Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Bogus Argument

In the Letters section of this week's New York Jewish Week, Raanan Elozory of Jerusalem writes in with the following complaint:

The article on Amir Peretz titled “The Man Behind The Mustache” (Nov. 18) refers to Peretz’s opposition to “the occupation.” Gaza is part of the Jewish biblical homeland. If a Jewish presence in Gaza is occupation, how is a Jewish presence in Jerusalem any different? Do Jews have a right to any place on the planet?

I've heard this argument so many times before, and it makes no more sense than the first time. "If Jews have to leave Samaria, who is to say we don't have to leave Tel Aviv?" they say. Or "any argument you make about disengaging from Gaza, the Palestinians could use to say we have to get out of Petach Tikva." Etc etc.

Now, it is true that there are a lot of people living in this here Middle East who would love nothing better than to force the Jews out of Tel Aviv and Petach Tikva, one way or another. And it is also true that in the minds of many of our enemies, there is, in fact, no difference at all between Gaza, Jerusalem, or Bet Shemesh.

However, this particular argument -- that once we waver on our right to be in Gaza, the next logical step is to deny our rights to areas in the pre-1967 borders-- is not a good one at all. There are plenty of good arguments about why we should have stayed in Gaza, why we should stay in the West Bank, why we need settlements, etc etc (not that I agree with all those arguments, but that's not the point) without using this argument.

And the reason this argument is bogus is that the State of Israel does not equate the occupied territories with Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. We never annexed the West Bank (except for East Jerusalem). We never annexed Gaza. And in fact, Gaza has always, since 1967, been "saved" as a bargaining chip by every single PM Israel has had. It was never even intended to be annexed.

Israel itself will tell you that different laws apply in Tel Aviv vs. Hebron (for example, according to Israel, the Geneva Convention does not apply in the West Bank, whereas it definitely applies in the pre-1967 borders). Israel itself will tell you that the occupied territories are occupied. A Jewish presence in Gaza is occupation because everyone calls it that, including Israel. But Israel does not call its presence in Jerusalem - not even in East Jerusalem - occupation, and most countries in the world are not calling Jews' presence in most of Jerusalem, or Tel Aviv, or Petach Tikva, "occupation," and therefore there is no logical leap between the political reality of one area and the political reality of the other.

The fact that there are those who would make illogical and violent leaps does not mean that we have to succumb to stupid, intellectually dishonest arguments.

And we especially should not be saying that "Gaza equals Jerusalem" because then those on "the other side" will have a logical reason to put the two in the same category: Israelis like Raanan Elozory have done it themselves.

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