Here it is finally: The end of an endless debate


(re: “Why is it so hard to see what’s right in front of you?” Sept. 22)

This will be my last missive on the Israel-Palestine issue, in response to the Jeselsohns and Charles Moerdler.  (We have to stop meeting this way!) 

Despite what they might think, I am not against Israel — and certainly not antisemitic. Our biggest difference is one of values — mine are universal, theirs are tribal.

Despite current political chaos, Israel has some semblance of a democracy — more than one can say about most Arab states, although clearly Palestinians of Israel are second-class citizens, and in the West Bank, Israel is clearly an occupying power.  Israel has accomplished wonders in many respects, making the desert bloom, as the saying goes. I only oppose their treatment of the Palestinian Arabs — and Christians. 

My view is similar to that of many human rights organizations that owe allegiance to no nation or ethnicities, just to a set of values. My basic difference with the above-mentioned writers is whether one privileges the lives, well-being, suffering, etc., of one ethnicity, state, religion, etc. or whether all have equal worth. 

I take the latter position. When a child dies, one shouldn’t ask, “Is he one of ours, or theirs?” Selective compassion and tribalism are probably at the root of the most suffering in human history. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t good and bad actors, positive and destructive actions.

I would also humbly suggest that if you care about the future of Israel and of Judaism, the fact, as I previously reported, that 40 percent of young American Jews (25 percent of all ages) find it to be an apartheid state should be concerning. Israel’s actions are the direct cause of its loss of support amongst American Jews, and perhaps of some turning away from Judaism. 

I have Jewish friends who used to feel very connected to Israel, but have turned against it over its treatment of Palestinians. 

As new generations come of age, distant from the horrors of the Holocaust — which I don’t downplay — Jews with humanistic values will continue to gravitate away from Israel, whether one likes it or not, unless Israeli policies change. The boycott divestment and sanctions movement for me is just to put pressure on Israel to come to a fair agreement recognizing two sovereign and equal states, and not the so-called “generous offer” of non-contiguous reservations, with an armed Israel and disarmed Palestine. 

I have little to say about Mr. Moerdler’s latest diatribe, other than to point out a revealing — dare I say Freudian? — slip in quoting Santayana. The actual quote is “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Mr. Moerdler substituted “relive” for repeat. I understand that he is always reliving the Holocaust. 

There is the old joke about the guy who goes to the psychologist who draws a picture of a circle. He asks the patient what he sees. “A man and a woman in bed.”   He then draws a square.

Again the patient sees a man and a woman in bed. Repeat with a triangle. The psychologist says, “Well, your problem obviously has to do with sex.”  The patient responds, “But you’re the one drawing the dirty pictures.” 

The point? Mr. Moerdler sees the Holocaust “right in front of him” — everywhere, regardless of actual reality.

Like her husband, Ms. Jeselsohn gives a cohesive brief narrative of the pro-Israeli position on these matters, and rebukes me for ignoring history. Pro-Palestinian supporters give an opposite narrative.

However, the actual history and current situation are immensely complex, and don’t line up with either position. 

To do justice would require a lengthy book. 

As a start, for current issues, I would recommend the Human Rights Watch report “Israel/Palestine Country Page,” (just Google it) and the book “The State of Israel vs. the Jews,” by Sylvain Cypel, as well as a recent article by Peter Beinart in The New York Times.

All I will say about her piece is two things. First, if Israel is “home” for all Jews because it was home to their ancestors more than 2,000 years, then the entire Western Hemisphere is “home” to all their descendants from 700 or 800 years ago, and now should then have political and military dominance over those of European origin. 

And for the area of Palestine, what about the descendents of dozens of civilizations that settled that area over the last roughly 100,000 years?

Equal realities should mean equal conclusions — unless there is tribal favoritism.

Second, Mrs. Jeselsohn points out positive things about Israel’s political system. Lest we forget, the United States had a democracy for most while maintaining slavery, and various European states had democratic system side by side with brutal colonialism. 

I may write about tribalism versus humanistic values in the future, but re Israel-Palestine, I am signing off.


Peter Wolf, Palestine, Israel, BDS, Jews, Holocaust