Monday, January 3, 2011

Israel and Zionism

What is Israel?

Israel is the very embodiment of Jewish continuity: It is the only nation on earth that inhabits the same land, bears the same name, speaks the same language, and worships the same God that it did 3,000 years ago. You dig the soil and you find pottery from Davidic times, coins from Bar Kokhba, and 2,000-year-old scrolls written in a script remarkably like the one that today advertises ice cream at the corner candy store.
- Charles Krauthammer - The Weekly Standard, May 11, 1998

"Israel is the expression of the Jewish resolve to live by what is good and just for the Jewish people and not by what finds favor in the eyes of others".

- Yosef Tekoah, From an address made in New York, April 15, 1975 -

Is Israel crucial to Jewish survival and continuity?

The stakes could not be higher. It is my contention that on Israel - on its existence and survival - hangs the very existence and survival of the Jewish people. Or, to put the thesis in the negative, that the end of Israel means the end of the Jewish people. They survived destruction and exile at the hands of Babylon in 586 B.C. They survived destruction and exile at the hands of Rome in 70 A.D., and finally in 132 A.D. They cannot survive another destruction and exile. The Third Commonwealth - modern Israel, born just 50 years ago - is the last.

The return to Zion is now the principal drama of Jewish history. What began as an experiment has become the very heart of the Jewish people - its cultural, spiritual, and psychological center, soon to become its demographic center as well. Israel is the hinge. Upon it rest the hopes--the only hope--for Jewish continuity and survival.

- Charles Krauthammer - The Weekly Standard, May 11, 1998 -

What other names were used to describe the land including the modern State of Israel?

Many terms for the Land exist in other languages. The English call it "Palestine", and the Germans "Palastina", having adopted the name through the course of generations from the Greek and Roman inhabitants of the Mediterranean coast. As seagoing peoples, the Greeks and Romans first discovered the Land of Israel through direct contact with its Philistine inhabitants who according to the Old Testament (see Amos 9:7; Jeremiah 47:4; Deuteronomy 2:23), came from Caphtor, which may probably be identified with Crete. A Pelasgian origin was also suggested, but modern scholars believe that the Philistines, undoubtedly immigrants, came from Crete.

During the period of Roman rule the land was divided into districts: "Palestina Prima" in the South, "Palestina Secunda" in the central portion, and "Palestina Tertia" in the southern part of Transjordan. The English also called the country "the Holy Land", and the French "Terre Sainte", from the Latin "Terra Sancta". The State of Israel issued a special medallion bearing the words "Terra Sancta" for non-Jewish pilgrims. The English "Land of Israel" and the French "Pays d'Israel" appear in Christian literature, and writers have called their books on the Land by these names. Another name common among non-Jews is "the promised land", found in Latin literature and maps of the country. The English and Germans also use the names "land of the Bible" and "land of the Holy Scriptures". "Das Gelobte Land" (the praiseworthy land) appears in German literature praiseworthy for the great events which occurred during the time ancient Israel dwelt in the homeland of the Holy Scriptures and cradle of Christianity.

In Arabic literature, the Land of Israel appears once in the Koran, as "Ard al Makdasa" (the Holy Land) in the Islamic version of Moses' words to the people of Israel: "Enter, my people, the Holy Land which Allah has assigned for you" (Koran, 5, "The Table", 24).

Today the Arabs call the land "Falestin", the Arabic version of "Palestina", appearing in ancient Jewish literature. This name is found also in medieval Arabic literature, where it designates only a part of the Land of Israel, the southern district and its capital Ramla, corresponding to the ancient Roman "Palestina Prima".

Between medieval and modern times, the Arabs also called the Land of Israel, together with neighboring Syria, "A-Sham".

During the modern period, after the end of World War I, nationalist Arabs called the Land, including Transjordan, "Suria a-Jenubiyeh" (southern Syria). This was also the name of an Arabic newspaper published in Jerusalem. These nationalists hoped to annex the Land of Israel, then under British rule, to Syria, where an Arabic kingdom had been established. When the French, who had been promised the mandate over all of Syria and Lebanon, put an end to this kingdom, the term "southern Syria" disappeared.

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Is Israel a democracy? Is Israel humanitarian?

Democracy: No culture has shown a more profound commitment to democracy and its values than Israel. The U.S., perhaps the most strenuous defender of human rights, cannot claim that the danger that led to internment camps for Japanese and to the McCarthy inquisition compares with the threat Israel has faced in its first fifty years. Look at Israel's free, untrammeled speech and multicultural dialogue. The Israelis are not without fault? They don't do well enough by their own Arabs or the falashas [Ethiopian Jews]? What grade would you give the rest of the world for its treatment of minorities and racially different refugees?

Place in the Global Community: Israel is actually a natural leader and model for would-be developing nations. In the early '60s, Israel had perhaps the single most successful program of "peace corps" volunteers and professionals in the world. How did the Israelis know all about the Entebbe airport? They built it.

- David S. Landes & Richard A. Landes, in The New Republic, September 8, 1997 -

Why is Israel so cautious when is comes to peace-making, territorial compromises, and foreign policy in general?

America is a country that has never had to conduct foreign policy as process, or felt the need to look upon diplomacy as a continuing set of relationships. Nor has it ever known tragedy as a people. By contrast the Jewish people have experienced an endless series of tragedies. Moreover; Americans inhabit a continent, while Israelis inhabit a territory which, at its widest point, is 50 miles--from the Jordan to the sea. Reconciling the imperatives of a superpower with the necessities of an ancient people is no simple matter.

- HENRY A. KISSINGER, in a speech for Commentary magazine -

Did the British ever say they supported establishing a national home in Palestine for the Jewish People?

His majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing and non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

- British Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour in a letter to Baron Edward de Rothchild as a representative of the Jewish people, November 2, 1917, the letter would become known as 'The Balfour Declaration', which pledged the support of the British government for a national home for the Jewish People in the area of the British Mandate for Palestine.

"[The Jordan river] will not do as Palestine's eastern boundary. Our duty as Mandatory is to make Jewish Palestine not a struggling State but one that is capable of a vigorous and independent national life."

- the Times of London, September 19, 1919 -

"So far as the Arabs are concerned --I hope they will remember that it is we who have established an independent Arab sovereignty of the Hedjaz. I hope they will remember it is we who desire in Mesopotamia to prepare the way for the future of a self-governing, autonomous Arab State, and I hope that, remembering all that, they will not grudge that small notch -- for it is no more than that geographically, whatever it may be historically -- that small notch in what are now Arab territories being given to the people who for all these hundreds of years have been separated from it."

- A.J. Balfour, July 12, 1920 -

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