By: Rabbi Menashe Sasson
Reporting from Jerusalem, Israel
The festival of Pesah is a commemoration and celebration of Jewish freedom. At the Pesah seder, we read the Haggadah and discuss Jewish emancipation from slavery, which was accomplished through the exodus from Egypt.
Regarding the reason Hashem took the Jews out of Egypt, there is a pasuk in the Torah which is often misquoted as saying, “I am the Lord your G-d, who brought you out of the land of Mizrayim [Egypt] to be your G-d.”
The pasuk, correctly quoted, actually says, “I am the Lord your G-d, who brought you out of the land of Mizrayim [Egypt] to give you the land of Kena’an [Eretz Yisra’el], and to be your G-d.” Vayyiqra 25:38.
The addition of the omitted phrase in this pasuk “to give you the land of Kena’an” answers the question of why it was necessary for Hashem to take the Jews out of Egypt. After all, if Hashem simply wanted to be the Jews’ G-d, He could have performed miracles that would have given the Jews the freedom to worship Him while they continued to live in Mizrayim, or, for that matter, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, London, Paris, or New Delhi.
The order in which Hashem informs us of the reason for the Exodus is also instructive. Hashem said He took the Jews out of Mizrayim “to give [them Eretz Yisra’el]” and “to be [their] G-d,” the implication being that there is a relationship between Eretz Yisra’el and Hashem being the G-d of the Jewish people.
The Talmud addresses the issue:
After giving the Jewish people the Torah at Mount Sinai, Hashem warned them against allowing the inhabitants of Eretz Yisra’el to remain in the Land after the Land had been conquered by the Jews.
The command to expel from Eretz Yisra’el all inhabitants who possessed the land prior to the Jews is repeated in Sefer Bamidbar:
According to the Or HaChaim:
Likewise, Abarbanel said:
Why, one might ask, does Hashem emphasize expelling from Eretz Yisra’el those who claim to have a legal or other right to the Land? The answer is simple.
Shortly before the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai, Hashem, who was speaking about the Jewish people, said, “You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation [אתם תהיו לי ממלכת כהנים וגוי קדוש].” Shemot 19:6.
The word “kadosh” [קדוש], in addition to meaning “holy” also means “separate,” which suggests that Hashem intends for the Jewish people to be physically, as well as spiritually, separate from the other peoples of the world.
Applying this Torah commandment to contemporary times, we see that all Arabs who currently reside in Israel must be transferred out of the country because, among other reasons, they claim a right to possess Eretz Yisra’el and, accordingly, will always “be a snare among” the Jewish people.
One might argue, however, that Israel is a democracy and a democratic country may not exclude people based on race.
There are several answers to this question. The first is that transferring to other countries Arabs who reside in Israel does not discriminate against Arabs because of race.
When addressing the issue of racial discrimination, it is important to note that racial discrimination, by definition, is a form of discrimination which is based on a physical trait which is immutable, that is, which cannot be changed.
With this in mind, it must further be understood that a policy of transferring to other countries Arabs who reside in Israel would not – indeed could not – properly be classified as racial discrimination because such a policy would discriminate against Arabs because of what they are not – Jewish – rather than because of what they are – Arab.
As we know, any Arab who sincerely desires to convert, and who does convert, becomes halachically Jewish and, like any other Jew, would be more than welcome to reside in Israel.
The fact that a person may become Jewish through a halachically valid conversion conclusively demonstrates that “Jewishness” is a mutable trait, as opposed to an immutable trait and, therefore, to discriminate against someone because they are not Jewish is not a form of discrimination which is based on race. In other words, discriminating against Arabs because they are not Jewish is not racial discrimination.
To this, one might – correctly – respond that even though transferring Arabs out of Israel because they are not Jewish does not constitute discrimination based on race, it does, nevertheless, constitute discrimination based on religion.
To the Western mind, it is unacceptable to discriminate against someone because of his religion. However, this is a concept that Arab countries have never accepted. Saudi Arabia, for example, which is widely considered to be a “moderate” Arab country has, for a very long time, forbidden Jews even to enter that country, much less reside there.
Other Arab countries that, for many, many years, have systematically discriminated against Jews include: Aden, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen.
More importantly, however, the State of Israel, in addition to claiming to be a democracy, also claims to be a Jewish State, in fact, the only Jewish state in the world. As such, it is inconceivable that the State of Israel should allow non-Jews to live in Israel and to grant them political rights which will allow them – peaceably – through natural population growth, to become a majority of the population which, in turn, would allow them to use Israel’s supposedly democratic political system to, for example, change the name of Israel to “Palestine” and to then change Israel from a Jewish state to Arab state.
The complaint of Arabs who reside in Israel is not that the State of Israel treats them poorly. Indeed, there is virtually no outbound immigration of Arabs from Israel to the various Arab countries. Rather, the complaint of the Arabs who resides in Israel is, simply, that the State of Israel exists. The Arab who resides in Israel genuinely, although erroneously, believes that Israel was stolen from him. Thus, the only satisfactory outcome for this type of person is for the State of Israel to cease to exist.
Hatikvah [התקוה], the Israeli national anthem, reads in part, “As long as in the heart, within [כל עוד בלבב פנימה], The soul of a Jew still yearns [נפש יהודי הומיה], [for] The land of Zion and Jerusalem [ארץ ציון וירושלים]. This is hardly a song, or a sentiment, which is likely to awaken much patriotism in the Arab who happens to be residing in Israel.
So let us do as the Torah commands, by assisting Arabs who are living in Israel to move to Arab countries that speak their language and which is more suitable to their ethnic and religious culture.
Shabbat Shalom! Hag Sameah!
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Menashe Sasson is a Sephardic rabbi and American attorney who resides in Jerusalem, Israel.