Is “ha’aretz” only a means to an end.

By Ted Belman

I once wrote The “occupation” is the solution, not the problem.

Now a fellow Canadian, Sheldon Schreter, who made aliyah takes the opposite view in Self-defense, not occupation

    In my January 30 op-ed in The Jerusalem Post, For the cause, the settlements must go, I contended that our settlements weaken rather than strengthen us by seriously eroding both our own and the world’s belief in the justice of our cause. That cause is asserting the right of the Jewish people to a sovereign state in their ancient homeland.

    In over 100 “talkbacks” on, letters to the editor, and some personal communications, my views were mostly attacked, though occasionally supported. Let me address some of the criticisms of my argument.

    Security and strategic depth are the most salient objections to any withdrawal from the West Bank. The continued shelling of Sderot following Israel’s exit from Gaza is regarded as the conclusive proof of the foolishness of any attempt to compromise with the Palestinians.

    Israel’s Right argues that standing pat on the West Bank is thus our safest, indeed our only course. Heavy Israeli presence on the ground, plus the security wall, have significantly reduced terrorist incidents – that is a fact.

    BUT THERE are three questions: How much of this is attributable to the settlements? Opposite the benefits, what are the costs? And can these benefits be achieved in any other way?

    The settlements are not a security asset; they are rather a liability, a drain on our military capability. They constitute a multiplicity of “soft” civilian targets which require enormous military resources to defend, resources which could be deployed much better elsewhere. We can achieve better anti-terrorism results without them.

    And the cost of maintaining them? The huge economic cost, at a time when Israel’s health, educational and welfare systems are all in massive disarray, is a topic deserving another article. Let us focus on the political cost and its implications.

    Jews and Israelis know that we cannot depend on the goodwill of the world to protect us, but neither can we survive for long without it. Those are the facts of of life. The struggle over public opinion is deadly serious for us. It is not a matter of “currying favor” with the gentiles, as some of our mindless patriots pretend. It is rather about winning, which we must do, in a world more interdependent and online than any in the history of the human race.

    THE STRATEGY of our enemies, pursued with ever-greater sophistication since 1967, is to portray Israel as another apartheid South Africa, doomed to the oblivion of other colonial regimes. Their narrative has made inroads among elites and opinion-molders – among academia, the media, religious movements (there are a lot more religious Americans than just Evangelicals), the international NGOs, trade unions and elsewhere. Among others, it has touched many younger Jews and helped distance them from Israel and their own Jewishness.

    For all these audiences, the central exhibits are precisely the settlements and Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian civilians. Compared to these, Israel’s struggle against its genocidal enemies is increasingly belittled, and its truthfulness cast into doubt.

    We often hear complaints about the failure of Israel’s public relations to counter this long-term campaign to destroy us. Whatever happened to our common sense? We can make a compelling case for self-defense, without apology, as the assertion of a natural human right. When we try to justify annexation, the game is lost before it has begun.

    Not only that: By subordinating our public relations to the cause of the settlements, we severely damage our own case for self-defense. This generates international political pressures which tie our hands and cripple our ability to fight terrorism effectively.

    What a boomerang! The settlements are a boon to our enemies, and harmful to us.

    BUT WON’T leaving them subject the rest of Israel to Sderot- like bombardment? This can be seriously minimized by a negotiated withdrawal with the appropriate security provisions, including surveillance, milestones, clear casus belli understandings and international guarantees.

    But you would have to be delusional to imagine that this removes all risk. Without doubt, a very strong self-defense capacity will be required for a long time, bolstered by an international climate in which we would be much freer to use it, if necessary.

    What best serves Israel’s long-term interests? The certainty of Israel’s increasing isolation and delegitimization as the inevitable cost of hanging on to the settlements, or the risks of cutting a deal with the Palestinian Authority, backed up by security arrangements on the ground and various international guarantees? That is the substantive national debate we need to have.

    Moreover, the real antidote to Palestinian terror is Palestinian economic development, which cannot happen when we have to maintain over 500 checkpoints on West Bank roads. Most of them are designed to protect the settlements rather than to interdict terrorism aimed at Israel.

    THIS ARGUMENT has related purely to concrete strategic considerations since that is what we must address in the present. But there is a moral dimension as well: Since 1948, defenselessness and powerlessness are no longer acceptable models for Jewish collective existence. But neither is power wielded without morality. This is first and foremost for our own sakes, because of who we are called upon to be, and because of the frightening consequences of neglecting that. Our self-determination is not negotiable, but it must be implemented without dispossessing our neighbors.

