Panorama Magazine
Justice Francis T. Murphy - Appellate Division, First Department

Ed Note: It is a tradition that Rabbi Jacob j. Hecht delivers the invocation at the annual dinner of the Jewish Lawyers Guild. This year, one of the honorees at that dinner was Presiding justice Francis T. Murphy of the Appellate Division, First Department. Rabbi Hecht was so impressed with the judge's message that he felt it worthy to be reprinted in its entirety in this issue of Panorama.

Forty years have passed since the creation of Israel. My generation, the generation that witnessed the Holocaust and the birth of Israel, is passing from the earth. Like a leviathan moving into the night waters of the deep. My generation is taking with it the memory of those who were slain, and the memory of Israel, the state built upon their tomb. Death and survival, two thunderclaps in this century's history of the Jews, soon will have no witnesses to speak of them.

As a gentile, I choose this time and place to speak for Israel. I choose this time because never has Israel been criticized so bitterly, never has public opinion been so sparing in its support of that nation. I choose this place because you have given me the Golda Meir Award. It is in the memory of that extraordinary woman that I want to speak to your hearts.

For a gentile to speak when Jewish opinion about Gaza and the West Bank is intensely divided in this country, to say nothing of Israel itself, may seem intrusive. If it so appears to you, I remind you that for 2,000 years gentiles spread the blood and tears of your fathers on the pages of your history. We gentiles who witnessed the Holocaust, especially those of us for whom racial and religious hatred were strange to our nature and repugnant to our consciences, it was upon us that the evil of anti-Semitism left a special imprint. We could not undo the history of the Jews. Nor could we claim a direct role in their future. We could only foresee political and financial support of Israel through our governments. We were certain that Israel must exist, for its existence was our direct concern as the only possible moral answer by the gentile to the blood and tears of those 2,000 years.

Yet never did we expect more than this peripheral role. Never did we expect that, just as a moral consensus among western nations had brought Israel into being after World War II, 40 years later a moral consensus among those western nations would be in preparation to destroy Israel. Accordingly, if the relationship of gentiles to Israel cannot be peripheral when the issue is Israel's existence, then when that existence is threatened gentiles must form a common center with Jews, leaving only enemies on the periphery. It is in that spirit that I speak to you tonight about the occupied territories, for that crisis engages the very existence of Israel.

Israel has given to Jews the greatest good of which any human institution is capable. It has given Jews the right to choose how they shall live, right without which life was a form of slavery for Jews for 2,000 years. In this sense, Israel has liberated all Jews. No longer does a Jewish mother give birth to a child who must live at the sufferance of a non-Jewish majority. With one astonishing stroke, Israel has transformed the individual problem of the Jews of the dispersion. Those Jews who desire to live the full life of a member of a majority of a modern nation may enter Israel and live its life. Those Jews who want to live as citizens of politically non-Jewish states may do so. Thus the treasure of every Jew lies in this-whether he wants to go or to stay, to assimilate or to remain in any other condition is a choice that he is free to make as he chooses. Before Israel, there was no choice. It is this choice that is today the target of Arab stones in Gaza and Arab barricades in the West Bank. It is this choice to which many Jewish American critics of Israel are blind, or to which many gentile critics attach no value, and it is to these critics I now speak.

First, the gentiles-
You gentiles who think of Israel as a Middle East state unrelated to universal Jewish freedom, you who see in Israel the extension of the Jew- hatred by your fathers and yourselves, you who know yourselves to be anti-semites for when 10 Holocausts would have been 10 too little, who mock Jews behind their backs, who celebrate Jewish pain whenever you read of Israel's anguish, who laugh in your hearts when Jews are condemned for being as human as everyone else-

I say to all of you continue judging Israel by the most exacting ethical standards, standards to which no nation, including the United States, has ever been subject. Make your implication clear if Israel cannot prove that its conduct is beyond moral reproach, then Israel should not exist, and if Israel does not exist then Jews may once again become social cattle.

How piously, how economically, your anti-semitic wish will have been granted. Not a penny for barbed wire. Not a smokestack in sight. No insane racial theories. And you yourself will not have pushed, beaten, or shot a single Jew. To the madness of this century you will have added the slaying of a nation by the invocation of an unreachable moral order.

