web analytics
July 25, 2014 / 27 Tammuz, 5774
Israel at War: Operation Protective Edge
At a Glance
Sponsored Post
IDC Advocacy Room IDC Fights War on Another Front

Student Union opens ‘hasbara’ room in effort to fill public diplomacy vacuum.

Opposing Olmert On Golan Surrender: Civil Disobedience As A Legal Imperative (First of Two Parts)


Amid the growing chaos of internal Palestinian violence, the manifest error of every Middle East Peace Process should be altogether obvious. Quite predictably, Fatah and Hamas now validate years of informed Jewish opposition to both the original Oslo Agreements and to the equally twisted cartography of a so-called “Road Map.” Nonetheless, in Jerusalem, and even in Washington, the Prime Minister speaks smugly of further territorial surrender, this time of an equally misconceived forfeiture of the Golan Heights to Syria.

Of course, with Shimon Peres as the country’s president, absolutely anything is possible. Credo quia absurdum. “I believe because it is absurd.”

The more things change, the more they remain the same. Once again, citizens of Israel who still have hold on their senses will have no choice but to engage in civil disobedience. This law-enforcing tactic failed to stop former Prime Minister Sharon from forcing Jews to leave Gaza, a grotesque “disengagement” that transformed an energetic area of Israeli greenery, domesticity and promise into a primal battleground of sustained Arab horror. The Sharon-engineered calamity has already lost many Israeli lives to Palestinian terror, and could – in the future – also be a factor in exposing American cities to a “dirty bomb” attack, or even to certain other more lethal forms of nuclear terror. This is the case because since Sharon’s abandonment of the strategic Gaza area – an abandonment that defiled the most rudimentary expectations of Torah and Talmud – Hamas has entered into systematic and durable collaborations with al-Qaeda.

Although current Prime Minister Olmert can be expected to denounce all forms of Jewish civil disobedience, and to be supported in such self-righteous denunciation by a shameless Israeli President who remains unapologetic about Oslo and oblivious to Jewish auto-destruction, civil disobedience does have a long and venerable tradition. Significantly, the roots of this vital tradition in law and philosophy lie plainly in Jewish Law. Before Israel’s public authorities and the Israeli Left (“intellectuals”) combine to condemn Jewish civil disobedience on the Golan as “lawless,” therefore, some informed legal and philosophical background warrants mention.

Israel is unquestionably the Jewish State, one linked irrevocably to basic and immutable tenets of Jewish Law. From its very beginnings, wherever Jews have lived and died on this planet, Jewish law has been viewed authoritatively as a manifest expression of G-d’s will. Biblically, the law is referred to and understood as the “word of G-d.” The G-d of Israel is the sole authentic legislator, and righteousness lies plainly and unassailably in the observance of His law. As for the absence of civilized righteousness, this always places, at recognizable risk, the lives and well being of the individual and the community.

For ancient Israel, law was the revealed will of G-d. All transgressions of this law were consequently offenses against Israel’s G-d. The idea that human legislators might make law independently of G-d’s will, would simply have been incomprehensible. Indeed, as G-d was the only legislator, the sole legislative function of human authorities was to discover the true law, and to ensure its proper application. According to Talmud: “Whatever a competent scholar will yet derive from the Law, that was already given to Moses on Mount Sinai.”[i]

In established Jewish tradition, the principle of a Higher Law is not only well-founded; it has also become the very foundation of our international legal order, and of the legal foundation of the United States of America. Where any “law” of the Jewish State would stand in evident contrast to this principle, it is automatically null and void. In certain circumstances, such contrast mandates opposition to the particular edicts of government. In these circumstances, what is generally known as “civil disobedience” becomes not only lawful, but genuinely law-enforcing.

