Friday, April 4, 2014

The Unique Goodness Of Israel

On National Morality

When a nation senses that it is has many enemies that want to view its destruction, it is normal and acceptable to take all necessary precautions to protect it and its citizens; in fact, it is a moral imperative. Israel is one such a nation, and nations under multiple threats of annihilation over decades act accordingly. Of course, like many liberals, I would prefer Israel to act differently, that it wouldn't have to always act with suspicion or caution, that it would be more trusting and open on the diplomatic front. Does it now have good reason to do so? It might, if its neighbours would act more friendly, and not keep on making inflammatory and hateful speeches, calling for its destruction; and, more so, an important first step would be the recognition of the State of Israel as a legal and viable nation. Considering its constant state of vigilance since its founding in 1948, Israel has behaved admirably, argues, Prof. George Jochnowitz: "If Israel were the only country on earth, it would be legitimate to say that Israel has committed many sins during its history, especially during its War of Independence, when it was fighting five Arab nations. But compared to any other country dealing with the hellishness of war, Israel is uniquely good."

by George Jochnowitz
War is hell. Israel has not always been at war, but it has never been at peace. Its neighboring independent state, Gaza, is ruled by the Hamas Party, whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel. A state that does not share a border with Israel, Iran, has brought sanctions upon itself in order to develop atomic weapons. Former President Rafsanjani explained in the annual Al-Quds (Jerusalem) sermon given on December 14, 2001, that if one day the world of Islam comes to possess nuclear weapons, Israel could be destroyed. Rafsanjani said that the use of a nuclear bomb against Israel would leave nothing standing, but that retaliation, no matter how severe, would merely do damage to the world of Islam (reported by MEMRI Special Dispatch Series No. 325).

Countries at war routinely mistreat minorities ethnically related to their enemies. During World War II, the United States relocated its citizens of Japanese descent to internment camps for the duration of the war. In Israel, on the other hand, citizens who are openly disloyal may have government positions. Haneen Zoabi, a member of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament), has kept her seat even though she rode on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship headed for Gaza that was part of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. Israel and Egypt maintained a blockade of Gaza for reasons of security. Haneen Zoabi chose to ride on a ship to break Israel’s right of self-defense. Despite this act of open disloyalty, she retained her membership in the Knesset. No country but Israel would allow that.

Salim Joubran is a judge on Israel’s Supreme Court. He has refused to sing Hatikva, Israel’s national anthem. No other country would allow a person in that position to keep his seat.

War is hell and Syria is certainly going through that hell. Relief supplies to besieged areas are being blocked by both the government and by rebels. If Syrians are in need of medical aid, on the other hand, and if they can make it across the border, they will be treated in Israeli hospitals.

Israel has often come to rescue victims of natural disasters all over the world. The outstanding case may have been Haiti, after the earthquake of 2010. Israeli doctors and other professionals arrived in Haiti almost immediately. They established the very first field hospital there.

Palestinians in Israel can not only be elected to the Knesset and sit on Israeli courts, but they can become musicians. The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra is based in Spain, to be sure, but it is led by Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim and is an Israeli attempt to let young Muslims become professional musicians. Israel is also a country where Arab women can become physicians. The percentage of Jewish women doctors in Israel is certainly higher than that of Arab Israeli women doctors, but the door to medical education and practice is open to Jews and Arabs, men and women, alike.

What happened to the Palestinians who fled to Arab countries? They became citizens in Jordan. Elsewhere in the Arab world, they remained foreigners. Some of them still live in refugee camps after an unprecedented 65 years.

If Israel were the only country on earth, it would be legitimate to say that Israel has committed many sins during its history, especially during its War of Independence, when it was fighting five Arab nations. But compared to any other country dealing with the hellishness of war, Israel is uniquely good.
George Jochnowitz was born in New York City, in 1937. He became aware of different regional pronunciations when he was six, and he could consciously switch accents as a child. He got his Ph.D. in linguistics from Columbia University and taught linguistics at the College of Staten Island, CUNY. His area of specialization was Jewish languages, in particular, Judeo-Italian dialects. As part of a faculty-exchange agreement with Hebei University in Baoding, China, he was in China during the Tiananmen Massacre. He can be reached at

Copyright ©2014. George Jochnowitz. All Rights Reserved. This article was originally published in Arutz Sheva (March 31, 2014). It is republished here with the permission of the author.

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