Although it may seem paradoxical, the root of the problem that bothers the fair-minded Israeli Left so much is specifically in repudiating “You have chosen us”. Our not-always-fair relations with the Arabs, is a symptom and a result of forgetting ourselves. Our return to ourselves, to our identity and our historical Israeli culture – to the awareness of “You have chosen us” – is a necessary condition in order to repair the situation, and it includes both the obligation to assert our possession of the entire Land as well as the return to understanding our role among the nations, from which will come an understanding of our relationship to every person, whoever he is. (Published in "Sovereignty", by Women in green, in the Jerusalem Post, November 2015)
“Instead of dealing with who we are and what we want from ourselves, we are busy with the bloody and painful matter of our relations with the Palestinians”, said the author Haim Be’er in an interview for the Shabbat section of Makor Rishon (June 13, 2014). “I also feel terrible about our attitude towards others in this battle, which has continued for more than a hundred years, but the dramatic question is not how we relate to the Palestinian individual…but what we want from ourselves”, he said.
If we want to relate to what really bothers the secular, fair-minded Israeli Left – not the provocative, post-Zionist, who is consumed with self-hatred – then the words of Haim Be’er are a good starting point. We should listen to him.
Israeli society should, perhaps, not feel “terrible about our attitude toward the other”, but should at least be bothered by the way we relate to the Arab who lives in Judea and Samaria and who does not rebel against us. Even if the Arab population that lives in the area is not a distinct people - and this is what we believe - they still are people. Unfortunately, not all of us relate to them in this way.
The root of the problem is indeed Israeli society’s failure to apply sovereignty of the State of Israel in the territories of Judea and Samaria the day after the Six Day War. If we had just done that, if we had only had the resolve to do so, the Arab residents would have accepted it naturally, and would have acquiesced to our possession of the land. But the problems of identity and foreign ideology that “we imported” with our return from the diaspora, prevented us from doing this. The “vacuum” that was created – the vague, temporary and unstable situation of “not swallowing and not spitting out” – had to become filled with pretenses of a “Palestinian nationalism” and aspirations that were antithetical to an independent state, led to rebellion against us and caused an inevitable and unnecessary frustration and suffering for both sides. In this sense, the “Palestinians” are victims of our own confusion about our identity.
But even if the conquest of ’67 was really a liberation – as we believe – it still obligates Israeli society to exhibit an exemplary level of morality and uncommon magnanimity. Only the demonstration of these traits could have created a resonance of esteem and true respect toward us on the part of the Arabs of Judea and Samaria, which would have been a positive thing since they would have come to terms with the situation and accept our dominion. Needless to say, Israeli society did not rise to such a level, and as a result, the Arab population in Judea and Samaria rose up against it.
Today, twenty years after the Oslo Accords and everything that has developed as a result, especially after Operation Protective Edge, when the unrealistic idea of “two states” began to fall from the agenda, the question becomes even more acute: How can we continue to rule the Arab population of Judea and Samaria?
In the intolerable situation that has been created, the tendency of the Western mind is to search for political solutions to the matter. Just as the matter of social disparity causes him to search for a better socio-economic course – usually somewhere in the range between capitalism and socialism – it is the same with the matter that we are addressing now. The radical, post-Zionist Israeli Left suggests a “state of all its citizens”. The Israeli Left that is still Zionist still suggests partition and the establishment of a “Palestinian state”. It is certain for them that only with full political self-determination will you be able to create a situation where the Arab would have full human rights and be treated in a humane, proper and appropriate manner. On the Right there are those who suggest exiling the Arabs, thus solving the problem altogether. Others suggest applying Israeli sovereignty over all territories of Judea and Samaria while granting full citizenship to the Arab residents, or instead, a status of “permanent residency”. In any case, these are attempts to find a political, technical, formalized, bureaucratic solution.
But according to authentic Israeli tradition, a political solution by itself is not likely to repair the damage and its absence is not seen as the root of the problem.
Regarding the question of poverty and social disparity in human society, Rav Kook writes: “the evil inclination finds its path through all of man’s ways. Therefore, because of this, the moral education of humanity must address this, to improve his heart and nature with study and guidance in ethics and many good deeds, including the laws of justice and honesty, until he changes his usual ways of slander, sabotage and rejecting ethics, to the straight and fair way, and not just in the external matters [a different way of dividing wealth, affirmative action, allowances, creating different living conditions, political methods and such]. The emotional redemption of man will be achieved due to the [educational] struggle that operates on the nature of his soul internally" (Ayn Aiyah/ Brachot II, Chap. 3 from “Tzedaka Teromem Goi” (Righteousness Exalts a Nation), Rav Tzvi Yisrael Tao, see his clarification on pg. 61).
Just as the solution for poverty among humanity will not come through innovative and sophisticated economic methods, but through improving man himself – his ideas, his ethics, his persona, his attributes and his nature – it is the same with this matter that is before us. According to the authentic Israeli concept, repairing the flaws in human society depends, first of all, on the ethical improvement of man. He sees the tendency to search for technical solutions as an attempt to escape from the true challenge.
Our Basic Mistake
Do we, the religious public, offer a serious response to the real difficulty that Haim Be’er writes about? We think so: “the basic mistake is the denial of our real advantage: we do not recognize that “You have chosen us” … If we are aware of our greatness then we will know ourselves…and a people that forgets itself will certainly be small and lowly…” (Rav Kook, Orot, pg. 55).