Moreover, since the writings of Cicero in the first century BCE – and certainly since the seventeenth century scholarship of Hugo Grotius (The Law of War and Peace, 1625) – the ancient Jewish idea of a Higher Law has been binding upon all human individuals and states irrespective of underlying religious principles. Now fully secularized, this idea rests upon the understanding that all human beings have a capacity to reason, and from this generalized and divinely granted capacity derives an obligation to certain timeless, unchanging and universal norms of conduct.

What sorts of civil disobedience circumstances are we describing with reference to present-day Israel? Above all, they are situations that place at existential risk the survival of the Jewish State. In such circumstances, which several years ago were already identified in an Halachic Opinion issued by Prominent Rabbis in Eretz Yisroel Concerning Territorial Compromise,[ii]the matter is one of Pikuach Nefesh. Israel cannot endure strategically without the heartlands of Judea and Samaria, or – as was recognized by the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff in a widely cited 1967 report – without the Golan. It follows that as the Torah is indisputably a “Toras Chaim,” a Torah of life, Jewish authorities in the State of Israel are “forbidden, under any circumstance,” to transfer Jewish land to sworn enemy Arab authorities.

The writer Hillel Halkin, fearing that the state of the Jews might one day be ruled by “Hebrew-speaking Gentiles” (a fear already widespread among American Zionist thinkers like Maurice Samuel and Ludwig Lewisohn) once wrote: “I do not believe that a polity of Israelis who are not culturally Jews, whose roots in this land go no deeper than thirty years and no wider than the boundaries of an arid nation-state, has a future in the Middle East for very long. In one way or another…it will be blown away like chaff as though it never were, leaving neither Jews nor Israelis behind it.”[iii] In a more recent essay, the same writer observed that the actual hatred for Judaism of a readily identifiable portion of Israeli “intellectuals” (including, by extrapolation, those who now still seek a theoretical legitimacy for Olmert government surrender policies), has become a palpable hatred of Zionism.[iv]

Credo quia absurdum. Halkin’s fears were well founded. Under the Rabin and Peres governments (and, I suppose, even under Ben-Gurion at the beginning), Israel first undertook its visible transformation into a polity that was increasingly detached from cultural Judaism, and that also deeply undermined both Judaism and Zionism. With the subsequent elections of Netanyahu, Barak and Sharon, this transformation was carried even further along. Incomprehensibly, former Prime Ministers Barak and Netanyahu still lack the dignity to disappear quietly from Israeli politics. And with the selection of Shimon Peres as the new President, thousands of “post-Zionist” Israelis are now openly delighted that Israel could continue to be complicit in its own Jewish annihilation. For the most part, university professors, once the primary source of serious thought and meaningful scholarship, are now often at the outer margins of authentic understanding. This is the case not only in Israel, but also across Europe and the United States. The problem of academic “thoughtlessness” (I think, here, of prophetic warnings by both Hannah Arendt and Jose Ortega y’Gasset) is likely more evident in the humanities and the social sciences than in the more technical and scientific fields, and is largely attributable to the transformation of post-graduate education into an essentially vocational enterprise. In the universities, we basically no longer educate thinkers; we “train professionals.”

But let us return directly to Israel and its international relations. In all states, sovereignty rests securely upon the government’s viable assurance of protection. Where a state can no longer offer such assurance, however – indeed, where it deliberatelysurrenders such assurance – the critical basis of citizen obligation is removed. “The obligation of subjects to the sovereign,” said the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes in the 17th century, “is understood to last as long, and no longer, than the power lasteth by which he is able to protect them.”

(To be continued)

Copyright ©, The Jewish Press, September14, 2007. All rights reserved.

LOUIS RENE BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is the author of many books and articles dealing with Israel’s security and international law. He is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

* * * * *

[i]See Jerusalem Megillah IV, 74d.

[ii]The full text of this Opinion, Daas Torah, was published in the July 20 1995 edition of THE JERUSALEM POST, p. 3.

