Categorized | Middle East, Sharkansky_Ira, USA

Comparison test for those who criticize Israel

By Ira Sharkansky

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–The Jews are just like everyone else, but different.

Also Israel. The country of the Jews is like others, but different.
This note is provoked by comment from an otherwise rational friend that Israel’s real borders are the Jordan and the Mediterranean.
And his question about my description of Israeli Arabs. Was I also including Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza?
My guess is that he was imbibing from the same well as nutty leftists who assert that if Israel doesn’t reach an agreement with Palestinians, it will be left with a bi-national state from the Jordan to the sea, it’s practice of Apartheid will become even more apparent, and the world will intervene as in the case of South Africa.
All that is horsesh*t, as my saintly mother used to say.
There is no sign that any conceivable Israeli government would agree to expand the country’s borders to include substantial numbers of Palestinians. And the idea of including Palestinians without offering them citizenship would pass neither the Knesset nor the courts.
The reality is, perhaps, confused, or anomalous. But in that, Israel isn’t all that different from a number of other countries.
Our border with the West Bank is porous. We consider Jewish settlements part of Israel, but not the Palestinian areas that are autonomous, or nearly so. We intervene in behalf of our security, against the bad folks living there, when there is reason to believe that they have done or will do something nasty.
Often it’s in cooperation with Palestinian security services, against groups that are hostile to both of us.
Then there are the porous boundaries between Israel and Jews elsewhere.
Some on both sides of those lines want a closer relationship, with a capacity to intervene in one another’s decisions. And many Israelis and overseas Jews want to be left alone, without having to worry about their cousins.
You want a list of things that are anomalous elsewhere?
Readers will object that items noted below are different from Israel’s condition.
Of course. Differences can be found between any randomly selected pair of phenomena. But the similarities lie in conditions that don’t fit common notions of orderly states that demonstrate a minimum of concern for their residents.
Catalonia was prominent in recent headlines. Brexit is confusing the notion of Europe, along with separatist elements in several countries. Numerous Europeans feel that they do not belong in current governmental arrangements.
American Indian reservations aren’t far behind, along with African American ghetto dwellers, who qualify for Hobbes’ description of life that is “nasty, brutish and short.” And African Americans outside the ghettos who feel that they must dress better than White norms in a manner to avoid the attention of police.
There’s also how many millions of Mexicans illegal in the US, American industry in Mexico, and Donald Trump’s inability to build a wall between the countries.
Plus the disasters associated with US military interventions in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and where else? Is Niger now part of the American conception of its West Bank?
The classic laws of war, and the United Nations were created in a period when national armies sought to kill one another’s soldiers and seize one another’s territory.
Now terrorist groups are the concern, without national governments, but with patrons who supply money, munitions, and perhaps military advisers who fight alongside them.
Hezbollah appears to have morphed from a Shiite terrorist organization to something close to being the army and government of Lebanon.
Apartheid? Israeli Arabs mix with Jews in universities, hospitals, and the professional staffs of both. Primary and secondary education is, for the most part, but not entirely separate, with different languages of instruction. Most Arab students become fluent in Hebrew, and not enough Jews in Arabic. There are bilingual schools for Jews and Arabs who prefer them.
Palestinians live in another country, but not in their own state. Yet their standards of living and politics are somewhere in the range of most countries described as Third World.
Israeli Arabs travel freely in Palestine. Israeli Jews may risk a low cost shopping trip.
One hundred thousand West Bank Palestinians with permits enter Israel daily for work. Others come for specialized medical treatment, family visits, and prayer at al Aqsa. Unknown others come and leave illegally, most with little notice and no commotion.
Defense against those who intend violence is serious business, but it doesn’t preclude a decent life for Jews and Arabs (Palestinians and Israelis) who respect the rules.
If it isn’t normal, what is?
Unknown millions living illegally in the US, in fear of deportation and reluctant to demand a minimum wage for menial work? Or the parallel story of Muslims and Africans who’ve gotten to Europe but are a long way from social or economic integration?
Restive Scots, Quebecois, Catalans, Basques, Northern Italians and some Californians more or less unhappy at their political status?
Palestinians have managed to acquire more than the average concern for their situation, along with a greater than fair condemnation of Israel for what many claim is our responsibility.
Explanations need go no farther than the number of Muslim countries in international organizations, and the always fashionable slogans from the archives of anti-Semitism.
Those concerned about what to do should remember the cardinal rule of political morality: “Don’t make things worse.”
It’s also an appropriate lesson for Donald Trump and his care providers, leading figures in Catalonia and Madrid, as well as numerous other places bothered by unhappy folk.
At a level of greater detail, Israelis should continue to stand against nutty Jews from here and abroad who aspire to one Jewish country within the borders that God promised.
Their first lesson ought to be with the text of the Hebrew Bible, and learning that God was confused or duplicitous, in describing several versions of what was being promised.
The second lesson should be to learn, once again, that Jews have always lived among others, with all the problems and advantages of cultural and genetic mixing.
And we’ve managed to be successful. Crying on the way to the bank is part of the Jewish condition, along with self deprecating humor, cynicism, and an overt lack of certainty.
Those looking for our multiple intellectual roots can begin with the Books of Job and Ecclesiastes.
All else is history, including the good, bad, and simply problematic.

