The following is excerpted from remarks by Daniel E. Bacine, Esq., co-honoree with Harris Devor at an Israel Bonds dinner on November 9 in Philadelphia. Dan Bacine is a senior partner at Barrack, Rodos & Bacine, a nationally prominent class action law firm. He has served as president of Germantown Jewish Centre and as chairman of the Jewish Publishing Group, publisher of the Jewish Exponent.
The Jewish People are under attack today, not only by white supremacists chanting “Jews will not replace us,” but on college campuses throughout the country as well. Students who openly support Israel are criticized by groups that support the BDS movement – the movement that promotes a boycott of Israeli-made products, the divestiture of investments in Israel, and the imposition of sanctions on Israel, purportedly because Israel represses the Palestinian People and occupies the Palestinian land known as the West Bank.
My friends, those attacks are based on lies that have been repeated over and over again. That’s what our younger generation has been hearing for years – and by younger I mean those under 50. And our younger generation has been susceptible to believing those lies. They see an Israel that is a technology powerhouse; an economic powerhouse; and a military powerhouse. And then they see pictures of Palestinian Arabs living in squalor, confined to certain areas, and economically deprived, and they conclude from those pictures that Israel is an oppressor. They see Israelis building in areas that the Palestinian Arabs contend are Palestinian land that will be a part of a Palestinian state if there ever is one.
There are those in our Jewish community who say, “If only Israel would leave the West Bank, all would be good – there would be peace.” Now I’m not here to defend the policies of the current government of the State of Israel. Yes, this is an event sponsored by an arm of the State of Israel. But that doesn’t mean that I have to agree with everything the Israeli government does. That said, those who think that peace is in Israel’s hands have no knowledge of history.
Let me give you the very short version. For 3,000 years, Jews have lived continuously in the land that the Romans named Palestine. Ever since most Jews were displaced from the land following the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD, Jews have yearned to return to their homeland. The modern Zionist movement began in the late 19th century, leading to the Balfour Declaration, issued 100 years ago last week, in which the British government endorsed the idea of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The Palestinian Arabs, however, rejected that idea then and continue to reject that idea to today. As the great Israeli statesman Abba Eban said in 1973, “the Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” Nothing has changed.
The United Nations adopted a Partition Plan in 1947, declaring that the land of Palestine should be divided among two peoples: Arabs and Jews. The Jews quickly said yes; the Arabs just as quickly said no. When the Jews declared independence in 1948, Arabs from the surrounding countries invaded. When the fighting ceased in 1949, Jordan was left occupying the area that for more than 2000 years had been known as Judea and Samaria. In fact, that’s what the UN’s Partition Plan called it. But in 1950, in an effort to erase the Jewish connection to the land, the Jordanians renamed Judea and Samaria as the “West Bank.” That name has, unfortunately, stuck.
In the Six Day War in 1967, Israel pushed Jordan out of its 18-year occupation of the so-called West Bank and Israel took responsibility for controlling that area. To those who say that Israel’s occupation of the “West Bank” is and has been an impediment to the establishment of a Palestinian state, I ask the question: What impeded the establishment of a Palestinian state between 1949 and 1967, when Jordan – not Israel – occupied the area? Nothing.
And to those who contend that Israel should retreat to its pre-1967 borders, I remind them that they were not and are not borders. They were simply the positions of the armies when fighting ceased in 1949. Indeed the armistice agreement expressly rejected the armistice lines as borders.
Time and again since the Six Day War, the Palestinian Arabs have had opportunities to accept a Jewish state and have a state of their own. Instead, the Palestinian Arabs have chosen a reign of terror over peace, with two Intifadas, suicide murderers, and rockets from Gaza, to name just a few.
Now I’m not suggesting that there are no issues that would have to be resolved if the Palestinian Arabs truly wanted to live side by side with Israel. And the issues would be tough. But how can negotiations take place when the Palestinian Arabs – including those that run the Palestinian Authority – reject the very presence of Jews on what they contend is Palestinian Arab land? And they are not just talking about the “West Bank,” Judea and Samaria. They include Tel Aviv, Haifa, and all of Israel. As Golda Meir, Israel’s 4th Prime Minister, is reported to have said: “Peace will come when the Arabs love their children more than they hate ours.” Nothing has changed, except that the Palestinian Authority has paid lip service to a desire for peace, to curry favor with the West, which pours tens of millions of dollars into their coffers.
My friends, the younger generation must be given the facts, so that they can understand the history and see the true impediment to peace. And while there are a number of issues that separate American and other Diaspora Jews from Israel – a subject for another day – the issue of the Palestinian Arabs shouldn’t be one of them. Israel needs our support and we need a strong Israel.