Donuts and Israel

Posted on August 16, 2020

I’ve had a great idea. I love donuts, and so I’ve decided that moving forward I am going to eat donuts for breakfast with my coffee. And the truth is that I can rarely limit myself to one donut, so I’m going to make sure that I always have a dozen on hand so that I can eat a few of them each morning.

Now, I can hear some of you through my computer screen. You’re questioning the health benefits of this new regimen and you’re wondering what it might do to my body. Well, I’ve thought about that. I will exercise. Every day I am going to go running and make sure that I run a sufficient amount to burn the calories and offset the donuts.

How can you argue with this plan? Donuts plus exercise equals no problem. And in theory it sounds great, doesn’t it? I’m sure some of you are already thinking about what indulgence you could add to your diet and simply offset with exercise.

The problem, as always, is in the details. I’ve actually done the math. A medium-size frosted cake donut has 250 calories, so 3 of them is 750. Assuming that I burn 100 calories for every mile I run then I’ll need 7.5 miles. At an average speed of 12 minutes per mile, that will take me 90 minutes. So, I just need to find another hour and a half a day, which is of course easy with a job and kids. Let’s not worry about my increased fat intake, the sugar or other details.

Unfortunately, there are lots of great ideas that sound good in theory but will never work in practice.

In this vein, I am currently most concerned about the voices promoting a one-state solution for Israel and Palestine. It sounds great in theory, a magic bullet to solve one of the most contentious territorial issues in the world. But the second you look at the details, and go beyond the headlines, at best the people proposing this idea are naïve, and at worst, they have a clear anti-Israel borderline anti-Semitic agenda that they are trying to push.

So, let me go behind the headline that seems to involve waving a piece of paper and promising peace in our times. The one-state solution imagines a democratic state in which Jews and Palestinians live side by side with equal rights and responsibilities. The rule of law, the government and everything else will be voted upon and decided by the majority. With Jews rapidly becoming the minority in that state, it is clear that we will very quickly reach a situation where there is no longer a Jewish or potentially even a democratic state where Israel and Palestine once were.

We’ve experienced life as a minority in Middle Eastern countries before and it didn’t end well, with hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees forced to flee their homes. What will the rights of a Jewish minority be under a Hamas-led Government? Will there be any Jewish character of this imagined state? How will we guarantee the safety of the Jewish community there?

Those who propose the one-state solution might suggest that we have faith in people’s inherent goodness. They might suggest that given a chance, things would be different this time. And they may even go so far as to say that this is Israel’s best chance for peace. But the truth is and has always been that a one-state solution means the end of the Jewish, democratic state of Israel, an end to Jewish sovereignty over our own Homeland and a return to a Diaspora existence for us all.

What was true with Yitzhak Rabin as Prime Minister remains true to this day. The best hope for Israel’s safety and security, the only way to have peace is for there to be a Jewish state of Israel alongside a Palestinian state. Allowing two peoples to live in freedom, side-by-side, with full and equal rights in each of their respective countries. And it wasn’t just Rabin who grasped this fact, before the end of his life– Ariel Sharon, an architect of the settlement movement, had also come to understand the necessity to separate Israel from a future Palestinian state.

Before continuing, just as I am deeply troubled by the proponents of a one-state solution, I am also deeply troubled by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s talk of annexing significant chunks of land in the West Bank. My fear is that this course of action will make a future Palestinian State almost impossible to create. And will therefore, from the other side, lead us to an untenable situation where the State of Israel can no longer maintain its democratic character as they rule over an Arab population who do not possess equal rights. And this will ultimately, I believe, also lead to the end of the Jewish state or at least a Jewish state that is no longer true to the Jewish values and ideals it claims to represent.

One of the major proponents of the one-state solution is Peter Beinart; in his recent New York Times Op Ed he was honest in conceding, through the very title: “I no longer believe in a Jewish State”.[1] But he then imagines, what I would say is impossible “a Jewish home in an equal state.” In the article he writes: “one equal state is not only the preference of young Palestinians. It is the preference of young Americans, too.” The problem is that he ignores the young Israelis, the young Jews living in Israel, who see a one-state solution for what it really is and therefore oppose it from both the left and the right. And my concern is that this magic bullet of a one-state solution is becoming more popular over here.

So let me offer some things that I believe:

I believe in the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state.

I believe that alongside Israel there should be a Palestinian state with freedom and autonomy for its citizens.

I believe that there have been many examples of mistakes and missteps by the Israeli Government in the way that they have treated the Palestinian population which they rule over.

I believe that the Palestinian leadership has rejected very real opportunities to establish a state of their own, alongside Israel, from the 1940s to the present day.

I believe that at this point in history the hope for a two-state solution, for peace in the Middle East appears remote.

I believe that at this point in history we have an obligation to do all that we can to help bring peace to the Middle East, to support Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and to support a Palestinian state alongside it.

I have not and I will not give up on the two-state solution, because I fundamentally believe it is the only solution out there. And while the primary responsibility for bringing this about must rest with the Israelis and the Palestinians themselves, we in the American Jewish community can still have a part to play.

We should be reaching out to our elected representatives to remind them of why we support a two-state solution and asking them to be active in voicing this opinion and pursuing this agenda. This is a position that continues to unite the overwhelming majority of politicians whether they are on the right or the left of the political spectrum.

We should be wary of politicians and political groups that propose the one-state solution as the cure to all of the Middle East’s ills; most of these people are too smart to be unaware of the consequences of this policy, and so we should see the anti-Israel agenda for what it is. Just as we know to be opposed to people calling for BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions, who single Israel out for unique negative treatment; we should be wary of the voices calling for a one-state solution. At the end of the day both of these strategies aspire to the end of the State of Israel. As we enter our voting season this can be one of the many criteria by which we judge the candidates who come before us in primaries and on ballot slips.

And most importantly, for our community, we should be engaging in education programs that are honest about what Israel and what Israel isn’t, and to talk about her in full technicolor, positives and negatives. A week ago there was an online storm after actor Seth Rogen made some disparaging comments about Israel. Digging through what was said and what was not said, the thing that came across most clearly to me was that the education he had received had been lacking. It had not prepared him to relate fully to Israel as a Jewish state and to find ways to maintain a love of the country, while feeling challenged by some of her actions. We can and we must do better in the way that we educate ourselves and our children around this vitally important topic.

Having talked about donuts for breakfast, I am now thinking about donuts for dinner. It would make for a sweet Shabbat meal. But I know that while it sounds good in theory, in practice it would be very bad for me. And so, after services I’ll be eating a healthy, balanced, and tasty Shabbat dinner. The one-state solution sounds good in theory, but in practice it is not a solution at all. Two states, for two peoples, living side-by-side is and has always been the only solution for Israel and Palestine. While it might seem like a distant dream today, as Theodor Herzl said of the very idea of a Jewish State – im tirzu, eyn zo agadah – if you will it, it is no dream.

May we be the ones to bring about this dream of two states and of peace in the Middle East.

Shabbat Shalom