Tuesday, July 20, 2010

the right to exist

Does Israel have the right to exist? History says without hesitation - yes.

Examining the early times of any empire we find a small kingdom rising to power over its neighbors. The neighbors might not like it, but might makes right, they are subjugated, they harbor their grudges and folkways and history moves on.

The United States wrote the book for Israel in sweeping the Native-Americans from the scene. The U.S. today is a product of a whole lot of killing, cheating, lying, elimination of rights, stealing of land and those good old reliable settlers who used sod houses instead of trailers.

Israelis can understandably be upset that the world is raining on their parade. A glorious return after 2000 years only to have everyone call you names.

But things have changed. That humanity has progressed may be arguable, but if there is any truth to it, it lies in the idea of individual human rights and the rise of law to the point where there is a sense of those laws and rights being universal.

The Geneva Conventions are a progression and expansion of rights and laws culminating in the 4th Convention after WW2 where the horrific results of modern mechanized war on the citizenry resulted in new laws about what was right and wrong. Occupying land and then placing the population of the occupier on those lands was now wrong.

Israel's problem is it came too late to the party - just after everyone had decided it wasn't such a good idea and had left for home.

In modern eyes, the whole concept of Israel as a country of newcomers who, though there were a minority in place all along, swept in with foreigners and established a foothold against the wishes of the majority of locals by force, is wrong.

The "right to exist" question is so important because the historical rule of might is no longer satisfactory by itself. Ask yourself if there is any comparison of the power of Israel to that of Hamas. There must be a legal admission by the subjugated that the rulers are legitimate, or, oppress and suppress as they might, their power and authority aren't acceptable even in their own eyes. It's no surprise that Israel endlessly repeats "the right to self defense" because it appears to confer legitimacy for the actions of a country that longs for it. That Israel's legitimacy keeps being questioned even after decades of continuous gains at the expense of the Palestinians is testimony to the modern power of law over the ancient law of might makes right.

The world can jump on Israel with a clear conscience since the work of other empires has already been done and in large part accepted (with notable exceptions on the southern tier of former Soviet states).

Israel, though one of the most recent of states, is an anachronism. It came to be through an incredible confluence of events. The effect of the Holocaust on world opinion put it over the top and gave it a great boost on its way.

But the course of its empire, tiny though it may be geographically, is now clear. The power of the Holocaust fades as those who knew it age and die while human rights and law are always in the spotlight.

History says Israel has the right to exist. The concept of human rights says it cannot expand at the expense of the Palestinians. Before modern communications, isolation from view allowed all manner of horrors in other lands. Now, a member of the IDF can hardly raise a nightstick without it being all over the Internet. Israel is here to stay, but it will always be on the examining table. To its great frustration, it can't get away with what so many others have done in the past.

Or can it? That, my fellow Americans, is up to you.

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