With that single sentence made to her Israeli hosts, Sarah Palin demonstrated a greater understanding of the problems confronting Israel than the collective wisdom of all the J.D.’s, Ph.D’s, and Masters of International Affairs in the Obama administration combined.
The question was profound, as simple as it were, because it addressed the narrative of perpetual Palestinian victimization and grievance.
First, it goes to the heart of Israel’s right to exist. The recent trend, including among American Jews, is to acquiesce in the leftist-academic and Islamist view of Israel as a mistake and an anomaly, something which deserves to exist — if at all — merely by reason of historical accident. Palin refuses to succumb to such a narrative, recognizing that the connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem and Israel goes back over 3000 years. For millennia Jews have prayed “next year in Jerusalem,” something no other people had done until the 1967 war led to the creation of a Palestinian national identity. The State of Israel as a Jewish nation owes no apology for its creation or continued existence.
Second, Palin recognizes that the reason there is no peace in the Middle East is not that Israel is unwilling to give up more land, but that Israel is not willing to give up completely. Regardless of peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, Israel never has been accepted by the populations of either of those countries or elsewhere in the Middle East. In Egypt recently over a million people in Tahrir Square chanted “To Jerusalem We go, for us to be the Martyrs of the Millions.” In Tunisia, thousands chanted “death to the Jews” even though there are few Jews left in Tunisia. When Lara Logan was brutally attacked the crowd chanted “Jew, Jew,” and called her an Israeli agent. There will be no peace, regardless of how much land Israel gives up or how many times Israel apologizes, until there is a change in the hearts of Israel’s neighbors.
Third, the specific issue to which Palin was reacting was the inability of Jews to pray on the Temple Mount out of fear of Muslim riots and violence. Indeed, it was Ariel Sharon’s entry onto the Temple Mount in 2000 which was the excuse used by Yassir Arafat to ignite the Second Intifada, which lasted roughly 5 years and killed thousands. Respect is demanded for Muslim holy sites, but that respect is not reciprocated. Muslim worshippers on the Temple Mount repeatedly have thrown large stones down onto Jewish worshippers at the Wailing Wall, yet Jews do not riot and kill Muslims in response. Showing respect for Muslim holy sites is the right thing to do, but refusing to insist upon reciprocal respect simply encourages more demands and more violence.
Of course, the beauty of Palin’s question was that it applies just as well to Obama, who has launched apology tour after apology tour, who dwells on our imperfections, who refuses to lead, and who seems embarrassed by us.
“Why are you apologizing all the time?”
That is the question Israelis need to ask, and so do we.
[The “first” paragraph was corrected to reflect the 3000+ year old Jewish connection to Jerusalem.]