[iii]See LETTERS TO AN AMERICAN JEWISH FRIEND: A ZIONIST’S POLEMIC (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1977), 199-200. For this and the following reference to Halkin I am indebted to Edward Alexander, “Irving Howe and Secular Jewishness: An Elegy”, The Eighteenth Annual Rabbi Louis Feinberg Memorial Lecture in Judaic Studies, Univ. of Cincinnati, April 6, 1995.

[iv]See Halkin’s “Israel Against Itself”, COMMENTARY 98 (November 1994).

About the Author: Louis René Beres, strategic and military affairs columnist for The Jewish Press, is professor of Political Science at Purdue University. Educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), he lectures and publishes widely on international relations and international law and is the author of ten major books in the field. In Israel, Professor Beres was chair of Project Daniel.

If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Opposing Olmert On Golan Surrender: Civil Disobedience As A Legal Imperative (First of Two Parts)”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Hamas terrorists often misfire their rockets that explode in Gaza civilians areas.
‘Hamas Fired from UN School Area and Prevented Evacuation’ Says IDF
Latest Indepth Stories
Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett

Because let’s face it: Hamas obviously can’t defeat the IDF in the field, soldier against soldier

IDF soldier injured in Gaza is evacuated by helicopter to Soroka hospital.

The residents of Gaza were not occupied by the Hamas; they voted for the terror organization in democratic elections, by a huge majority, by virtue of its uncompromising struggle against Israel. For this reason, the separation between the armed Hamas terrorists and those ‘not involved’ or ‘innocents’ is false. The Gazans are now paying for […]

Shimon Peres meets with the family of fallen IDF soldier Max Steinberg.

As Peres retires, Israel fights sour legacy: Insistence on setting policy in line with hopes, rather than with reality.


Our capital was not arbitrarily chosen, as capitals of some other nations were.

UNHRC High Commissioner Navi Pillay accuses the IDF of possible war crimes in Gaza again, cutting slack to Hamas.

There is much I can write you about what is going here, but I am wondering what I should not write. I will start by imagining that I am you, sitting at home in the Los Angeles area and flipping back and forth between the weather, traffic reports, the Ukraine, Mexican illegals and Gaza. No […]

Should Jews in Europe take more responsibility in self-defense of community and property?

Germany’s The Jewish Faith newspaper ominously noted, “We Jews are in for a war after the war.”

The truth is we seldom explore with kids what prayer is supposed to be about.

Almost as one, Jews around the world are acknowledging the day-to-day peril facing ordinary Jews in Israel and the extraordinary service of the IDF in protecting them.

So on the one hand Secretary Kerry makes no bones about who is at fault for the current hostilities: he clearly blames Hamas.

King Solomon said it long ago: “Cast your bread upon the waters” because you don’t know when you’ll hit something. Our job is to do.

The anti-Israel camp does not need to win America fully to its side. Merely to neutralize it would radically alter the balance of power and put Israel in great jeopardy.

We mourn the dead, wish a speedy recovery to the wounded, and pray that God guides the government.

More Articles from Louis Rene Beres
Louis Rene Beres

President Obama’s core argument on a Middle East peace process is still founded on incorrect assumptions.

Louis Rene Beres

Once upon a time in America, every adult could recite at least some Spenglerian theory of decline.

President Obama’s core argument is still founded on incorrect assumptions.

Specific strategic lessons from the Bar Kokhba rebellion.

Still facing an effectively unhindered nuclear threat from Iran, Israel will soon need to choose between two strategic options.

For states, as for individuals, fear and reality go together naturally.

So much of the struggle between Israel and the Arabs continues to concern space.

An undifferentiated or across-the-board commitment to nuclear ambiguity could prove harmful to Israel’s’s overall security.

    Latest Poll

    Do you think the FAA ban on US flights to Israel is political?

    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/louis-bene-beres/opposing-olmert-on-golan-surrender-civil-disobedience-as-a-legal-imperative-first-of-two-parts/2007/10/02/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: