November 27, 2019: This land is ours

Readers of the Jerusalem Post have their say.

Letters (photo credit: PIXABAY)
(photo credit: PIXABAY)
This land is ours
The article “A policy change of biblical proportions” (November 25) speaks of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent statement about the legality of the so-called settlements in Judea and Samaria, saying that US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December of 2017. Actually, the US formal recognition came 22 years earlier under the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995. Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama signed waivers to override the provisions of the act, notwithstanding promises made in their runs for president.
In the same issue, the article “Trump and Israel” quotes Democratic hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders (at the time the only Jewish candidate) as saying the settlements are illegal under international law. I’d like to ask Sanders which international law that would be. The 2012 Levy Report, commissioned by the Israeli government and based on a comprehensive review of international law, came to the opposite conclusion. One of the three-person committee, Alan Baker, a frequent Jerusalem Post contributor and former Israeli ambassador to Canada, writes frequent articles on the issue.
The writer of the above-mentioned piece, William S. Comanor, concludes with the warning that Israel should not tie itself so strongly to such a figure as Trump. Israel does not have too strong of a track record with prior recent administrations – think of the Oslo Accords, the concept of “land for peace,” and Obama’s script that the Palestinians are just folk like us.
None of these bore any fruit in Israel’s quest for peace.
I am astounded by the cavalier way that Gershon Baskin (“Declarations don’t legalize the illegal,” November 21), and others around the world, have dismiss US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s declaration that the civilian Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) are not illegal. That Pompeo stated that his declaration was the result of an in-depth review of the legal situation by a State Department task force is ignored.
The received wisdom that these settlements are illegal has been touted without serious review since president Jimmy Carter announced this in a 1978 speech.
The opinion that the settlements are illegal derives mainly from an interpretation of article 49 of the Geneva Convention IV that states that an occupying power may not settle its civilian population in occupied territory. However, these territories are not “occupied” by Israel, they were recaptured from Jordan in the defensive 1967 Six Day War and they were an integral part of the Palestine Mandate, of which under international law Israel is the only natural sovereign inheritor.
The guiding principle in international law, uti possidetis juris (as you possess under law), is used to define the borders of states. Applied in numerous cases globally, this principle, applies equally to the issue of Israel’s undefined borders. When Britain unilaterally awarded the area of Transjordan to the Emir Abdullah in 1922, they demarcated the administrative legal boundary of Western Palestine as the Jordan River.
Uti possidetis juris dictates recognition of the borders of Israel as coinciding with the borders of the Palestine Mandate as of 1948. This is a clear and definitive statement rendering the Israeli settlements legal and justifying Israel’s claims to the territories.
It is ironic that “Because it’s politically incorrect to be Jewish” (November 26) was published the same day as “The EU and settlement products” by Ambassador Giaufret. Giaufret should read it, so he won’t be offended when I tell him that his article and the EU court’s action only prove the point that Israel has been singled out for unfair and discriminatory treatment.
Many legal reasons have been outlined by experts in international law for why Israel towns and cities in the “West Bank” are not illegal settlements. These arguments obviously fall on his deaf ears. But, I ask the esteemed ambassador: Why do the recognized borders of Israel depend on the agreement of its enemies?
I’ll tell you why. Because deep down there is a belief that Jews should not be able to determine their own fate or make their own decisions that affect their welfare. To put it bluntly: we should be thankful that the Europeans agreed to give us a small sliver of land to live on – because they feel guilty about the Holocaust.
Mr. Ambassador, when you recognize that, you’ll see why you were whistling in the wind.
Chelm, South Africa
While I have great respect for South African Chief Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein and the energy and caring that he puts into his job and into The Shabbat Project (“South African Jews unite for Shabbat Project,” November 22), I was overwhelmed not with joy, but instead by sadness and disbelief. Was this Chelm?
I was born in South Africa, graduated there from medical school, was offered an excellent post as an intern, but left South Africa right afterwards because it was obvious then, in 1956, that there was no future for Jews there. Now, more than 60 years later, the remaining Jews are still fantasizing that they do have a future there?
The country is in a mess, like the rest of Africa. The murder rate there is among the highest in the world. Farmers’ fields and crops are being burned and their properties stolen. Living behind concrete walls like they do in Johannesburg will not save their lives or provide their children with a future.
How can they be so blind to their non-future? How can they allow their children to share their fantasies?
We need and want you here! True, we have many problems, but this is home and we have lots of room for many more millions. It is never easy to pack up and leave any home, but when you already have a homeland, created by a miracle, waiting for you. Please wake up and change your status like I did from an ex-South African to a brand new Israeli, an oleh hadash, and join your real family!
Yishuv Bar Yochai
Whacking Israel
Gil Troy is not alone in yearning for nuanced dialogue around Israel. Every New Israel Fund-affiliated rabbi as well as every clergy member who attended the J Street conference would join Troy in his desire for a complex, honest, and unafraid conversation about Israel’s future.
Unfortunately, for Jews in the US and Israel, the main barrier to a nuanced conversation about Israel is often stale and blurry arguments, like some that Troy raises in “Whacking Israel as a one-dimensional piñata isn’t ‘nuanced dialogue’” (November 14). His knee-jerk reaction confuses emotion and logic, mythic history and the real, contemporary political reality.
I respect Troy even as I disagree with him. It is the role of clergy to hold spiritual complexity and lead our communities with moral clarity and bravery. He is ostensibly arguing that the problem is that some American Jews are all too ready to “besmirch” Israel rather than rally around it. This, he says is an act of disloyalty. Nothing could be further from the truth.
