Plea to Ultra-Orthodox Relatives to See Arabs as Human Beings

The following letter is a response to a video that my ultra-orthodox relatives were sharing among themselves, their relatives and friends. I found the video quite disturbing although I was already intimately familiar with the views of that side of my family. In writing the letter I hoped that I might reach a few of my many nieces or nephews and encourage them to look more carefully at their opinions and beliefs. I was completely unsuccessful. They all rejected the suggestion that they conduct sincere research to find out if their beliefs were based in reality or fantasy. And their bottom line, predictably, was that the Torah clearly states that God gave the land to the Jewish people. The six minute video can be found at http://beta1.shofar-tv.com/player.php?id=628

Dear ___________,
If enough of us would only research history we would be more informed and more reasonable. We would understand why some people resist occupation and why others want to occupy and we would be able to make a fair peace where all people, not just Jews, can live in peace and respect each other. I am not particularly interested in convincing people to change their minds or to believe what I have to say. What I am interested in is encouraging people to find out the facts for themselves. Is this an unreasonable aspiration? Is it incompatible with Jewish tradition? If we fail to separate fact from fiction, if we merely listen to uneducated others, to Israel’s leaders or to self-serving journalists, we will be at the mercy of these “experts” who may have ulterior motives, are deceitful or just plain deluded. Thirst for knowledge, once a hallmark of Jewish learning, is fundamental to solving problems, yet today we have “experts” like Dennis Prager whose self-serving proclamations, which have become common belief within Jewish culture, are based not on knowledge but on unexamined indoctrination. And we have followers who abdicate responsibility for their own thinking and its effect on the world by believing whatever corresponds to their own unexamined individual and collective belief structure. Therefore, I hope you will consider the points I make and use them as a springboard to replace myth with real knowledge.

I have been familiar with Prager for many years. He is an extremist on most issues, not just Israel. His greatest thrill in life was shaking the hand of G.W. Bush, likely the most divisive president in U.S. history. He is a segregationist when it comes to Israel/Palestine and a firm supporter of Reverend John Hagee who says that the Nazis had operated on God’s behalf to chase the Jews from Europe and shepherd them to Palestine. And, comparing Adolph Hitler to Moses, Hagee says that Hitler, who was born from a lineage of “accursed, genocidally murderous half-breed Jews,”[i] was a “hunter” sent by God and tasked with expediting God’s will of having the Jews re-establish a state of Israel. Hagee further believes that Jesus Christ will return to Earth and that Jews will have to convert to Christianity or perish in a lake of fire. This kind of ignorance has been at the heart of anti-Semitism for nearly two thousand years. Without it, Adolf Hitler could not have relied on the hatred and the silence of those who supported or closed their eyes to the evils of the Holocaust.

In his video, Prager is guilty of gross distortion. Since he claims to be an authority on the Middle East I have to assume he deliberately distorts although I understand why he would be compelled to do so. He is terrified that his identity, so fused with childhood belief about Israel, could be nothing more than an artificial structure built upon language and cultural belief. He is mortally afraid for what he mistakenly takes as who he is. His terror is manufactured by his own mind and it is the lens through which he sees the world. That lens distorts his view so that he only sees the world in terms of us against them, in terms of his people’s victimhood versus the rest of the world’s hostility and hatred. Because he is so unconscious of his deeper thought processes he can only project his fear-based mental/emotional content onto the world and then assume that the world he sees, colored by all of that, is the evidence he needs to prove himself right. In other words, this kind of thinking, unconscious as it is, always creates its own suffering and then blames the world (in this case and in particular the Palestinian people) for its suffering, treating it as a scapegoat. This process is the primary cause of conflict.

In the video he objects to the Arab world refusal to recognize Israel as a “Jewish state.” Why would anyone who opposes institutionalized discrimination and land expropriation of Arabs in Israel and in occupied Palestinian territory recognize a “Jewish” state? That would de facto legalize these very policies and deny a positive future to the Palestinian people. Many defenders of Israel, none of whom have actually studied the history, will say Arabs in Israel proper are treated as equals. There is a plethora of Israeli laws, policies, conventions and virulent daily racism that easily refutes that claim.

Prager refers to the UN Partition Plan of November 1947, UN Resolution 181, which the Arab countries rejected. First, what right did the UN have to take land from one people and give it to another people? How you would you feel if you were the aggrieved party? And does Palestinian rejection of 181 justify Israel’s continued expropriation of Palestinian land? Does it justify the brutal methods of a relentless occupation? Resolution 181 took 56% of mandatory Palestine and gave it to the Jewish people who owned about seven percent of the land. Forty-three percent went to the Palestinians with the remaining one percent, Jerusalem and Bethlehem, under the authority of the United Nations. The new Jewish state would have a 49% Arab minority that would have become a majority probably in less than five years. It is utterly naïve to believe that Israel would have accepted such an outcome yet, in an explicit pledge made to the UN the Jewish Agency – under the leadership of David Ben-Gurion – falsely stated that the new state “will not be Jewish in the sense … that the Jewish community will be superior in status to other communities.”[ii] In other words, acceptance of 181 was a tactical move and a prelude to future expansion. David Ben-Gurion, May 1947: “Does anybody really think that the original meaning of the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate, and indeed, that of the millenarian yearning of the Jewish people, was not that of establishing a Jewish state in the whole of Eretz-Israel?”[iii] In December 1947 Ben-Gurion said: “There are no final settlements in history, there are no eternal borders, and no political demands are final.” One week later he pledged to his political party’s Central Committee that the borders established by 181 were not final. Following Ben-Gurion’s lead, Yigal Allon, the most prominent Israeli general of the 1948 war stated: “the borders of partition cannot be for us the final borders … the partition plan is a compromise plan that is unjust to the Jews.  . . . We are entitled to decide our borders according to our defence needs.”[iv]

