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Virtual Talmud

The Right Thing to Do

The January election of a Hamas-led government in the Palestinian territories immediately led to stern resolve on the part of the international community not to have dealings with or assist this regime–and rightly so. Hamas has been and continues to be opposed to Israel’s fundamental right to exist; when it talks about “ending the occupation,” it’s talking about Tel Aviv, not Gaza. And so it’s only proper that Israel and nearly all other nations have refused to lend support to this organization that embraces terrorism and attacks on innocent civilians as part of its standard operating procedure.

Halting the inflow of international aid, however, has also had the effect of causing great suffering among the Palestinian people, more than 40 percent of whom currently live on less than $2 a day. It might be tempting to say that the Palestinians elected this government and are merely reaping what they sowed. But first, it should be noted that only about 45 percent of voters voted for Hamas; their victory was magnified by the electoral system in place in the Palestinian territories. Second, the fact that some 77 percent of Palestinians are reported to support the “Prisoners Document,” a declaration by Palestinian leaders in Israeli prisons in which they called for the establishment of a Palestinian state on the “lands of 1967,” a reference to Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, indicates a clear rejection of Hamas’ refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist (although the document has other grave flaws). Given these numbers, it’s clear that withholding humanitarian aid punishes Palestinian society as a whole for the sins of a minority.


This sort of collective punishment is not only morally questionable; it’s also bad policy. Deteriorating conditions in the Palestinian territories only lead to a further radicalization of the population and the spread of anti-Israel extremism. This is why Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev spoke of the importance of providing humanitarian aid, and why former IDF General Shlomo Gazit weighed in against U.S. legislation designed to cut off all contact between the U.S. government and Hamas. In order to ensure Israeli security and prevent the situation in the territories from sliding even further into chaos, humanitarian aid needs to be provided to ensure a baseline standard.


Does it feel good to give this kind of support to a people whose government is a sworn enemy of Israel? Perhaps it would feel more satisfying to cut it off and let ’em stew in their own juices. But creating this sort of widespread suffering does as much damage to us in the long term as it does to the prospects for a peaceful solution to this crisis. Humanitarian aid is the right thing to do for the Palestinians, and it’s the right thing to do for Israel.

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Anne Marie Buzzelli

posted June 16, 2006 at 3:24 am

You ought to know by now that you can’t trust the hanmas ,alquaida or anyone else in the middle east . Give the money to Isreal itself for their homeless for food and clothing for the building of the new temple, for a satellite,or for anything Isreal need not her enemies. Don’t be folled that’s a conflict of interest and self destructive………

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posted June 16, 2006 at 6:11 am

I must strongly disagree with Ms Buzzelli. Rabbi Waxman is right in that we should not punish the Palestinian people because we do not like Hamas. Justice demands that we end suffering no matter who it is that is suffering. Besides, Palestinians and Israelis have to live side by side. Is it not a good idea to help your neighbor who is in need? I also must say that I found your blanket statement that you can not trust anyone in the Middle East to be racist.

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posted June 16, 2006 at 1:06 pm

BS”D With respect, Tzedaka is NOT a political football, but rather a divine MITZVO! Jews don’t stop helping people because it is Politically Correct or Incorrect. Neither do we stop giving because someone else is PC or not PC.

