If I could choose only one book to read about Israel that is most important in today’s climate of anti-Semitism, I would choose The Jewish People’s Rights to the Land of Israel, by the late and most beloved Salomon Benzimra. I have read many books about Israel, Judaism, anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, why the Jews and, for that matter, why the Germans. I have read far more than I would ever wish on anyone else and yet far less than so many others.
There was one thing that brought a sliver of light following the Shoah. It took time, but there was a glimmer. The mea culpa, the rending of clothes, the expressions of sorrow and horror over the wanton murder of 6 million Jews for the crime of being Jewish. That was all. The crime of being.
The Church—Catholic and Protestant—repented. Never again, they said. Never again would Jews be attacked for the crime of being Jewish. And that never again was used whenever another atrocity took place.
But who would have thought that a little less than 80 years following the Shoah, the same rumble and grumble would be heard through the land. The same hate for Jews. And by the same people. The Anglican Church in Britain; the Pentecostal Appeal promoting the view that Israel is an apartheid state and is eradicating the history of the Arabs; the Mennonite Church USA; the Presbyterian Church USA; the Church of Scotland; the United Church of Canada and the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. And then there is Spain, home of the Inquisition, which has more than 80 towns joining the BDS movement against Israel.
They found a way, and it didn’t take long. They jumped on the BDS/apartheid wagon. They couldn’t help themselves. Repentance is more than saying I am sorry. Repentance and in Judaism, teshuvah, means coming to the same crossroads but taking a different path. The Christians came to the same crossroad, and once again chose the road most traveled. They chose and choose to believe that the Jewish people are interlopers in the land of Israel.
They have no problem standing with those who cry out, “Palestine will be free from the river to the sea!” So where does that leave the State of Israel?
These Christians are the same people who read the same Bible that the Jewish people read. More or less, give or take. They certainly know the history of the Jewish people in Israel. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and lived and died there, according to the Christian translation of the Hebrew Bible. Where? In Israel, including in Judea and Samaria and the Golan and Gaza—and all of Jerusalem.
I have sat with Christians in small discussion groups, even in their churches, listening to their latest reports from Israel, from the Christians just returning from their “fact-finding” missions. And they would sit in front of me with a sense of superiority and calmly say with a bit of Schadenfreude, “Oh, those Jews! They are occupiers! The poor Palestinians are so oppressed.”
This despite the fact that Muslims in the Middle East collaborated with Hitler. “The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who was recognized as the official leader of the Palestinians during this period, was a virulent anti-Semite whose hatred of Jews was both religious and racial. Husseini rejected the two-state solution, arguing that Palestine is part of Syria. He objected to any Jewish state, even the one the ‘size of a postage stamp,’ on Islamic holy land. … Husseini’s heir was Yasser Arafat, a cousin who targeted Jews, through his surrogate terrorist groups, found in The Case Against Israel’s Enemies: Exposing Jimmy Carter and Others Who Stand in the Way of Peace by Harvard University emeritus law professor Alan Dershowitz.
To believe the words of Muslims—to accept their tale that the Jews are oppressors and colonizers—requires one thing and one thing only: innate endemic and systemic Jew-hatred.
Palestine refers to the land that was Israel. It was renamed Palestine by the Romans, who finally had enough of the pesky Jews who fought valiantly and refused to go quietly into that good night and had to be exiled. The Romans chose the name Palestine because it refers to the most vicious enemy of the Jews on biblical times: the Philistines. Now, I know my Christian friends are aware of the Philistines from the story of David and Goliath. David defeated Goliath and the Philistines. They no longer exist.
Yet today, these Christians look at the map of the Middle East and see 23 Muslim countries, with 230 million Muslims raised, bathed and swaddled in Jew-hatred, surrounding Israel with 7 million Jews and 1 million others … and they still declare that the Jews are occupiers.
So how do we respond to those who refuse to allow us to live in our own land? Which books do we read? You read Salomon Benzimra’s book because it is concise, easy to understand, and filled with something our enemies do not have: facts. Yes, I know today that facts aren’t as important as feelings, but one day, facts will matter. If we must defend our right to live in peace on our legal and historical land, then we must be able to share facts based on international law.
Salomon gives us one detail that so few choose to share. In 1947, when the U.N. partitioned the land, Resolution 181, along with Article 80, the Jewish leaders agreed to it, despite the fact the land was tiny and almost impossible to defend. The Arab leaders said no and chose war. Five Arab countries attacked the tiny state—and lost. Oh, the shame! So they tried again in 1967, and again in 1973. And lost.
We, the Jewish people, must never forget, whether others remember or not. And we must reach out to progressive Jews, though I am not convinced that one can be a Jew and a progressive at the same time. Hopefully, once these “lost” Jews read the book, they will no longer feel the need to bend the knee to false prophets.
No matter how much we learn about the Holocaust—and the hate and evil and willful blindness—and look into the minds of those who committed these acts, nothing right now is more important than the facts about the legitimate State of Israel. And that is the reason you must read The Jewish People’s Rights to the Land of Israel by the late and much-missed Salomon Benzimra.
Diane Bederman is the author of “Back to the Ethic, Reclaiming Western Values,” published by Mantua Books. She blogs at: DianeBederman.com.