This week’s Progressive Judaism column asks: can we redraw borders in the Middle East?

By Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein 

Almost one hundred years ago, lines were drawn on maps as the First World War came to an end with the collapse of the Austro-

Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein

Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein

Hungarian and Ottoman Empires. Both the maps of Europe and the Middle East were redrawn.

A recent play at the Hampstead Theatre, Drawing the Line, showed how in 1948 an unqualified British civil servant was given the task of drawing a line that would create two countries: India and Pakistan.

A year earlier, the British Mandate of Palestine was similarly divided: Arab and Jewish, at the stroke of a pen.

The Jews accepted a higgledy-piggledy border that was clearly indefensible and later this proved to be the case. So followed a war and a new border, accepted by the Israelis and the UN, but not the Arabs.

In later years, there was another war and another border. Now as a new entity – ISIS – redraws the borders across the neighbouring Arab countries.

I must be honest and say that though once I argued for a return to the Green Line and thus the pre-1967 borders, I am no longer so sure.

Israel might need a buffer zone beyond that line, a border it can defend against a fanatical insurgency. Give back Gaza and where did it lead? A webarrage of rockets.

Give back Golan Heights? Who would do so today with a disintegrating Syria? Giving back the West Bank makes sense in theory, but in practice the reality changes daily.

My once liberal stance is now not so firm. The new threat could even create federation between Israel, Palestine and Jordan – forced together to face a new threat from the east.

The current outbreak of hostility between Israel and Hamas, with longer range rockets being fired on Israel is of great concern.

The sheer number of weapons and their increasing sophistication shows Israel has every right to try to prevent their import from countries seeking Israel’s destruction.

We can empathise with the citizens of Israel who live in constant fear of rockets landing and we can be saddened at the loss of innocent civilian lives in Gaza, but we remember the Jewish teaching that if somebody comes to kill, you have every right to prevent their action.

• Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein is President of Liberal Judaism