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May 28, 2016 / 20 Iyar, 5776

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Denying Israel’s Biblical And Historical Roots

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There appears to be a newly energized effort underway to delegitimize any identification of the modern state of Israel with biblical Israel. This sort of thing has been around for a while but it was usually engaged in by Arab nations and hardcore  critics of Israel.

Thus it was disappointing, but not surprising, that in his September speech to the UN General Assembly, PA President Mahmoud Abbas referred to the Holy Land as the “land of Palestine, the land of the Prophet and the birthplace of Jesus.”

And UNESCO’s granting of full membership to the Palestinians is certain to stimulate ever-greater efforts by that body to undermine Israel’s cultural and historical connection to the Holy Land. A little over a year ago, UNESCO classified Kever Rachel as a mosque and “an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territories.” And the Palestinians, separate and apart from the negotiating process, are asking UNESCO to recognizing 20 sites – including Hebron, Jericho and Bethlehem – as “Palestinian World Heritage Sites.”

Particularly dismaying is the broad traction achieved by a new book, The Unmaking of Israel, from Israeli journalist and longtime settlement critic Gershom Gorenberg. Mr. Gorenberg’s thesis is that by keeping and settling territory it conquered in 1967, Israel has undermined both its status as a democracy and the rule of law. He says it has led to corrosive ties between state and synagogue, promoted religious extremism and distorted Judaism.

Absent from his analysis is any notion that Israel has biblical/historical ties to the lands it won in 1967. And the fact that Israel has been given no real opportunity over the years to accommodate the Arabs (other than by marching into the Mediterranean) seems to play no role in Mr. Gorenberg’s thinking.

Not surprisingly, the Gorenberg book has been well received in academic and intellectual circles. Also hardly a surprise, The New York Times this past Sunday saw fit to publish an op-ed piece by Mr. Gorenberg (titled “Israel’s Other Occupation”) which was basically a screed against Israeli policies within the so-called “green line,” accusing Israel of doing to its Arab citizens what it is allegedly doing to the Palestinians of the West Bank.

Another article meriting mention is political scientist Ronald R. Krebs’s “Israel’s Bunker Mentality: How the Occupation Is Destroying the Nation,” which appears in Foreign Affairs, the influential journal published by the Council on Foreign Relations. Mr. Krebs argues that Israel’s continuing presence in the territories has played a central role in transforming a country once brimming with optimism into an increasingly despondent and illiberal place.

Like Mr. Gorenberg, Mr. Krebs not only provides a distorted narrative about the facts on the ground, he seems quite oblivious to the realities foisted on Israel by the Arab world and totally unconcerned with Israel’s biblical/historical ties to the land.

We hope to see informed rejoinders to the likes of Messrs Gorenberg and Krebs, in both popular and intellectual media outlets, in the coming weeks.

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