Regrettably, it is well-known and often lamented that public relations does not count among the Israelis’ many talents. This is primarily the result of factual ignorance, not lack of know-how. Even many intelligent and professional advocates of Israel fall into the trap of regurgitating false premises for Israel’s existence determined by outsiders with a limited appreciation of the scope and scale of Jewish history and legacy.
The basis for the Jewish State is rooted primarily in the history, heritage, identity, and inheritance of the Jewish People in their Land of Israel. The land originally inhabited by Canaanites was designated on two distinct levels – individual and national – to become the homeland for the Hebrews, later known as Israelites and still later as Jews. Although not intended as a historical work, the Torah is rich in history and documents in detail the financial transactions of Abraham in purchasing land, wells, burial plots, etc., circa 2000 B.C.E. Indeed, Zionism originates in the period when the exiled Israelites are enslaved in Egypt and yearn to return to the land of their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Joseph’s adamant desire to be reburied in Israel after his death is a poignant testament to the longing felt even in that early era for a return to the ancestral homeland, the legacy of the Patriarchs and the posterity of a people.
When the twelve tribes of Israel undertake their exodus from Egypt, they return as a full-fledged people, a nation, and retake their territory to form the First Commonwealth whose greatest expression is manifested in the United Kingdom of Israel under David and Solomon, circa 1005-920 B.C.E. Although the kingdom soon splintered into two – Israel and Judah – the commonwealth held until 722/1 (when Assyria conquered the Kingdom of Israel) and then 586 (when the Babylonians conquered the Kingdom of Judah).
The Second Commonwealth was established by Sheshbazzar, Zerubbabel, and Joshua the High Priest (circa 538 B.C.E.) and later affirmed and fortified by Nehemiah and Ezra (circa 460 B.C.E.) under the aegis of the Achaemenid Persians. The erstwhile Kingdom of Judah became part of a provincial satrapy and the Jews were left in peace to recreate their religious institutions and social order. These rights were documented in official Persian edicts and pronouncements which do not survive themselves but portions of these memoranda are cited in the extant Book of Ezra. Cyrus the Great, Darius Hystaspes, Xerxes, and Artaxerxes I all issued decrees confirming Jewish rights in their native land.
Inhabiting their homeland continuously throughout the Hellenistic and Roman eras, the Jews inevitably chafed under the oppression of foreign overlordship and repeatedly tried to overthrow their imperial masters. Content neither to be vassals to suzerains nor subject to occupation and persecution, the Jews took up arms. Multiple revolts erupted, the major ones being the Maccabean Revolt (circa 168-134 B.C.E.), the Great Revolt (66-73 C.E.), and finally the Bar Kokhba Revolt (132-135 C.E.). Defeat in the latter sealed the fate of the Jewish nation for 1813 years, until the iron-willed David Ben-Gurion declared the rebirth of the Jewish state in 1948 from the modern city of Tel Aviv.
There had been, in fact, no less than a dozen different Jewish states in the diaspora during the intervening millenia, including several sizeable kingdoms lasting centuries, and most notably in the Parthian vassal kingdom of Adiabene (Kurdistan), whose Queen Helena and her princes converted to Judaism around 30 C.E.; in the Himyarite Kingdom in what is today Yemen, whose Arab ruler Jasirum Juhanim (Yassirum Yohre’am) converted to Judaism in 270 C.E. and whose Judaized successors in the Tuba’a/Abu Kariba line endured until 525 C.E.; between 512-520 C.E. in Babylonia under the Sassanid Persians and declared by the young Jewish Exilarch Mar Zutra II; in the 600s/700s C.E. in the Turkic kingdom of Khazaria (roughly eastern Ukraine and Southern Russia) whose ruler Bulan and his descendants also became Jewish and which lasted in some form for over five hundred years until the invasion of Genghis Khan’s Mongols; in the hill country of Ethiopia, where the Beta Israel/Falasha Jews ruled the Lake Tana region from perhaps the 300s but certainly from 858-1627 C.E.; and finally in the failed Soviet experiment of Birobidzhan, established in 1928 and officially designated the Jewish Autonomous Region (JAR) by Stalin in 1934, and in which a few thousand Jews remain today. None of these territories, however, ever constituted a significant centre of political life for Jewry as a whole, nor did a majority of contemporaneous Jews ever reside therein. They were established as way-stations in which their Jewish residents could benefit from sovereign statehood and freedom of religion, never as substitutes for the historical homeland whose reestablishment remained a messianic aspiration.
Jewish rights to the Land of Israel are steeped in four millenia of facts. The right to re-establish a country on the entirety or any portion of this land stems from writ and deed, and from the continual presence of Jewish communities dwelling in the land throughout the epochs. Living descendants of these die-hard, holdout communities are firm links in the chain of generations, and proffer irrefutable proof. Every archaeological Tel and architectural artefact testifies to the truth. All remnants and ruins bear witness. Relics substantiate and place-names verify. The time-honored Torah is available – as The Bible – fully translated into 438 languages and partially translated into 2,454 languages the world over, each one evincing the identity and heritage of the Jewish People in the Land of Israel. In short, the foundation of Jewish claims to the land is rock-solid, watertight, ironclad. The evidence is definitive and conclusive, unrelenting and overwhelming.
Statements that the State of Israel was a concession, a product of the Holocaust, are fallacious and misleading. Sadly, this is a nearsighted trope frequently perpetuated by Jews with no substantive background in their own peoplehood. Contrary to popular misconception, Zionism did not begin with the Nazis and the Holocaust, nor with Theodor Herzl, nor his numerous intellectual predecessors including Alkalai, Kalischer, Hess, Mohilever, Pinsker, Lilienblum, Birnbaum, Goldsmid, Smolenskin, Ben-Yehudah, Pines, etc. Zionism began with the first exiles from Zion (to Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia), and the State of Israel is but the modern political iteration of the ancient Hebraic birthright, of the intrinsic autonomy of a people – a civilization – to inhabit its original and rightful homeland and enjoy sovereignty and self-determination.
Thus, to believe that the Third Commonwealth – the State of Israel – exists only or primarily as a result of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 (Partition Plan), passed on November 29, 1947, is a glaring and fundamental error betraying a profound lack of historical understanding and demonstrating a dogmatic overemphasis on legalism. After all, the UN in its wisdom at any time could rescind or negate its own resolutions, or resolve anew in favor of the Arabs as may well be the case come September 2011. This will, more than anything else, underscore the futility and misguidedness of any modern-day state’s pinning its hopes on the UN for its legitimacy.
The credibility required for a nascent political entity must be inherent and natural, historical and geographical. A society or civilization must have solid claims rooted in fundamental, foundational criteria – identity, history, heritage, inheritance, culture, legacy, posterity – and be willing to stake their claims and stand their ground – on their ground. Political sovereignty is a product of factual precedent and national, civilizational rights. A UN resolution condoning the outcome of practical actions in this regard is merely a welcome afterthought, a symbolic cherry topping icing and cake.