The One and Only Argument
From the Midrash:
[There are] three places [about] which the nations of the world cannot oppress Israel, saying, “You have them stolen in your hands”. They are these: the cave of Machpelah, the Temple and Joseph’s Tomb.
The cave of Machpelah, as it is written: “And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron; and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver […]” (Genesis 23:16)
The Temple, as it is written: “So David gave to Ornan for the place […] shekels of gold […]” (Chronicles I 21:25)
Joseph’s Tomb, as it is said: “And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in the parcel of ground which Jacob bought […]” (Joshua 24:32)
Bereshit Rabbah 79:7
Our dear sister Melanie Phillips has lately posted three diary entries appealing for Israel’s legitimacy (read that again: appealing for Israel’s legitimacy!) from the point of view of international law: The war against Israel (14), from May 22, 2007; Occupation? No, legal entitlement, from May 23, 2007; and Israel and international law. These are truly great posts, bringing out the best in ammunition against those who haul the state of Israel to the court of international law to defend itself there. I agree with her that those documents should be disseminated as widely as possible. However, I am a Torah-based realist rather than an “incorrigible optimist” (her words in the first link), so I have little hope that that would sway world opinion to our favor en masse.
I have read far too many Daily Kos Israel/“Palestine” diaries to be in the dark as to the reactions of those who hate us. Regularly in those diaries, Jewish and non-Jewish posters and commenters standing up for Israel in the court of international law have appealed to similar documents. May HaShem bless them all! But the counter-arguments have been just as regular, and they are these:
- No one, be it a colonial empire like Britain or an international organization like the United Nation, had the right to give the lands of one nation (the Jews) to another (the “Palestinians”). (Those who idolize the UN say about the 1947 Partition Plan that it was the UN’s single great mistake.)
- The few lands that the Zionist settlers had bought from the Arabs until 1947 do not make for the dispossession of 1947–9.
“Is there a thing whereof it is said: ‘See, this is new’?”, says King Solomon (Ecclestiastes 1:10). In the above midrash we see our sages conducting an experiment—giving a nod to human (now “international”) law: the Cave of Machpelah, the Temple and Joseph’s Tomb belong to us according to human law, for they are bought territories. How has the experiment fared? What has become of those places now?
The cave of Machpelah now serves as a Muslim mosque, where Jews wishing to visit Sarah’s tomb do so at their great peril; the Temple is covered by a golden dome of Islamic denial of Jewish history; and Joseph’s Tomb, having for long been “historically revised” to be a Muslim sheikh’s mausoleum, is now in ruins, destroyed by the Muslims when given it as the first territory of their “Palestinian Authority” (oxymoron), just as the synagogues and l’havdil greenhouses of Gaza were destroyed once they were given those lands.
So what happened to our sages’ phrasing, “Cannot oppress Israel”? Were they naïve? Perish the thought. Do we not all know of the “can” of permission, the “can” of justice and moral right? “After I took you to the movies yesterday, you can’t steal from the cookie jar”—this is the “can’t” of the World of Ought, not that of the World of Is. The kid is clearly physically capable of illicitly sneaking to the cookie jar, opening it and taking a few of the cookies. The mother meant to say that it was not just, not right, not fitting, that the kid do so after such a favor as she had done to him the day before. So too goes for the Muslims who desecrated the Cave of Machpelah, the Temple and Joseph’s Tomb: it is not their physical capability to desecrate those sites that our sages denied, but their being morally justified in doing so.
This is the small morsel of appeal to international law our sages have given to the accusers of Israel. This is the test of justice, the test to check if they are truly beholden to international law, or if they only use it as a club to beat the nation of Israel with, to be discarded when no longer serving that purpose. And they have failed! Failed! Totally failed! Just like the Daily Kos anti-Israel diarists and commenters who, after a barrage of appeals against Israel in the court of international law, all of a sudden tread that same international law underfoot when one of the pro-Israel diarists or commenters uses it to appeal for Israel.