    The Land of Israel is critical for us, but it is still only the means to an end. The end is the liberation of the Jewish people from an intolerable human condition, and their creation of a just society. If we defile this Land by immoral behavior – so our prophets warned – it will surely cast us out. Its sacredness is not intrinsic, but conferred by our ethical actions. It is much less important for us to control Hebron than it is to deal justly with the widow, the orphan and the stranger.

Israel Medad in My Right Word takes issue and argues

    – the communities are part of Israel’s national, cultural, historical and religious ethos and that without that ethos, Israel will not be Israel but some Cannanit Hebrew-speaking state;

    – a withdrawal from the territories will bring with it an existential security threat;

    – no Arab is willing to settle for the continued existence of Israel in any border configuration and that after 1967+ boundaries, we will be forced to face demands for 1949, then 1947 and then – the right of return (but not necessarily in that order)

February 7, 2008 | 3 Comments »

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  1. Sheldon glad you are here with us , you seem to be a nice guy with a heart of gold,but it would be a big help and steo forward to jettison your Galut mentality ASAP. Educate youself learn what real Judaism is not the deformed and corrupted versions you bring from Canada!

    The Land of Israel is critical for us, but it is still only the means to an end. The end is the liberation of the Jewish people from an intolerable human condition, and their creation of a just society. If we defile this Land by immoral behavior – so our prophets warned – it will surely cast us out. Its sacredness is not intrinsic, but conferred by our ethical actions. It is much less important for us to control Hebron than it is to deal justly with the widow, the orphan and the stranger

    Lets start first with non religious positions you make in favor of giving up our Jewish heartland for:

    Better PR ?

    By subordinating our public relations to the cause of the settlements, we severely damage our own case for self-defense. This generates international political pressures which tie our hands and cripple our ability to fight terrorism effectivel

    Do you really believe what you are suggesting? The main legitimacy the IDF has in being in J & S is the settlements, Many if not most of the settlements are positioned in strategic places. This helps to combat terror not aid and abett it. where ever there are Jews the IDF must protect. Thus we control the highways and the byways, Intel gathering made easier, and it is preferable to fight them in their own backyards than have to hunt them down in Jerusalem, rather Nablous than in Haifa and TelAviv. The wall was put up for 2 main reasons 1st was the govt was at a loss as to what to do to prevent suicide bombers from coming into Israel and as a placebo for a batterd populous . But that was before DEFENSIVE SHIELD AND BEFORE THE SHABAK GOT A HANDLE ON THINGS WHICH TOOK OVER 2 YEARS . wHY 2 YEARS BECAUSE OF
    OSLO; WE VACATED OVER HALF OF j&s( WE JEWS CEASED CALLING IT THE WEST BANK). Your use of the term West Bank belies your political orientation. Lets play your game for a moment and Who do you think is going to pay the 150 to 299 billion dollars to move and rehouse the J &S population? The Sinai evacuation in 82 caused a recession here that lasted over ten years. What if a majority or even a minority of the half million Jews, whose Jewish soul you are so concerned about decide
    to take the money and run to Canada, live like lords and say you suckers look what you did for us, thanks, Or what if a large number of Jews want to stay even without Israeli protection renounce their citizenship and claim refugee or stateless status with UN? What if a small number want to fight it out against IDF? What will IDF soldiers do? Will it destroy the IDF as a fighting force, will it cause a civil war? will our economy stand up to this challenge? EASY TO SIT BACK AND THROUGH USELESS SUGGESTIONS TO THE WIND.

    Re your take on Jewish Law and morality? Boy you don’t have a clue do you. In Canada you must have belonger to reform or re constructionist sects. The following briefly outlines what Judaism says:

    The Centrality of the Land of Israel

    For purposes of clarity and source reference, it is required that authoritative Jewish texts be summoned to demonstrate the position stated above.