As for American Jews who identify Israel with South Africa and Israeli soldiers with Nazi troops- What is it that so distorts, so unbalances your perception of Middle East reality?

Where is your traditional acuity of judgment? Is it that standing on the East bank of the Hudson you have a wisdom about the occupied territories that is denied to Israelis standing on the West Bank? Or is it because you are 6,000 miles from Arabs who openly intend to wipe out Israel that you have superior objectivity upon which Israelis may draw? After all, if you are wrong, you will still summer on Cape Cod wearing your good-faith smiles while vultures pluck the eyes from Israeli heads in the Negev.

Or perhaps it is your conviction that Israel was created in order to make you feel comfortable in your commitment to "Israel," a Utopian state that exists only in your fantasy?

Or can it be that you think that Arafat is Abraham Lincoln and that what is a murderous campaign against Jews in Gaza and the West Bank is a video replay of the fight for civil rights in Alabama?

If you want Israel to exist, condemn her acts when they are wrong, but do not abandon her to a whirlwind of enemies. In the same voice in which you condemn her acts, defend her right to live. Explain why Israel is in the occupied territories and why Israel cannot simply leave those territories without risking suicide. Describe the Arabs who are in Gaza and the West Bank. If your first loyalty is to truth, make certain that the whole truth is given to the American public.

What is the truth about Gaza and the West Bank?
The truth is that if anyone knows what Israel should do about the occupied territories, he must be one of the gods.

If Israel unilaterally withdraws, the territories will be controlled by the PLO. The PLO is sworn to the slaying of Israel, for the PLO believes that Israelis belong in the sea or in Poland.

Should Israel arrange for its own assassination by unilaterally withdrawing from Gaza and the West Bank?

Then should Israel withdraw in favor of Jordan? Unfortunately, Jordanians, much to the surprise of most of the world, are not the same people as Palestinians. Jordanians are Hashemites. What we see on television are Palestinians who want their own nation. Palestinians do not want to be governed by Jordanians.

Israel, nevertheless, is probably willing to negotiate Gaza and the West Bank for peace, for to keep the territories means that within 30 years there will be more Arabs than Jews in Israel. But it takes at least two to negotiate, and there is no Arab entity strong enough to control the territories and willing to offer Israel recognition and peace.

Who are we to demand that Israel either unilaterally withdraw into catastrophe or negotiate with an Arab power unable and unwilling to offer Israel recognition and peace? Israel was not created in 1948 in order to allow the United States to assist it in committing suicide in 1988.

Israelis are not Jews born to be bent and broken by foreign hands. Israelis will themselves determine their own fate, and they will do it with the political power of the overwhelming majority of American Jews for whom Israel's existence is the bottom line. --------------------------

Presiding Justice 1977-1997
Associate Justice 1971-1977
Francis Timothy Murphy was born in the Bronx, New York, on April 21, 1927. After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, he returned to civilian life to attend Fordham College and New York Law School. He was admitted to the Bar in 1952.

Justice Murphy served as an assistant district attorney for Bronx County. Thereafter he served as law secretary to Justice Francis X. Conlon of the Supreme Court. In 1957, Justice Murphy was appointed Justice of the Municipal Court of the City of New York by Mayor Robert Wagner. He was elected to a full term on that court in 1958, and, upon the merger of the Municipal and City Courts in 1962, he became a Judge of the Civil Court of the City of New York. Justice Murphy was elected Justice of the Supreme Court in 1962. Nine years later, Governor Nelson Rockefeller designated him as a Justice of the Appellate Division, First Department. In 1977, Governor Hugh Carey designated him as Presiding Justice of the Court. Governor Mario Cuomo redesignated him to that office in 1990. Murphy retired from the bench in 1997, having reached the mandatory retirement age, and joined the law firm of Kelley, Drye & Warren LLP, as counsel.
Reprinted from Panorama Magazine June / July 1988 Vol 45 Number 1 - Sivan / Tammuz 5748. "News of the activivities of the NCFJE"
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