Jewish Settlements: A Chassidic Perspective

Modern Jewish Voice is canvassing Rabbi’s and community leaders on the issue of settlements to better understand the political and religious implications of Jewish life in the West Bank.  The following was authored by a Chassidic Rabbi who wishes to remain anonymous.

Here’s the answer in one line:

There is absolutely nothing wrong with Jews building in any part of the Land of Israel, including the eastern part of the land.

The idea of a peace process based on Israel giving away parts of it’s land should not exist in the first place, for the following six reasons:

1.       The land of Israel is a G-d given gift to every Jew. No one has the right to demand it from the Jews and no one has the right to give it away.

The first Rashi on the first verse of the entire Torah quotes a Midrash, which asks why the Torah begins with the account of the creation. Since it is taught that the Torah isn’t a history book but rather an instruction book, shouldn’t it have been more fitting for the Torah to begin with the laws pertaining to the fulfillment of the Mitzvos?

The Midrash’s answer is nothing short of prophetic. Rav Yitzchok explains in the Midrash that the reason the Torah begins with the account of creation is because if there comes a time when the nations of the world turn to the Jews and tell them that they are thieves because they conquered the land of Israel, we should respond that since the world was created by G-d (as related in the beginning of the Torah) He has the right to do with the land of Israel as He sees fit. Furthermore, G-d chose to gift it to the Jews, as recorded in the Torah. So the Jews are not thieves, they are merely inhabiting a land which is rightfully theirs.

2.       Trading land for peace does not save lives. One might say that Pikuach Nefesh (someone’s life is in danger) allows, and even demands, for going against the Torah.  Therefore, the government should be allowed to give away parts of its land if it would cause lives to be saved. The answer to that is; giving away land does not save lives, it takes lives!

3.       The land-for-peace process perpetuates violence. Look at the major explosion of terrorism that occurred since the peace process started. The Arabs always find another reason to demand more and more from Israel, themselves stymieing the peace process. When dealing with any other region, the world and the media fully understand that negotiating with terrorists only emboldens them and causes more violence. For example, no one is calling for the US to negotiate with the Taliban and give them a part of Afghanistan to make a country of their own, but for whatever reason, which deserves an entire discussion for itself, Israel is expected to negotiate with those who hate it and are bent on its complete destruction.

4.       Modern nations cannot afford to negotiate with terrorists. Israel is told that it can negotiate with Abbas because he (unlike Arafat, with whom Israel negotiated for over a decade) is genuinely interested in making peace. Under our “partner in peace” Abbas, public squares are named for suicide bombers; school children are taught that the Israeli government is bent on killing Palestinian children; the official state TV is filled with anti-Semitic propaganda; and under Palestinian law, a Palestinian who assists the Israelis in finding a terrorist operative is executed. Surely, this does not sound like a society interested in making peace with Israel. This attitude only ensures that future Palestinian generations will grow continuing to hate Israel.

The excuse Abbas gives as to why he allows this to happen is very telling. He says that if he would try to put an end to this hatred, he would lose the support of the people. You cannot make peace with a leader unless he has the backing of the people he represents. A leader only represents the people he was appointed to lead. If the populace does not seriously want peace, what is the point of coercing Israel to “make peace” with this leader.

5.       The Occupation is not the source of Palestinian-Israeli tensions. The Arabs have always claimed that the main obstacle to peace is Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank (the so called pre-1967 borders). Is this a legitimate argument?  Recent occurrences tell us not.  Israel completely withdrew from the Gaza Strip so that Palestinians could be autonomous and self ruling. Israel was answered not by peace but by tens of thousands of rockets raining down on the men, women and children of southern Israel. These rockets were fired from locations where once stood Israeli Synagogues and pre-schools. By Hamas’ own admission, Gush Katif is being used as a launching pad to fire missiles deeper into the center of Israel.

Tellingly, soon after the disengagement, the Palestinians overwhelmingly voted for Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist group, to govern them.

Similarly, the world now expects Israel to give up the West Bank, hence the outcry over the construction in the settlements, so that Palestinians can have their own state, not only in Gaza but also in the West Bank. History teaches us, however, that this experiment failed.

Let’s discuss for a moment the issue of the pre-1967 borders. Is the fact that Israel controlled Gaza and the West Bank really the root of the problem the Arab world has with Israel? Is that really where the unbelievable animosity the Arabs (and the majority of the world for that matter) have against Israel stems from?

I think not, look at the attitude of the Arabs towards the Jews before 1967.  In 1920, an Arab led pogrom in the Old City of Jerusalem killed five Jews and wounded over 200, while Jewish shops and Yeshivot were set ablaze. In Jaffa, in 1921, 47 Jews were murdered and almost 150 wounded.  Was that because of the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip?  A massacre in Hebron in 1929 resulted in the deaths of men, women and children – 67 in total. A massacre in Tiberias, in 1938, saw the passing of 19 Jews, 11 of them children. Was that because of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank?

6.       The Golan Heights, West Bank and Gaza were gained through defensive wars. When the UN voted to make Israel a state, she was attacked by five Arab armies who vowed to drive the Jews into the sea. During the Six-Day War, a war in which Israel fought for its very survival, Israel miraculously survived the invasion of three powerful Arab armies. That is when Israel received the Sinai, Gaza, West Bank and the Golan Heights. Prior to this war, Gaza belonged to Egypt and the West Bank to Jordan.

Israel must realize that the only way the Arabs will make peace with it, is if the root of their problem with Israel is resolved, and that is the Jewish presence in the Land of Israel. Unless the Israelis are willing to close up shop and move somewhere else, the Arabs will always find a reason to continue to hate the Jews.

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