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P. Solomon

posted June 16, 2006 at 6:30 pm

Israel does not need Palestinian recognition By YEHUDA AVNER There is irony in the thought that were Menachem Begin alive today he would be saddened, indeed outraged, at Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s insistence – in consort with the US and the EU – that Hamas’s political legitimacy be conditioned, inter alia, on its recognition of Israel’s right to exist. “Right to exist?” I can hear the late prime minister roundly chastising his younger successor who declares himself to be a Begin disciple. “Are you telling me, Ehud, that our right to exist in Eretz Yisrael has to be sanctioned for political purposes by an intrinsically anti-Semitic, murderous Palestinian Arab terrorist organization? Have you lost your Jewish self-respect? Where is your Jewish memory?” Menachem Begin had a surfeit of both – Jewish self-respect and memory. He had an all-encompassing grasp of Jewish history. Instinctively his memory went back thousands of years and his vision forward thousands of years. Jewish nostalgia fed his soul; it nurtured his deepest convictions. SO WHEN, on the first day of his premiership in 1977, he was waylaid by a tall, debonair, rakishly good-looking Englishman in a bow tie and a perfectly pitched BBC announcer’s voice, and saucily asked whether he looked forward to a time when the Palestinians would recognize Israel, his jaw tightened in restrained Jewish anger. But honed as he was by years of legal training, he answered with the composed demeanor of a practiced jurist, saying, “Traditionally, there are four major criteria of statehood under international law. One – an effective and independent government. Two – an effective and independent control of the population. Three – a defined territory. And four – the capacity to freely engage in foreign relations. Israel is in possession of all four attributes and, hence, is a fully fledged sovereign state and a fully accredited member of the United Nations.” “But, surely, you would insist, would you not, that the relevant Palestinian organizations recognize Israel as a sine qua non for negotiations with them?” persisted the fellow. “Certainly not! Those so-called relevant organizations are gangs of murderers bent on destroying the State of Israel. We will never conduct talks about our own destruction.” “And were they to recognize Israel’s existence – would you then negotiate with them?” pressed the correspondent. “No, sir!” “Why not?” “Because I don’t need Palestinian recognition for my right to exist.” TWO HOURS later Menachem Begin stood at the podium of the Knesset, presenting his new cabinet. He began by dryly outlining the democratic processes that led to the changing of the guard, from Labor to Likud. And then, in recollection perhaps, of his acerbic exchange with the BBC man, he began talking about Israel’s right to exist. “Our right to exist – have you ever heard of such a thing?” he declared, passion creeping into his voice. “Would it enter the mind of any Briton or Frenchman, Belgian or Dutchman, Hungarian or Bulgarian, Russian or American, to request for its people recognition of its right to exist?” He glared at his audience and wagged a finger, stilling every chattering voice in the Knesset chamber. And now, using his voice like a cello, sonorous and vibrant, he drove on: “Mr. Speaker: We were granted our right to exist by the God of our fathers at the glimmer of the dawn of human civilization four thousand years ago. Hence, the Jewish people have an historic, eternal and inalienable right to exist in this land, Eretz Yisrael, the land of our forefathers. We need nobody’s recognition in asserting this inalienable right. And for this inalienable right, which has been sanctified in Jewish blood from generation to generation, we have paid a price unexampled in the annals of nations.” Then he rose up on his toes, his shoulders squared, thumped the podium, and perorated in a voice that was thunder, “Mr. Speaker: From the Knesset of Israel, I say to the world, our very existence per se is our right to exist!” A spontaneous applause rose from the benches. Many got to their feet in full-throated acclaim. It was a stirring Knesset moment – a moment of instinctive self-recognition affirming that though the State of Israel was then but 29 years old, its roots in Eretz Yisrael ran 4,000 years deep. THREE WEEKS later, the very same issue cropped up once more when prime minister Begin first met president Jimmy Carter in the White House. As their encounter drew to a close, the president handed the premier a piece of heavy bond White House stationary on which the formal communiqu to be released in their name was drafted. “I trust this will meet with your approval,” said Carter in his reedy Georgian voice. Begin ran his eye over the one page text, and said, “Totally acceptable, Mr. President, but for one sentence.” Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, an unruffled man as a rule, who had invested much effort in drafting the document, became momentarily agitated. After a year at the job he had perfected a manner of drafting such joint statements designed to convey as little meaning as possible. “And what might that be?” he asked. “Please delete the sentence which reads, ‘The United States affirms Israel’s inherent right to exist.'” President Carter’s steely pale-blue eyes flared in surprise. “It would be incompatible with my responsibilities as president of the United States were I to omit this commitment to your country,” he said. “To the best of my knowledge, every Israeli prime minister has asked for this public pledge.” “I sincerely appreciate you sentiment, Mr. President,” said Mr. Begin, his tone deeply reflective as if reaching down into generations of memory, “But it would be equally incompatible with my responsibilities as prime minister of Israel were I not to ask you to erase that sentence.” “But why?” “Because our Jewish state needs no American affirmation of our right to exist. Our Hebrew bible established that right millennia ago. Never, throughout the centuries, did we ever abandon or forfeit that right. Therefore, sir, we alone, the Jewish people – no one else – are responsible for our country’s right to exist.” So yes, Menachem Begin would, indeed, have had what to say to Ehud Olmert, were he around today. Never would he have put on the table a demand for recognition of Israel’s right to exist as a quid pro quo for negotiation. To him, this was a high ideological principle, a fundamental axiom, an absolute given, a natural corollary of his all-embracing view of Jewry’s extraordinary history. Ehud, take it out. The writer served on the personal staff of five prime ministers, including Menachem Begin.

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Esther Nash

posted June 17, 2006 at 6:36 pm

Yes, yes….a thousand times yes! Helping Palestinians in poverty will not only be a “mitzvah”… but it will …S H A M E…the Arabs hostile to Israel in front of the whole world! In being kind to the Palestinians, Israel must make certain the world does not believe it to be full of innocent fools. No! Is- raelis, (and Jews in general), help others because it is God’s commandment…and also because it gives Judaism, and Jews, a good reputation! The world must real- ize it is THESE things that will make Israel, (and why not…we in the diaspora, too), be good to those who would annialate us. (I mean, why not have a GOOD stereotype in place, along with all the bad ones that just don’t seem to go away?) Abraham Lincoln once said: “Love your enemies…it will drive them crazy.” He was right!

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posted June 18, 2006 at 5:10 pm

When we become like the enemy…we have lost.

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posted June 20, 2006 at 5:50 pm

Re: Rabbi Waxman’s comments, ‘to be kind to the PLO’ Whether you give aid or not, you lose. Reason: Their goal is taking over Israel and kicking everyone else out. Charity does not apply here. Only by misinterpreting the mitzvahs can you arrive at the conclusion to give ‘charity’. Also, the Arab states pour millions into the territories to keep their ’cause’ alive. Isn’t that enough? Why throw good money after bad?

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posted June 21, 2006 at 6:24 pm

How sad that we should even have to ask such a question! Can we help the Palestinian people without going through the Hamas/PLO government? We must find avenues to genuinely pursue tikkun olam. It is a sacred commandment. For our own safety and security, we must also find ways to do so without lining the pockets of their corrupt and terrorist officials.

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DL Oldham

posted June 21, 2006 at 8:04 pm

I think the Bible events are quickly taking place. America & Israel needs to awaken. We love the real truths. Must see things as they really are. Not everyone loved Jesus. Mohammed is not real.

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Mohammed Yousef

posted June 24, 2006 at 7:33 pm

Well thought out and meaningful suggestion on what is the moral thing to do. Fanatical Israelis and Palestinians alike will justify resorting to reprehensible acts that kill innocent people b/c the other side “deserves” it. This “eye for an eye” attitude makes them feel vindicated in their vindictive behavior. Only when people start abiding by principles over a myopic pragmatism will their be real peace.

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