Chag Sameach – Happy Holiday!
Today is Yom Haatzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. It’s been sixty-four years of war and conflict and sixty-four years of growth and innovation.
I take a lot of crap about my unrepentant Zionism. Yesterday I sent a fairly bland email out to my own Humanistic congregation in which I celebrated Israel’s accomplishments. Last night our entire congregation received responses about how humanists should not be “flag-waving” for Israel and all about the many, many “abuses” of the “occupation.” As if humanists were all required to be lock-step radical leftists. Or to deny reality.
In fact, I believe that being a humanist means approaching every situation with radical honesty.
I am fully prepared to criticize the actions of Israeli governments and groups. I’ve written dozens of posts about the harm caused by the Israeli extreme right. What I am not interested in pursuing is a tendentious condemnation Israel’s defense policies.
Part of approaching a subject with radical honesty is putting situations in their appropriate context. So here is just one of the many examples of this context.
On June 19, 1967 – just two weeks after the Six-Day Way – Israel’s unity government, which included Menachem Begin, voted to return all of the captured territories in exchange for peace and recognition. Remember the three “no’s”? This is from the Khartoum Agreement, passed by the Arab League on September 1, 1967:
The Arab Heads of State have agreed to unite their political efforts at the international and diplomatic level to eliminate the effects of the aggression and to ensure the withdrawal of the aggressive Israeli forces from the Arab lands which have been occupied since the aggression of June 5. This will be done within the framework of the main principles by which the Arab States abide, namely, no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it, [emphasis mine] and insistence on the rights of the Palestinian people in their own country.
And by the way, the “insistence on the rights of the Palestinian people” was not a reference to the newly acquired territory, but to pre-1967 Israel.
From there, things just went further downhill. The same Arab world that demonstrated less than no interest in creating a Palestinian state in those same territories during the period of 1948-1967 now turned them into the centerpiece of their continued demonization of Israel.
There was a time when, teary eyed, I applauded the signing of the Oslo Accords, believing that the Palestinians wanted the same thing that the majority of Israelis do. Even after the horrors of the Second Intifada – a blast of merciless violence that erupted in response to an Israeli offer to return most of those territories – I was among the supporters of the evacuation from Gaza. I believed that, given a chance at real self-determination, the Palestinians could create something wonderful. And once again, they did not.
I know that Israel isn’t perfect and I’m not engaging in apologetics. But Israel is an overwhelming success, built in the context of hateful hostility from within and without.
On Yom Haatzmaut I celebrate that success.
Next week I’ll be there and I’ll try to post a bit of what I see.