by Fred Foldvary
Israel is the only state whose existence has been under continuous denial and attack. Since its independence, the State of Israel has had to defend its borders against external invasion. Today, there is a continuous threat of invasion by militants who seek to murder and maim civilians, and strike fear in the population in order to achieve political gains, which is the essence of terrorism.
Arabs hostile to Israel say they are making revolution, as did the USA against the British colonial rulers. But a righteous revolution focuses its attacks on military targets, not civilians. Moreover, the violent attacks would only achieve their goals if they could militarily defeat the Israeli army. The terrorists have mistakenly treated the Israelis as though they were a colonial power as was France and the United Kingdom when they controlled the Middle East.
After World War I, France and the UK, the European victors, dismantled the Austro-Hungarian and Turkish empires. In Europe, the fragments became independent countries, but in the Middle East, the victors created colonies such as Iraq, with artificial boundaries. After World War II, the Europeans left, and the Middle Eastern colonies became independent states.
Many Arabs regard Israelis as colonial intruders. They don’t understand the history of Israel or the mentality of Jews who see themselves as living in their homeland, land they see as promised to them by God. Israelis are not like French and British colonists who can return to their homelands of France and Great Britain.
It is doubly ironic for Arabs to consider Israelis as crusaders, since the European crusaders murdered Jews as well as Muslims. Moreover, the population of Israel swelled soon after its independence when Arab states pressured Jews to leave. If they want Jews in Israel to go back to where they came from, the Arabian Jews would have to go back to places such as Iraq and Yemen, where they would be murdered.
The Israelis have reacted to the constant terror and intrusions with sophisticated tactics and technology. The border has to be monitored constantly. Israeli soldiers are well trained to detect and eliminate terrorist attacks. Israel is a democracy under the rule of law, and although it has taken harsh measures to defend itself, there is a regard for legal procedures. The terrorists violate all human rights and simply kill at will, but Israel operates under constraints.
Israelis have been good at defense but awful in their domestic policies. With their huge military expenses, they need to squeeze as much productivity as possible from their limited resources. Israel is also increasingly being divided into rich and poor economic classes. Israel needs to scrap its destructive value-added tax and avoid taxing income and goods. Real estate in Israel is expensive, but that can be turned into a great asset if the land value were tapped for public revenue. Untaxing goods and labor while tapping the land rent for public revenue would reduce the economic inequality while generating more wealth for defense and daily life.
Israel has offered land and compensation, but that is not enough for many Palestinian Arabs. Some seek the total destruction of the State of Israel, and others seek the evacuation of all Jews out of Israel. Others more moderately seek, besides land, the return of Palestinian Arabs to land that they held prior to 1948. If this was permitted, hundreds of thousands of Arabs would enter and live in Israel, creating an Arab majority, who would then control a government hostile to Jews.
But the State of Israel was created specifically as the place where Jews would be free to govern themselves in their original homeland. In Europe and the Middle East, they were persecuted because of their religion. Israeli Jews will not give up the independence and self-governance they have regained at so great a cost.
The deepest conflict is over religion. The Arab states have been propagating hateful diatribes against Judaism and Jews for decades. During World War II, the Arab world became influenced by Nazi propaganda. Hateful and deceitful propaganda is taught in the schools and broadcast all over the Middle East and in Muslim countries. Egypt has formally recognized the State of Israel, yet it is a chief source of anti-Jewish propaganda. Millions of Arabs are then inculcated with hatred not just against the State of Israel and Israelis but of Jews generally. Jews in France and elsewhere then get attacked.
Both Israelis and Arabs need to confront reality. Millions of Jews live in Israel, and they are dug in and not going away. They have not brought in an alien language such as Spanish, but have restored the original Hebrew, which is now spoken and written throughout Israel. Muslims and Arabs need to understand this reality, but also Israelis need to get real about the Arabs. They need to recognize the rights of Arabs, as human beings and as residents of the land, to dignity and equal self-governance. They need to stop unnecessary humiliations and pain.
Both Israelis and Palestinian Arabs have made many mistakes over the last hundred years. Opportunities for peace were lost after 1948, 1967, and 2000. At the deepest level there needs to be a cessation of religious hatred and intolerance. The land and self-governance that Arabs seek in Palestine will be possible if they recognize the humanity of Israelis and turn to peaceful and democratic solutions. Americans and Europeans should promote a democratic confederation of Israel and Palestine, with all landholders paying rent to the confederation. The borders and land titles would then no longer matter so much, and an economic market for land could replace the political and military conflict over territory.