Coming to Israel’s defense
Distortions do not promote peace
During renewed hostilities in the Middle East, the usual letters condemning Israel and excusing its assailants of responsibility abounded in The Recorder. At Hampshire College recently, an Israeli speaker couldn’t speak above the heckling of “peace and justice” groups. A girl who had the courage to support Israel received a death threat and students who had a table with facts about Israel needed police protection.
I acknowledge Palestinian suffering and am angry about West Bank settlements, but don’t understand the portrayal of Palestinians as blameless victims and of Israel as a bully that faces no threat.
The “My Turn” titled “Israel is the original terrorist,” painted Israel as an imperialist colonizer. Here is the omitted history:
Israel has had a continuous Jewish presence for 3,000 years, despite expulsions. Zionism was a response to persecution of Jews over millennia, around the world, and a longing to return home. In the early 1900s, more Jews came as socialist pioneers and penniless refugees, not wanting to disrupt the lives of inhabitants. Land for Jewish settlements was purchased. Many Arabs immigrated there for economic opportunity only after the Zionist movement made the barren land fruitful. Some Arab leaders were affiliated with the Nazi movement and, not wanting to share the land, killed more than 800 Jews in the 1920s and ’30s. In 1947, the United Nations recommended partitioning the land into a Jewish and an Arab state. The Jews accepted, but the Arabs launched a war that killed 6,000 Jews. Palestinians fled, in most cases, because they were ordered to by their leaders to make room for conquering Arab armies. Had Arabs accepted, there wouldn’t be Palestinian refugees. Eight hundred and fifty thousand Jews were expelled from Arab lands in 1948 and cannot visit. These refugees, and Holocaust survivors, were absorbed by the new state. But Arab nations refused to resettle their Palestinian brethren, preferring to keep them penned up in refugee camps, where they remain, to be used as props in the war against Israel.
Arabs who did not flee became residents of Israel and have a higher standard of living than elsewhere in the Middle East. They enjoy freedom of religion and speech, socialized medicine and voting rights. Arab women and men graduate from Israeli universities, Muslim and Jewish women attend female only swims at pools. Gay Palestinians flock to the freedom of Israel to avoid persecution or death in Gaza or the West Bank. Israeli newspapers contain articles by Arab writers critical of Israel. Israel is the only Middle East country where the Christian population is thriving, not disappearing. The “territories” became occupied when Israel won a defensive war in 1967. Arabs living in East Jerusalem were then offered Israeli citizenship, but refused, not wanting to recognize Israeli sovereignty.
In the “My Turn” titled “Seeing the real victims,” Israel is painted as an aggressor opposed to peace. Yet peace was attained with Jordan and Egypt. Palestinians have repeatedly rejected opportunities to create an independent state: The 1979 Egypt-Israel peace negotiations, and the Oslo agreements of the 1990s offered the Palestinians autonomy. The latter was derailed by terrorism which has killed over 1,000 Israelis. Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon was countered with Hezbollah’s 15,000 rockets. In 2000, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered to create a Palestinian state in all of Gaza and 97 percent of the West Bank. Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 resulted in daily barrages of rocket attacks against southern Israel. There would be no blockade or wars if some Gazans had used their energies and the millions in foreign aid to build, rather than to burn synagogues, demolish greenhouses and smuggle and make weapons.
We hear emotionally charged words like massacre, genocide and ethnic cleansing associated with Israel. In Syria 45,000 are dead. In Rwanda 800,000 were slaughtered. But the Palestinian population’s growing very fast and has seen a 30 percent rise recently. Ethnic cleansing is what will happen to Jews if Hamas gets its way. And, comparing Israelis to Nazis denies and trivializes the Holocaust.
When antisemitism is camouflaged as anti-Zionism, Israel’s legitimacy is taken away. It has no right to exist. Demonized, it is depicted as the world’s most dangerous, evil country and measured with double standards. Israel is condemned for self defense measures and problems that are seen as inevitable elsewhere.
Distortion, hate speech, isolating, and denying the trauma of one side does not promote peace, justice or reasonable dialogue.
Rhonda Wainshilbaum lives in Leyden.