Mira Sucharov’s May 4 column comparing Canada’s 150th anniversary to the 50th anniversary of Israel’s Six Day War was an eye opener, but not a positive one, for this reader at least.
Sucharov’s underlying belief system is evident in the last lines of her article, when she argues that Canadian Jews “have a particular moral role … in Israel (to) help extend dignity to those who are oppressed by those who claim to speak in our name.” I disagree. Those who make the security decisions in Israel do not speak “in our name.” Nor should they have to. If we have a moral obligation, it is not to defend those who attack our fellow Jews in Israel, but rather to support our Israeli brethren.
Israeli leaders make decisions as the duly elected members of the Knesset in the only democracy in the Middle East, and with the knowledge that one bad decision could lead the State of Israel to death and destruction. They make decisions knowing that, if push comes to shove, their own children, brothers, sisters and friends will put their lives on the line to protect Israel.
What kind of arrogance demands that we living here in Canada make moral judgments about the actions of our Jewish brethren in Israel? And where are Sucharov’s constructive suggestions to help move Israel forward?
Sucharov’s article makes a comparison between two anniversaries: the 150th anniversary of Canada’s founding and the 50th anniversary of Israel’s victory in 1967, in a defensive war. And while her suggestion that we recognize the role of the First Nations people in the founding of Canada is commendable, it bears no relationship to the anniversary of the Six Day War. It would have been better to compare it to the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, a British government statement that began a process that resulted in the rights to what was then Palestine being given to the Jewish People.
But, as with the First Nations peoples of Canada, the Jewish People are the indigenous people of the lands of Israel, from biblical times until the present day, reduced in numbers by various colonial masters at different points in history. The so-called occupied Palestinians are relatively recent entrants into those lands.
Moreover, the Jewish People, as a result of the San Remo Convention and various treaties that followed, have the right under international law to the lands. Despite those two factors – not to mention the fact that there is only one Jewish state, while there many Muslim countries, covering huge swaths of land – the Israelis have offered peace, signed peace treaties and withdrawn from areas that were conquered in defensive wars, in order to obtain peace.
Any fair-minded review of the modern history of Israel must acknowledge that the Israeli population has, for the majority of Israel’s history, been focused on making peace with their neighbours, often taking chances and making sacrifices, in order to do so. Indeed, the tens of thousands of mostly young Israelis who have lost their lives in many defensive wars, and to terrorism, ought to be an antidote to those wishing to stand on their moral high horses and judge our brothers and sisters in Israel.
It is true that the majority of Israelis would like to see the end of the need to “occupy” others. It drains the soul and the public purse – and it’s dangerous. But while some people criticize and pass judgment, the rest of us are left asking what they would do to end the Israeli presence in the West Bank, and still leave Israelis, young and old, in a position of relative security.
Where is their regard for the fact that there is a major power nearby that regularly calls for Israel’s destruction and is in the process of obtaining nuclear weapons? What about the fact that there are not one, but two powerful forces perched on Israel’s borders, Hezbollah and Hamas, each with significant armaments and effective fighting forces, and both effectively proxies of Iran?
And how would a Palestinian state populated by a generation taught to hate Israel and the Jews avoid falling into the hands of those many groups of Arabs (and Persians) who would like nothing better than to gain a foothold in Israel’s heartland, from which to attack the Jewish state and the Jewish People?
The editor of The CJN has defended his decision to run Sucharov’s piece, because he believes that such articles are an important means of fostering debate. In the case of this article, I disagree. But if that is the goal, let’s debate with some utility, and with some sensitivity for the lives of our fellow Jews in Israel. The idea of telling fellow Jews to put their lives, and the lives of their families, at risk, to avoid that which has been foisted on them by the inability of the Arab world to accept the Jewish state, is simply repugnant to the vast majority of the Jewish community.
The idea of telling fellow Jews to put their lives, and the lives of their families, at risk to avoid a situation foisted on them by the inability of the Arab world to accept the Jewish state is repugnant to the vast majority of the Jewish community.
If you wish to be constructively critical, please do so, because then you might be helpful. But condemnation, combined with a stated moral duty to speak out against our fellow Jews in Israel who are at risk, is neither helpful, nor does it carry any moral weight. The intransigence and consistent aggression of the Arab world has created this problem and left Israelis with only difficult choices in dealing with the territories. And those choices must be theirs to make, because it is their lives that are at risk. I may disagree with some of Israel’s tactics and strategies, but I believe we must support its right to make those difficult choices.
Michael Diamond is a consultant, entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist. He is involved extensively in Jewish and non-Jewish community life and sits on, or chairs, several boards and committees of a number of non-profit organizations.