There is no justification for Jewish nationalism, statehood, and existence other than Judaism.
What are the alternatives, anyway? I cannot stand the silliness of the “historical right.” Look into an encyclopedia. Jews were sovereign on this land, in traditional chronology, from David’s conquest of Jerusalem in 1034 to 719 BCE when the Assyrians sacked Israel, a total of 315 years. That can be extended here and there: take the fall of Jerusalem rather than Israel, add a few years of Hasmonean independence, calculate from the time of Saul’s raid on Amalek, and so on. But the essence is clear: by whatever measure, Jewish sovereignty was very short. Jewish dominance lasted much longer, from the era of judges (the real ones, not the Supreme Court’s) in the fifteenth century BCE until the second century CE, but that still hardly breaks us even with the centuries of Arab dominance in this land. Ask yourselves: if the direct, proven descendants of the Canaanites were to pop up now, say in Africa, and demand the right of return to their historical land, would you consider their demands relevant?
That Jewish presence in the Land of Israel never ceased and the Jews are its oldest residents is irrelevant: native populations throughout the world are annihilated and subdued rather than allowed to prosper and win sovereignty; look at the Native Indians in America.
Besides, Jews are not settling our historical lands now. The historical lands are exactly the “occupied territories.” The Jewish state was there while the sea coast was dominated first by Philistines, then by Greeks and Romans. Jews held it only for short time, and it was largely a pagan area. Our historical connection to Tel Aviv is just a bit stronger than to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Or take the related argument for Jewish “historical connection” to this land. Arabs, too, have a historical connection to it. Not all of them; some are relatively recent migrants—though even a century-long stay in Palestine makes them more native then the Russian Jews who came in the 1990s. But what is the historical connection of the perfectly proper Jews of Khazar descent to Palestine? Their ancestors never lived here. What is the historical connection of Ethiopian converts to Judaism to Palestine? What warped atheistic reasoning allocates them more rights to the land than the local Arabs? Jews demonstrably have a stronger historical connection to Europe than to Palestine: we spent 1,900 years of our history in Europe, much longer than in the Middle East.
The argument that Jews need a state is also dumb. Chechens need a state. Basques need a state. Some Eskimos, perhaps, think they need a state. There are more than 2,000 written languages in the world; behind each one there is at least one national group. Not even 10 percent of them have their own states. The number of Jews willing to man our own state is minuscule: states are not normally made up for just six million people. Much larger ethnic groups strive for independence with no international support.
Why should atheist Jews have a state in the current location? Palestinians justly rejoin that Europeans made them pay for Christian crimes against Jews in the Holocaust. Theodore Herzl was cynical about Jewish religious rights, left Jerusalem to Christians, and so retained a single stupid justification for founding the Jewish state in the Land of Israel: it was ostensibly a “land without people.” Of course, the land was settled from time immemorial, and even the deserts and swamps were a part of the Muslim world. Would anyone presume to take the vast uninhabited tracts of Siberia away from Russia? If Muslims had no rights to uninhabited desert, what rights does Israel have over the largely uninhabited Negev desert?
The utilitarian argument that no place other than Palestine was available for Jews is wrong and irrelevant. Wrong, because Jews were offered Uganda. That, by the way, was a bad choice: decades later, the Entebbe affair made Uganda’s capital a household name among Jews. Wrong, because Jews could as well take uninhabited land elsewhere: purchase a group of islands, plead for autonomy in the Australian savannah, build a gated community in Arizona, or occupy land elsewhere. If anyone should be compassionate to the perils of landless Jews, it is the European Christians who persecuted us. The Europeans have plenty of near-empty lands, especially in mountainous terrain, suitable for a tiny Jewish state.
The argument about safety is laughable. Nowhere in the world are Jews less secure than on a tiny strip of land perched between a sea of water and a sea of Muslims, besieged by Arabs from within and Arabs from without, where a single nuclear bomb can kill a tenth of the population.
Israel is a bad place to escape from anti-Semitism. If anything, Israel offered anti-Semites a politically correct way to express their hatred of Jews: now they hate Israel; hating a state is okay. The unavoidable Israeli repressions against Arabs provoke a wave of anti-Semitism among the leftists who were otherwise neutral-to-positive to secular Jews.
