A Progressive's Passover

Every year, Moses impersonators crop up to grant the Palestinian Arabs automatic victim status, exempting them from adulthood. Op-ed.

Steve Apfel ,


A people liberated from slavery. No wonder Passover is a time when agitators for a State of Palestine feel they have to play Moses.

‘Let the people go!’ Passovers came and went, eras changed, and today their entreaty still falls on deaf ears. God’s stiff-necked people never can make out what the Exodus and Moses have to do with the ‘Two State Solution’ that will make the world break out in celebration the day it is foisted on Israel.

The festival of freedom comes around for a dig at this antipathy. For pity sake, have pity. Remember you Israelites cried out from back-breaking bondage until God heard you. Hear, oh Israel, the cry of another people. Let the Palestinian Arabs go. Let them make unto themselves a nation.

Every Passover Moses impersonators seem to crop up. Some see themselves as devoted Zionists, others are devoted to human rights, from which it is easy to make a good living in Dollars and Euros.

Uri Zaki is a Moses of the latter sort. The onetime director of human rights outfit, B’Tselem (in the image of) made a lunge for the pockets of American Jewry with the generic Passover appeal: let my favorite people go. What Zaki actually said was: “Israeli settlements in the ''West Bank' make it practically impossible for the Palestinians to realize their right to self-determination in an independent and viable state of their own.”

The fatal flaw in Zaki’s complaint lies where? Look for the duty of one party to give and the right of the other party to receive. The Progressive mind works like that: award rights to the Pals, impose obligations on the Zios.

To make that division of the spoils holy, the Tanach is ransacked into homespun Judaism, a thing of brevity and beauty. It can be truncated while you perch on one leg, ‘Do not deny to others human rights and social justice as you would not want them to deny yours.”

In other words, the Jews got their independence, why deny the Pals? They have equal rights, and Israel has a duty to see they get them. Pals are owed, Benjamins owe. As Progressives volley the Pals back and forth they accrete virtues that would surprise the Pals. Out of all the idolizing comes a victim scarcely human, a dragon of goodness and an angel of guile.

From their silky divans in Ramallah and Gaza, perpetual rulers table their demands. Upon which they sit back while the international community tells Israel to meet the demands more than half way. With victim status, Pal leaders are exempt from adulthood.

It’s the old story of the spoilt kid, and it brings to mind a quip made by the Israeli ambassador, Abba Eban. “I think it would be the first war in history that on the morrow the victors sued for peace and the vanquished called for unconditional surrender.”

A bittersweet joke! The Six-Day War had ended in a stunning victory for Israel and world leaders lined up to force bitter medicine down the victor’s throat: the remedy of land for peace. Many decades later the mantra keeps Israel trying to keep Washington and Brussels keep the wolf at bay – the wolf in boycotting garb.

One thing has changed. After Israel made the error of vanquishing the Arabs in 1967, the stakes got higher. Now diplomats expect Israel to swap more than land for peace. Another failed Sharia state and nothing less is on the table – unless Israel wants Brussels to stop trying to keep the wolf at bay.

Pals want Judea and Samaria, hot dammit! Never mind they lost wars they started.

Like the spoilt kid, Palestinian tyrants want everything and they want it on their own terms, unconditionally. Possession of land may be nine-tenths of the law, and ‘Benjamin” may have the possession, but who holds victim losers to law? Victims are defined by rights. Other claimants for a state to call their own (the Kurds have the strongest claim of all) would drool at the mouth looking at the pampered Pals.

And whose rights have to make room for the Chosen Victims? The Un-Chosen People making do with an already hostile slip of homeland. But hey – who cares! White and Jewish make a combo for the villain to top all villains. When human rights and social justice are handed out, ‘dark’ victims under the bondage of Benjamin, get it all.

All that was fatal flaw one.

Flaw number two, the Progressive Moses forgets the other side to the equation. The right to self-determination involves a big supposition – that of lawful ownership. By all means let people make unto themselves a nation, but where shall they do that? On what land? On whose land? Except for the Kingdom of Jordan, no land west of the Jordan River was ever held by a people recently named ‘The Palestinians.’ Israel took this real estate in a defensive war when such a claimant still had to be conceived.

Well – could Jordan not ask for the 'West Bank' back? No it could not because it was never Jordan’s to have and to hold. At the time Israel snapped up the territory Jordan had no right to be there. Not even the Arab league makes a case for the 'West Bank' to go to Jordan.

So our Moses figures look to Israel. At Passover time, thoughts on bondage and liberation run riot.

