Allow me to boil down the whole Israeli national political debate for you:
The majority of people who call themselves "doves" or "left wingers" believe in land concessions for the sake of peace. Most do not believe that Judea and Samaria is actually Arab land, but they do believe that acceding to world pressure and Arab demands is the pragmatic way to move forward.
The majority of people who call themselves "nationalists" or "right wingers" (whether secular or religious) believe that it is wrong to give up sovereignty of Jewish land, they are against evacuations of citizens, and they do not believe that land giveaways will bring peace.
However, while "left wingers" are seen as rational and pragmatic, "right wingers" are dubbed zealous, messianic, and unrealistic. This is because many think that a hard-line stance in opposition to world pressure is untenable. But while the fear of going against global coercion is reasonable, the stigma of irrationality that nationalists carry is not.
Some time ago, I was leading a tour of Israeli educators throughout Judea and Samaria. They were moved by the beautiful sites, the history, and the flourishing Jewish communities which attest to the two-millennia Jewish yearning for the Tomb of the Patriarchs, Bethlehem, Shilo, and Bethel.
In order to convince them of our rights to this land and its strategic importance, I spoke about our historical connection and the international legal recognition of the West Bank as an integral part of the territory of the Jewish homeland (San Remo Accords, ratified by the League of Nations and endorsed by the US Congress in 1922). I also talked about the military advantage the mountainous highland gives Israel, I explained that Judea and Samaria protect our capital from the east, north and south, and reminded them what happened after we gave away our land to Gaza terrorists.
But the educators still thought that keeping these sites under Israeli sovereignty was politically unfeasible. "Look", said one of the teachers sneeringly, "I understand that you have a religious outlook, but the bottom line is that it simply won't work in the real world."
Yet did I base my arguments on religion? I am indeed a religious person and my faith does give me confidence, but it does not preclude me from thinking rationally (not unlike my secular nationalist colleagues.) I reminded him that I was trained as a lawyer and that my opinions were grounded in facts and reason. But to no avail. The look of condescension in his eyes, which was focused on my "messianic" beard, said it all: "No matter what you say, you base your whole thinking on theology; you are irrational and incapable of reasonable discourse."
Irrational, zealous monkeysIt is one thing to argue and disagree, but it is quite another to dehumanize and discriminate. I was being discriminated against, judged not by the content of my thoughts but by the hair on my chin. And what was so irrational in my thinking anyway? Bowing to international demands may be logical, but standing up to them is no less so. Anyone who has fought a schoolyard bully knows that the act of defiance, while demanding some bravery, pays off real-world dividends.
The Middle East is a tough neighborhood. If you don't stick up for yourself here, you are soon going to end up at the bottom of the food chain. Being tough is the norm here and it is only reasonable to act in accordance with the milieu of the place in which you live. Yet Israel's "rationalists" refuse to think and act like Middle Easterners.
Come to think of it, why do these people feel so secure in their self-described role of "pragmatists" in the first place? Under their regime of appeasement, Hezbollah is now armed to the teeth, the Negev is almost totally overrun by Bedouins, we have a new neighboring Hamas terror state, and our once-ally, Turkey, sends hate flotillas to harass us.
Their decades-old "pragmatic" policies, specifically tailored to win over international opinion, have instead caused Israel to plummet in the world’s esteem. Their promise of a “New Middle East” has been unraveled and replaced by a tightening noose of angry radicalism. Not to mention that nuclear-tipped madman in Iran.
Indeed, the current political genuflect-generation has pushed us down a 40-year slippery slope in which we have lost land, prestige, and deterrence. Yet leading pro-prostration politicians shamelessly proclaim that ceding our land for the creation of a Palestinian terror state, whose goal will be to destroy Israel, is the "pragmatic" thing to do.
So why do Israeli "pragmatists" dehumanize nationalists? Because the only thing that stands in the way of the "pragmatists’" political success (and Israel's failure) is the competition of the rationally-courageous nationalist who calls on Israel to claim her rights, assert her sovereignty, broadcast confidence, employ deterrence, and stand up to world bullies instead of selling out to them. In order to eliminate the competition of those ideas, the so-called "rationalists" perform character-assassination and make nationalists out to be nothing but irrational, zealous monkeys with beards.
The jury is still out on which direction will save Israel - appeasement or bold independence. However, as a society, we should not accept the systematic de-legitimization of the nationalist perspective. Moreover, those who believe in a more autonomous Israel should vehemently oppose being branded as irrational. Nationalism is rationalism, and in this pressing time, it is the pragmatic direction forward.
Yishai Fleisher is the Executive Director of Kumah, the Neo-Zionist movement