Israelis this week remember all those who lost their lives so that Jewish sovereignty could once again be guaranteed followed by celebrations to commemorate that historic event in 1948.
As though the years preceding independence were not tragic enough ever since then we have faced and continue to confront those whose sole aim is our elimination. Ours is the only country in the world which constantly has to fight for its survival and obscenely needs to justify its very right to exist. No other nation has to endlessly endure foreign politicians pontificating that we have a right to exist. No other independent State has to withstand such a constant application of double standards and interference in our domestic affairs. Even in the midst of a virus pandemic when the UN Security Council cannot get its act together the only subject on which it does agree is the condemnation of the Jewish State.
I mention all these facts because far too often in our rush to celebrate our restored presence here many tend to overlook or ignore the occasions when it seemed highly unlikely that we would ever prevail. In the midst of our days of mourning and celebration, it is worthwhile to remember how we got here and how making the right decision at the right time can and does matter.
The years 1917 and 1920 were pivotal times in the destiny of the Jewish People. In retrospect, they were crucial to many later developments, something unimaginable over a hundred years ago. When Lord Balfour issued his historical declaration most of the Jewish establishment was decidedly unenthusiastic about its message. Only Lord Rothschild and interestingly enough, working-class Jews in England and Eastern Europe could envisage the momentous opportunities. For the first time since the exile of Jews from their homeland by the Romans one of the world’s leading powers recognized the inalienable right of a restored Jewish sovereignty.
This declaration, imperfect as it was, nevertheless laid the foundation for a far greater event, namely the San Remo Agreement of April 1920 which incorporated the Balfour pledge into a legally binding document and guaranteed Jewish settlement and independence on both sides of the river Jordan. Ratified by the League of Nations and reaffirmed by the United Nations in 1945 it still remains despite all efforts to deny its validity our proof that we are not illegally occupying anyone else’s territory today. Neither Britain’s shameful act in gifting half of the mandated territory to the Hashemite Jordanians, the 1947 UN partition plan which was rejected by the Arabs, the illegal occupation of Jerusalem, Judea & Samaria by the Jordanians nor the totally spurious fictitious claims by the terrorist PLO can negate our entitlement to the territory promised in 1920.
In an ironic twist of history, the centenary of San Remo has suddenly awakened certain politicians to its importance. It also has highlighted yet again the amazing capacity for hypocrisy which characterizes the political sphere these days. Israeli politicians should be asked where they have been for the last 72 years. Why only now have they woken up to San Remo’s relevance? Listening to representatives of those European countries who were the original signatories, praising the agreement, makes one wonder how cynicism can soar to such heights. These very same representatives singing the relevance of San Remo today are the very individuals who on behalf of their Governments condemn and censure us for having the audacity to belatedly restore sovereignty to the very territory guaranteed to us.
If ever there was a perfect time to speak the plain truth instead of resorting to diplomatic double talk it is now. This Yom Ha’Atzmaut is the ideal opportunity to not only celebrate the miracle of our rebirth in our ancestral homeland but to fearlessly proclaim a few other unpalatable facts. We should tell the UN and its associated bodies plus the EU and others to butt out of our affairs. They should at the same time cease appeasing terror-supporting States at our expense. Countries which profess to have our best interests at heart should demonstrate this by abandoning double standards. Quite frankly we are sick and tired of hearing ad nauseum that we have a right to exist when we can see that those uttering these platitudes are at the same time helping to arm and finance the very regimes dedicated to our demise.
David Ben-Gurion defied the US State Department, our own self doubters and prophets of doom by seizing the opportunity at a critical time to proclaim the re-establishment of Israel. He realized that for some there is never a right time to assert the Jewish right to our own country. This vital lesson needs to be remembered today as the same trembling doubters advocate yet another fruitless appeasement towards an international community which still tries to deny us our rightful heritage. Now is the right time to restore our sovereignty in those territories which were promised to us, first at the dawn of our history and then at San Remo one hundred years ago.
As the Latin phrase so aptly puts it – CARPE DIEM – seize the day!!!
Meanwhile, two unrelated news items broke in time for Yom Ha’Atzmaut, well timed or ill-timed, depending on one’s opinion.
The first concerned the unexpected and sudden decision by long time Health Minister Litzman to resign his position and request the Housing Ministry in the new governing coalition instead. There is obviously more to this than has been so far revealed.
Why, after vehemently refusing to vacate the health portfolio for quite some time, has he now done a complete flip and thrown in the towel?
Claiming that now the coronavirus is under control is a good time to go convinces nobody because this excuse is so patently false. Litzman had no meaningful input in the campaign against the virus and in fact, he and his wife managed to catch it. Still unanswered are accusations that he broke his own social distancing rules.
He is still under police investigation for having unduly influenced evidence as to whether accused pedophile and fellow Gur Hassidic follower, Malka Leifer, is fit to be extradited to Australia. This is still floating somewhere out there in the murky recesses of the legal system. Could his swift departure from the Health Ministry have anything to do with pending revelations?
The second piece of news which can definitely be described as ill-timed and which has been buried by most Jewish media sources, relates to the scandalous ban on the wife of Chabad’s shaliach in Nepal from lighting a torch at the Yom Ha’Atzmaut ceremony on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. She was chosen by the Israeli Government to be one of those honoured precisely because she represented the wonderful work of Chabad in far-flung corners of the world in hosting and looking after Jewish youngsters of every background and providing them with hospitality, especially on Shabbat and Festivals. Having gratefully accepted the invitation to light a torch and acknowledging the honour bestowed upon her and Chabad the stage was set for her to participate in this televised event.
All of a sudden and out of the blue the Chabad Beth Din, domiciled in America, issued a banning order forbidding her to take part. Obviously distressed she announced her withdrawal and followed it up with a letter of regret. Unexplained by the Head Office of Chabad was any coherent reasoning for this edict. The only hint was a vague reference to the fact that the Rebbe’s instructions mandated her non-participation.
What exactly these mysterious instructions encompass remains a mystery.
Was she forced to pull out because she is a woman? Does Chabad not want recognition for its chessed? Did those cloistered in New York think that someone else should have been chosen? How did the late Rebbe even know that she had been asked to light a torch?
Perhaps there is a deeper and darker reason for this ban. Is it because Chabad really does not want to be associated with celebrating and rejoicing Israel’s Independence Day?
If there is a secret anti-Zionist agenda then we should know about it. If this is not the case we are owed an urgent clarification for this strange and inexplicable situation.
This is the time to come clean and enlighten us.
Meanwhile, most Israelis and Jews in the Diaspora celebrate and give thanks for 72 years of a miraculous restoration to our Promised Land and look forward to an even more glorious future.
Michael Kuttner is a Jewish New Zealander who for many years was actively involved with various communal organisations connected to Judaism and Israel. He now lives in Israel and is J-Wire’s correspondent in the region.