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The New Morality: Palestinian Statehood – OpEd

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n the wake of an Israeli government- initiated report presenting Israel’s legal rights in Judea and Samaria, opponents of settlements argue that the issue is not about Israel’s legal and historic rights, but about “morality.” I assume that means supporting “Palestinian self-determination,” “ending the occupation” and establishing a second Arab Palestinian state west of the Jordan River.

Anything which inhibits this goal, therefore, is considered “immoral,” including Jews living in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem, aka “occupied Palestinian territories (OPT).” “Justice for Palestinians,” aka “the Palestinian right of return” is also hyped as a moral obligation.

The accusation is that Israel/Jews have stolen land and occupy Palestinian territory. Theft is a criminal and hence immoral act. If that is true, however, due to Israel’s victory in the Six Day War in 1967 this would also apply to areas Israel acquired in the 1948-49 war.

Israeli–Palestinian Conflict: Central Israel next to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Israeli–Palestinian Conflict: Central Israel next to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

While this involves legal disputes, moral arguments focus on Israel’s denial and abuse of human and civil rights. Even if Israel’s legal claims were justified, it is charged with violating “international humanitarian law” and stepped over a moral line, according to organizations like the ICRC.

As TAU Prof. Chaim Gans wrote in A Just Zionism; on the morality of the Jewish state, (OU P, 2008), it is a “moral duty… not to undermine the partition plan of 1947,” “there were significant justifications for the Arabs’ opposition to Jews’ return to the Land of Israel,” “Jews have a special moral obligation to understand [it],” and Jews caused “considerable injustice to the Arabs.”

Accordingly, not only is Israel unable to survive without a Palestinian state, it should not.

This turns Arab political aspirations into a moral crusade. Just as Zionism legitimizes a Jewish state, Palestinianism justifies another Arab state, regardless of clear and present dangers. Jewish guilt trades for Arab victimization, terrorism and incitement.

On what ethical principles, however, is this “morality” based? Is Palestinian statehood and self-determination a moral right regardless of its purpose and content? Does it trump genuine legal and historical claims? According to demographic arguments, Israel should not control the lives of millions of Arabs living in Judea and Samaria – or, for that matter, anywhere. That seems reasonable.

A mutually agreed upon solution, therefore, was provided in the Oslo Accords and subsequent agreements in which the area was divided into zones: Areas A and B, which comprised all major Arab population centers and most towns, were given to the PA; nearly all Arab Palestinians live under Palestinian Authority control. Area C, in which over 350,000 Jews live along with an estimated several tens of thousands of Arabs, remained under Israeli control. Core issues like settlements, refugees and eastern Jerusalem were left for “final status negotiations.”

Since most Arab communities are separated geographically under this arrangement, and building in Jewish communities (settlements) continues, it is argued, Israel still “illegally occupies” the entire area, thus preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state – which raises the moral/ethical issue.

Palestinians and their supporters argue that they are entitled to self-determination as much as Jews.

That would seem to mean a “two state solution,” “two states for two peoples.” Here, however, “moral” arguments break down.

Muslim/Arab/Palestinian leaders refuse to accept Israel’s right to exist. Jihadist Islamists control the Gaza Strip and are poised to take over West Bank areas. Hezbollah threatens Israel from southern Lebanon. Every Israeli withdrawal ostensibly to advance the “peace process” has been a strategic failure. Surrounded by hostile Arab countries in turmoil and civil war, Israel’s survival depends on its ability to defend itself. That too is a moral issue.

Moral argument for Palestinian self-determination and statehood, therefore, compete with moral arguments for Israel’s existence. If the moralists are correct, Israel’s crime was not in winning the war against Arab aggression in 1967, but its survival and victory in 1949.

A recent example of how post- Zionist moralists assert their agenda appeared in a civics textbook written under Adar Cohen’s direction for the Education Ministry. In one passage the author writes that there is a contradiction between Israel’s definition as a Jewish state and its obligation to give equal rights to all of its citizens. “The establishment of Israel in 1948 turned the Arabs in the territory of Palestine-Israel from a majority into a minority.” Cohen was charged with “unprofessionalism” and denied tenure.

AS LONG as Palestinians are unwilling to renounce their intent to destroy Israel, and reject reciprocity, why should Israel continue to make concessions? Opponents of settlements have led us into the trap of believing that creating another Arab Palestinian state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza will satisfy Arab demands for Israel’s elimination.

Using “moral” arguments, moreover, masks an even more confused belief that Israel and Jews are guilty for alleged “crimes against the Palestinian people” when the State of Israel was established, the ensuing war and dislocation, Arab refugees, and the failures of Palestinianism.

The UN and the media transformed the image of the PLO from a terrorist organization into a “national liberation movement” and a moral imperative.

“One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter” and “justice for Palestinians” became incantations of moral sophistry.

Arguments for a Palestinian state should be made on the merits of the idea, not on guilt, apologies for Israel’s existence and scorn for Jews who live “over the Green Line.”

Fear-mongering by some Diaspora-minded Jews about how the international community might react to the assertion of Jewish claims and rights is shameful not only because it denies the truth of these claims, but because it causes baseless hatred and needless suffering to other Jews.

“Post-Zionism” is the moral argument against Zionism. Uber-moralists who oppose the Levy Report by offering moral flicks instead of serious legal arguments ignore reality and undermine the purpose, ethos and sovereignty of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel.

This article appeared at The Jerusalem Post and is reprinted with permission

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Moshe Dann

Moshe Dann is a writer and journalist living in Israel.

One thought on “The New Morality: Palestinian Statehood – OpEd

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    August 14, 2012 at 12:55 pm
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    Absolute nonsense. Most Palestinians accept, even if only pragmatically, that Israel will exist and will not undertake violent means to change that. To say that many might, after a peace deal, seek compensation for their lands taken is another matter. But they are due it after a land theft like 48 and 67.

    I found the role reversal here so absurd and one-sided that it is laughable. It is the Israeli state which uses armies and police and its sophisticated diplomatic corps to hold down and prevent recognition for a Palestinian state, and regularly murders or otherwise silences people in the territories who call for it. With tanks, secret jails, snipers, and gestapo informants. All to achieve the Israeli lebensraum. Yet you will say that the fringe jihadists are the opponents to peace because they use violence and don’t recognize the other side’s right to exist. As if the Israeli mainstream does not do precisely the same thing.

    I do not care if there is one state which affords no preference on the basis of ethnicity or religion or two states with self-determination. But at a minimum, any intelligent person realizes that the Israelis are just as much as stumbling block to peace and violent and tempered by nationalist/sectarian/racist sentiments as anyone else. Anyone who is paying attention knows that both sides are imperfect, with good and bad people on both sides, but that Israel, because of its greater power and because of its proactive stance and manipulations, has been a bigger barrier than the Palestinians have been to peace (except to the extent that the Palestinians not giving up their land for nothing is considered a barrier to peace).

    Israel is an apartheid state as South Africa was. It can reform and become a welcome member of the international community, like South Africa is. But first de Kle . . . erm . . . Netanyahu . . . must go.

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