Left-wing American Jewish groups are crowing about their success in postponing a vote on whether the Jewish National Fund-Keren Kayemet LeIsrael (JNF-KKL) can purchase private land from Arabs in Judea and Samaria. What they are celebrating is the striking of a blow at the heart of Zionism.
“We’re happy to share some good news today!” began the email from Partners for Progressive Israel, the U.S. arm of Israel’s far-left Meretz Party. “Thanks to the tireless resistance work being done” by various left-wing activists, “a small victory” has been scored by blocking the vote, at least for now.
The left’s “good news” is bad news for Zionism. The setback may be small, and hopefully, it will be only temporary, but make no mistake about it—Partners for Progressive Israel and its allies have undermined the consensus that has held the worldwide Zionist movement together for more than a century.
The “Jerusalem Program,” which is the credo of the World Zionist Organization, consists of six “foundations of Zionism” that every Zionist organization is obligated to accept. The first foundation is: “The unity of the Jewish people, its bond to their historic homeland Eretz Yisrael, and the centrality of the State of Israel and Jerusalem, its capital in the life of the nation.”
Note that it does not refer to a bond only to Israel within the pre-1967 armistice lines. It says, “its bond to their historic homeland Eretz Yisrael.” The choice of the term “Eretz Yisrael,” the Land of Israel, was obviously intentional. And that term has to include the areas which have always been at the heart of the Land of Israel, Judea and Samaria. The cities of Judea and Samaria, such as Hebron, Shiloh and Shechem, were the scene of thousands of years of Jewish and Zionist history, long before cities like Tel Aviv existed.
In the early 1900s, as the Zionist movement began actively purchasing land from private Arab owners, everybody on the Zionist spectrum, from right to left, thought it was a great idea.
They thought it was a great idea because it was the way to build a Jewish state. Not only that. Many on the Zionist left also believed that private commercial transactions between Jews and Arabs would actually promote coexistence. People doing business with each other is the opposite of people shooting at each other.
Nobody, including even the farthest-left elements in the Zionist movement, thought that the Jewish National Fund should be prevented from purchasing land simply because Palestinian Arab leaders, or various foreign powers, wanted to prevent it.
In 1937, the British Peel Commission recommended dividing Mandatory Palestine into Jewish and Arab states; in 1938, the British Woodhead Commission made a similar proposal. The Zionist left didn’t announce that Jewish land purchases should be stopped in half the country, just because Peel or Woodhead thought there should be an Arab state there.
In 1939, the British proclaimed a White Paper that prevented Jews from purchasing land in 95 percent of the country. The Zionist left didn’t support that. On the contrary, all Zionists, from left to right, denounced it.
In 1947, the United Nations proposed a partition that would have left the Jews with a tiny state. During the subsequent Arab invasion, the Jewish forces liberated more land than was allotted to them. From 1948 to 1967, those areas were part of the State of Israel. The Israeli left didn’t object to the JNF buying land there.
So why is it that today, left-wing groups like Partners for a Progressive Israel treat the pre-1967 armistice line as sacrosanct, and treat Judea and Samaria as off-limits? Why should the pre-1967 armistice line be considered as any more holy than the lines proposed by Peel, Woodhead or the United Nations?
All of those boundary lines were arbitrary. The lines suggested by Peel and Woodhead were conceived by the British Colonial Office. The 1947 lines were the brainchild of U.N. officials. The lines that prevailed from 1948 to 1967 simply marked how far Jordanian tanks had managed to advance in 1948 before the ceasefire.
There is no legal, historic or religious basis for the Zionist left’s campaign to stop Jews from buying land in Judea and Samaria. The campaign’s only basis is fear—fear and weariness. The Palestinian Arabs are loud, insistent and violent. (Look at what’s happened in Jerusalem over the last few days.) The Arabs’ allies in the international news media are carping and relentless. Thus, many Jews on the left are afraid and tired. They’re afraid of Arab violence and tired of being out of sync with their favorite newspapers and cocktail-party friends. They seek relief by siding with the Arab world’s demands to stop Jews from living in their historic homeland.
All of which raises an interesting question. Every organization that wants to be part of the World Zionist Organization and the American Zionist Movement, including Partners for Progressive Israel, is required to accept that Jerusalem Program principle about the Jewish people’s “bond to their historic homeland Eretz Yisrael.”
Clearly, Partners for Progressive Israel and like-minded groups are now working overtime to weaken, not strengthen, Israel’s bond to the areas that are at the heart of our historic homeland. Should such organizations be permitted to remain within a movement whose fundamental principles they seek to undermine? It’s time for this question to be debated seriously in the Jewish world.
Stephen M. Flatow is a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, an attorney in New Jersey and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is the author of “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror.”
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