Abstract: This article conveys a Torah approach to the Palestinian struggle and a belief in the Right of Return as a basic moral obligation as well as an international legal necessity. It responds to Zionist criticism of the theological standpoint on Palestinian sovereignty and expounds a theory of cross-confessional solidarity. The author also looks at the Jewish notion of return to the Holy Land through a theological lens and discusses the implications and requirements for such a return based on a Torah viewpoint. Key to this view is the idea of commonality rather than coercion and co-citizenship rather than conquest.
Speech delivered at the Second Conference of the International Union of Parliamentarians for the Defence of the Palestinian Cause Conference Beirut, Lebanon 24 Feb 2005 by Rabbi Yisroel Weiss.
With G-d’s help A Salom Aleikum
It is with a great sense of gratitude to the Creator that I have been chosen to make this presentation here today. It is also humbling to be the messenger of the Torah doctrine on this and related issues and I pray that my words may be truthful and find favour in the Almighty’s eyes.
My gratitude is, of course, first and foremost to our father in Heaven but I — and here I speak for the many Jews around the world whose viewpoints I represent — are thankful for being able to convey to this august gathering and through it to many others, who will follow by written or recorded word, all that will take place here. So a special thanks to His Excellency President of the Lebanese Republic General Emile Lahoud, the Parliamentarians and organizers of this conference for inviting us. Especially I would like to thank Mr. Ali Akbar Mohtashami the Union Secretary General, Mr. Ibrahim Mousawi and Mr. Stanley Cohen Esquire for their tremendous efforts in bringing us here – to once again show the world that anti – Zionism by no means implies anti – Semitism or anti Judaism. In fact, as I hope to explain today – and I am sure many of you already understand – true Judaism must be anti – Zionist due to many theological and moral considerations.
Unfortunately, in light of recent events, we would like to convey the Jewish people’s condolences and sympathy to the family of the former Prime Minister of Lebanon Rafiq Hariri and the entire Lebanese nation upon his tragic death. May G-d console you all, be with you and give you strength and fortitude to continue in G-d’s ways. Amen.
I must also mention here that we Jews will never forget the hospitality shown to the Jewish people in the Muslim countries, contrary to common beliefs, and especially the extraordinary safe haven that Lebanon has given to us throughout the ages. For that we are forever grateful. May G-d bless you all. We are gathered here to discuss the right of return. This is certainly a burning and important issue and one that is currently threatened to be removed from the world agenda by a Zionist government eager to forget what is right.
The right of return may not be forgotten. Every human being is entitled to their own property, justly acquired and that which belonged to their parents and grandparents. We certainly feel and deeply commiserate with the Palestinian people in their suffering; with G-d’s help I will return to this issue in due order. However, it is our belief that there are several more basic considerations that must first be examined in order to provide religious depth and background to this question.
Believing Jews throughout the centuries have viewed their exile from the Holy Land as a Divine Decree. As such its remedy lay in the realm of repentance and forgiveness. Its solution belonged to the Almighty. Our sole means of effecting Divine Grace was to be repentance, prayer and good deeds.
As an important aside we hasten to add that even that final Divine return of Jews to their land will be an occasion, not for the subjugation of one people by another, but rather for an unimaginable outpouring of brotherhood and love all channelled towards other people and to the Creator. It will be miraculous. It will be pure. It will be harmonious. It will in no way be coercive. We will share in the Lord’s goodness in the Holy Land.
In the meantime, though, any act on the part of the Jewish people to conquer the land, to use force of arms or even economic coercion against others, or to bring third parties in to create any of the foregoing, is absolutely prohibited by Divine Law and may result in terrible consequences.
The foundation stone of our existence as a people is our faith in the Almighty and His revealed word, the Torah. We would rather choose death than defiance of His Will. Zionism is a direct challenge to the Providence that governs our history. It asserts that man may act where the Lord has forbidden action. It has, will and metaphysically -according to the Torah- at the end of the day, must fail.
Zionism is a transformation of the Jewish belief system; in all our thousands of years of existence in exile, we yearned and awaited the G-dly revelation and not a natural materialistic creation. Zionism, on the other hand, is this realization of a G-dless materialistic creation, an entity calling itself the State of “Israel” striving to succeed, and this entity, will and must fail.
And fail it has. Nothing that Zionism promised our people has come about. There is no safe haven. There is no end to exile. There is no national renaissance. There is only endless suffering, bloodshed and hate, and we fear how much longer this will continue, until the spiritual root of the problem is abandoned. That is, we must relinquish the inherently evil desire to rebel against nations, instead of being loyal citizens to them, in all the lands where we reside. We must immediately stop the actions taken in exile to end this exile, because G-d has commanded us to trust in Him, take no action, rather patiently await the day of the revelation of His glory throughout the world, when all nations together will serve the One G-d, without any military intervention. Following G-d, trusting in G-d and waiting patiently for the G-dly redemption, are the real virtues that we Jews are asked to incarnate.
Thus, the issue of right of return is to us a most elementary one.
First we may not have a Jewish state. Thus, the current state or any state, even the most religious or ideal state, is inherently illegitimate by virtue of the Divine Decree of exile. All property and possessions seized in the process of its establishment must be returned. This is the basis for peace, justice and reconciliation. But just as individual property must be returned, so too, must the land as a whole be returned. We regard the Zionist seizure of Palestine as against our faith and against basic morality. Again I must stress, from the depth of our hearts, we feel with the suffering and plight of the Palestinian People. To us it is a double tragedy and humiliation, the fact that the Palestinians suffer and that it is being done in our name.
