Everyone has an opinion when it comes to Israel’s internal affairs. The United States, Europe, the Arab states, Russia and even Iran. The U.S. has been a tremendous supporter and ally. The European Union sends mixed signals because they’re extremely critical of what they deem as Israel’s unfair treatment of the Palestinians. The Arab states are a mixed bag. Some have signed peace treaties and most still haven’t recognized Israel’s right to exist. Russia meddling in Syria and Iran is disruptive and harmful. Iran’s opinion and policy are total destruction. They have vowed to destroy the state of Israel. With all of their proxies like the terrorist Hezbollah in Lebanon aiming missiles at Israel, the risk of Iran acting on that impulse is unfortunately high.
Israel was founded in 1948 from a dream. Israel has been a miracle. A miracle because of defeating and defending against enemies all around and even within. This small country has survived the War of Independence against Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Transjordan, Egypt and Arabs from within. The Arab states that surround Israel vowed to destroy the new country. With far larger armies, the Arab states were defeated by a country with a ragtag military, using whatever weapons they could muster to win.
In 1967, Israel had to defend its borders in what was called The Six-Day War. Israel not only won but captured the Sinai Peninsula, the entire West Bank, the Golan Heights and — the biggest prize — the Old City of Jerusalem. In 1973, on the holiest day of the year for Jews in Israel and around the world, Egypt and Syria attacked her, a surprise while Jews were at prayer that almost was the end of Israel but, once again she prevailed. The wars continued. Two Arab countries, Egypt and Jordan, signed peace deals with Israel. The rest of the Arab world and Iran continues not even to recognize her rightful existence.
The words of Bob Dylan from his 1983 song, “Neighborhood Bully” are true today as they were back then. Bob Dylan’s satirical words that Israel is the bully are how the enemies of Israel perceive her.
“Well, the neighborhood bully, he’s just one man
His enemies say he’s on their land
They got him outnumbered about a million to one
He got no place to escape to, no place to run
He’s the neighborhood bully.
The neighborhood bully he just lives to survive
He’s criticized and condemned for being alive
He’s not supposed to fight back, he’s supposed to have thick skin
He’s supposed to lay down and die when his door is kicked in
He’s the neighborhood bully …”
The enemies of Israel try to paint a picture that the Jews who settled in this land are just “colonizers.” They claim that the Jews came from Europe out of the ashes of the Holocaust to colonize land that was not theirs. In the late 19th century, Theodor Herzl — the father of Zionism — started laying plans for Jews to be able to resettle in their homeland. G-d gave the land of Israel to the Jews — the Chosen People, as is clearly stated in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles. That history cannot be rewritten. The Zionist dream of the Jewish peoples’ return to their homeland and the establishment of a nation of their own, after nearly a 2,000-year exile is a reality. Nonetheless, recall that a remnant of Jews has always lived in the Holy Land.
Just who are the Palestinians? Everyone living in the land of what is now Israel and prior to the formation of the modern state of Israel. Jews and Arabs, living in what is now Israel, were living in the land of Palestine. This is complicated because the Arabs who live in the West Bank (known as Judea and Samaria by Jews) and the Arabs in Gaza have taken that name for themselves. Why? But even better than that, why are there displaced Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank? This is a long and complicated story and one that we will certainly discuss in future columns. Suffice it to say that, when the Arab armies attacked the newly formed state of Israel in 1948, there were Arabs living within the borders of Israel and the surrounding lands of Gaza and the West Bank. At this same time, Jews were expelled from Arab lands and migrated to safety in Israel. They lost their homes and had to start over. The Arabs were so confident that they would destroy the new state of Israel that many Arabs within Israel and surrounding areas didn’t exile to safety in the Arab countries that sent armies to destroy Israel. They stayed and continued to stay, war after war. defeat after defeat. These displaced Arabs took on the name “Palestinian.”
These were not a people with a country or in control of anything. Many times, Israel even after being subjected to the constant terror attacks of the PLO and Palestinian terrorists, tried to negotiate with them. One thing is certain: Israel will never allow the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank to have their own army. That would be suicide; however, Israel has tried to give them the ability to govern themselves. With Gaza, land formerly owned by Egypt and gained by Israel in the Six-Day War, Israel closed all of her settlements and gave them a territory with a border to call their own. Israel left Gaza in 2005 and in the subsequent 15 years, Gaza has been a wasteland of misery and terror.
The enemies of Israel would like you to believe that the people of Gaza are victims of Israeli persecution and aren’t allowed free access to Israel. The people of Gaza chose a terror group, Hamas, to lead them and it has only been their ineptitude that has kept Gaza from flourishing. The vast majority of the West Bank is a no-man’s-land that Israel captured during the 1967 Six-Day War. This included winning East Jerusalem and reunifying the capital of Israel. Israel should never cede any part of the old City of Jerusalem to any power other than itself. After the Six-Day War, Israel found herself in possession of the West Bank and the Arab inhabitants. Israel, being a democracy, debated whether to annex the West Bank but decided not to do so. Looking back, that decision may have been wrong. Again, we’ll discuss this in future articles.
In the news recently you may have heard that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to declare sovereignty over the West Bank. This area is of overwhelming strategic importance because the elevated terrain overlooks the entirety of Israel’s coastal plain, home to 70 percent of Israel’s population. There are sides in our government in favor and against this issue. We started this article noting that everyone has an opinion about what Israel should be doing with its internal affairs. This is today’s argument for the world to debate but really the only parties that matter here are the Palestinian Authority and Israel. They’re the only ones with a stake in the process. In Israel’s defense, how many times can she offer peace for land and be rejected? Does Israel take control of certain areas of the West Bank now or wait for a lasting peace? If Israel is patient, as she has been for all these years, this may happen. On the other hand, it may not. Israel is not David trying to slay Goliath. Israel is rightfully in control of her own destiny.
“…He’s made a garden of paradise in the desert sand
In bed with nobody, under no one’s command
He’s the neighborhood bully …”
Bob Dylan knows Israel is no bully. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wakes every day to the possibility of another war or death to his people by those who have never recognized his country’s existence and vow to destroy her. He is painted as the bully today as his country was in 1983. Opinions aside, if you want to gain a better understanding of the factors in play with the only democracy in the Middle East and the best friend and ally of the U.S., then I welcome you to continue reading these articles in the Charleston Mercury.
Larry W. Freudenberg is a sixth generation Charlestonian and owner of his family’s 117-year-old insurance agency, founded on Broad Street in Charleston by his great grandfather. He has been to Israel three times and is a political activist for a strong U.S.-Israel alliance.