I consider Yossi a mentor, and I was hesitant to read a mentor’s possible critique of what I believe to be true. Yet every word he wrote spoke to me; his words left his heart and entered mine. Yossi’s Israel is the Israel that I believe in. I cried as I read his eloquent essay. His Israel is the Israel I wish for and the peace he wrote about is the peace I desperately seek. After I shared his op-ed, my friends began to criticize. Their words made sense, many rang true. I still agree with Yossi, here’s why and my answer to their critiques.

There is an Israeli phrase, יותר חשוב להיות חכם ולא צודק, “It is more important to be smart than correct.” I had an Israeli boss who would drill this mantra into me and my coworkers. At every point of conflict between staff and clients, when we knew we were right, our boss would say, “You’re right, but ‘It is more important to be smart than correct.’”

Jews, Zionists, Israelis, are correct. We are in the right. The Jews have the longest claim to the land of Israel. Relative to the history of the land, Arabs are newcomers. There was no “Palestinian people” until a Jewish state was created. Palestinians have no legitimate claim to the land. Israelis treat Palestinians far better than their Arab brethren do. There is no partner for peace among the Palestinian people today, Oslo and the two state solution are dismissal failures, and any attempt at a solution today is ludicrous – and dangerous. Failed peace plans tend to bring more death and terror than no peace plans. While the Arabs harbor dreams of an ethnically cleansed Palestine from the River to the Sea, Israel has accepted 1.6 million Arab citizens into its Jewish state. I disagree with Yossi Klein Halevi’s statement, ‘Extricating ourselves from ruling over another people is a moral imperative.” When people refuse to obey the laws of the land, they forfeit their rights to self-determination.

Yet, Jewish people are being killed in Israel and have been for over 70 years. I don’t want to pay another shiva call to a terrorist victim’s family. I want our army to decrease in size and not have to defend against Palestinian terrorism. I thirst for peace. If peace means losing some of our land, then so be it. I fully agree with Yossi’s words, “I’m ready to trade parts of my homeland for a peace that would include recognition of Israel’s legitimacy and of the Jewish people’s indigenousness in this land.” It is here that I hear my former boss’s voice telling me, “It is more important to be smart than correct.” It is less important to me to keep all of the land, if by keeping it we’ll be losing lives over it.

I’m fully aware that by giving up land, I’ll be handing it to a people I don’t believe have a claim to it. I know I’ll be putting the Palestinian people in a worse situation, as their leaders have demonstrated their lack of ability to lead a functioning nation. I know that my literal neighbors and I would lose our homes and the community we’ve built and developed for forty years. I know I’ll be betraying the Zionist dream and the Torah command to settle the land. But, “It is more important to be smart than correct.”

Most importantly though, and it is here that I think that people misunderstood Yossi’s op-ed, I know there is no chance of a solution anytime soon. Like Yossi, I’m fully aware that “The hard reality is that Palestinians and Israelis are as far apart as we ever were. There is no basis of trust, let alone mutual recognition.” As long as Palestinian leaders teach hatred, worship terrorists as heroes, and refuse to negotiate, there is no chance of a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I am a proponent of the two state solution – in theory. I moved to this country wide eyed and hopeful. I tried befriending Palestinians. I joined left wing Pro-Peace groups to find my place in the peace movement. But I’ve become a peace pessimist. I was actually hopeful when the Gaza demonstrations were announced. Hamas calling for a peaceful protest could have been a new page for the Palestinians and the Israelis. But of course, chants of death to the Jews were heard, Molotov cocktails were thrown, bombs were set and terrorists tried breaching the border, etc. Violence broke out, and Palestinians returned to their mantra of “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free.” I’ll continue to pray for peace, but I’m not optimistic of seeing it in my lifetime. I certainly don’t advocate for a process that will fail in an attempt to bring it. I am a practical and rational man, and I will heed my boss’s advice, “It is more important to be smart than correct.”

About the Author
Rabbi Uri Pilichowski is an educator. As a teacher, author and speaker, he teaches Torah and Politics, where he specifically emphasizes rational thought and conceptual analysis.
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