That is where I disagree with my beloved sister Melanie Phillips: “The vilification of Israel is a prejudice which is not susceptible to reason” (from the first link again), the point with which she begs to differ, is exactly that which I hold. There are those who can be swayed by the appeals for Israel from the standpoint of international law, but they are of the type of the evenhanded posters on Daily Kos, not of the type of the obsessive Israel-bashers there, those who refer to all Islamic terrorism (and not just against Israel) as “blowback”.
Jew-hatred is HaShem’s institution for keeping His nation separate from the others and close to Him. In order to refute that proposition, bromides such as “I’m NOT anti-Semitic! Criticism of Israel’s policies does not equal anti-Semitism!” will not do; it is necessary to refute the truth of the Torah for that, and mere denial won’t fly here any more than did the refusal of the inquisitors to look inside Galileo’s telescope. “A fanatic is one who won’t change his mind and won’t change the subject”, said Winston Churchill; the obsession the world has with Israel (rather than with countless true instances of injustice, oppression, apartheid and human rights violations), and the world’s unwillingness to think any good of Israel, to yield to any of the arguments for Israel’s favor, bespeaks fanaticism, not something that can be remedied by a handful of reasoned debates and appeal to human sensibilities and international law. Are the pundits of today any wiser than the writer of Bereshit Rabbah? No way that can be so. Therefore, do not put your trust in reasoning with our haters.
I have never seen anyone change his position by virtue of the preponderance of the evidence; if you show me someone who appears to have done so, I will show you someone who was already on the way to changing his position, and the presented evidence was just the final nudge he needed in order to do so, to rationalize it. In truth, conversion does not consist in going where the evidence leads, but in a change of heart first, which then leads to “fresh evaluation of the evidence”, or in more honest language: rationalization.
It is not a total waste of time; HaShem bless Melanie Phillips and all others who provide people with the nudge they need to cross the river onto the other side. However, I do not delude myself that mere arguments can change the situation of the world to our favor; there is too much of the error of, “My power and the might of my hand” (Deuteronomy 8:17) in this way of thinking. It denies G-d’s control over this whole state of affairs, the fact that with Him it began and that by His hand it will end. Those who hate us will not be turned by any argument; they will die in their obstinacy, G-d will destroy them all in the end, through the descendant of King David, who wrote:
1 A Song, a Psalm of Asaph.
2 O God, keep not Thou silence; hold not Thy peace, and be not still, O God.
3 For, lo, Thine enemies are in an uproar; and they that hate Thee have lifted up the head.
4 They hold crafty converse against Thy people, and take counsel against Thy treasured ones.
5 They have said: ‘Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.’
6 For they have consulted together with one consent; against Thee do they make a covenant;
7 The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites; Moab, and the Hagrites;
8 Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek; Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre;
9 Assyria also is joined with them; they have been an arm to the children of Lot. Selah
10 Do Thou unto them as unto Midian; as to Sisera, as to Jabin, at the brook Kishon;
11 Who were destroyed at En-dor; they became as dung for the earth.
12 Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb, and like Zebah and Zalmunna all their princes;
13 Who said: ‘Let us take to ourselves in possession the habitations of God.’
14 O my God, make them like the whirling dust; as stubble before the wind.
15 As the fire that burneth the forest, and as the flame that setteth the mountains ablaze;
16 So pursue them with Thy tempest, and affright them with Thy storm.
17 Fill their faces with shame; that they may seek Thy name, O LORD.
18 Let them be ashamed and affrighted for ever; yea, let them be abashed and perish;
19 That they may know that it is Thou alone whose name is the LORD,
the Most High over all the earth.
The gentleness and human sensibility exemplified by the midrash with which I started the post has not been reciprocated. Very well: it will be King David’s way instead. That is inevitable; but may it be favorable to HaShem Yitbarach, by virtue of Bnei Yisrael’s return to the Torah that is happening as we speak, to bring us David’s seed speedily in our days, amen and amen.