The title of this post is a statement made by US Ambassador to Israel Richard H. Jones yesterday after touring several overcrowded Jerusalem neighborhoods. I pulled it from a Jerusalem Post article infuriatingly entitled, “US concerned over building in Jerusalem”.
Although not specifically stated in the article, such a tour should have caused any reasonably intelligent observer to reach the conclusion that ‘natural growth’ in and around Israel’s capital city is an internal issue and not something open to international debate. Yet the conclusion that the U.S. Ambassador reached was exactly the opposite. He decided that rather than allow natural urban sprawl, such as surrounds nearly every major city in the world, Israel must instead relocate its growing population to unspecified remote locales.
Well I have a few news flashes for His Excellency, Mr. Jones:
We’ve done enough moving thankyouverymuch. We’ve spent the last two millennia moving from one place to another, all the time trying not to give offense to our hosts and neighbors. Yet despite being an industrious, peaceful people that has enriched our hosts far beyond all proportion to our modest numbers, we’ve been systematically victimized, caged, enslaved, slaughtered, disenfranchised, outlawed and expelled more than any single people in recorded history. And … though we are (very) occasionally tolerated for short periods of time by progressive people like yourself… these periods of relative quiet are inevitably followed by more victimization.
Lather rinse repeat.
So guess what… now that we’ve finally managed to regain sovereignty over the only patch of land to which even your own family Bible gives us undisputed ownership, we’re done moving. Go sell your plan elsewhere.
To the east of us is a spanking new country called Jordan that was created out of whole cloth by the British Mandatory power (at our expense). Not only is more than three-quarters of that country’s population ethnically ‘Palestinian’, but there are huge, unused tracts of land east of the Jordan river that nobody is even looking at, much less fighting over. If you feel the burning need to find some suitable contiguous land to offer the poor Palestinians, why not start there?
But wait… I’m not done yet, there’s more!
To the west of us is a vast empty chunk of land called the Sinai peninsula that is nominally administered by Egypt, but is for all intents and purposes abandoned. While the interior of Sinai is largely un-arable desert, the long fertile Mediterranean coastline, up to and including the Gaza strip, is nearly unparalleled in potential to provide a crowded, downtrodden people with a spacious (and contiguous) future paradise. Why not try that?
Why are you demanding that Israel eviscerate herself to make room in her soft underbelly for a Palestinian state that will have no natural resources, little potential for development and above all, no chance for contiguity (at least so long as Israel remains stubbornly extant)?
Could it be because you know perfectly well that Jordan and Egypt won’t consider having a real or defacto Palestinian terror state stirring up discord and unrest in their midst? Could it be that it is much easier to bully little Israel into slitting open its belly and allowing an openly antagonistic and parasitic entity to metastasize inside her than to ask Jordan or Egypt to tolerate a restive and radical Palestinian entity on their flank?
Is Bush’s presidential legacy so all-encompassing important to you and the US State Department that you would rather work to establish a rudderless Palestinian terror state that will have one hand on the sword and the other on Israel’s Aorta, rather than force the countries who are severally and collectively responsible for causing and perpetuating the ‘Palestinian refugee problem’ to clean up their own mess?
For you as an American, the idea of moving has positive connotations which are enshrined in the concept of ‘Manifest Destiny’. This concept gave your intrepid (and mobile) fore-bearers the ‘right’ to all of north America despite the niggling issue of those Mexicans and Native Americans who were inconveniently ‘squatting’ there between the U.S.’s burgeoning population and the great Pacific Ocean. Even today, it is considered a foolish American who doesn’t flee his neighborhood at the first sign of trouble, or move his/her family across the country at the drop of an opportunity.
The very fact of your easy mobility seems to be a tremendous source of pride to most Americans, so you can’t imagine why these stubborn Jews (or Native Americans, for that matter) would show some small preference for one particular rocky plot of land over another. ‘What’s the big deal?’ you seem to be asking us. You’ve likely moved your family a dozen times for diplomatic postings around the world! So you’re probably wondering why it’s so hard for these stubborn Israelis to move 15 miles this way or 20 miles that way in the name of peace?’
The answer to that is that we no longer have to. We are done moving at other people’s whims. Our only reason for existence in this world is the stony soil on which we now stand. Zionism, a word that is considered to be a curse pretty much everywhere except within our borders, is the simple belief that after two thousand years of exile… after remaining faithful to our dream of one day returning… that this is the only place that is rightfully ours. The moment we entertain an alternative to our historic homeland our very right to exist becomes open to debate.
It may seem to you that after two thousand years of diligent practice, we Jews are a mobile, malleable entity whose primary skill-set consists of being able to pack a bag quickly and be ready to move on a moment’s notice. But I think you underestimate the strength of our historical connection to this land we were forced to leave at the point of a sword. I think you have mistaken our stated (and demonstrated) goal to live in peace with our neighbors for a willingness to hand our neighbors the keys to our father’s house.
Israel is routinely bludgeoned with a quote from the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ that states: “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country“. This simple statement is used by most to champion the ‘Palestinian refugees’ right of return.
However nobody, least of all our good friend the United States, seems willing to acknowledge that the provenance of the Jew’s right of return to his own country is far older, and better documented, than any other in history. Our origin in this land is not a matter of faith. It is indisputably recorded on the very stones beneath our feet… in the Bible that sits on your bookshelf… and even in the Koran! The Jewish people’s right of return to the land of Israel trumps the relatively modern claims made by this so-called Palestinian people that nobody ever heard of before the second half of the 20th century and whose name you will not find carved on a single stone!
Therefore, Mr. Jones, I must respectfully disagree with you. Sometimes people don’t have to move. Sometimes we need to stay exactly where we are… in the only place on earth that is rightfully and legally ours.
David Bogner, formerly of Fairfield, CT, lives in Efrat with his wife Zahava (nee Cheryl Pomeranz), and their children Ariella, Gilad and Yonah. Since moving to Israel in 2003 David has been working in Israel’s defense industry on International Marketing and Business Development. In his free time David keeps a blog (www.treppenwitz.com) and is an amateur beekeeper.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.