*From the Archives March 2000

By Barry Allen

The Jews are in Israel because it is the ancestral home of their people. To call modern Israel a colonist regime is the simplistic propaganda her enemies resort to when they want to pander to the leftist sentiments of Western intellectuals. Colonists come from somewhere else (their original home), and take over another people’s land. That’s what the English and French did in North America, the Spanish and Portugese in South America, the Dutch and Germans in Africa, and so on. Israel is not like that. Jews have come back to their original home, a land from which they were expelled time and again by invading would-be colonists — Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Arab, Turk.

The establishment of the State of Israel by the UN in 1948 is one of the few really decent things to come out of the dismally disappointing twentieth century. It did not have to make refugees of the Arab population. They were offered a state of their own, on half of the territory, and they turned it down, calculating that they could expel the Jews by force and have all of Mandate Palestine for themselves. They were wrong. They lost the war they started. They tried again in 1967, and again in 1973, and lost each time.

Usually, when aggressor nations start wars and lose them, they accept defeat and negotiate a settlement. In the case of the Arab-Israeli conflict this familiar expectation is inexplicably suspended. Instead, the Arabs now use a cynical combination of terror and faithless negotiation to try to win everything they lost, three times over, from wars they started.

Even more inexplicable is the support this perfidious tactic wins from the world community. In the eyes of much of the world, Israel can do nothing right, and the Palestinians can do nothing wrong (or very bad). They are under occupation, so, of course, they may resort to terror and refuse to compromise in negotiations. The Israelis won wars they didn’t start, and have prospered and become faithful Western allies. So, of course, they must be in the wrong.

Palestinians have reasonable claims against Israel. If they would only press their reasonable claims, they could get a deal. Instead, they stick to the same uncompromising, maximalists demands that cost them their own state in 1939, 1948, and last summer. The present Palestinian leadership is either unable or unwilling to do what it takes to get a real agreement. All they know how to do is repeat the same old demands — demands, in effect, that the Jews abandon the land they defended in three wars, and turn it over to those who lost the wars they started.

Israel deserves the world’s support. Anyone who thinks a rock is not a lethal weapon should stand in an open place and be a slingshot target. Those outraged (from a comfortable distance) at fatalities when Israel Defense Forces encounter rock-throwing gangs (often shielding gunmen) should try, not just aiming for, but striking the legs and not the upper body of a running youth trying to throw a rock at their face. Those shocked that Israel should target known terrorists for preemptive liquidation probably don’t put their children on bulletproof school buses every morning in countries where terrorists deliberately target not just civilians but children on the way to or from school.

The tanks were loud last night. A lot of artillery falling on the Arab Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Jala. The morning newspaper carried a photograph of a distraught Arab woman standing amid the ruins of her blasted home. It is sickeningly sad. But it is simplistic, irresponsible, even morally offensive to blame Israel.

Why were the tanks firing? Because for five months that house and others have been sniper nests, firing on Jewish homes, and enforcing a reign of terror on the neighborhood across the valley. Is artillery a disproportionate response? Unfortunately, a stiffly-worded letter to Arafat would achieve no more than to lighten the mood in his Gaza office. What else, exactly, is Israel supposed to do? What would you want your government to do if the people across the street began to shoot into your living room every night, or snipping at your children as they boarded the bus? If their response to efforts at negotiation was to demand that you pack up and leave so they could have your house?

Tomorrow I leave Israel after a four month stay, traveling first to Egypt, then elsewhere in the Middle East. People here say I’m leaving at the right time. Almost everyone expects the situation to worsen, and soon. I would stay if I could. Since I can’t, I write this letter instead, to urge readers to press past the simplistic and often grossly one-sided media coverage of the intifada. Ask yourself whether Israel isn’t right to defend itself against terror. Ask what you would do if your children’s lives were on the line. And whether the Jews do not have as good a claim as anyone to return to their original home from the longest diaspora of refugees in the history of the world.

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