Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Case for Israel... in spite of all it's done lately...

It is difficult to support Israel these days. The little nation has long since lost its underdog status. It is not a valiant collection of socialist cooperatives, fending off the armies of three kingdoms and assorted feudal principalities. It is the militarily dominant power of its immediate region, swaggering with confidence that it doesn't have to offer its neighbors anything. Like any power acting with such arrogance, it will eventually come to a long fall, just as Mubarak and Qaddafi did. But there are reasons it is worth saving.

Approximately eight million people live in Israel, a majority of them Jewish. One can argue about whether they should be there in the first place. That argument doesn't have any clear-cut resolution. Anyway, there is no feasible place to ship them off to. It is a little like Argentina's historical claim to the Falkland Islands. The people living on the islands are not longing for liberation; they are British by descent and culture. The living descendants of the one-time Argentine occupants have made other lives for themselves for many generations.

The Israelis are there. They do not have family roots or estates to return to when they get tired of being in the Middle East, as French and British estate holders in the Caribbean islands did. Since there are those who would like to dominate them or push them out, even exterminate them, they have a right to self-defence.

The Jewish population of Israel is no longer dominated by European immigrants. A large portion are immigrants from North Africa, the Tigris-Euphrates valley, and other places where well established Jewish populations had lived for many centuries. An unfortunate side effect of the creation of Israel is that these Jewish communities became persona non grata to their neighbors, who were mostly, although not entirely, Muslim, and somewhat Arab, although Berbers and Chaldeans are not Arabs.

King Abdullah of Jordan, in his 1947 address to the people of the United States, asserted that the long-established Jewish communities in the Arabic-speaking countries had no interest in the project of European Jews who wished to settle in Palestine. He said these Jewish communities had an honored and respected place where they were. Perhaps so. If that place had continued to be honored, the argument for Israel might be a bit more precarious. But it was not. Those Jews were forced to flee to Israel, where their descendants now live.

Unless all their former homelands welcome them with sincere open arms and restore their property to them, this counts in favor of leaving Israel be. The claim of Arabs forced out of their homes by Israeli occupation is at least partly balanced by the fact that the land of Israel is providing a home to Jews forced out of their homes by Arabic-speaking people.

The United Nations voted in 1947 to partition the former British Mandate of Palestine. This may not have been the best solution, but it is the solution the world voted for. Perhaps the territory should not have been a British Mandate in the first place -- anyone who has watched the movie "Lawrence of Arabia" can see injustice in this decision. But by 1947, that was a moot point. It had been a Mandate, the Mandate was ending, a large Jewish population was there, and the territory was partitioned.

But that partition, which is the legal basis for Israel to exist as a nation, was a partition, not a transfer of the entire territory. Israel is the size and shape it is today, not because of the partition boundary, but because various Arab armies elected to challenge the partition militarily. They lost. Fortunes of war. The land that can reasonably be considered the territory of a Palestinian state is all the territory of the former British Mandate that was not Israel when the war was settled in 1948.

If Israel cares about its own survival, more than enjoying the next few years in a state of indifferent comfort, it should be facilitating the development of a peaceful, prosperous Palestinian state in that territory, principally, the West Bank and Gaza. There is no basis in either justice or international law to push the Jews into the sea. Neither is there any basis in justice or international law to keep the rest of the former British Mandate of Palestine in a state of limbo, semi-occupied by the Israeli Defense Forces, semi-autonomous, and incapable of long-term development or investment.

Israel remains to this day a heavily subsidized entity. It needs to learn to cut the apron strings, and live by its own means. It needs to stop relying on its history as a tail that can wag the dog of international power, no matter how irresponsible the policies of its own government. But when the dust settles, Israel should still be on the map. If Israel doesn't wise up in a hurry, perhaps it will not be. That would be a shame.

1 comment:

Bartender Cabbie said...

I don't think that the United States will let Israel fall. If for no other reason, it is a friendly nation situated on strategic ground.