Moses in human rights garb

A sensitivity to human rights at Passover time draws Jews to think of Moses as a template devotee. That's all well and good. But they ought to have their own people above any other in mind

The modern day Moses
Steve Apfel
On 22 April 2014 17:56

A people liberated from slavery. No wonder the Jewish Passover is a time when aficionados of human rights feel drawn to play a modern day Moses. ‘Let my people go!’

Passover, many think, comes around for a melodramatic appeal to the conscience of Israel. Have pity; remember how the Jews were enslaved in Egypt, how they cried out in torment. Hear the cry of people in bondage under you, oh Israel. Let the Palestinians go; let them make unto themselves a nation.

Thus entreats a devotee of Human Rights, one of many thousands that make a good living from devotion. Listen to him carefully. In what he says and in what he believes lie the fatal flaws of the type: Moses in human rights garb.

Uri Zaki, once the director for America of an Israeli human rights scheme called B’Tselem (In the image of), made an impassioned Passover appeal. Let the Palestinian people go! What he actually said was:

“Israeli settlements in the West Bank make it practically impossible for the Palestinians to realize their right to self-determination in an independent and viable state of their own.”

The fatal flaws in that browned-off appeal lie where? Look for the duty of one party to give and the right of the other party to receive. Defrocked, that’s human rights. What is it but a worldview on Palestinian wants and the duty of Israel to supply them. One is owed, the other owes. There’s no notion of the alms-seeker having to do anything but table maximum demands, then sit back while supporters extort the alms-giver to meet him more than half way. The world absolves Palestinians from adult behaviour.

The idea of a perennial spoilt kid makes the quip of Israeli ambassador Abba Eban bitter sweet.

“I think it would be the first war in history that on the morrow the victors sued for peace and the vanquished called for unconditional surrender.”

The vanquished want everything, and they want it on their own terms, unconditionally. Possession may be 9/10th of the law, and Israel may have it, but emulators of Moses put Palestinians above the law. They endow rights upon them which other people can only dream of. Morally, diplomatically or politically – the rights of Israelis can’t hold a candle to the rights of Palestinians in ‘bondage.’

That was fatal floor one. Fatal flaw two is to forget that a right to self-determination involves another and equal right: ownership. By all means let a people make unto themselves a nation, but where shall they do that? On what, or on whose land?

No land west of the Jordan River belongs to Palestinians. Israel took the West Bank from Jordan, and Palestinians never entered the equation before that happened, or since for that matter. Nor can Jordan demand the land back, considering that it was not the lawful owner at the time Israel snapped it up. No one ever built a case for Jordan as rightful and lawful owner of the West Bank.

So the modern day Moses looks to Israel. At Passover time thoughts on bondage and liberation run riot, but be careful not to go where angels fear to tread. Politics can be the very devil. 

“We must allow Palestinians to enjoy the same basic rights to self-government and independence that we, the Jewish State, have been privileged to enjoy since 1948.”

David Newman, Dean of Human Sciences at Ben Gurion University, goes on to write of “fundamental Jewish religious values” as recounted at Passover. It is incumbent upon the Jews of today, he says, to ensure that other peoples are not oppressed, even more when they are under “our own control and for whose wellbeing we have direct responsibility.”

Finally someone has wed ‘Rights’ to ‘Responsibilities’, the natural partner. Never mind that Newman immediately divorces the couple, allocating responsibility to Israel and rights to the people it oppresses. And having divorced the couple, the modern day Moses delivers a lesson on ethics.

What is yours is theirs, and what is theirs is theirs. Ownership rights don’t get a moment’s thought. Devotees of human rights expect the people of Israel to part with their land (who else could the West Bank belong to?) so that a self-declared foe may establish one more foothold within range of metropolitan centres. Newman’s ‘fundamental Jewish values’ come with that political sting in the tail.

Diplomacy, having no truck with biblical appeals, comes with the political sting by itself. From American brokered peace talks one forgets who the rightful landowner is and who the supplicant. Israel the owner must dangle carrots in different forms that will entice a privileged coterie to nibble. Israel acts like a supplicant while Palestinian fatcats act like the landowner.

Even the truest ally treats Israel like a supplicant. When the clique of fatcats walked away from peace talks, American Secretary of State John Kerry came down on Israel for not dangling enough juicy carrots.

No one stops to remind themselves of natural law: an owner of property needs do nothing until a person with an eye on it brings an offer. Should the latter be unwilling to meet the owner’s terms, the status quo is undisturbed.

Cornered, Zaki the Priest or Newman the Dean would concede that neither law nor treaty gives Palestinians a right to “self-determination in a viable state of their own.” There are only the Oslo Accords which have been trashed many times over, lately when the self-appointed coterie went over Israel the owner’s head with an international bid for statehood.

But the accords even in mint condition conferred no privilege of the sort. Moses players, flouting principles of law, scatter rights and responsibilities like confetti. And that is more than odd, considering that the same players are first to insist that Israel abides by international law.

How fake is their biblical thunder: responsibility without rights; rights without responsibility. Give Palestinians what they want, for heaven’s sake.

Well – why not, if only to satisfy some quirky view of fair play. The Jews got their state, why deprive a neighboring people? It might even help Israel’s own security. So say do-gooders toying with real baddies.

But look at the way they put their case. Palestinians have no responsibility to accept an Israeli right, one actually written into law. Again John Kerry, the true blue friend, scolds Israel for putting the spoilt kid out of temper by insisting it accepts that Israel is a Jewish country. Other true friends, in Washington and Brussels, throw up their hands. Give the kid what it wants, for heaven’s sake!

Problem is, no one can fathom what it wants. And here we come to fatal flaw three.

Three is also for the number of times that Israel offered exactly what pundits and policy makers kept repeating the Palestinians wanted: sovereign peaceful co-existence. Viable swathes of land were dangled – Jewish-owned land. The fatcats drawn to the table by carrots were invited to establish a home that Palestinians could call their own.

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