Monday, August 5, 2013

Our Right to the Land

Our Right to the Land

Dror Eydar

The Talmud, in its instructions for telling the Passover story at the Seder, says we should begin with shame and end with praise.

1. First, the shame. The appointment of a new Bank of Israel governor has turned into a drawn-out saga, and this is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's fault. After the Jacob Frenkel scandal, he should have assigned more than just one person to do a background check on the next appointee. There are hunters lying in ambush who will do anything to disrupt the government's proper functioning. The appointees are not seasoned politicians; they have thinner skin. From the outset the prime minister should have backed up Frenkel and announced that the stupid duty-free "expose" was nothing more than fodder for gossip tabloids and not a serious obstacle to his appointment. Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein also bears partial responsibility for self-righteously cooperating with the foolishness surrounding Frenkel's appointment.

In any case, once Frenkel withdrew from the fray, the government should have conducted an extremely thorough background check on the next candidate, much more so than the hasty investigation it did into Leo Leiderman.

Leiderman's withdrawal is understandable. The malicious rumors that circulated were a preview of the hell he was about to go through. Even if his name was cleared in the end, his reputation would have been torn to shreds. The unbearable ease with which decent candidates for high public office are accused of things requires us to think systematically about how to deal with the issue. No sane person in a high position in the private sector will want to get close to this time bomb. Someone could always dig up a problematic detail from his past, which even if it doesn't disqualify him, will humiliate him and his family. Who needs that?

2. And now from shame to praise. We all felt pride at Netanyahu's response in the Knesset last week to MK Jamal Zahalka (National Democratic Assembly) who repeated the well-worn mantra of Arab MKs (Ahmad Tibi of Ra'am-Ta'al excels at it) that "we were here before you and we will be here after you."

The prime minister asked for permission to speak and said succinctly, "The first part of your statement is not true. And the second part will not happen."

Zahalka's remarks stem from a broader line of argument which claims that the Jews have no history in their land, that the Temple never stood on the Temple Mount, and that Zionism is a colonialist and racist movement whose goal is to disinherit the "real owners" of the land.

These lies have gained traction internationally because Israel mainly makes security arguments when it talks about the danger of a Palestinian state in the mountains of Judea and Samaria. While these security arguments are true, as evidenced by the Gaza Strip with its thousands of rockets, that does not stop the European Union and BDS movement from moving forward with sanctions against Israel. The reason for this is that we have attenuated our claims that have to do with the justice of our right to the land.

Every diplomatic statement, press conference and political speech needs to emphasize, first and foremost, the historical, religious and moral rights of the Jews to their land. Mr. President of the United States of America, do you believe in the Bible? Do you believe in the promise of this land to the Jewish people?  Almost 2,000 years before Islam came to this world, when the forefathers of MKs Zahalka and Tibi were worshipping idols in the Hijaz desert, our own forefathers were walking here and beginning to practice monotheism.

One thousand six hundred years before Islam, we had a kingdom and Temple in Jerusalem. Twice we were destroyed and exiled, and twice we came back home. Four hundred years before the advent of Islam, the Romans changed the name of Judea to Palestine, after the coastal nation known as the Philistines, who had disappeared hundreds of years previously. The Romans sought to erase the connection between the Jews and their land. Now Arabs of the region call themselves Palestinians and say, "We were here before you." This lie must be exposed at every opportunity. Telling this truth is also our chance at achieving true peace.