Thursday, October 22, 2015

Back to basics – a lesson on Israel’s independence

Harry and Jeanette sightseeing in Israel, 1972

My dad always followed events in Israel, and he practiced what he preached: He read, listened to, watched, and analyzed every news source possible. When it came to Israel, Harry spoke with authority. In 2011, at 88 years old, he wrote this article for his synagogue newsletter. 

At the end of the War of Independence in 1948, when Israel’s neighbors had tried unsuccessfully to wipe the new country off the map, the parties to the conflict, Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, signed an armistice agreement with Israel that set up interim demarcation lines pending the establishment of permanent borders to be negotiated. These lines were not based on any geographic formation or demographic consideration. They simply marked where the respective forces were deployed when the cease-fire was declared by the UN Security Council Resolution 62 on November 16, 1948. The lines were drawn on the map that accompanied the Armistice Agreement with a green marker pen, so it became known as the “Green Line”.

Let’s be clear about this. The Security Council stressed the temporary nature of the armistice lines and that permanent peace would necessitate establishing permanent borders that would be different from the armistice lines. Permanent borders were never established because the Arabs steadfastly refused to negotiate. So the armistice lines remained in effect until the “Six Day War” of 1967, when the Arabs once again tried to wipe Israel off the map.

This time, the Arabs lost everything they had gained in the 1948 war—and then some, including the entire West Bank and Jerusalem. Yet Israel, it has been said, is the only country in history which, having won a war started against it, has to sue for peace. The Arabs, on the other hand, having lost three major wars against Israel, are now pursuing their goal of eradicating Israel by means other than war. 

A new phrase has now entered the vocabulary—delegitimization. So, while declaring that Israel is an illegitimate state, thrust upon the world by the colonial powers and other such nonsense, the Arabs are now talking of establishing a Palestinian state using the 1967 borders, ignoring the fact that there never were any 1967 borders, and even the temporary armistice lines of 1948 were nullified by the war they started and lost in 1967. Forgotten, too, is the fact that they could have had another state by accepting the UN Partition Plan in 1948, as the Israelis did. They could also have had another state several times over the past sixty-two years but chose not to do so, and there is no reason to take seriously any unilateral declaration of statehood now.

Meanwhile, a revolutionary fervor is sweeping through the Arab countries of the Middle East, exposing the hypocrisy of those who have been claiming all these years that the root of terror and unrest is the unresolved conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. What the Arabs want is what peoples everywhere want—freedom from their oppressors. If I may paraphrase Winnie the Pooh—they have met the enemy and they is them.

When my parents left to vacation in Israel in 1972, I got a ride from my New Jersey college to the NYC airport to bid them farewell. (Imagine traveling in a suit and tie these days!) At home they played Israeli music, and these classics became two of my favorites: Yerushalayim Shel Zahav and Erev Shel Shoshanim 

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