The author Haim Be’er decouples the link between the recognition of our rights – dealing with “who are we and what do we want from ourselves” – and our relationship to the Arabs of Yosh, but the two things are connected to each other. Our not-always-fair relationship with the Arabs is a symptom and a result of forgetting who we are. Our return to ourselves, to our identity and to our historical Israeli culture – to a consciousness of “You have chosen us” – is a necessary condition to repair the situation. Not only in the political-formal sense of application of sovereignty over all of the Land of Israel – something that in and of itself requires the recognition of our Israeli identity and even more, the recognition of our rights and especially our duty to the Land – but also in returning to an understanding of our role among the nations, and through this, our relationship to every man, whoever he may be. As paradoxical as it may seem, the root of the problem that is so disturbing to the fair-minded Left, is surprisingly the denial of “You have chosen us”.
Love toward all of Humanity
“The love for humanity must live in every heart and soul, love for each and every person, and love for all the nations, a desire for their elevation as well as spiritual and material rebirth; and hatred must be directed only toward evil and corruption in the world” (Rav Kook, Midot Hare’iya, pg. 94).
“Love of Israel obligates us to love all mankind, and if it promotes hatred toward any part of humanity it means that we have not yet purified the corruption from our soul” (Rav Kook, Orot, pg. 149). If one’s Israeli nationalism causes him to hate someone, regardless of whom, it means that he does not understand the existential depth of Israeli nationhood.
Human dignity and human rights, which every person deserves, including our Arab neighbors, and including those who live in our land (on condition that he accepts our sovereignty over it and does not rebel against it), are not primarily required by the Arabs. We owe it primarily to ourselves. We owe it to the Master of the universe.
If dishonor or hatred toward the Arabs should appear within us, it does not come from a desire to cling to the Land of Israel, to Israeli nationhood, its Torah or any other of its ideals, but the contrary – it comes from abandoning them. Our clinging to the idea of “a nation like any other nation”, to secular European nationhood, is the reason for the failure in the relationship.
An integral part of European nationhood is xenophobia; since it has no independent internal content, it requires foreigners, enemies, “others”, in order to create national solidarity and national “togetherness”. Today, Europe rightly eschews its own national ethos; it recognizes its shallowness and the disaster that it has brought upon itself.
Our nationalism, on the contrary, is an ideal that is full of content. It does not need the hatred of foreigners to sustain itself. On the contrary, it is entirely intended for the improvement of all of humanity. The revival of Israeli nationhood in the Land of Israel is not a particular national matter but a necessary phase in the improvement of all of humanity. “Our nationhood is cosmopolitan-nationhood and the nationhood and the cosmopolitanism are a unification of the greater nation…” (Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, To the Paths of Israel, I, pg. 17). If someone needs to hate foreigners in order to express his sense of identity or to sustain his Israeli nationalism – whether he be religious or secular – “it is an indication that his soul has not been purified of its corruption”; it is a sign that his love of Israel is distorted.
The Arabs are our enemies; we fight with them over the Land of Israel. This war must be waged with strength, heroically, aggressively, resolutely, with full confidence in the justice of our cause, with dedication and with complete faith. Not out of contempt for the enemy (in every sense) and not out of hatred. Hatred is a weakness that comes from not being able to build devotion to Israeli nationalism on its positive content.
Our ability to rule the population that exists in our land – which, it seems, is our lot, whether we want it or not – depends on our ability to truly respect them. And this ability depends on our return to the idea of “You have chosen us” and to an authentic Israeli ethical quality.
You are Called Man
The complete Israeli vision is not confined to creating a “religious” person; our objective is to define the Israeli person, in the original sense of the term. Him of whom it is said “Israel whom I will exalt” and “you are called man”; that which receives kingship from the heavens, truly, magnanimously. The Israeli ideal that we are trying to realize – whether we know it or not – is to create an exemplary, moral society that actually values its life, its very existence, and is an affirmation of life.
If someone is not connected to the tradition of Israel, or does not live its ideals, he cannot believe “that there is such an animal”. He also cannot imagine a situation in which the Arabs of Judea and Samaria would accept our sovereignty willingly and acquiesce to it. But that is not what the sages thought (Mishpatim Raba, parasha 32, letter A) and Rav Kook afterward: “If it had not been for the sin of the golden calf, the nations that were living in the Land of Israel would have accepted Israel and thanked them, because the name of the Almighty was upon them and would have awakened in them a fear of heaven, and no sort of war would have been waged, and the influence would have come in the ways of peace as in the days of the Messiah” (Orort, The War, 4).
Whoever believes in the Israeli ideal and lives it, knows how sufficient is the essence of this wonderful quality of humanity – “you are called man” - in order to project in its environs the message of spontaneous appreciation and awe for its moral power. He also knows with certainty how in the future, it will arouse in the nations of the earth, an acceptance of our sovereignty, out of wholehearted and true willingness.
This challenge, of bringing the shape of the perfect Israeli form to fruition primarily falls to us, “the religious people”. We cannot continue to be satisfied with just being “religious”; we must aspire to achieve the greatness of the perfect Israeli, to be Israelis in the fullest sense of the word.
“To love every man” is, perhaps, difficult, but the ability to honor him at least, even if he is an Arab who lives near us and is hostile to us for the time being, this love is a necessary condition of our Israeli-ness. As people who are commanded to honor every person, whoever he is, we are commanded also to recognize his quality and to believe in him: The Arab will respect us – and accept our sovereignty – if we will be honorable, if we are a sort of “Israel in whom I will display My splendor” (Isaiah 49:3), if we realize our Israeli character in its complete form.
If the Arabs of Judea and Samaria can live with human dignity, sustain themselves with dignity and be treated properly, it will not be achieved through their own independent sovereignty – see what is happening in the new Middle East – and it does not depend essentially on (only) political solutions. It depends on the internal ethical rehabilitation of the Israeli, a rehabilitation that will come from recognizing ourselves, from the true, imperative, mature, responsible return to “You have chosen us” – not the empty, arrogant kind – through our Torah. We have no problem with Arabs, just with ourselves.