By now, we’ve all heard what happened in the community of Itamar last week. It even feels as if we somehow know the Fogel family, both the living and the dead. We are part of a community in mourning for a family that has suffered more than the human heart should be able to take. We marvel at the surviving children. How do they stand? How do they speak?
Another leading story out of Israel this week is, thankfully, of a much lighter nature. Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin made her first visit to the Jewish State.
While these two events seem utterly unrelated, they are not. They are actually connected in a way that sheds light on Israel’s history, Israel’s suffering and Israel’s hope. It turns out that this isn’t the first time that a Palin has arrived in Israel in the aftermath of an atrocity.
It’s impossible to place a starting date on the violence against Jews in their ancient land. But there is a broad consensus that modern Arab “political” violence against Jews began with the Nabi Musa riots of 1920. During a three-day period that April, Arabs rampaging in Jerusalem’s Old City killed five Jews and injured an additional 211. A majority of the casualties were women, children and old men.
Jerusalem’s new British rulers appointed a committee of inquiry to investigate the riots. This committee quickly came to be known by the name of its senor member – Major General P.C. Palin. The Palin Committee’s findings were later summarized in a document known as the Palin Report.
The Palin Report is stunning in its moral cowardice. In searching for the cause of these violent attacks against defenseless Jews, the Palin Report shamelessly blames the victims. In particular, the report concludes that, “The Zionists … by their impatience, indiscretion and attempts to force the hands of the Administration, are largely responsible for the present crisis.”
Something here sounds eerily familiar. Yes, the Jews did seek to “force the hand” of the British Administration to fulfill its obligations under the Balfour Declaration and the imminent British Mandate — namely to allow Jewish immigration, Jewish construction and, ironically, Jewish self-defense. The Arabs responded by attacking and murdering Jewish civilians. Yet while the violence is condemned, the real blame is placed upon the exercise of these Zionist fundamentals.
Thus the arrival in Israel of a new and very different Palin this week provided an instructive contrast. As far as I know, Sarah Palin has no family ties to the British Palin who preceded her so many decades ago. But she does bear an ideological relationship to him. Happily, that relationship is one of diametrical opposition.
One need not agree with Governor Palin’s policies to appreciate her very different approach to the Jewish State. Palin wore a Star of David while touring the country. She prayed at the Western Wall and folded a note into its ancient crevices. And when some recent controversies were raised, her only comment was to ask Israelis why they are “apologizing all the time.”
Israelis apologize so much, Governor Palin, because for decades individuals like General Palin have blamed them for the very act of living in their ancient land. They have been guilty for wanting to build a Jewish State and permit Jews to immigrate to it. They have been guilty, in other words, of the crime of Zionism.
I don’t believe that Israel is perfect. I don’t believe that Israel is blameless. But I do believe that there are times when Israel and her supporters do exhibit the psychological scars inflicted by Palins past. The impulse to apologize for what is natural for all other peoples in all other lands lives on. And this impulse continues to be encouraged and nurtured by a hostile world.
There is heartbreak in the fact that the bloodshed continues. But there is hope in the fact that Sarah Palin is not a lone voice, but representative of millions of Americans who recognize the fundamental justice of the Zionist project. This is a starting point from which a far more healthy conversation about war, land and peace can begin.
If I could tell the surviving Fogel children one thing, it would be this: this time, a large constituency will fight to ensure that you are not blamed for your suffering and your loss. And in an unjust world, this is progress.
David Brog is the executive director of Christians United for Israel and author of a new book, In Defense of Faith: The Judeo-Christian Idea and the Struggle for Humanity. You can follow David on Facebook by clicking here and on Twitter by clicking here.