    The Rambam (Mimonides) writes:

    It is forbidden at all times to leave Eretz Yisrael for the Diaspora except: to study Torah; to marry; or to save [one’s property] from the gentiles [lit. the worshippers of the stars and signs]. [After accomplishing these ends,] one must return to Eretz Yisrael.
    Mishne Torah, Sefer Shoftim, The Laws of Kings and Their Wars, Chapter 5, Halakha 9.1

    Maimonides continues in the same halakha:

    Similarly, one may leave Eretz Yisrael to do business. However, it is forbidden [to leave with the intent] of settling permanently in the Diaspora unless the famine in [the land] is so severe that a dinar’s worth of wheat is sold at two dinars. When do these conditions apply? When one possesses financial resources and food is expensive. However, if food is inexpensive, but a person cannot find financial resources or employment and has no money available, he may leave and go to any place where he can find relief. Although it is permitted to leave [Eretz Yisrael] under these circumstances, it is not pious behavior. Behold, Mahlon and Kilyon were two of the great men of the generation [of Ruth] and they left [Eretz Yisrael] only out of great distress. Nevertheless, they were considered by G-d to be worthy of death.2

    Isiah 33:24 Those who live in the land of Israel
    24 And the inhabitant shall not say: ‘I am sick’; the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity. {S}

    The Sages said: The transgressions of one who dwells in Eretz Yisrael are forgiven, as it says: The inhabitant shall not say, ‘I am sick.’ The people who dwell there shall be forgiven for their transgressions. [Isaiah 33:24]

    Even one who walks four cubits there will merit the World to Come and one who is buried there receives atonement as though the place in which he is were an altar of atonement, as it says: His land will atone for his people. [D’varim 32:43] [In contrast, the prophet, Amos [Amos 7:17], used the expression] You shall die in an impure land — a prophecy of retribution.

    There is no comparison between [the merit of] a person who lives in Eretz Yisrael and one brought there after death [for burial]. Nevertheless, great Sages would bring their dead there. Take an example from our Fathers, Ya’akov and Yosef, the righteous.

    Mishne Torah, Sefer Shoftim, The Laws of Kings and Their Wars, Chapter 5, Halakha 12.

    At all times, a person should dwell in Eretz Yisrael, even in a city whose population is primarily of worshippers of idols, rather than dwell in the Diaspora in a city whose population is primarily Jewish.

    In that all who leave [the land] for the Diaspora is as though he worships idols, as it is says: They have driven me out today from dwelling in the heritage of G-d, saying, ‘Go serve other gods.’ [Shmuel I 26:19] Similarly, [Ezekiel’s (13:9) prophecies of] retribution state: They shall not come to the Land of Israel.

    Just as it is forbidden to leave the Land for the Diaspora, so it is forbidden to leave Bavel for other lands, as it is written: They shall be brought to Bavel and there they shall be [until I take notice of them . . . and restore them to this place, i.e. the Land of Israel]. [Jeremiah 27:22]5

    Source Halakha 12: taught:
    Source Halakha 12:

    Talmud Bavli, Ketuvot, 110b, Our Rabbis taught: One should always live in the Land of Israel, even in a town most of whose inhabitants are idolaters, but let no one live outside the Land, in a town most of whose inhabitants are Israelites; for whoever lives in the Land of Israel may be considered to have a G-d, but whoever lives outside the Land may be regarded as one who has no G-d. For it is said in Scripture, To give you the Land of Canaan, to be your G-d. [Vayikra 25:38] Has he, then, who does not live in the Land, have no G-d? But [this is what the text intended] to tell you, that whoever lives outside the Land may be regarded as one who worships idols. Similarly it was said in Scripture in [the story of] David, For they have driven me out this day that I should not cleave to the inheritance of the L-rd, saying: Go, serve other gods. [Shmuel I 26:9] Now, whoever said to David, ‘Serve other gods’? But [the text intended] to tell you that whoever lives outside the Land may be regarded as one who worships idols. [Tosafot,’Avoda Zara, 5]

    The Jew living outside the Land, constitutes the worshipping of idols because doing so denies the foundations of the Torah, i.e., the enactment of the Torah, and the living by the statutes of the Law. The project of enacting the Torah can only be legally accomplished in the Land as defined by the Law.

    almud Bavli, Ketuvot, 110b,

    Our Rabbis taught: If [the husband] desires to go up [to the Land of Israel] and his wife refuses she must be pressed to go up; and if [she does] not [consent] she may be divorced without a ketuba. If she desires to go up [to the Land of Israel] and he refuses, he must be pressed to go up; and if [he does] not [consent] he must divorce her and pay her ketuba. If she desires to leave [the Land of Israel] and he refuses to leave [the Land of Israel], she must be pressed not to leave, and if [pressure is of] no [avail] she may be divorced without a ketuba. If he desires to leave [the Land of Israel] and she refuses he must be pressed not to leave, and if [coercion is of] no [avail] he must divorce her and pay her ketuba.

