I first met Emanuel Shahaf in a Facebook Group I helped create called Israel unlimited, a group for pro-Israel advocates to argue and discuss current events and articles in order to educate and formulate better responses to those in the opposite camp. As with any group filled with intelligent and opinionated people, the group often has some really great debate threads as well as some not so great debate threads. I immediately noticed Emanuel because of his tendency to lay all the blame for everything at the feet of the Israeli nation.
At first I thought, perhaps, he was just suffering from moral superiority syndrome, but the more I read, the more I realised he genuinely has antipathy towards his own country and people and simply hides it in a faux “pro-Israel” stance that doesn’t hold up to examination.
Now first about our group. There is a huge diversity of opinion in the group. We have people from all over the spectrum, from the hard left all the way over to the hard right, with most of our members somewhere in between. We often have to make decisions as to what is valid criticism of Israel and what is over the line.
In my humble opinion, Israel is not perfect, but for some reason seems to be the only nation state that is expected to be so. Israel’s enemies never compare her to her immediate neighbours, as if that would somehow be unfair. Instead, Israel is often compared to western countries in regards to human rights and freedoms, even though in this respect, Israel is not found wanting, as her record on human rights will stand up to the harshest scrutiny.
I finally had enough of Emanuel’s duplicity and constant bashing of Israel in a group dedicated to pro-Israel advocacy and banned him from the group. At the time, several members thought I was being too harsh and excessive. I believe the phrase “constructive criticism” was used. My response was simple, I said that Emanuel was not a Zionist, was not pro-Israel and didn’t even know his own history; that we do not have to accept invalid criticism.
If anything, reading Emanuel’s most recent blog on the Times of Israel has born out my contentions.
Let’s start with a quick examination of the facts behind the contentions put forth in this blog piece, which is both poorly sourced and researched.
The very first statement in Emanuel’s piece is the closest he comes to being correct when he talks about “a return” as in Diaspora Jews “returning” to their ancestral lands.
When Jews returned to Palestine/Eretz Israel in the 19th century they created the infrastructure for a new beginning.
This concept of return is integral to understanding the entire conflict and serves to explain the reason the rest of Emanuel’s article is so ridiculous. Indeed he also fails to note there were Jews already in Israel at the time of this migration and that their brothers that returned, simply rejoined their families on their ancestral lands.
Next we have what may be one of the most stunningly ignorant statements by a Jew talking about Jewish history that I have ever seen. Let’s start from here:
They started to develop agriculture, not exactly a traditional Jewish undertaking.
This is an incredibly ignorant statement unless, of course, by “traditional” you mean “recent,” because in point of fact, the Jews are an agricultural people right down to their most basic religious laws which clearly relate to a people devoted to agriculture.
Ever wonder why Jews aren’t supposed to hunt? Ever wonder why certain Jewish religious holidays actually coincide with the growing season in Israel?
I think Emanuel needs to go back and study Judaism 101.
I would argue that although Jews were prevented from owning land and thus became “the Jew of the office”, there has always been a strong desire to return to being the “Jew of the land.” This desire is what powered Zionism, along with the desire to return to the Jewish ancestral land. Critics who contend the roots of Zionism were secular ignore the very real connection even secular Jews have to the land of Israel. Even secular Jews do not say “ Next year in Berlin” or “ Next year in Cracow” and people like Emanuel need to understand why that is so.
Zionism was never meant to replace Judaism. Zionism, in fact, is just the manifestation of an indigenous people’s desire to return to its ancestral lands. If anything Zionism empowers Judaism both as a religion and as a nation because it reinforces everything Jewish about Jews. Jewish tradition, culture, and land, all have a connection that cannot be denied, whether by ultra-religious Jewish fanatics or by secular Jews.
Israel is not the cause of antisemitism, it’s the excuse. I know people like Emanuel really want to find a reason behind antisemitism, so do I, but what I have learned is that you cannot rationalise the irrational; you cannot explain the unexplainable; there is no logic behind the illogical. That’s what people like Emanuel fail to grasp.
People do not hate Jews for some deep, explainable reason, they hate Jews because they have always hated outsiders; they ignore the fact that cities with large Jewish communities have always prospered; they ignore the fact that Jews in the main have always been involved in human rights struggles and in making the places they live better. Anti-Semites simply see people who, in their excellence as a people, do not conform to the “norm.”
You want a reason for Jew-hatred? There is your reason.
Emanuel criticizes Jews for cherishing land over people, but this is because he doesn’t understand the indigenous love of the land that is behind this phenomenon. Look at the Levant: when the Jews were a majority in the area, the Levant was a green, lush, and beautiful place. In antiquity, Jerusalem was noted for its vast forests. Fertile farmlands made the Levant the breadbasket of the region, yet when the Muslims conquered the area, within a few decades the forests were cut down, the farms became dust bowls and swamps, and the Levant stayed this way until when?
I’ll give you a hint: when the Jews RETURNED.
For all this talk about Zionism what goes unremarked is the resurgence of the land itself, the reclamation of swamps and deserts, the planting of trees. It’s because of this love for the land that Israel even exists – men and women fight harder for the things they love.
I cannot help but notice Emanuel also attacks tradition and culture. I assume he is an atheist, but in any event, he fails to understand the ties between Judaism and the land of Israel are indigenous in nature. The land itself is where these traditions and Jewish culture were forged, and these are what makes the Jewish people who they are.
You do not have to believe in God to understand this, in fact some of the most tied-to-the land Jews I met on my recent trip to Israel, were not religious in the least; but they felt the maternal ties, they understand how integral the land is to being who they are.
I feel sorry for Emanuel as he will probably never understand this.
Emanuel writes that Israel has occupied the West Bank for 47 years, ignoring the fact that the majority of Judea and Samaria is demonstrably Jewish land. In fact, even the term “West Bank” is a misnomer. It is only the West Bank if you are standing in the east, in Jordan.
In his bid to justify his position with “ international law” Emanuel ignores other agreements that granted that land to the Jews. In most courts of law, prior claims are the ones granted the greatest legitimacy, meaning the first agreements that granted the land to the State of Israel should be respected–but why use logic and precedent when we can use emotion?
The bottom line is this: Israel is the first modern state created by an indigenous people that has returned from displacement, retaken its ancestral lands and built a thriving and moral state. Israel has more than earned its right to exist and those who work from within to delegitimise it and demonise its people, need to be educated in their own history.
Israel absolutely is a Jewish state. One that follows Jewish ethics and morals to the letter.