By Marshal Blann
December 28, 2002

In Barry’s news release, he summarizes the importance of the Book of Exodus in part as an epic account of mankind redeemed from slavery, wherein mankind learns that God is a God of Freedom’. The book describes the hard life of the Jewish people in enslavement and of ultimately being led to freedom and the Promised Land by Moses. A lesson therein is of the importance to our people, and to any people of having a safe and secure homeland wherein they are masters of their own destiny, and may build the society of their choice.

Quoting from a weekly email from the Chicago Torah Network, “Moshe has accepted his mission to take the Jews out of Egypt to lead them to Mt. Sinai. Where they will receive the Torah, the Torah with which they will teach the world so much about the creator and about man, about morality and ethics….” What can be more important?

Quoting further, “Moshe went to the land of Midian. Some Midianite women came to the well with sheep. The shepherds chased them… Moshe saved them. Moshe sees some people being harassed. It may be putting himself at risk to get involved. But he does. Because he is a Jew. And a Jew should feel love and concern for every human being. Because Judaism teaches that every human being is created in the image of the Creator.”

So as Jews, we understand very well the need of a people to have a homeland, and our responsibility to seek justice for all of the Creator’s children.

I accepted the privilege of giving this presentation in order to give my own strong and biased viewpoint on an issue related to this principle. If it is offensive, I think that Barry may have a sign-up list for the next drush. Should you listen to my opinions? Probably not, I am inarticulate, not very bright, and except for the fact that I can speak complete sentences in English, might have been appointed President.

The lesson of our topic as underlining the importance of a secure homeland  leads me to the subject which so troubles me almost daily in the news, and I am sure troubles most of us – the continuing conflict between Israelis and their Palestinian brothers. I recognize that with a dozen of us here, there will be 18 opinions as to the causes and solutions. The facts are, that nearly every day brings wanton death, sorrow, and misery to the people on both halves of the circle of violence.

Mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, children, mourn the loss of loved ones whether they are innocent bystanders or combatants. It is a sad and depressing state of affairs, an on-going drama of fratricide.

There is a temptation to ask why the Palestinian people are  bent on such a wanton, insane course of action. If only they would control their own people, surely we would have peace in the region as in years before the uprisings began. Of course, these hostile actions are caused by but a tiny fraction of the population, most people wanting only life in a secure state, where they may be masters of their own destiny, and strive to provide a life and environment in which their children and grandchildren will each have the opportunity for an ever better life. Why then do some act in such an inhuman, violent fashion? To understand this – not condone, but understand – I must try to put myself in the position of an impressionable youth or young adult living in a typical Palestinian camp.

This youth has probably read that 50 plus years ago, the UN declared creation of a Jewish state, and of a Palestinian state. He is acutely aware of both the presence of the former, and absence of the latter. He is in the third generation of a people without a state, in a territory with massive unemployment and concentration camp conditions. Being unemployed, he is easy prey for those who would stir animosity toward the Jewish state. He sees with his own eyes that as each year goes by, more settlements are built or expanded, steadily reducing the possibility of a contiguous Homeland, and of the number of square kilometers which it might one day occupy. Extrapolation of the status quo is that one day, the number will be zero. After 3 generations, he sees no hope for a homeland, for a future family. He is very easy prey indeed for manipulation, if any is needed. He does not see that some of his people, encouraged by Arab states, have been trying to destroy the Jewish state for these 50 years. His options of protest, are very limited, should he feel strongly that 50 more years of ever decreasing territory available for a state, unemployment, life in limbo in a concentration camp atmosphere, is not satisfactory for himself, or children.

While we cannot condone the acts of violence, perhaps we can understand the frustration and sense of hopelessness which allows agitators to manipulate these frustrated youths.

The ‘settlements’ are an issue used to fan Palestinian/Arab emotions against Israel, and the US. I cannot find any way to justify this policy, were I asked to take the Israeli side in a debate. Nor could I find a reason as to why the Palestinian people should not have a state. These two problems give fodder to those who would fire the emotion of hate. Why have a people who should be heirs to the wisdom of Solomon, who should be first to recognize the need of a people to have a state, continue such a situation for so long? As Moshe defended the safety of the Midian women at the well as children of the Creator, must we not do the same for Palestinian brothers?

My one opinion, is that  Israel should announce a  timetable for removal of all settlements, and the immediate creation of a Palestinian state in all territories not occupied by settlements, the settlement territories to be added as they are dismantled. It should be announced to the Palestinian people that they are responsible for selecting their government, and its decision as to peaceful existence or continued conflict will be theirs alone. Remove the circular arguments used internationally that the violence results because the Palestinians are denied statehood, and that the lands that the UN declared as part of that homeland have been expropriated for Israeli expansion. Remove that red flag waved before the youths, and others as a tool to fan the flames of hate. It is a legitimate argument; let it be unilaterally and promptly taken off the table of debate. Let the circular argument be broken, and made transparent and linear. If then incursions are required for security, the circular argument of justification for the violence will at least have been removed.

I am sad that US policy has contributed to this state of affairs,and that this support seems to continue. Yes, we must defend the right of Israel to exist within the secure borders rightfully theirs. But no, we should not defend the expropriation of lands which were set aside at partition  to allow the same nurturing to another deserving people.

This hurts Israel by giving fodder for anti-Israel agitation, and it has hurt the US as well as an apparent accomplice. Let the circle of violence end; let Israel end the settlements, because it is the right thing to do. Let healing be given a chance for this long festering sore; let the wisdom of Solomon, not domestic politics, dictate the course of action.

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