Israel will be judged by its deeds


To the editor:

(re: “Palestinians own worst enemies,” Feb. 16)

I am puzzled by Sura Jeselsohn’s recent letter to the editor where she states she wrote it because “silence in the face of the recent Peter Wolf letter could be interpreted as acquiescence.”

My puzzle is that her remarks — basically about Jewish victimization over the centuries — had nothing to do with my letter. I was criticizing The Riverdale Press for its “news” article, which took as a given, the equation of criticism of Israel with antisemitism. If that had been an editorial, fine.

But a responsible news story should have cited this as a debated issue. 

Those who disagree — probably more than half of Americans — should have been cited along with those of the likes of the Anti-Defamation League.  At least in regards to Ms. Jeselsohn, I said nothing about Jewish history, and only one of many sentences was actually a criticism of Israel.

However, to respond to Ms. Jeselsohn’s comments, here is a lengthy quote from Peter Beinart’s insightful 2012 book, “The Crisis of Zionism:”

“The shift from Jewish powerlessness to Jewish power has been so profound — and, in historical terms, so rapid — that it has outpaced the way many Jews think about themselves.

“One hundred years ago, Jews in Palestine lived at the mercy of their Ottoman overlords. Jews in Europe endured crushing, often state-sponsored, antisemitism. Jews in the Muslim world were frequently consigned to second-class status.

And Jews in the United States lived at the margins of American life.

“Even 50 years ago, none of Israel’s Arab neighbors recognized its right to exist.”

Beinart goes on to describe drastic changes in the position of Jews and Israel in the world:

“Israel has made peace with two (now more) of its Arab neighbors, and all the Arab countries have offered to make peace if Israel ends its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, returns to the lines that prevailed before the 1967 Six-Day War, and reaches a ‘just’ and ‘agreed upon’ solution to the Palestinian refugee issue. Israel’s defense budget easily exceeds those of its four immediate neighbors combined. It is the world’s fifth-largest exporter of arms, and is the only country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons.” 

For many survivors of the Holocaust and their children, Jews are seen in a forever timeframe where we are perpetual victims, forever good, vulnerable and helpless so that anything done in the name of Judaism or Israel is justified. Because of this ethical essentialism and vulnerable status, critics or opponents of Israel can never have any justification, and can only be evil or emotionally disturbed.

But most American Jews were born after 1967, and don’t see Israel as a uniquely vulnerable David under attack from Goliath. As the years go by, Israel’s Jewish defenders — unless it drastically changes its behavior — will only be those who believe God wants them to have control from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, and excuses/ignores any and everything it does to the Palestinians.

The rest of us will judge it by its deeds.

Peter Wolf

Peter Wolf, Israel, Palestine, Sura Jeselsohn, American Jews