Letters to the editor: Nov. 29, 2017

Demonizing Israel

A letter in the Nov 22 issue of the Light written by representatives from Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) claimed that JVP is not “demonizing” Israel. Rather, JVP is merely describing, detailing and chronicling actual practices in which “Palestinians passing through Israeli military checkpoints must endure arbitrary detention, harassment, humiliation and even death at the hands of the Israel Defense Forces,” and that “those who look white go by undisturbed.”

It is a grave misunderstanding to think that the treatment of Palestinians has anything whatsoever to do with skin color. It does not. There are Israelis of all different skin colors — including Ethiopians with black skin; Yemenites with brown skin; Jews from India and Burma with Asian features; and Jews with olive skin whose parents are from Muslim countries in the Middle East and North Africa. In most cases, you can’t tell whether someone is Palestinian or Israeli by looking at their skin color.

So if the current situation has nothing to do with skin color, then what is the cause? The reason that Israel has implemented checkpoints is because scores of Palestinians have engaged in stabbings, car rammings and bombings against Israelis, and such attacks continue on a regular basis and are encouraged and praised by the Palestinian leadership. 

According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

• Since Sept. 13, 2015, 59 people have been killed in terrorist attacks. and 827 people (including uninvolved Palestinians) have been injured.

• Since September 2015, there have been 186 stabbing attacks and 132 attempted stabbings; 163 shootings; 60 vehicular (ramming) attacks; and one vehicular (bus) bombing.

• Last year, 12 vehicular ramming attacks and 100 stabbing attacks were thwarted by Israeli security forces.

• In March 2016, former U.S. Army veteran Taylor Force, who was earning his MBA at Vanderbilt University, was killed in a stabbing attack near Tel Aviv that wounded 10 others.

• In November 2015, Ezra Schwartz, 18, of Sharon, Mass., was killed in a drive-by shooting in the West Bank.

Every one of the above-mentioned attacks was perpetrated by Palestinians. Clearly, the most effective way to prevent such attacks is to monitor and search the Palestinian population. If there weren’t any such attacks, there would be no reason to have checkpoints.

JVP is trying to create a false equivalence between Israel’s attempt to prevent terrorist attacks against civilians and the racial conflict that exists between blacks and police in the United States. JVP’s allegations are an unjustified, unfair and arbitrary attempt to malign or falsify the situation in the West Bank for the express purpose of malicious distortion. And yes, that is the precise definition of demonizing Israel.

Galit Lev-Harir, Wildwood

More to the story

David Rubin’s Nov. 22 letter, “Anti-Semitism today isn’t simply from the usual suspects,” rightfully calls attention to the undemocratic tactics by progressives to deny free speech to students on college campuses who are supporters of Israel.

Missing is another cause of the uptick in anti-Semitic incidents from the right, namely the polarizing and racially divisive rhetoric of Donald Trump and Steve Bannon. Whether these two men are personally anti-Semitic is irrelevant. The racial and religious stereotyping of Muslim Americans (as terrorists), Mexican Americans (murderers and rapists) and African Americans (a birther sits in the White House) is always bad for Jews.

A climate of intolerance inevitably brings all kinds of bigots out of their homes to join protests against all who are different and this includes Jews (Charlottesville). The attacks on “global elites” by Bannon, along with President Trump’s inaccurate claims that other countries are responsible for all our economic challenges, conjures up the ancient stereotype that “rootless and cosmopolitan” international bankers (Jews) are cheating American workers. 

Too many Republican and conservative Jews give Trump and Bannon a pass because of their support for Israel. Like the United States, Israel is a diverse, imperfect and entrepreneurial democracy that will be hurt in the long run by forming alliances with the ethno-nationalism of Trump and Bannon.

Dennis Lubeck, Brentwood

Spreading lies

Last week, the Jewish Light’s website ran a JTA article titled, “Why an Israeli soldier insists he beat a Palestinian, but the army doesn’t buy it.” The article says that the soldier is the leader of Breaking the Silence, a much-maligned nonprofit that opposes Israel’s military occupation in the West Bank. 

“The group publishes Israeli veterans’ testimonies regarding alleged human rights abuses by the army in the Palestinian territories,” JTA reports The story goes on to discuss how this guy claims he beat a “Palestinian,” and both the supposed victim as well as the Israel Defense Forces say it never happened. 

Ben-Dror Yemini wrote for YNet on Nov. 20 that when Breaking the Silence began, it was an organization for soldiers to speak out about the wrongs they saw in an attempt to fix them. However, over the past few years, the purpose of the group has changed. Today, the group is only about spreading lies about Israel. 

A representative of the organization spoke at Columbia University and told the audience that the IDF bombed a mosque. However, there was an American “lone soldier” [a soldier in the IDF with no immediate family in Israel] in the audience who had served in the IDF in that region, and he explained that this was a lie, that there were terrorists in the mosque who had shot and killed two soldiers. Typically, there are no first-hand accounts present in the audience to catch and point out the lies.  

My question is, why has this organization changed? I ask that we follow the money. Let’s see who is paying them. I would not be shocked to see the pro-BDS crowd involved in funding Breaking the Silence today. 

The next time an anti-Israel and anti-IDF story is retold, I would like to see a story on the same page documenting the history of the organization, its lies, and its attempts to harm Israel and the IDF. Or maybe we can include a story of the IDF’s work in Texas, Haiti or Turkey helping save lives, or the IDF protecting all lives and everyone’s human rights in Israel, and stories of putting their own lives as risk during a mission to ensure the fewest number of innocent victims were involved as possible. 

The IDF has proved time and time again they are the most compassionate and ethical military in the world, Israel has proved time and time again to be a fair and honest society who upholds human rights for all, and this organization has been shown time and time again to spread lies and hate. 

Mike Minoff, Olivette