Friday February 2, 2024 – כ״ג שְׁבָט תשפ”ד
With messianic fervor, the dancing and celebratory rejoicing at Jerusalem’s International Convention Center (Binyanei Hauma) where 5,000 Israelis (according to the organizers) gathered for the “Conference for the Victory of Israel – Settlement Brings Security: Returning to the Gaza Strip and Northern Samaria,” was like a bad joke:
“Start worrying, details to follow.”
This represents a public moving of the goalposts. Let’s be clear, there is no acceptable situation in which Israel sets up rule over Gaza or allows civilians to settle there. Full stop. No.
(Please the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism’s Statement on this conference)
Settlements in Gaza aren’t about increasing Israeli security. For these zealots, they are a new phase in the process of the “redemption” of the Jewish people. For these celebrants—including at least 11 members of the current Netanyahu government with 16 Knesset members, this war is meant to settle accounts for a different historical “crime” – the crime of the 2005 Israeli disengagement from Gaza.
Why should we be concerned about this?
- Israeli Hostages – Because this could sabotage a deal for the release of the hostages. We see this already happening during the Paris talks between the US, Israel, Qatar, and Egypt, where prominent Israeli government ministers and MKs are vocalizing their staunch opposition to a deal that would release terrorists (ala the Gilad Shalit deal) and they are actively and physically trying to block humanitarian aid into Gaza for the benefit of destitute Palestinian civilians. Their messianic fervor comes at the same time that a growing sentiment of the Israeli public (including many of the hostages’ families) rightly demands any deal that would bring the kidnapped home alive.
- We’ve Seen This Movie Before – Because three weeks before the outbreak of the 1967 Six-Day war, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, the spiritual leader of the religious Zionist camp and the son of the famed Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaCohen Kook, began his annual Independence Day sermon in a speech that has since become a centerpiece in religious Zionism, a quasi-prophecy heralding a new stage in the Jewish people’s redemption process. “They have divided my Land!” shouted Kook. “Where is our Hebron? Have we forgotten it? And where is our Shechem? Have we forgotten it? And our Jericho, will we forget them? And the other side of the Jordan, it is ours, every clod of soil, every bit of earth. I was torn to pieces, I could not celebrate.” Kook could not have known that within less than a month the holy places mentioned in his speech (save for the East side of the Jordan) would be conquered by Israel. This came to be a defining moment. Sunday’s conference was a clarion call to the next chapter in the struggle for the “Greater Land of Israel.”
- Israel’s Moral Standing in the World: Because in the rhetoric of Minister of National Security Itamar Ben Gvir, who was the headliner and celebrity star at the event, he pushed hard for two policies: encouraging Palestinian migration from Gaza and establishing a death sentence for terrorists.‘Encouraging Migration’ means ethnic cleansing. The reinvigorated language of “transfer” (“טרנספר”), is well-known. Lawmakers Danny Danon (Likud) and Ram Ben Barak (Yesh Atid) (Wall Street Journal in November) called for “the international community to explore potential solutions to help civilians caught in the crisis. One idea is for countries around the world to accept limited numbers of Gazan families who have expressed a desire to relocate.”
The far right is building on a scheme that was introduced into Israeli politics decades ago by far-right Rehavam Ze’evi who was popular among Kahanists (like Ben Gvir and Smotrich.)
- A Fundamental Moral Change in Israeli Jurisprudence: Israel has famously only employed capital punishment for one person (Adolf Eichman in 1962) one time. Our rabbinic tradition offered creative legal acrobatics to avoid capital punishment at all costs. Israel could head to a dangerous slippery slope campaign to regard all Gazans, all Palestinians, all Arabs as terrorists.
In 1980, 56 American Jewish leaders endorsed a statement signed by 250 leading Israeli statesmen, politicians, and generals, which could have been written yesterday:
“Extremists in the public and within the government, guided by secular and religious chauvinism, distort Zionism and threaten its realization. They advance the vicious cycle of extremism and violence, which nurture each other. Their way endangers and isolates Israel, undermining the ethical basis for our claims to a life of peace and security. Their way leads to divisions within the Jewish people, alienates friends of Israel, and strengthens the extremes amongst our enemies. Their way undermines consensus within Israel over the reason for fighting and dying.”
Amos Oz wrote in 1979:
“We have come here to live as a free nation, not ‘to liberate the land that groans under the desecration of a foreign yoke,’ Samaria, Gilead, Aram, and Haran up to the great Euphrates River. … Happy are those who believe. Their Zionism is simple and carefree. Mine is hard and complicated.”
Defend Israel by protecting our hard and complex Zionism. There’s no question that we as a people have a right to self-determination and to defend ourselves against real and present danger. Let’s make sure that others can do that as well.
 Transforming America’s Israel Lobby: The Limits of Its Power and the Potential for Change
by Dan Fleshler and M. J. Rosenberg | 2009
 Amos Oz, Under This Blazing Light, p. 82-83, 1979