An organization calling itself SISO (Save Israel Stop the Occupation) claims on its website to be “a new initiative of prominent Israeli individuals and organizations who have joined with Jewish leaders from around the world in a sense of urgency about Israel’s future.”
In order to “enlighten” Diaspora Jews as to Israel’s plight it has just published The Jubilee Haggadah, whose on-line sale has been made possible with the cooperation of the New Israel Fund.
What the Haggadah seeks to do is to draw a parallel between Israelite slavery and the lot of the Palestinians. The comparison is, of course, simplistic, false and intended to mislead. Pharaoh and his taskmasters were not interested in reaching an accommodation with the Israelites.
The same cannot be said for most Israelis, who have repeatedly expressed their wish to arrive at a peace agreement with the Palestinians. We remember only too well the 2000 Camp David Summit hosted by President Clinton in which Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat participated. Clinton has gone on record as blaming Arafat for having refused to respond to Israel’s peace proposals.
Eight years later Ehud Olmert offered the Palestinians an even more generous deal in which Israel would effectively forgo sovereignty of the Temple Mount and in which he proposed a 5%-6% land swap in order to compensate the Palestinians for the major settlement blocs such as Ma’ale Adumim and Ariel that he wished to retain under Israeli jurisdiction. Mahmoud Abbas refused.
I don’t recall Pharaoh offering the Israelites any kind of a deal. On the contrary, he gave a command that every Israelite son be thrown into the Nile (Exodus 1:22).
Nowhere does the Torah tell us that the Israelites wanted to overthrow the Egyptians and take possession of their land. The same cannot be said of the Palestinian Hamas, who control the Gaza Strip and continue to call and work for Israel’s destruction.
Some Palestinians live very comfortably while many lead wretched lives. That was not true of the Israelites in Egypt. All of them suffered. “And they embittered their lives with hard labor” (Exodus 1:14). By contrast, many Palestinians work in Israel bringing home wages far in excess of anything that they could possibly earn at home.
Of course, there are two competing narratives as to how we reached the present tragic situation, which has caused suffering to Palestinians and Israelis alike. Both sides share some responsibility. At least the Haggadah grudgingly acknowledges that when it quotes Prof. Haviva Pedaya as stating that “Nor (is) one party alone guilty for the complex situation.”
However, her statement is more than outbalanced by sketches such as that of a high concrete security barrier reminiscent of the Berlin Wall. No mention is made of the fact that it was erected to protect Israeli citizens following the Second Intifada in which over 1,000 men, women and children were murdered and many more injured and maimed by Palestinian suicide bombers.
This Haggadah is aimed at Diaspora Jews many of whom have little idea of the complexity of Middle East politics and don’t know the history. They will understandably condemn Israel and a further wedge will have been driven between us Israelis and those Jews who bought this Haggadah and were duped by its message. The Palestinians will love it. It has presented only one side of the story without allowing the defense to make its case. That is unpardonable.