The Jewish people do not have a right to the land of Israel merely because of history. If Jews can claim that this is our land because we were here two thousand years ago, an Arab could claim the land based on the fact that his family has been here for 700 consecutive years. One can assume that the Arab claim would be much more legitimate. What would happen if the Arabs could prove they were here before us? Would that give them the right to the land? Would all these people claiming the Jews have a historical right suddenly say the land actually belongs to the Arabs? Obviously they would not. As a matter of fact, there is no such thing as a historical claim to a land. What historical right do Americans have over their territory? What historical right do the Arabs have over most of the places they live in the Middle East? The reality is that there are only two strong claims that we have over this land, and those reasons are either religious or practical.
The first claim we have is a religious claim. G-D gave the land to the Jewish people. It says so clearly in the Torah. G-D created the heavens and the earth and only He has a right to decide whose land is whose. This land was not empty of people; there were several nations that lived here before us (and if they have descendants, do they have a historical right to the land?). He commanded us to take it and as the Jewish people it is our duty to carry out G-Ds will. This logic applies to Jews. Non-Jews follow different religions and sometimes different deities. Many in the West have abandoned religion altogether. For these reason a non-Jews cannot be expected to accept this logic.
For the non-Jews I use a practical justification, based on facts in the physical world. We are here, we are strong enough to control the land, and therefore it is ours. Might equals right. In reality, this is all that matters. This is the same claim that the “white man” has on America, and the same claim the Arabs have over the majority of the countries they live in. This is the reason we call the Turkish city Istanbul, instead of calling it the Greek city of Constantinople. This is the reason all of North Africa is Muslim when it was previously Christian. They conquered it by force. We offered peace. The Arabs decided they were above the UN and chose war. Israel won those wars. Israel has the military might to maintain a civilization on the land based on its culture and values. This is how the world works, and this is how the world has always worked.
These explanations may not be good enough for the world, but I do not care much about the world. I am not a diplomat. My grandparents are holocaust survivors. Due to this, I was raised to believe that the world is an inherently hostile place for the Jewish people. From birth, I heard that the world always has and always will hate Jews. Although I do not believe this to as be true in America, much of my life experience confirmed everything I was taught. Even in America things seem to be getting much worse. (I want to point out to any non-Jew who may be reading this article that many Jewish people (including me) don’t see a difference between anti-Israeli and anti-Semitism). I see the widespread anti-Israel sentiment as the unbroken continuation of the world blaming the Jews for all its problems, as it has done for thousands of years. Based on this, I don’t see any real need for a morality-based public diplomacy. The way I see it, the world will hate us anyway, and therefore I will make sure they know that we are strong and are not to be messed with.
The issue here is with the young, modern American Jew. He is secular and generally liberal. He is a firm believer in modern-day Western morality which does not allow him to agree with anything stated above. He views religion as archaic and everything that is wrong with the world, and definitely not something that could be used to justify a country. He is a pacifist who is disgusted by the notion that might equals right. Even deeper than that, he rejects this tribal/nationalistic mindset that I and many in Israel have. He shares the dream of John Lennon. He either doesn’t see the world as hostile to Jews or feels it’s a problem to be solved through dialogue. He does not view anti-Israel and anti-Jewish as the same thing and thinks much of the criticism against Israel is justified.
American Jews still relate to Israel in some form or fashion. They went on their Birthright trips and experienced a real connection to the land and people. The problem is that they don’t know what to make of this. They are too western, liberal, and secular to use any of my arguments to justify Israel to their friends or even themselves. They will likely continue to resort to historical rights and Zionist talking points (democracy, Arabs in the Knesset, gay rights, hi-tech). All of these arguments are inherently flawed. It will be very difficult for any American Jew who doesn’t speak Hebrew to claim historical rights to Israel over an Arab who claims to have been there since time immemorial. That’s because they can’t trace their history back to Israel. Zionist talking points are equally useless when an Arab is accusing us of stealing land and genocide. This is why American Jews will continue to lose the ideological struggle on college campuses as well as inside their liberal circles.
In the end, archaeology convinces no one of our claim. Not our enemies and not ourselves. "Historical rights" mean nothing to people. Young Jewish Americans must find a deeper connection to their Jewish roots or they will intermarry and assimilate. In order for this to happen something must change, and the Reform and Conservative forms of Judaism are nothing more than paths to assimilation.
When justifying ourselves to non-Jews, our message must be one of strength. Many in Israel believe that Arabs only understand force. I believe that is only half true, because this rule applies to all people. Every country’s people only understand force. We can pretend to be advanced all we want, but muscle (and money) is the true international language. They will never love us for our unsurpassed morality, and there is nothing we can do to control that. However, we can control how they decide to act based on those sentiments. As I said before, I am not a diplomat.