My April 27 post featured a dialogue with my Israeli friend David Melman. Here’s his latest response, below. (Now we’ve officially begun a series!)
I’ll post a response to his response shortly.
Although we do have some agreement in regards to dire need to improve the desperate humanitarian condition in Gaza, it appears that we indeed have some very large gaps in our understanding of the fundamental issues.
Historically, as you stated, it is easy to understand the position of the Palestinian community and why they opposed Jewish settlement and the Zionist goal of establishing a sovereign national Jewish homeland. (I would add that some parts of the Palestinian leadership went beyond this basic opposition to the establishment of a Jewish state, as demonstrated by Haj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem, who was anti-Semitic and aligned with Nazi Germany.)
While you clearly empathize with the motivating factors for Palestinian/Arab resistance to a sovereign national Jewish homeland, it is less clear that you identify with:
1) The basic right of the Jewish people to a national homeland in Israel that is on par with the Palestinian right for statehood
2) The extremely desperate situation that existed for the Jewish people and the Yishuv during this period, given the need to provide a home for the tens of thousands of holocaust survivors from Europe.
Although the 1947 UN partition plan was problematic from the Yishuv perspective due to its lack of territorial continuity, nonetheless the Yishuv rejoiced and accepted the plan as the best course to lead to the establishment of a Jewish state. The Arab/Palestinian side flatly rejected it. After the UN partition plan was approved, violence ensued, initiated by both sides. Although some outright atrocities were committed by Jews such as Deir Yassin, it is important to note that these acts were condemned by the mainstream Jewish leadership. After Ben Gurion declared the independence of the state of Israel on May 14 1948, the armies of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria invaded Israel.
Was the post partition-plan violence and subsequent War of Independence a war of survival for the Jewish state as I claimed, or could it have been avoided as you questioned? Given the extreme Palestinian/Arab opposition to a Jewish state, short of abandoning the immediate goal of creating a Jewish state, I don’t see how it could have been avoided.
But I’m not an historian, and I’m sure you have “facts” to counter my “facts”. But Brant, what really disturbs me is that I sense you are questioning whether the creation of a Jewish state in a territory with an indigenous Palestinian population is justified, given that inevitably, conflict would ensue.
My response is a resounding “yes”. We, the Jewish people, also have a historic, religious, and cultural attachment to the land and right to our national homeland. Israel has absorbed Jews seeking to return to their homeland from the ashes of Europe, from Arab countries, Ethiopia, the FSU, America, etc. This is why Lori and I have chosen to make Aliyah, and why we send our children to serve in the army to defend our right to live here.
I recommend reading Saul Singer’s “Stop Palestinian denial of Jewish peoplehood” (http://www.bitterlemons.org/issue/isr2.php). I agree with his contention that a fundamental obstacle to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today “is not just the glorification of terrorism on the Palestinian side, it is the denial of Jewish peoplehood, of Jewish history and of any legitimate Jewish connection to any part of Israel.”
Now this does not mean I support disproportionate force in Gaza causing unnecessary suffering, discrimination against Israeli Palestinians, Jewish settlement in the territories, etc. We need to constantly work toward an accommodation with the Palestinians which I hope will someday lead toward the establishment of an independent Palestinian state living peacefully by our side. As I wrote in my previous letter, there is a consensus in Israel for a 2-state solution. But this dream must be shared by both sides, to become a reality.