Thursday, January 18, 2007

Am I Early For Passover? A Guide To The Four Questions Of Israel


1) Do you accept that as part of a global village, there is room for a Jewish majority State?

Some people do not accept that there is room in the world for a Jewish majority State because they believe in the Jeffersonian ideal that separates religion from civil governance.

Others claim not to accept Israel because they think a Jewish majority State is racist.

Presumably people in both of these camps would also be opposed to Christian majority or Muslim majority States, but their silence, notwithstanding the existence of many such States, stands in stark contrast to their thunderous and singular disapproval of Israel.

Whether it is high-minded or low minded, there is no point arguing the politics of Israel and its neighbors without first hearing a “Yes” to this question.

(For the record, I wish that all the people of the globe adopted the American mentality of live and let live, that we had a united planet, and that there was no need for borders of any kind. But utopia is far away.)

Here in the West, the vast majority of people have no problem with the existence of a Jewish majority State that wishes to self-govern. Most acknowledge the right to self-determination, and agree with the proposition that people who wish to self-govern should be free to do so.

So, with one “Yes” in tow, we can ask the second question:

2) Do you accept that as part of a global village, there is room for a Jewish majority State IN THE MIDDLE-EAST?

Today, most Arabs and Muslims of the Middle-East, would answer a resounding “NO!” They tolerate the reality of Israel, but believe it will ultimately fail. They will dance in the streets if it fails. They will celebrate any effort to hasten Israel’s demise. There is no love lost on Israel from these quarters.

Again, it is pointless discussing with those who do not believe a Jewish majority State should exist in the Middle-East, the morality of Israel’s actions in the face of her hostile neighbors (the usual antagonistic ones being settlements, checkpoints, and the so-called wall).

For those who don’t believe Israel should exist in the Middle-East, the inhumanity of Israel’s neighbors will be justified by the “inhumanity” of Israel’s existence. The nut of this self-righteous, yet morally dubious argument is something like this: “Israel stole the land in the first place, and so, they deserve everything that’s coming to them.”

It is an historical stretch to claim that Jews stole their own historical homeland. It is also a stretch to say that Jews were advantaged unfairly over Arabs at the conclusion of World War I. But it is not a stretch to say that Palestinian Arabs, as a particular subset of Arabs, ended up with a raw deal that continues to be raw.

For those who have little sense of the area, a little background helps.

The Middle-East is the historical home of the Jewish people, and in the West, we connect Jews and the Holy Land. The fact that a) there has been a continuous Jewish presence in the land for thousands of years, that b) Roman, Arab and Crusader armies combined to drive most, but not all Jews out, and that c) there can be no morally binding statute of limitations against coming back to the land of your ancestors, seems to suffice most people that Israel belongs were it does.

Further, in modern times, before there was a Syria, a Lebanon, an Iraq, a Jordan or an Israel, the Ottoman Empire ruled the area. But the Ottoman Turks lost World War I, and the Empire was divided.

The Arabs got most of the land, the Jews got a little, and that little was reduced again and again.

There is room for everyone in the Middle-East, but without doubt, just as Jews were displaces in the last century from Muslim majority States stretching from Morocco to Iran, Arabs who now call themselves Palestinians were displaced from what is now Israel.

Of course, 20% of Israeli citizens are Arab, so comparing the cause, circumstances, or terms of partial displacement of Arabs to the near total displacement Jews is like comparing apples and oranges.

Historical truth aside, only if a person answers “Yes” to this question and the first question is there any reason to ask the third question.

3) Do you accept that as part of a global village that contains hostile elements, the sole Jewish majority State must do what it can to survive, defend its citizens, and ensure that its citizens have the opportunity to thrive?

One could ask a similar question of any State. Bit isn’t “survive, defend and ensure opportunity” Israel’s obligation as a State? Israel’s actions and motivations can be properly judged by how well it morally fulfills its obligation.

Compare this question to one asked most loudly by Israel’s detractors: “Why does Israel have to oppress innocent Palestinians?” This question is loaded. The reality is, Israel doesn’t HAVE to oppress anyone. I know of no Israeli leader who WANTS to oppress Palestinians.

No doubt those Palestinians who wish Israel no harm suffer alongside those who do wish Israel harm.

But if Israel must choose between life as a withering failed State that is constantly being terrorized, or fighting its enemies—even knowing that some who are not enemies will suffer, and some who are not enemies will be made into enemies—it has no alternative but to fight. How can anyone in good faith argue otherwise?

Israel must do what it must do because it is a State, and it has obligations to its citizens, not to mention a unique obligation to Jews throughout the world. As such, it is obligated and duty bound to reach its own “Yes” answer to this 3rd question. For over 50 years it has been fighting an antagonistic Arab/Muslim population that stretches from Morocco to Iran and beyond. It is at war. Sometimes it is a hot war, and sometimes it is a cold war. People on all sides of a war suffer. Hopefully innocent suffering is limited, but this is plainly not always so.