“We must allow Palestinians to enjoy the same basic rights to self-government and independence that we, the Jewish State, have been privileged to enjoy since 1948.” David Newman, a professor at Ben Gurion University, goes on to write of “fundamental Jewish religious values” as recounted at Passover. (Handy tikun olam pops up again). It is incumbent on the Jews of today, Newman believes, to ensure that other peoples are not oppressed, even more when they are under “our own control and for whose wellbeing we have direct responsibility.”

After marrying rights to responsibilities, Newman divorces them. Israel gets the responsibility and the Palestinian settlers get the rights. Your Progressive Moses can be clever but not wise. He knows of no such a thing as reciprocity. Jews must part with their promised land and leave enemies at liberty to rain down rockets on the metropolitan hub of Israel. The ‘fundamental Jewish values’ admired by the professor come with that sting in the tail.

Diplomacy, having no truck with the Bible, comes with a sting of its own. Looking back on American brokered peace talks before the Trump era, it is easy to forget the generic players on the game board – landowner and supplicant. Obama’s negotiator John Kerry hammered Israel for dangling carrots which the other player did not find terribly juicy. Not even negotiators acting for Israel stopped to recall natural law.

The owner of real estate needs do nothing until a person who would like to have it brings an offer. Should the latter be unwilling to meet the owner’s terms, the owner carries on with his life.

Cornered, Zaki the Priest and Newman the Dean have to admit that no laws or treaties give the Big Victim the right to “self-determination in a viable state of its own.” There are only Accords made in Oslo, and they’ve been trashed time without end. But even when the Accords were in mint condition they conferred no rights to self-determination. The Progressive Moses ignores principles of law while he scatters rights and obligations like confetti. Odder yet, our Moses is often the first to insist that Israel abides by the law.

Unpacking the biblical thunder in ‘Let the Pals go free!’ one discovers a fake product. Obligations come without rights and rights without obligations. The demand of the modern Moses comes down to, ‘Give the Pals what they want, hot dammit!’

Well – why not, to satisfy some quirky view of fair play. The Jews got their state, why deprive the neighbors? It might even help Israel’s own security. So say do-gooders toying with real baddies. But look at the way they put their case. Don’t put a spanner in the wheel by telling Palestinian leaders to recognize a Jewish state. Barak Obama’s peace maker, John Kerry, thinking only of Israel of course, scolded it for putting the kid out of temper by insisting it recognizes the Jewish state. Stop the tantrums. Give the kid what it damn wants.

Problem is, no one can fathom what the kid wants.

And here’s fatal flaw number three. How many times did Israel offer what everyone told Israel the kid wanted? Again and again Palestinian leaders were invited to establish a home they could call their own. Arafat then Abbas were offered land on which to make a home. After tearing up the RSVPs they launched Intifadas and flung the bits at Benjamin’s pale face.

Then there’s Gaza. Were not The Victims in bondage in Gaza before they got it, lock stock and barrel? For nothing? All they had to do in Gaza was make unto themselves a nation. You’d think Moses the Progressive would be happy. Think again. “In 2005 Israel withdrew its forces from the Gaza Strip, which increased Palestinians’ control over their lives…However, Israel continues to hold decisive control over major aspects of people’s lives.”

Here was Zaki the Priest prodding Pharaoh to let the people go, after Pharaoh had already done that. What did unelected leaders do with the gift which came with no strings attached ? They warred and they jawed. But then it’s not for Gaza’s elect to uplift the lives of their subjects, to build a nation. It’s for Israel to do that for them.

Zaki the Priest and Newman the Dean, typical of Moses impersonators, go about with blinkers. They fail to see the bottom line of giving land away. Let Palestinians have the Temple Mount, half of Jerusalem and Judea-Samaria – all the parts in dispute. Where will this leave the Benjamins? It will leave them looking suspiciously like colonial usurpers. After all what historical connections do the Benjamins have to Tel Aviv?

‘Let the people go’ is all well and good. But at Passover time Jews ought to have their own people in mind. This could mean confronting foes with a strong hand and an outstretched arm so that never again will they be a footloose and powerless people begging other nations, not to let them go, but to let them in.

Steve Apfel is an economist and a cost accountant, but most of all a prolific author of non-fiction and fiction, published in many journals and sites. His books include: ‘The Paymaster’ (Fiction); Hadrian’s Echo (Non-fiction); ‘A bias thicker than faith’ (non-fiction, for publication during 2020), and ‘Balaam’s curse’ a WIP biblical novel