On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion made the fateful decision to declare the establishment of the State of Israel. He did so despite immense pressure opposing the move and the prophecies of doom regarding the nascent Jewish state.
Ben-Gurion passed the test that the State of Israel, 73 years later, has failed.
The Israel Police on Monday canceled the annual Jerusalem flag march celebrating the reunification of the city following the 1967 Six-Day War. Originally scheduled for Jerusalem Day, May 10, the event was canceled amid the violent disturbances in the city and the launching of rocket attacks by Hamas. It was then rescheduled for this Thursday, before being canceled again.
The police decision came in the wake of immense pressure after Hamas threatened renewed violence should the march take place. Defense Minister Benny Gantz, along with many other politicians, media outlets and public figures, called for its cancellation.
While their fears are understandable, to prevent Jews from marching in their own capital is an abdication of our moral and national responsibility. It is taking the easy route rather than standing up for what’s right.
Hamas’s threat is serious and cannot be dismissed, but as history proves, appeasement is a misguided policy that sows the seeds of the next, more destructive conflict.
It’s true that Hamas views the march as a provocation, but that doesn’t mean that we need to follow their lead and adopt their view. To them, the mere existence of a Jewish state is a provocation—does that mean we should pack our bags and leave?
If Hamas threatens to bomb Israeli cities in the event that Jews visit the Temple Mount or Western Wall, does that mean we should bar Jews from these sites? Where do we draw the line?
The answer is that we draw it where our values dictate, and not where Hamas or any other terrorist group dictates. To quote Ze’ev Jabotinsky, “We hold that Zionism is moral and just. And since it is moral and just, justice must be done, no matter whether Joseph or Simon or Ivan or Achmet agree with it or not.”
Allowing law-abiding citizens to peacefully celebrate the reunification of their capital city is moral and just, on both the individual and national levels.
Furthermore, the decision to cancel the march has wider implications and is indicative of a much larger problem.
We live in a time when the Jews of Lod, Ramle, Jaffa and Akko are being called “settlers” and targeted simply for being Jews. When Israeli soldiers serving in Jaffa’s Military Court of Appeals are being told not to wear their uniforms in public so as to not provoke the local Arabs. When the IDF is canceling navigation exercises in the Negev out of fear of attacks by Bedouin. And when marching in Jerusalem with an Israeli flag is considered a provocative act worthy of condemnation.
As Jews around the world are removing their kippahs and hiding signs of their Jewishness due to rising anti-Semitism, Israel needs to stand up and lead by example. It needs to send a clear message to Jews around the world that we will not cower or be ashamed of our Jewishness. Unfortunately, canceling the Jerusalem march sends the opposite message.
It is always easier to back down than to stand up for what’s right. By canceling the march, we sacrificed what’s right for what’s easy.
What would have happened if this mindset had prevailed in 1948? Fortunately, Ben-Gurion had the courage and understood his moral responsibility to do what needed to be done, even if it wasn’t an easy decision.
This is a lesson we need to internalize now more than ever.
Eytan Meir is the director of external relations and development for Im Tirtzu, Israel’s largest grassroots Zionist organization and one of the organizers of the flag march. He can be reached at email@example.com.