This brings us to the 4th question.

4) Do you accept that as part of a global village, IF the sole Jewish majority State’s viability is dependent on it becoming larger, it should become larger?

If your answers to the first three questions are “Yes” but your answer to this fourth question is “No,” you have probably concluded one of two things: 1) the Jewish majority State’s viability is not dependent on its size, or 2) you really don’t believe that there is room for a viable Israel in the Middle-East even though you say you accept that there is.

Saying a larger Israel "can’t happen" to avoid giving a “Yes” answer is no answer at all. Asking, “what about the Palestinians?” may show compassion, but also provides no answer to the question. (Incidentally, handled correctly, Palestinian Arabs will benefit from, not be victimized by, a viable, sustainable, unassailable Israel).

If you are a supporter of Israel who answers “No,” to this question, and you do so because of a feeling that that Israel is large enough, or that in an interdependent world, size doesn’t matter, don’t you owe it to yourself and to Israel to make sure your assumptions are right? Or will you be content with the prospect you are wrong, and a slowly decaying Israel?

Don’t give a lazy “No.” The stakes are too high.

Please read The Case For A Larger Israel. Maybe you’ll find your fourth “Yes.”

And then, who better to stand up than you?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

More On Looking At A Problem In Pieces, Rather Than In The Aggregate


The same research again…

“[P]eople reveal a tendency to look at problems in pieces rather than in the aggregate. Even qualified scholars in reputable journals reached faulty conclusions by failing to recognize that the whole is the product of interaction among its parts…” Peter L. Bernstein, from Against the Gods, discussing the research of Professor Meir Statman.


If one thinks of the whole problem as an Israeli-Palestinian problem, then one may be inclined to view the ultimate solution to be as simple as separating the antagonists into their own States.

If one appreciates that this is but a piece of a larger Israel-Arab/Muslim problem, one appreciates how unworkable the proposed international consensus “two-states within the confines of Israel and territories” solution really is.

This tendency to look at problems in pieces rather than in the aggregate has led to faulty "conventional thinking" among politicians and international leaders.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

In The Aggregate, Size Matters


“[P]eople reveal a tendency to look at problems in pieces rather than in the aggregate. Even qualified scholars in reputable journals reached faulty conclusions by failing to recognize that the whole is the product of interaction among its parts…” Peter L. Bernstein, from Against the Gods, discussing the research of Professor Meir Statman.


This tendency to look at problems in pieces rather than in the aggregate leads to faulty conventional thinking among politicians and international leaders as well. Attempting to solve, in isolation, Israel’s problems in the Middle East, is a case of looking at a problem in pieces rather than in the aggregate. This is a recipe for disaster.

If a piecemeal solution to larger Middle East problems leaves a weak Israel, it will not only be harmful to Israel, it will also be harmful to Jews around the world, and harmful to humanity (and that includes Arabs and Muslims everywhere).

A solution that weakens Israel will, at a minimum, lead the Zionist State to wither. It will most likely plant the seeds for the next conflict. It will ultimately lead to less Jewish participation in global innovation and abundance. If history is a guide, this will lead to a less prosperous world.

It is in humanity’s—and by humanity, I mean everyday people everywhere—interest that the region’s problems be viewed holistically, and that the solution leaves Israel to become more important, not less.

Consider two historic examples of importance:

1) In 1863, the Confederate States of America issued bonds to foreigners. Besides the obvious purpose of raising money for the Southern war effort, these bonds served the purpose of creating a foreign constituency with an interest in the survival of that State. But the existence of this foreign constituency was not enough to pressure the United States into peace. The CSA was not important enough to the global powers of the day to survive.

2) In 1990-1991, Kuwait proved important enough. Would the non-democratic government of Kuwait been saved from Iraq if there didn’t exist a large foreign constituency that profits from Kuwaiti oil? Or was preserving the world’s, stable, more or less, Nation/State system reason enough to lead President George Bush (41) to conclude that the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait could not stand?

Even if the reason was the latter, a broad-based foreign constituency (not just American) is key to Israel’s long-term survival. The United States will not always be the unrivaled military or economic power that it is today, and there is no other rising power that is likely to treat citizens of other States as well.

The United States will not always be able to serve as Israel’s bank, and enforcer of its existence. In time, the strings attached to this support will get heavy in both directions.

Israel must become more important to its foreign constituency, or it may face the end faced by the Confederate States of America. Or, if a piecemeal solution is imposed, Israel may get “lucky” and be allowed to face the slow death of a withering State that cannot sustain itself.

Any solution to any one of Israel’s many problems (the pieces) must be viewed through the prism of the aggregate problem Israel faces—how to emerge as a thriving, viable State for the long-term.

That is why the ultimate aim of any solution involving Israel must serve to make Israel more important to a broad foreign constituency. And that is why size ultimately matters.