We are not a political group and we shun the power and machinations of politics. We do, however, have a peace program. It has one plank. The so-called Jewish state must be abandoned because Judaism and Jews true to the Torah demand it. It is not in the best interests of any people, least of all, the Jews. Jews do not seek power born of dubious morality and dogmatic error.
As far as the Jews currently living there, well, that is a matter for a future Palestinian government to decide. Our experiences with Palestinians and indeed with many Muslims stereotyped as anti – Jewish, such as the Iranians whose country we visited in a beautiful trip some years back, is that they are a compassionate people who have lived well with Jews before Zionism and will treat them well yet again in its aftermath. But that is their decision. Should they opt to allow all or some or none of the current Jewish population to remain, is their choice, not ours and not any third parties.
Thus concludes our political program. As far as the right of return, there are obviously going to be problems caused by large numbers of descendants wanting the same areas and similar logistical difficulties. Once again this is not and should not be our affair. We will step back and allow the Palestinian people the right to administer justice in this tricky field.
Turning to the moral realm – much effort, time and money has been exhausted in demanding that European governments give us back property and moneys that were taken in the Second World War. Jews throughout the world, true to the Torah, understand that according to the G-dly command of exile, it is forbidden for us as Jews, to make these demands. However, the international community grasps that a man deserves that which was once his. Hence, we as Jews, who are constantly cautioned in the Torah, to emulate G-d’s compassion, should most certainly demand that the Palestinians receive no less than full return.
This is not just a Palestinian issue. It is not even simply a Jewish issue. It is as an issue of justice and morality.
There are those who see this as a humanistic claim. Yes, it is a claim made by humans and it is just. But we believe that all justice and all truth emanates from the Almighty. He is the author of the moral law. He is Author of the Good.
We are told that a Disengagement or a two state solution will bring peace to the Middle East. The world is searching for peace in the Middle East. Real peace will not be achieved until justice and the demands of the Torah are met in their entirety. Justice and our religious teachings tell us that real peace must await the complete dismantling of the Israeli state. Hopefully, with the Creator’s help this may yet be accomplished without the further shedding of any blood.
We are not astute political analysts. The sources of power are not open to us. We cannot predict how events will play themselves out. This much we do know that believing Jews, even those who have momentarily been duped by the propaganda or financial bribery of the Zionist state, are beginning to doubt its underlying notions. Scepticism is heard more and more. All attempts to present the state as the saviour of the Jewish people ring exceedingly hollow. More and more Jews are coming to see Zionism as not only a failed solution to the so called Jewish problem but an actual source of heightened anti – Jewish sentiments the world over.
Unfortunately the centres of mass propaganda amongst Jews still lie in Zionist hands. It is with great difficulty that the vast numbers of Jews in the Holy Land and the rest of the world who oppose Zionism are able to get their message out. And it is in this area that those of you gathered here today and your friends and supporters elsewhere may be of some assistance to us. Mainstream media is often closed to us. If you are able to open your forums to us – and we are willing to travel anywhere at any time, to spread the Torah message – please allow us the chance to do so.
Further, it is most important for the sake of truth and also practically, to emphasize in your own presentations that the problem which both our peoples confront, is not Jews or Judaism, but rather the recently conceived ideology of Zionism and the State of “Israel”. Your opposition is to Zionism not Judaism. This is what we have been told by hundreds of Islamic teachers around the world. But it is a message that the world needs to hear. It will lend credibility to your presentations and sympathy to your cause. It will allow us to argue that if Zionism were to end, then Jews and Palestinians, as well as Jews and Muslims around the world will return to their good relations of former years. This is exactly what Zionism wants to disprove, that such a harmonious existence cannot be possible. They thrive from the rift between Jew and Arab and use this division to justify their existence. Whenever a statement is found that mistakenly refers to Jews instead of Zionists in its condemnation, the Zionists pounce upon it as a child does to candy. They have “proven” that the world in general and the Arabs in particular, are baselessly anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish. We must not feed this monster.
Another essential issue is the commonly known fact that for a doctor to prescribe a remedy to an illness he must clearly identify the illness. So too, in our case of this tragic situation in the Holy Land, we must clearly and unequivocally identify what the underlying problem is, what is the root cause of this tragedy, what the illness is and what was the cause from day one of this ongoing tragedy. It is one thing and one thing only: Zionism and the State of “Israel”; LET THE WORLD KNOW!.
My friends, brothers and sisters, I have spoken before countless Islamic and Palestinian groups and invariably, once our opposition to the Zionist control of the Holy Land is made clear, the people assembled, treat us with a respect bordering on love. Judaism is not, and has never been, a deterrent to peace.
It is those experiences which give us hope for the future. People around the world are waking up to the hope of real peace.
And, my friends, brothers and sisters, I sense that with the Creator’s help, the day of true reconciliation may not be far away. Personally, I refuse, as do many people of our belief, to visit the Holy Land so long as it is under Zionist occupation. But this I promise you; it won’t be long after the dismantling of the Zionist state that we hope to visit the Holy City as your guests. Together we will visit those refugees now returned, who are once again harvesting the olive groves of their grandparents. Together we will live in your state, a Palestinian state, with Al-Quds as it’s capital, under Palestinian rule, as loyal citizens, in justice and harmony.
And thus further I pledge that some time thereafter will come the day when all men will recognize the One G-d and shall join as brothers together, in the worship of the Almighty, in harmony and happiness, forever. May we see it happen speedily and peacefully, in our time. Amen.