There is no cultural reason for Israel because there is no Israeli culture. It is American pop in Hebrew, with no connection to Jewishness whatsoever. Israel formally renounced the core Jewish traditions of Shabbat, kashrut, public rules of Pesach, and even Yom Kippur. Forget Israeli culture, there is not even Jewish culture. There is no common history: Sephardi Jews were largely spared the hallmark feature of the Ashkenazi Exile: continuous persecution. Nothing besides religion unites the Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews, or the Polish and German Jews.
Israel at first succeeded in developing respect for Jews worldwide. That’s not a proper objective, as Jews never cared about foreign opinion; indeed, we acted contrary to prevailing Christian thought. The Israel that engages in the peace process’ concessions, fails to suppress Arab terrorism, and generally acts weakly, provokes anti-Semitism.
Jewishness without religion is racist. What would Jews say of WASP Americans launching a campaign against intermarriage? Or of white citizens of South Africa urging their kin against marrying the blacks? What would we think of American black nationalists calling upon their tribe to avoid marrying whites? Everyone, however, is completely fine with religious distinctions. It’s okay for a Muslim to refuse to marry a non-Muslim, and so it is for Catholics. It is politically acceptable for Saudi Arabia to forbid non-Islamic worship in Mecca, and for the Vatican to refuse citizenship to non-Catholics. Imagine the US proclaiming a policy of preserving itself as a white, non-Hispanic state, or of the Belgians suppressing the birth rate among their Muslim citizens. However reasonable, such efforts would be detested. A Jewish religious state can restrict intermarriage, banish the Arabs, and do away with foreign worship (and conveniently, also foreign presence) in the Land of Israel.
Jewishness is indefensible on atheist grounds. Anti-Semites all over the world protest the Jewish concept of chosen-ness as racist, and decry anti-gentile pronouncements in Jewish religious books. American liberals already censored the school edition of Huckleberry Finn to remove racist remarks, and it will not be long before they will get to the Talmud and Shulhan Aruch. Liberal “rabbis” have already disavowed “barbaric” and “racist” statements in the Bible. Jews will be unable to defend our religion against liberal onslaught unless we fall back onto the statement of honest belief that Judaism is divinely revealed in its entirety.
There is a single atheist argument for Jews ruling over the Land of Israel: raw power. We are powerful and willing enough to take over this land. As good an argument as this is, it is not without the divine miracle that the handful of us Jews can stand against the Muslim hordes.
Religion provides Jews the only politically correct justification for the necessary actions. Everyone claims that the days are gone when European colonists annihilated the Native Americans to clear a country for themselves and Israel cannot act likewise now. Everyone says that Jews cannot repeat the sixty-year old example of Czechs and Poles who evicted millions of their Germans after the WWII. Cleansing the land of sworn enemies is confused with cleansing it of an undesirable ethnic group, and condemned. The world media screamed when Israel displaced 400,000 Palestinians in 1948. It is unlikely that media would abandon this topic after some months if Israel repeated the trick. But claiming a religious commandment to cleanse the land of natives, however nice and loyal, and to annex all the Promised Land that we hold, is a somewhat more acceptable way of dealing with foreign sensibilities. Few Western and Russian politicians are prepared for a head-on assault on the Bible. Machiavelli was surprised about Ferdinand’s decision to evict Jews from Spain, surmising that his religious justification was a clever ruse, and that the real purpose was to take over Jewish property. Religious justification is still workable, whether you’re a believer or not.
Though one can easily criticize the Bible, there is no point in doing so, as that undermines secular Jewish values as well. People don’t question many concepts with direct bearing on their lives: monetary policy, military intelligence, or state’s investment of their retirement funds. People take on faith incomprehensible scientific doctrines, such as the theory of evolution, parallel lines not crossing in infinity, and the Big Bang. So include the commandments among those unquestioned things.
It doesn’t pay to question whether God gave us the commandments on Mount Sinai or Moses knew the laws earlier and recorded them on Jethro’s suggestion. Just accept as a matter of belief that God revealed himself to the hundreds of thousands of Jews at Sinai, promised us this land in perpetual possession, and commanded us to drive the aborigines out. That position is so much simpler than labored nonsense about historical rights. Is it true? Who cares? What political theories are true? Lenin lied. Marx was wrong. Jefferson’s principles were idealistic, and were never implemented. Plato was a leftist monster who envisaged an Orwellian society. How often people choose to believe evident falsehoods which are expedient and comfortable, such as government’s wisdom, politicians’ relative honesty, or the peace process?
The biblical notions are plausible, sensible, and—as humans proved for millennia—utterly believable.