Nazis, Jews: Israel, Palestinians

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2009-07-12

[My answer to my sister Gerry's incensed letter to me in response to an article I sent her written by an Auschwitz survivor who saw a certain sameness in the treatment the Jews received from the Nazis before the Holocaust and the treatment of the Palestinians by the Israelis -- Her angry letter to me, among other things, was about how I unfairly "always cherish invective against Israel" -- and how that is antisemitic of me to repeat -- also that I only inform myself "from the alternate news services and blogs which promote only polemic."]

Dear Gerry,

Your letter to me is very harsh, and although I can overlook its tone, I can't do the same about the willful blindness you express -- it seems to me willful. But maybe not. I've tried to send you articles in the past but you didn't want to read them. And since you don't get as much face time with the computer as I do, motivation to research this politically painful subject outside of the American mainstream doesn't move you. I can understand that.

But it is a blindness, willful or not.

And it is the same blindness that affects a good part of the American Jewish community -- but not all of it (!) There are many Jews who recognize that to criticize Israel's harsh and, yes, brutal behavior towards the Palestinians is NOT an antisemitic expression. Far from it. There are even American rabbis who have organized themselves to present an alternative to the Zionist agenda of AIPAC and the Israeli Likud. Here is a quote from a recent press release that came from Rabbi Brant Rosen, head rabbi of the large temple in Evanston, Ill., and the other rabbi who signed it is from a congregation in Tisbury, Mass.:

>RABBIS ANNOUNCE MONTHLY FAST FOR GAZA Seeking to end the Jewish community's silence over Israel's collective punishment in Gaza, an ad hoc group of American rabbis has called for a communal fast. Known as Ta'anit Tzedek -- Jewish Fast for Gaza. This new initiative will organize a series of monthly fasts beginning on July 16...The project was initiated by a group of thirteen rabbis representing a spectrum of American Jewish denominations...Jewish Fast for Gaza is a collective act of conscience...by an ad hoc group of rabbis, Jews, people of faith, and all concerned with this ongoing crisis...The fast has four goals: calling for lifting of the blockade, to provide humanitarian and development aid to the people of Gaza, to call upon Israel, the US and the international community to engage in negotiations with Hamas in order to end the blockade, and to encourage the American government to vigorously engage both the Israelis and Palestinians toward a just and peaceful settlement...

There are also organized Jewish secular groups very critical of Israeli policy that have speakers, usually at colleges or small forums, and that publish -- on line, one group called "J Street," a very literate and sophisticated group, another excellent one called "Jewish Voice for Peace" and there are others in Britain and elsewhere -- (all mostly with recognizably Jewish member names -- I suppose it's to remove any doubt as to their "credibility")

Yes, I do inform myself about the Israeli/Palestinian situation NOT from the mainstream media (although I do read them) I've found that the mainstream news editors mostly ignore or censor news having a critical view of Israeli policies. And yes, I do value the alternate news sources. Almost all that I read are by respected, some academic, and well-known journalists, investigative reporters, historians and writers. Some do work for the alternative web sites, (Truthout, Alternet, Common Dreams, Information Clearing House, etc.) some also have their own blogs in addition. And not the least of them are columnists in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz -- Uri Avneri and Amira Haas-- ( both Israeli Jews, incidentally) And there are other Israeli critical writers and journalists, sometimes from the Jerusalem Post, (I think I recall) though that's a more conservative paper.

Gerry, the facts are incontrovertible. I wrote you a long descriptive back in January about the hideous Israeli war on the civilian population of Gaza. I don't know if you read it. But there was and is general agreement in all the eyewitness accounts by foreign reporters and the UN observers who finally made it into Gaza about the virulence and cruelty and disregard for innocent life in Israel's massive military bombardment on a captive civilian population, imprisoned with nowhere to go and no power to escape. In addition to the numbers of killed and wounded, farm animals were bombed, crops and greenhouses destroyed, chemical bombs used into urban areas. In the 4 weeks of the bombardment 1500 civilians were killed, more than half of them children. Many many more were injured. And of course, the destruction of schools, civic centers and infrastructure was almost total.

In the West Bank, aided by the growth of the massive Israeli wall snaking into major areas of Palestinian territory, cutting off people from their fields, schools, hospitals, water sources, the settlements continue to expand daily, with illegal confiscation of Palestinian crop lands and village areas -- brutish behavior by fundamentalist settlers most times ignored by the military. Peaceful demonstrations by unarmed Palestinian villagers (even aided by some Jews) against the building of the wall around their territory -- fired on with live ammunition by the Israeli military. Two more Palestinian children were killed in one demonstration just last week. These are facts recognized by observers who see them and are willing to tell about them.

The situation in Gaza now is the continuing of the blockade that Israel imposed almost 2 years ago that severely restricts everything from entering Gaza. The place is literally an outdoor prison, and food, fuel and essential materials for rebuilding are prevented -- even the UN food aid is proscribed except for a small part of it. Well, hunger is rife, malnutrition in children -- and adults -- is legion. Not to speak of the people needing serious medical care who are not allowed to leave at the checkpoints.

Again quoting from the rabbis' press release above: "Israel's treatment of the Palestinian people in Gaza amounts to nothing less than collective punishment. While we condemn Hamas' targeting of Israeli civilians, it is immoral to punish an entire population for the actions of a few...This blockade has only served to further oppress an already thoroughly oppressed people. As Jews and as human beings of conscience, we cannot stand idly by." Rabbi Brandt Rosen, Evanston, Il.; Rabbi Brian Walt, West Tisbury, Ma.

So the "invective" you scolded me about comes from feelings of a great injustice done "in our name" -- I cannot ignore it. I'm hoping you won't either.

Love, Annette