News item:

[Israel Beiteinu chairman] Avigdor Lieberman was speaking at a Knesset memorial session marking the seventh anniversary of former Minister Rehavam Ze’evi’s murder by Palestinian terrorists.

“The state of Israel is Jewish by definition. Whoever is not willing to accept this definition has no place in this house or for that matter in any other house, from Metula to Eilat,” he said. “[Ze’evi] would never agree to the self effacing attitude of Israel vis-à-vis Egypt. Time after time we went to see Mubarak in Egypt – he never agreed to come here in an official capacity as president.”

“Every self-respecting [Israeli] leader,” Lieberman said, would expect a reciprocal visit when making one on his own. “He wants to talk with us? Let him come here; he doesn’t want to talk with us – let him go to hell,” Lieberman said.

President Shimon Peres immediately got down on all fours to respond:

A statement released by the president’s office read, “The state of Israel has great respect for President Mubarak and for his country for their important role in promoting peace in the area, as well as for their brave efforts and unrelenting efforts in this issue. Israeli-Egyptian relations are composed of many matters… and are based on mutual respect and a single declaration will not implicate this deep relationship.

Am I too harsh? Everyone knows that Arab leaders cannot appear to be anything other than anti-Zionist, indeed, can’t allow themselves to express anything other than contempt and even hatred for the State of Israel, regardless of Israeli policy.  Otherwise they run the risk of angering the ‘street’, possibly getting assassinated like Anwar Sadat. Shouldn’t we understand this and give Mubarak a break?

Well, actually, I don’t think so.

First of all, whose fault is it that in Egypt Israelis and Jews are considered the spawn of the devil? Whose official newspapers, Mr. Mubarak, constantly run vile anti-Semitic articles and cartoons? Why are lies about Israel murdering Egyptian prisoners of war treated as fact by Egyptian agencies? Whose official TV stations present programs based on the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”? When the government exercises tight control over what is published, why is Mein Kampf a runaway best seller in Egypt?

The fact is that apparently everyone — Arabs, Europeans, left-wing American academics, former US Presidents — feel that they are entirely justified in expressing their vicious hatred of Israel, with little attention to facts or history, and even less to civility. And there is a reason for this.

Nations have self-respect, like individuals and groups.  When the Muslim world felt insulted by the Danish cartoons, they wasted no time in expressing themselves. I am not suggesting that Israel should respond to insults with murder the way Muslims did, but a group or nation needs to maintain a vigorous display of  self-respect if it expects to receive respect in return.

President Peres’ response displays respect for Mubarak, who after all is a brutal dictator who has refrained from fighting with Israel only because he is paid about $3 billion a year by the US to do so, and who has done his best to prevent the ‘peace’ between Israel and Egypt from developing into anything more than an extended cease-fire. But Peres does not demand respect for Israel in return.

Recently, Peres showed his lack of self-respect as President of Israel when he spoke approvingly of the Saudi (or Arab League) ‘peace’ initiative:

A long-stalled Arab peace initiative could bring peace to the Middle East — still riven by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — the Israeli President Shimon Peres said Thursday, making his first endorsement of the proposal in an Arab country…

“In tandem with the bilateral negotiations with the Palestinians, we need to promote the Arab peace initiative,” Peres told reporters after his meeting with Mubarak at the Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheik.

Peres, a Nobel peace prize winner whose presidency is largely ceremonial, said the Saudi plan “needs to be negotiated” further, but that it was “correct,” in spirit. — AP

What Peres is incapable of seeing is that the ‘spirit’ of the Saudi plan is exactly this: Israel is entirely responsible for the conflict and must fully pay the price — by returning to the pre-67 lines, including giving up East Jerusalem, and by allowing almost 5 million refugee descendants into Israel — before the Arab world will grant ‘normal relations’, whatever they are (see my article, “The Arab Initiative, as it stands, is a document of surrender” for a full analysis).

Self-respect — for himself and for the nation — would demand that Peres reject the assumption of Israeli guilt and stand up for historical truth, which is that the conflict, the terrorism, and the situation of the refugee descendants are primarily the products of the Arab refusal to permit the existence of a Jewish state in the Mideast.

Israel should be, and is, prepared to compromise on issues like borders, etc. But Israel should also insist upon unambiguous recognition of her full legitimacy as a Jewish state — that is, her self-respect — as a sine qua non for any agreements, and indeed for all of her relationships with other nations.

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One Response to “Self-respect”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    Why does Vic Rosenthal seem to understand the basic issues involved in the conflict in a much deeper way than most commentators?
    This outstanding analysis shows sadly how often we are complicit in our own stigmitization. And that even our leaders sometimes comply in this.