Sharkansksy is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University.  He may be contacted via [email protected]

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2017 San Diego Jewish World

One Response to “Comparison test for those who criticize Israel”

  1. Great, over all. But…

    You write we need to learn “that God was confused or duplicitous, in describing several versions of what was being promised”.

    I doubt that. In Genesis 25:5-6 it seems quite clear that after listing his progeny, of all his children, that this is crystal clear: “5 Now Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac; 6 but to the sons of his concubines, Abraham gave gifts while he was still living, and sent them away from his son Isaac eastward, to the land of the east.…”.

    The Jewish Women’s Archive, based on midrashim, has this: “In opposition to the view that the offspring of Keturah were the realization of the Lord’s promise to Abraham, another approach presents them as perpetually menacing Israel. The Rabbis championing this position emphasize that these offspring do not follow the spiritual way of Abraham; moreover, since they already received their inheritance from him, they are not entitled to make any further demands.” And they add this “The children of Keturah and of Ishmael did not receive Abraham’s blessing; the midrash stresses that this was an intentional decision on Abraham’s part. He said to himself: “If I bless Isaac now, I will also have to bless the children of Ishmael and of Keturah; but if I do not bless them, how will I be able to bless Isaac? Surely what He wants in His world will happen.” And so it happened that after Abraham’s death, God revealed Himself to Isaac and blessed him, as his father had intended to do (Gen. Rabbah 61:6).” And let’s quote the Quran, as Shaykh Palazzi does: “”Pharoah sought to scare them [the Israelites] out of the land [of Israel]: but We [Allah] drowned him [Pharoah] together with all who were with him. Then We [Allah] said to the Israelites: ‘Dwell in this land [the Land of Israel]. When the promise of the hereafter [End of Days] comes to be fulfilled, We [Allah] shall assemble you [the Israelites] all together [in the Land of Israel].”
    “We [Allah] have revealed the Qur’an with the truth, and with the truth it has come down. We have sent you [Muhammed] forth only to proclaim good news and to give warning.” [Qur’an, “Night Journey,” chapter 17:100-104]


    God wanted to give Avraham a double blessing, through Ishmael and through Isaac, and ordered that Ishmael’s descendants should live in the desert of Arabia and Isaac’s in Canaan.

    The Qur’an recognizes the Land of Israel as the heritage of the Jews and it explains that, before the Last Judgment, Jews will return to dwell there. This prophecy has already been fulfilled.”


Please help us defray the costs of providing this free service with your non-tax-deductible contribution in any amount

Most recent 100 posts


Follow this blog

Email address