The Jewish Federation publishes a monthly newspaper, the New Mexico Jewish Link. Each issue contains numerous articles that defend Israel against any criticism. The fact that the Link’s writers abhor honest research is apparently a mark of prestige. I often write to the Link. On rare occasions they have published my well-thought out and respectful articles but as the global criticism of Israel has intensified the Link has become more and more intolerant of any position that advocates for human rights. Here is the article they refused to publish.
ADVOCACY FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IS NOT ANTI-SEMITISM
The Jewish Federation published an ad in the October issue of the New Mexico Jewish Link accusing human rights activists of “unrelenting hatred” toward Israel. The ad claims that “anti-Israel activists [are] seeking to delegitimize Israel through an organized campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions.” Until four-and-a-half years ago I would have agreed with the ad, but circumstances persuaded me to seriously study the history of Israel-Palestine rather than rely on childhood stories and the pronouncements of well-known Jewish Israelis and Americans. Primarily researching Israeli sources and the writings of Israel’s past leaders, I discovered that virtually everything I, an American Jew, had believed about Israel-Palestine was either gross distortion or outright fabrication. My new understanding impelled me to reflect upon my former state of mind and I realized that irrational fear of an imminent Holocaust had led me to justify any Israeli behavior, no matter how oppressive.
In the 1950s African Americans initiated a series of boycotts intended to end the evils of segregation. Many white Americans supported this movement, including Jewish Americans who were among its most dedicated advocates. Did these people hate America? Did Germans who protected Jews from Nazi cruelty hate Germany? Or was it simply that these people were capable of putting human decency ahead of blind loyalty to a state’s ideology?
I support any nonviolent movement whose goal is to awaken the conscience of a country to its inhumanity. In the past, members of the Federation have read articles and letters to the editor in which I have repeatedly maintained that peace is not possible without equality for Israelis and Palestinians alike. Many members know I have ultra-orthodox relatives living in Israel. They know I do not hate Israel.
Although the vast majority of Israel’s critics are motivated by justice – regardless of who the oppressor and oppressed are – I can admit there are a small number who do hate Israel (just as there are Jews who hate Palestinians). When I encounter these people I tell them exactly what I tell supporters of the Occupation: each of us must recognize the right of all people to lives of peace and self-determination; and if we don’t incorporate that recognition into our consciousness neither side will ever find peace. Does opening my heart to the other constitute evidence I hate or want to “delegitimize” Israel? This is a serious question. If I meet a fellow Jew who is a Federation member, am I going to be attacked in this way? Isn’t this type of rhetoric contrary to the Jewish tradition of inclusion and brotherhood?
The Federation has created a Campaign “against Hate,” the basis of which is the “healing good” of Tzedakah (charity imbued with righteousness). The Federation requests donations to help Jewish children and other Jews settle in Israel, on land where Palestinians once made their homes. There is no mention of help for Palestinian children. Aren’t children everywhere the one soft spot in the hearts of all men and women? Yet, the hearts of these Federation members are closed to Palestinian children, many of whom merely yearn for a glass of drinkable water. If the Federation showed that it cared as much for Palestinian kids as it does for Israelis I would donate today.
The Federation’s invocation of principles that form the bedrock of Judaism is hypocritical. The Federation is exploiting these principles while pandering to the baser qualities of human nature. “Hatred” is a loaded word that encourages fear and separation. How can there ever be peace when this type of mind is encouraged? Judaism could not have lasted thousands of years if Jews were so heartless as to ignore the suffering of non-Jews, especially when they bore significant responsibility for their suffering. Judaism as a great religion will perish if it’s most sacred principles are distorted and used as justification for a world of us against them. I ask Federation members to consider deeply if there is hatred in what I say, if there is anything to fear from what I say. I ask them to take a hard look at the truth of Israel’s occupation of an indigenous people. If they can find the courage to do so, then Israelis and Palestinians can begin to live together in peace.
Richard Forer, author of
Breakthrough: Transforming Fear into Compassion – A New Perspective on the Israel-Palestine Conflict