The state of Israel this past week celebrated its 60th birthday, one that it would not have been able to observe had it not been for the leadership and tenacity of one American president. President Harry Truman, going against nearly the entire Washington establishment, made the United States the first nation to grant official recognition of the State of Israel a scant 11 minutes after they declared their state official.
Israel is the only free country in a region that is dominated by monarchies, theocracies, and dictatorships that repress freedom, oppress women, limit educational opportunities, outlaw religious and racial tolerance, and sponsor terrorism against freedom-loving people. As such, the approximately 7 million citizens of Israel, including Jews and Arabs who live within the original borders, enjoy freedoms not available to the hundreds of millions living in neighboring Muslim dominated countries. They can express their opinions, criticize their government, publish opposition newspapers, and hold free un-coerced elections. Itâ€™s an affront to logic for Arab authorities in the region, who deny the most fundamental freedoms to their own people, to criticize Israel for violating Palestiniansâ€™ rights.
On May 14, 1948, the day the British Mandate over Palestine expired, the Jewish People’s Council gathered to declare their independence. In that document, they declared that the Land of Israel â€œwas the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance.
â€œAfter being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.
â€œImpelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland. In recent decades they returned in their masses. Pioneers, and defenders, they made deserts bloom, revived the Hebrew language, built villages and towns, and created a thriving community controlling its own economy and culture, loving peace but knowing how to defend itself, bringing the blessings of progress to all the country’s inhabitants, and aspiring towards independent nationhood.â€ This right to gather in Israel â€œwas recognized in the Balfour Declaration (1917), and reaffirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations which, in particular, gave international sanction to the historic connection between the Jewish people and Israel and to the right of the Jewish people to rebuild its National Home.â€ This right was reaffirmed in 1948 by the United Nations.
The declaration then states the principles upon which the nation would be established. â€œTHE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.â€
Since that time, Israel has struggled for its very existence, having fought military onslaughts in seven wars of self-defense against 22 hostile Arab dictatorships, and faced a determined terror-led attack that makes those against America pale in comparison. In the 18 month period following 9/11/01 alone, Israel suffered 12,480 terrorist attacks that killed more than 400; a per-capita death toll more than six times that of Americaâ€™s 9/11 attacks.
It is with this historical backdrop that President Bush addressed the world at Israelâ€™s celebration of independence this week, where he declared, â€œYou’ve lived too long with fear and funerals, having to avoid markets and public transportation, and forced to put armed guards in kindergarten classrooms. The Palestinian Authority has rejected your offer at hand, and trafficked with terrorists. You have a right to a normal life; you have a right to security.â€
The President went on to say, â€œSome seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along.â€ Does anyone truly believe the bellicose leaders of Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, and Islamic Jihad, who all call for the eradication and annihilation of Israel, can be persuaded to change their minds?
Israel, Iraq, and Afghanistan are the primary front lines of battle in the war against terrorism. Recognizing this, and the fact that Israel is a free and democratic country, and an ally in combating the evil of terrorism, we should always maintain a resolute determination to stand by them and assure their defense, and not believe naively that Israelâ€™s enemies can be appeased into pacifism. After all, their enemies are ours as well.
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