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March 22, 2003

Worshipping golden calves

No to settlements, yes to Palestinian state

Avraham Feder of Moreshet Yisrael, a Masorti/Conservative congregation in Jerusalem
There are all kinds of golden calves. Even ideas can be held to with an allegiance so blindly absolute that despite cogent contrary arguments they become petrified objects of worship.

Two such golden calves are being worshipped by the Reform Movement's Union of American Hebrew Congregations as they feel compelled at this time to push for a resolution at the Jewish Council for Public Affairs calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state and for a freeze on Jewish settlements in Eretz Yisrael.

The idea of a second Palestinian state west of the Jordan River living in peace with the State of Israel was aborted by the Arabs in 1948. Ever since, the Arabs have conspired to sabotage any possibility of a two-state solution by seeking through war, terror and cunning diplomacy to destroy the Jewish state. Yet there are Jews and Jewish organizations who, obsessed with an id e fixe, keep insisting that now the two-state solution is a necessity.

The bloody disaster that has followed in the wake of the Oslo Accords was predictable in that Yasser Arafat had been murdering Jewish civilians for 30 years and would not relent unless Israel as a state disappeared.

Why then must Jews, of all people, be advancing today the establishment of a state for a people whose leaders have defiled the noble idea of self-determination, preoccupying themselves with terror, suicide-murder and the indoctrination of hatred instead of social reconstruction and education-for-peace?

As for the settlements, how many times must Jews and Jewish organizations be reminded that those parts of Eretz Yisrael which Jewish tradition calls Judea and Samaria are, legally speaking, not "conquered" or "occupied" territory?

According to international convention they are territories currently in dispute. Israel has every right to populate these territories with as many Jews as possible in the interest of fulfilling what the Jewish people perceive as Zionist destiny.

If some day a peace agreement is reached between the Jews and the Arabs, why should Jews of all people pre-judge today the number of Jews or Jewish communities which should be permitted to live anywhere they choose to live in Eretz Yisrael?

DIASPORA organizations like the UAHC which prognosticate about what Israel ought to do are undoubtedly driven by what they would insist are moral, religious and realpolitik considerations. They claim "sincerely" that they don't wish to see Israel causing a rift over these issues with President George W. Bush; and that even Prime Minister Ariel Sharon appears to favor the establishment of a Palestinian state and the limiting of settlement expansion.

What then is wrong with committed Diaspora Zionists like the UAHC expressing similar views? Bush and especially Sharon have conditioned their support for a Palestinian "state" on Arab acceptance of Israeli legitimacy, the end of Arab terrorism, the demilitarization of such a state, the relinquishing of the Palestinian demand for the "return" of refugees, and Arab acceptance of Jewish claims on Jerusalem.

If these are the conditions, then the appearance of a Palestinian state in any form may not be as imminent as the UAHC would like to believe.

Why the UAHC anxieties? Is it "moral" pressure urged on by abstract Kantian principles of justice and fairness associated traditionally with Reform Judaism, but which have been relegated to irrelevancy in the face of the 100-year Arab campaign against all Jewish settlement in Israel? Is it "religious" pressure in the name of a utopian, universalistic neo-Judaism spawned by the European Emancipation but totally discredited by the Holocaust which stubbornly refuses to recognize that authentic biblical-rabbinic-Zionist Judaism insists on the centrality of Eretz Yisrael in any understanding of what Judaism is and should be for Jews?

With the American attack on Iraq imminent, no one can predict with certainty where realpolitik diplomacy vis- -vis the Middle East will be heading after the war. It may very well be that Israel will be forced by US policy to make compromises it would otherwise be reluctant to make.

On the other hand, the volatile elements that make up the Middle East cauldron may just allow Israel to gain some well-earned strategic advantages. For Jews Diaspora Jews no less to foreclose such advantageous possibilities for the fulfillment of Jewish and Zionist visions by publicly pressing now for the surrender of Judea and Samaria in favor of a rogue state is na ve to the point of being pernicious.

The golden calves in the Bible were ground to dust and made to be swallowed by the idolaters. Hamevin yavin! Let those who are willing to understand draw the appropriate conclusion.