No Alternative to Israel

The dream began in Biblical times.

Moshe Phillips

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Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants to wipe the state of Israel off the face of the planet. Sadly and strangely, two American-born Jewish writers seem content to go along with the idea. One of the writers explains, "Sometimes I
The defeatism from these writers, and far too many others, is blatant.
think it might have been better had Herzl dreamed of a Jewish state in a place less embattled than the Middle East...." The defeatism from these writers, and far too many others, is blatant.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon was the first Jewish writer to recently examine the modern history of plans to establish sovereign and semi-sovereign Jewish territories outside of the Land of Israel. Chabon's 2007 novel The Yiddish Policemen's Union is set in an imaginary Jewish settlement in Alaska. In Chabon's alternate universe, Israel was destroyed in the 1948 war. A proposal by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Interior Secretary Harold L. Ickes to develop parts of Alaska as a "haven for Jewish refugees from Germany and other areas in Europe where the Jews are subjected to oppressive restrictions" had been implemented.

Now, Hollywood film-making mavens Joel Coen and Ethan Coen are reportedly planning to make The Yiddish Policemen's Union into a movie. So, tragically, these long forgotten ideas will be romanticized for still larger audiences throughout the world.

Adam Rovner is writing a non-fiction book that examines the proposals to create a Jewish refuge on the island of Madagascar, off the coast of Africa, and "various [other] proposals to establish Jewish 'homelands' around the globe."

In an article in the May/June 2009 issue of Moment magazine, titled "Madagascar: An Almost Jewish Homeland", Rovner writes, "Early Zionists debated a host of proposals to settle Jews in remote regions of the world, and one of them was Madagascar. I'm an American-born, naturalized Israeli citizen and sometimes I think it might have been better had Herzl dreamed of a Jewish state in a place less embattled than the Middle East. That's why I am so curious about this would-be promised land that, at least until a recent military coup, was a relatively pacific republic in the Indian Ocean."

As if the dream of a Jewish state originated with Herzl. Hatikvah, the anthem of modern Zionism, was written in 1878, eighteen years before Herzl published The Jewish State. The dream began in Biblical times with the Prophet Abraham, and survived Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Mamelukes and Ottomans.

There are three key points to consider when looking at this nonsense from Chabon and Rovner:

First, at the core of Ahmadinejad's rhetoric is a strategy of breaking down Israel's will to survive. Chabon and Rovner play right into his hands. If Ahmadinejad really wanted to nuke Israel, G-d forbid, why would he declare it? What would be his advantage to warn Israel of his plans? Ahmadinejad wants to destroy Israel's key security asset: its morale. He wants to force Jews to reconsider the value of a national Jewish homeland versus the threat of annihilation. Iran wants to drive Israel into making suicidal concessions.

Secondly, there is a disconnect in the Jewish commitment to the Land of Israel that Chabon and Rovner imply. The Land of Israel is called the "Promised Land" for a reason. It was not promised to the Muslims. The Holy Land was deeded to the Jewish People in the Holy Bible. Does any people anywhere in the world have a clearer deed than that?

There was never an independent Muslim nation in the Land of Israel in all of history. Moreover, how would the US, Israel or the West benefit from the creation of yet another hostile Muslim state, wherever it would be?

Lastly, for President Barack Obama, as well as Chabon and Rovner, there is a misunderstanding of Zionist history as it stands apart from the Holocaust. Zionism was not born of a wish to escape Nazi persecution or any other modern forms of anti-Semitism.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his June 14, 2009 foreign policy speech at Bar-Ilan University summarized it as follows:

"The right of the Jewish People to a state in the Land of Israel does not arise from the series of disasters that befell the Jewish people over 2,000 years: persecutions, expulsions, pogroms, blood libels, murders, which reached its climax in the Holocaust, an unprecedented tragedy in the history of nations. There are those who say
Zionist resettlement in the Land of Israel began before Hitler was born.
that without the Holocaust the state would not have been established, but I say that if the State of Israel had been established in time, the Holocaust would not have taken place. The tragedies that arose from the Jewish people's helplessness show very sharply that we need a protective state. The right to establish our sovereign state here, in the Land of Israel, arises from one simple fact: the Land of Israel is the birthplace of the Jewish People."

Netanyahu tragically missed the essential point, just as he does far too often. Yes, "the Land of Israel is the birthplace of the Jewish people" - but that is not all. G-d decided that the Jewish people be given the Land of Israel as their only homeland for all time; it was not a decision the Jewish people made of their own volition. The Jewish connection to the Land of Israel is unlike the attachment of any other people to their homeland. The relationship is unique.

Modern Zionist resettlement in the Land of Israel began before Hitler was born. Tel Aviv was established in 1909. The desire of Jews to return to the Jewish homeland never left the Jewish people throughout our exile; and Jews throughout history lived in Jewish communities in Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed and elsewhere for hundreds of years before Zionism was reinitiated. Jews from Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya, Morocco and elsewhere in the Islamic world did not return to Israel because of European anti-Semitism.

Jews from throughout the world made their way to Israel for the same reason as did Jews in the times of Moses and Joshua: it is the Divinely established homeland for Jews. There is no other.