    It is further stated that the commandment of living in Eretz Yisrael entails not only inhabiting the country but also possessing the Land by ruling over it and acquiring territory. Bleich continues that “Rashbaz views these tasks [the latter two] as being male prerogatives and rules that women are exempt from this commandment.” [Bleich p.12] What Rabbi Bleich neglects to insert plainly and clearly is that the obligation to dwell in the Land is assumed without question.

    An incisive observation regarding Abraham’s purchase of this site is attributed to Rabbi Samuel Molhiever, one of the foremost exponents of religious Zionism. In purchasing this parcel of land for use as a burial place Abraham paid more that the fair market value. The land, according to rabbinic sources, was not at all worth the 400 shekalim of highest quality silver which Abraham paid. R. Samuel Molhiever remarked, ‘The Torah here teaches us a lesson of great significance. The Torah emphasizes that there is no price that is too high even for the smallest portion of the Land of Israel.’ Indeed, there is no price that is too high, not only assessed in shekalim and kesita, or dollars and lira, but even in terms of the emotional coin which a Jew is, at times, called upon to pay.

    In the same vein is Rashi’s commentary on B’reshit, concerning the very first pasuk. He cites Rabbi Yitzhak as follows:

    It was not necessary to begin the Torah, [whose main objective is to teach commandments and mitzvot, with this verse] but from This month shall be unto you the [beginning of months] [Sh’mot 12:2], since this is the first mitzva that Israel was commanded. And what is the reason that this begins with B’reshit? Because of [the verse] The power of His works He hath declared to His people in giving them the heritage of the nations [Tehillim 111:6]. For if the nations of the world should say to Israel: ‘You are robbers, because you have seized by force the lands of the seven nations’ they [Israel] could say to them, ‘The entire world belongs to the Holy One, Blessed Be He, He created it and gave it to whomever it was right in His eyes. Of His own will He took it from them and gave it to us.’ [Yalkut, Sh’mot 12:2]

    Finally, a section of Tanakh — Tehillim 105:44-45 states:

    And He gave them the lands of the nations and the labor of the people did they inherit. That they might keep His statutes and observe His laws.

    If indeed these are the facts, if Jewish thought rests upon the validity of the Torah being true, then the halakhic decisions derived must conform to these truths. Why cannot a Jewish polity be formed in Lithuania or Brooklyn?

    Simply put, G-d give the Jewish people a place and that place is the Land of Israel. The question of why the Land of Israel is thus answered. If a Jew is to accept one tenant of the Torah, he must, in order to be logically consistent, accept the whole of Torah. Likewise, if a person is to accept that he is Jewish then he must define this concept upon viable and authentic Jewish sources and render precise his own actions accordingly. Any other alternative to this is something other than Judaism. That is, a person may, given free-will, live according to what is right in his own eyes, however, he must be rationally forced to understand that it is of his own devise and should be so called as such.

  2. There were no settlements before 1967. The Arab hostility wasn’t rooted in territories Israel hadn’t occupied yet or Jews living there but to Israel’s existence, period. The term “occupation” is merely a fig leaf to hide the Arabs’ real genocidal goal from the Western public. The truth is Israel could dismantle every single settlement in Judea and Samaria and cede half of Jerusalem and no Arab leader would agree to terminate the conflict with Israel. So contra Sheldon Schrechter, its never been Israel that has stood in the way of peace. His prescription is faulty has been demonstrated in what has happened since Israel evicted Jews from and left Gaza for good. Arab terror still continues to emanate from there, which shows the real is not and never been about settlements. Israel could give the Palestinians a state and peace would still be out of reach. Schrechter is right the the Arabs have waged a highly successful campaign to portray Israel as a neo-colonial apartheid state but divesting Israel of her strategic assets would simply serve a punctuation point till the next war. The Arabs’ hatred of Israel is something the Arabs have to deal with themselves and its sheer fantasy to believe Israeli niceness has made the Arabs less bellicose and more accepting towards Israel. It has led to just the opposite because the Middle East does not operate according to conventional rules of what is reasonable. That’s exactly the point Schrechter and Israel’s peace camp has never addressed.