Village Reform Congregation
Rabbi's Message June 2018
The history of America's State Department since the 1920's has shown how anti-Jewish they have been. Therefore, in April 2018, the Department's rejection for the first time, of the word "occupied" in reference to Judea and Samaria (Israel's West Bank) captured in the Six Day War in June 1967 is significant. Perhaps it signals a new US Middle East policy that could facilitate a solution to the current Arab-Israeli conflict.
Since the Six Day War, the international community has increasingly framed the conflict as and "Israeli occupation of Palestine." However, since declaring the nation State of Israel on May 14, 1948, the term Palestine disappeared, as it was the name used by the British in 1917 following the capture of Transjordan from the Turks. The British kept the word "Palestine" created by the Romans for occupied Judea during the time of Jesus and no "Palestinian" Arab state has ever existed in the Land of Israel.
In his monumental work, "The Legal Foundation and Borders of Israel under International Law," late scholar Howard Grief argued that the legal title of the Jewish people in Israel was recognized by the international community at the San Remo Peace Conference in 1920.
This new terminology by our State Department does not mean that Israel will annex the entire (disputed) territories anytime soon. It is not in Israel's best interest to add another 2 million Arabs to its current population of 8 ½ million. To date the Jewish population is 74% and the Arab population is 24.5% of the State of Israel. What may happen in a future Arab-Israeli peace deal is that the Jewish populated areas of Judea and Samaria could eventually be annexed by Israel. This is consistent with the spirit of the key UN resolution 242, which envisions that Israel will retain part of the (disputed) territories now governed by the State of Israel.
The core of the Arab-Israeli conflict was never about "occupation" but a deeply entrenched Muslim Arab opposition to a reborn Jewish state within any borders. It is the Arabs, not the Jews, who have systematically rejected a two-state solution since it was first suggested by the British Peel Commission in 1937.
In sum, Israel is not an "occupier." Israel's final borders are yet to be defined. The historical and legal realization of the Jewish people's return to Israel is rooted in over 4000 years of history. The path to genuine peace between Arabs and Jews requires a recognition of this fundamental and eternal truth. I salute our State Department's monumental shift in its understanding of Jewish world history. Happy 70th Birthday, Israel! Someday, may peace reign within your borders.
Peace and blessings,
Rabbi Steven Newman