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The Israeli Settlement Policy is Demographic Suicide. Now Get Over It.

by JL Wall

Normally David Goldman (“Spengler”) is astute, or at least astute enough to require serious thought in grappling with his arguments. But about this latest, I just don’t know where to begin. Courtesy of the opening anecdote, it appears to be an explanation of how, precisely, Rahm Emanuel is a “self-hating Jew” — not for still living in 1993 and believing in Oslo after its collapse (perhaps a subject worthy of critique without the petulant name-calling), but for “bashing Israel over settlements.”

To take issue with the present settlement policy, he says, requires “an ideological commitment to a secular sort of universalism that demands a fanatical sort of faith.” But there’s another reason to oppose the indefinite continuation of the present system, and it’s one that Goldman brushes up against with his sneering, over-confident final paragraph:

There simply isn’t any arguing with liberal Jews. The only solution is the Biblical one: in forty years, all of them will be dead, like the feckless generation of freedmen who left Egypt with Moses. Secular Jews have one child per family, Reform Jews 1.3, Conservative Jews 1.6, and modern Orthodox nearly 4. A new Jewish majority will form over the next forty years, and it will be religiously observant, close to Israeli thinking, and politically conservative.

The birthrate for Israeli Jews isn’t quite as low as that of American non-Orthodox, but it hovers, overall, right around 2 children per family; the overall Palestinian birthrate is, by most estimates, between 3 and 4. Even if those numbers are somewhat too high, as some claim, it doesn’t change the reality already present, as Michael Oren pointed out this May in Commentary:

Even if the minimalist interpretation is largely correct, it cannot alter a situation in which Israeli Arabs currently constitute one-fifth of the country’s population — one-quarter of the population under age 19 — and in which the West Bank now contains at least 2 million Arabs.

Israel, the Jewish State, is predicated on a decisive and stable Jewish majority of at least 70 percent. Any lower than that and Israel will have to decide between being a Jewish state and a democratic state. If it chooses democracy, then Israel as a Jewish state will cease to exist. If it remains officially Jewish, then the state will face an unprecedented level of international isolation, including sanctions, that might prove fatal. [Emphasis mine — JLW]

Does this mean that there’s no room for leeway because of natural growth in Israeli settlements? Not necessarily. But I still cannot grasp the mindset of those who ignore the demographic reality. At which point, the only case for the continued existence of a Jewish Israel in the face of those eventual numbers is that of the Israeli religious right: G-d gave it to us, all of it to us.

But to make that argument means that one agrees to place the case for Israel in strictly religious terms. So while we’re there, still speaking from a strictly Jewish perspective, it’s high time someone pointed out the other side to that argument, the more dangerous side: while there is a right to dwell in the land, there is no inviolable right to dwell in the land at a specific time before the Moshiach. There have been expulsions before.

We (American and Israeli Jews alike) would do well to recall that the G-d who spoke to Isaiah and Jeremiah, laying the case, essentially, for the Babylonian Exile, is far more concerned with widows, beggars, and orphans than with the precision of Temple sacrifices. The latter without the former is not enough to fulfill the Covenant.  It’s why it makes me sick to see “Orthodox” rabbis making the case that their “orthodoxy” is more than enough to compensate for their own disregard for human life.

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Perhaps I should add here, at the end of this, that I have a more or less constantly growing fear that I will outlive the State of Israel. In which case, it will be the response to that event, not the Shoah, which shapes the future of Judaism and Jewish life.  These two thoughts (“fears”?) color more or less all of my thinking on the politics of Israel.

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