It is, in fact, patriotic to argue that the current Israeli government needs to do more than just exist to demand our respect. It needs to build up, not cut down democratic institutions. Successive Netanyahu governments have attacked Israel’s judiciary, free press, civil society, human rights defenders, and a full one-fifth of Israeli society – its Arab citizens – whom he has demonized, incited against, and made to feel unsafe in the country they call home. Just last week Prime Minister Netanyahu called a minority government supported from the outside by Arab MKs an “existential threat.”
Most American Jews would prefer to rally around the Israelis, championed by the New Israel Fund, who are speaking out against racism and incitement and working to strengthen equality and democracy in Israel.
Cong. Beit Simchat Torah, NY
Gil Troy responds:
I agree with Rabbi Kleinbaum far more than we disagree. I keep calling for Netanyahu to resign, to stop Arab-bashing, to defend not demean Israeli democracy. I don’t fear constructive, or even angry, patriotic dissent.
Alas, the letter doesn’t respond to my column. I was essentially saying, just like we don’t shout fire in a crowded theater, Jewish patriots shouldn’t blindly bash Israel at J Street, or elsewhere, unless they wish to further rabble-rouse against Israel. Right-wing demagogues must take responsibility when they demonize minorities, then hooligans lash out; liberals must take responsibility when they exaggerate Israel’s faults then progressives jump ship.
Moreover, I didn’t use names – I hate when these fights get personal. Let’s keep it tonal, ideological, educational, and I appreciate Rabbi Kleinbaum’s tone. Also, please correct me if I misquoted anyone. The line that I quoted – and the entire attack was sweeping, categorical, lacking nuance. Where’s the acknowledgment of any complexity in this devastating denunciation: “It’s about despair, it’s about averting our eyes, it’s about misalignment of values…” American Jews are “constantly disappointed, experiencing a lot of shame about this place – always hoping that it will rise to the occasion, be something that it’s not.”
Finally, an anti-Zionist website didn’t quote my words delightedly, but hers. Perhaps it’s worth asking why – and wondering if your critique is so harsh, does it advance the fight for liberal values in Israel? I can prove to you how it advances the fight against Israel’s right to exist.
Happy to continue this needed dialogue in person.
Satmar vs. BDS
In “Selective barring” (November 24) it is suggested that since the Satmar Rebbe Zalman Teitelbaum was welcomed into Israel, although he and his “hassidim” are anti-Zionists who boycott the official government in Jerusalem, then others who support boycotting Israel should also be admitted.
This is a false analogy. The Satmar Rebbe has no plans to destroy the economy of Israel. On the contrary, his “hassidim” engage in charitable acts in our hospitals and elsewhere, and he came to distribute financial aid to poverty-stricken followers who do not take money from the state.
BDS supporters, on the other hand, are intent on destroying the economy of the state. Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib use their positions to speak out malevolently against Israel, and there is no reason to suppose that allowing them to enter the country would change their predetermined negative views.
Hamas swap shop
Regarding “Hamas: Israel refusing to pay the price for prisoner swap” (November 24), when are we ever going to learn?
After our previous colossal mistake with Gilad Schalit, when we freed terrorists serving life sentences – and only “dozens of the 1,027 prisoners released in that deal were rearrested by the IDF” – why are we even talking about releasing another 2,200 prisoners? With all due respect for family members who don’t mind offering 1,000+ terrorists for one child, is it really fair to save one person while virtually ensuring the murder of many others? With neighbors like ours, who understand only strength, our increasing weakness continues to empower them and make them bolder.
Why didn’t we treat one balloon missile as we treat one rocket? If we had clobbered the enemy for those first “innocent” balloons, the situation wouldn’t have gotten out of hand as it did, leaving us with huge swaths of destroyed land and much heartache trauma and psychological scars.
Bringing Ethiopian Jews home
“Israel’s Ethiopian community and the message of Israel” (November 24) gives a wrong impression of the rescue of Ethiopian Jewry.
Before Operation Moses, thousands of Ethiopian Jews were rescued and brought to Israel through the efforts of the American Association of Ethiopian Jews. This group of American Jews had an ongoing rescue program in defiance of the Jewish Agency.
Prof. Howard Lenhoff created and ran a volunteer group in the USA consisting of university students and professors who educated the Jewish people on these Jews, The AAEJ fought the Jewish Agency, organized demonstrations and also assisted in bringing these Ethiopian Jews to Israel in many different ways. It also taught the public who these Jews were and at the same time created a program for the education and absorption,
Nate Shapiro was a financial backer and he organized fund-raising. These two men were the real founders of this aliya, It was only after the negative feeling was changed that many groups joined. Among those rescued by AAEJ were the first future members of the Knesset and all kinds of changes came about.
I know this, as I was the volunteer director, invited by Emanuel Rackman, president of Bar-Ilan University.
Tel Aviv
I read with great interest the “Life after indictment” (November 25) letters. Our standing in the international community is very important, but it is not the only thing.
At home, I see one of the best and most user-orientated health services in the world on the point of collapse for various controllable reasons.
I see an education system that even at collegiate and university levels does not pay its teachers a salary that permits young men to enter the profession if they wish to provide reasonably for their families. The same education system requires parents to pay large sums for additional coaching, or for sending their children to independent schools if they wish them to get an adequate education, and, among other deficiencies, is unable to make any provision for special-needs children over Hanukkah.
I see a financial set-up that makes it virtually impossible for young couples to acquire their own homes, or even rent something suitable at a reasonable price.
I could continue, but will not, as all readers are able to supply their own examples.
Beit Zayit