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Not all inequalities are equal

Israel is not to blame for the Palestinians’ poor choices.

Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, Sept. 3, 2020. Credit: Flash90.
Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, Sept. 3, 2020. Credit: Flash90.
Rabbi Uri Pilichowski
Uri Pilichowski
Rabbi Uri Pilichowski is a senior educator at numerous educational institutions. The author of three books, he teaches Torah, Zionism and Israel studies around the world.

Western nations share the belief that all people are created equal. Yet treating all people equally is not something that comes automatically. So, creating equality is an important objective for all nations and communities. There is no justifiable reason why one human being should be held back due to institutional policies. State-imposed disadvantages for one group of people—like slavery—are clearly immoral.

A just society ensures inequalities do not develop. A progressive society actively seeks out inequalities and seeks to correct them. In fact, the Torah commands Jews to do precisely this. While the Torah cannot be pigeonholed into a single modern political movement, on this issue, the Torah is progressive.

However, not all inequalities are equal. While inequalities imposed on others require correction, inequalities that result from a person’s choices are not society’s responsibility to correct. For example, if a person chooses to spend years in medical school and earns a high salary, while their friend decides to skip school for a lower-paying job, the inequality that results cannot be blamed on society at large.

Such self-imposed inequalities can result from forgoing education, financial recklessness and criminal activity. A person in prison is unequal, but has no one to blame but himself.

Moreover, at times, leaders make choices that create inequalities that affect their entire society. The individual citizen is not at fault for their leaders’ choices, but they nonetheless suffer the consequences. Thus, if leaders are unjust, the people must rise up, rebel and overthrow those leaders, even at risk of life and limb. Free nations usually become free only by toppling despotic rulers.

People, especially progressives, often see all inequalities as societal faults that require correction, including inequalities that are the result of poor personal or political choices. For example, we often find apologists for the Palestinians and many Jews characterize the inequalities brought about by poor Palestinian choices as unjust inequalities.

In 1948, the Arabs who lived in then-Palestine made the choice to oppose and fight the Jews who declared a Jewish state. They could have accepted the U.N. partition plan, but chose not to. This poor choice led to their defeat. For the next two decades, the State of Israel extended its hand in peace to the Arab nation. The Israelis’ offer was repeatedly rejected, and the Arabs chose to attack the Jewish state instead of making peace. Over the next five decades, Israel continued to offer peace. Countries like Egypt, Jordan, the UAE and Bahrain accepted and enjoy the resulting benefits. They made the right choice.

The Palestinians, however, consistently chose to reject every offer of peace. They made poor choices and have suffered the consequences. This is their own doing and their own fault.

There are great inequalities between Israelis and Palestinians. These inequalities are not unjust inequalities that are Israel’s obligation to correct. They are inequalities caused by the Palestinians’ poor personal and political choices. Israel cannot force the Palestinians to make the right choice and choose to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict via a peace deal.

There are Palestinians who want peace with Israel and an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They blame the Palestinian leadership for refusing to make peace. It is possible that the Palestinian people can only achieve peace with Israel by overthrowing their leadership and taking life and death risks to improve their situation. While the world would prefer a smooth and bloodless transition to freedom and prosperity, it is not likely.

Blaming Israel for the inequalities Palestinians face due to their poor choices is intellectually dishonest. Characterizing the Palestinians’ predicament as “oppression,” “occupation” or “apartheid” blames Israel for the Palestinians’ poor choices, which is deceitful.

Progressives interested in improving the Palestinians’ situation should not act as Palestinian apologists and blame Israel. They should push the Palestinian leadership to reform or for Palestinians to overthrow it.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.

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