Israel Has the Right to Live without Fear and Terror

By Sacks, Jonathan | The Evening Standard (London, England), October 24, 2001 | Go to article overview

Israel Has the Right to Live without Fear and Terror


Sacks, Jonathan, The Evening Standard (London, England)


Byline: JONATHAN SACKS

AN. Wilson is a writer I admire.

I enjoy his novels, relish his biographies and value his studies of the founders of Christianity.

That is why I found his article on "The tragic reality of Israel" not merely wrong but deeply shocking. For what he has called into question is not one Israeli policy or another, not this government or that, but the very right of Israel to exist. No one with a moral sense should say such things.

His argument, if I understand it correctly, is this. The existence of Israel upsets the Palestinians. They respond by acts of terrorism against its citizens. As a result, Israel "can only be defended by constant war". That is unacceptable. Therefore Israel should do the decent thing and cease to be.

Generously, Wilson does not want the Israelis to be "driven into the sea".

What they should do instead, he does not say, but the implication is clear.

Like a disgraced aristocrat in an Edwardian novel, they should quietly disappear.

Would Wilson say this about any other nation on earth? If the United States so antagonised Islamic states that it too could only be defended by constant war, should it likewise disappear?

Would it have forfeited its right to exist? If freedom itself can only be defended by constant war, should it too be abandoned? Is A. N. Wilson's right to exist conditional on not upsetting his neighbours? I hope not, for his sake and for the sake of our humanity.

Let us recall one reason why Israel was brought into being in the first place. For a thousand years Jews had been persecuted in Christian Europe, from the First Crusade in which Jewish communities in northern France and Germany were massacred, to Hitler's Final Solution in which two thirds of Europe's Jews were murdered, among them one and a half million children.

During that time new words entered the human vocabulary - ghetto, pogrom, Holocaust - all created to describe assaults against Jews, and each a permanent stain on the parchment of European history. THROUGHOUT that period Jews lacked one thing - a home, defensible space, a place where they could live at peace with their neighbours and ensure their own security. It took the worst crime against humanity to shake the world's conscience and grant the Jewish people that right. That is why, in 1947, the United Nations voted to bring the state of Israel into existence.

Shall we now compound that crime by creating a Judenrein Middle East? Does Wilson honestly believe that Jewish lives would be safe in a Palestine ruled by Yasser Arafat, let alone by Hamas or Hizbollah? Wilson is a waspish, provocative writer.

That is why I like him. We need such voices in a democracy.

Imagine then that, for whatever reason, he found himself exiled from Britain.

Where would he choose to go? To Afghanistan under the Taliban? To Libya under Colonel Gadaffy? …

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