Although people often don't realize it, Religious Zionism is not simply secular Zionism with kosher food and no working on Shabbos. There are tremendous philosophical differences between the two movements that many don't appreciate.
Secular Zionism, as conceived by Theodore Herzl and his successors, had a simple objective - to create a European socialist-style state with a Jewish majority population. For Herzl himself, this objective meant that the state created would have nothing actually Jewish about it. He had no trouble with creating it in Uganda. He wanted German to be the national language since that country was the cultural and economic leader of Europe in his time. His Israel would have been Jewish like public high schools in predominantly Jewish neighbourhoods in North America are Jewish - demographically but not more.
Religious Zionism, on the other hand, believes that we on the verge of the aschalta d'geula, the beginning of the final redemption that will end this last exile and bring us all back to Israel where we will worship God in His Holy Temple (may it be built speedily in our days). Zionism isn't a political imperative and the refusal of the non-Jewish world to accept us as equal members of their societies was not a driving force for the founders of Religious Zionism. Rather the leadership's understanding of the Torah and the descriptions of what would precede the end of days led to the decision to create a movement dedicated to building a Jewish state in Israel - because it was time to do so according to our prophets.
The result of that philosophy has been a tension when it comes to the non-Jewish population of Israel. While it is quite clear that non-Jews living in Israel according to the seven mitzvos of Bnei Noach are to be treated with respect, dignity and full recourse to the law, there is also a religious understanding that Israel is Jewish land first and foremost. However, it is also quite clear that at this state which is only the first flowering of the final redemption, we cannot use a "textbook" approach to the non-Jews in the state. It is simply not tenable to treat a significant portion of the population as an unwanted underclass with less rights than the majority.
Into this has come the recent halachic ruling forbidding Jews to rent or sell to Arabs. This has predictably brought with it calls of racism from the secular and part of the religious population. On the face of it, this would appear to be true. If American leaders were to suddenly forbid the selling of land or homes to a specific sector of the population, one with full citizenship and rights, we would be the first to cry "racism". It is difficult to see how the situation here is different, despite apparently support from a majority of Israelis.
One of the rabbonim to sign the recent psak din is Rav Shlomo Aviner, shlit"a, who has also written on his blog about his reasons:
Why did I add my humble signature to the Rabbinic petition against selling houses and apartments, lands and fields, to the Arabs?
The answer is so simple. The vision of the Jewish state. We have returned here after 2000 years of exile, in order to establish a Jewish state.
True, it is permissible for non-Jews to live there, and one has to treat the non-Jew who lives in the land with integrity and respect. Yet strengthening the foothold of the Arabs in the Land demonstrates a lack of national responsibility, for they are presently 25% of the entire population, and a large scale Jewish majority has to be preserved.
It is no secret that the Arabs want to annex our country for themselves and banish us from our Land, and they are doing this in every possible way: 1. By way of bloody wars which result in our country being full of widows and orphans and bereaved parents. 2. Unrelenting terror which likewise exacts from us a price in blood. 3. Recently, since the Carmel tragedy, a call has gone forth from the Arabs to commit a lot of arson in Israel, and indeed, there have been 15 attempts at arson since then. 4. Unrelenting land purchases by the Arabs throughout our country on a gigantic scale, in Yafo, Haifa, Acco, the Galil, and recently, an attempt to buy the Nof Tzion neighborhood in Jerusalem. In our world there are enormously wealthy Arabs who are ready to budget millions towards this end, and indeed, the Jews, lacking national responsibility, who are tempted by the money.
When I was a boy, a member of Bnei Akiva, I, together with my friends in the movement, was asked to go, night and day, house to house, to distribute the blue boxes of the Jewish National Fund, whose goal was the redemption of the Land of Israel from the Arabs.
And now, shall we do the opposite?!
While his words have a certain appeal, there is a flaw in his reasoning as presented here. Reasons 1 and 2 are not acceptable in this argument because they do not involve Arabs living in Israel. The majority of Israeli Arabs are loyal citizens (despite the ongoing despicable actions of a sizeable minority of them as well as their MK's). If Arabs living in Iraq want to wipe out Israel, that does not make Israeli Arabs guilty by association. In addition, the unrelenting terror is mostly (albeit not completely) caused by Arabs living in Yehudah, Shomron and 'Aza who do not see themselves as citizens of Israel.
It is reason 4, however, that provides an opportunity to reframe this psak din in a different, more acceptable light.
I have no doubt that the Rav's statement that non-Israeli Arab money is being used to buy up as much of Israel as possible. The Arabs are simply following the strategy used by the early Zionist movement to create a viable presence in Israel in the 1920's and 30's. What can be done about this?
Well where's Jewish money when you need it? Where are Jewish investors and land developers? Why are Jews not responding to these offers of sale and buying up the land of Israel for our people? If a person needs or wants to sell his land and doesn't care who he sells to as long as the cheque clears, can we fault him if he doesn't feel a patriotic need to maintain Jewish control after the sale?
The psak din should not be about forbidding but about promotion. We should say that Arabs are not allowed to build the land of Israel. Instead we should be saying that it is a Jewish priority to build Israel. We should not be saying that it is forbidden to sell to Arabs, or anyone else, but instead emphasizing the need for Jews to buy up land and control it.
This issue not be about being anti-Arab. Such an attitude is reprehensible. Rather it should emphasize the mportant value of being pro-Jewish and encouraging Jewish settlement in Israel.