Sunday, June 14, 2009

Jewish Claim To Palestine

In his widely heralded speech in Cairo, Egypt, President Obama declared:

America's strong bonds with Israel are well-known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

Around the world the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries. And anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust.

Supporters of the President assured critics that this represented admirable even-handednesss, a recognition that Israel, in addition to the Palestinians, have legitimate interests. The Palestinians have been warned that the United States recognizes that both sides must give ground.

Not exactly. Marty Peretz, publisher of The New Republic, notes Obama

chose to understand the Jewish presence in Palestine as a sort of restitution for the Holocaust.... By the time World War II--before the Holocaust, that is--began, there were already more than 500,000 Jews in Palestine. Most of them had arrived as their palpable reply to the 1917 Balfour Declaration, to the approval by the League of Nations of a British mandate for a Jewish homeland in Palestine in 1922, to the recommendations of the Peel Commission for a two-state settlement. None of this enters the president's text, not even a hint of it, perhaps because it might muddle the clarity of the equal-claim argument.

This was echoed by Netanyahu in his speech Sunday, in which the Israeli Prime Minister noted

the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel has lasted for more than 3500 years. Judea and Samaria, the places where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, David and Solomon, and Isaiah and Jeremiah lived, are not alien to us. This is the land of our forefathers.

The right of the Jewish people to a state in the land of Israel does not derive from the catastrophes that have plagued our people.

Of course, there are many people who would question the right of a people to territory based on a narrative from the Bible, the Old Testament in this case. Fortunately, as a Christian, Barack Obama accepts both the New Testament and the Old Testament. Surely a man who as candidate and as President has suggested a devotion to scripture, and has so often referred to it, understands and accepts this history.

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