If, like Ben-Gurion, you believe the millenarian yearning of the Jewish people entitles them to all of Eretz-Israel then why don’t you admit, as Jabotinsky, Dayan[v] and others have done, that you also believe in eternal conflict – unless the Palestinian people docilely consent to this interpretation of Judaism and accept their fate as an inferior people whose need for self-determination is irrelevant in the face of Jewish self-determination.

Prager discusses Gamal Nasser and Arab rhetoric. Yes, Arab rhetoric was bloodthirsty but Prager, the Middle East expert, ignored mentioning the numerous peace proposals beginning in 1949 that came from Syria and Egypt. Nasser attempted to settle the conflict yet each Israeli prime minister from Ben-Gurion to Meir completely ignored him as well as the English, Maltese, Quaker, Yugoslavian and Jordanian emissaries who spoke for him, just as Ariel Sharon ignored the 2002 Saudi offer.

Additionally, Prager says that Egypt, Jordan and Syria were planning to attack Israel in 1967 in order to “extinguish” it. Were he honest this expert would have discovered what Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, Chief-of-Staff Yitzhak Rabin, and Opposition leader Menachem Begin all acknowledged:

Eshkol: The Egyptian layout in Sinai and the general build up there testified to a militarily defensive Egyptian set-up, south of Israel (Yediot Ahronot, October 16, 1967).

Rabin: Nasser didn’t want war. The two divisions he sent to Sinai would not have been sufficient to launch an offensive war. He knew it and we knew it (Le Monde, February 28, 1968).

Begin: In June 1967 we again had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai did not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him (New York Times, August 21, 1982).

Prager mentions the three No’s that Arab countries agreed to at Khartoum. That was a public relations disaster for the Palestinians that allowed Israel to claim it was Arab countries, not Israel, that opposed peace. Since the 1980s however, the PLO has been open to dialogue about peace but Israel has always placed obstacles in their way.

If you look at maps of Israel/Palestine from 1948 to the present you can see the absurdity of the oft-repeated lie that Israel has always been willing to exchange land for peace, as Prager asserts. Yes, Israel gave up the Sinai for peace with Egypt but that does not mean it was ever willing to give up the West Bank for peace. Peace with Egypt was strategic in that it eliminated Israel’s greatest military threat in the Middle East, yet it took until 1979 before Israel made that peace. Israel could have had virtually the same peace in the early 70s – prior to the Yom Kippur War – had it not cavalierly dismissed Arab requests for talks. Per capita, in just three weeks Israel unnecessarily sacrificed the equivalent of three times the number of Americans lost during the ten years of the Vietnam War, all because of disinterest in peace. And I again must mention Israel’s failure to respond to the Saudi plan and its sabotage of the Bush Roadmap for peace. Furthermore, Hamas, which was created by Israel in collaboration with the Muslim Brotherhood, has repeatedly said it would accept a peace negotiated on the basis of the 1967 lines if it were approved by the Palestinian people. Israel knows it can make peace with Hamas but uses the rhetoric of some Hamas militants to make excuses for not making peace. Peace would have an enormous moderating effect on Hamas. Israeli and American advisers are all cognizant of this. Neither Egypt nor Jordan was required to recognize Israel as a precondition for peace talks.

In short, any reasonably objective person who does research based upon a wide range of Israeli state historical archives would deduce that throughout its history Israel has always favored expansion – via the heartless and selfish theft of Palestinian land – to peace. Just this year the Palestine papers illustrated this point.

I know some of you will bring up the 2005 Gaza disengagement of 8,000 Jewish settlers. Israel’s reasons for following through on that action were to relinquish responsibility, as required by articles 55 and 56 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, for the well being of the Gazan population and to provide a smokescreen for the continued expansion of settlements in the West Bank. While 8,000 settlers were removed from Gaza, freeing up over 25% of the Gaza Strip’s desperately needed water resources for its 1.6 million starving citizens, 12,000 settlers were given Palestinian land in the West Bank. In other words, Israel used the Gaza pullout as a way to distract attention from its unilateral redrawing of the boundaries of Greater Israel at the expense of negotiation with the Palestinian Authority. Another factor is that while the West Bank is rich in natural resources Gaza is not.[vi] What kind of people, by the way, would hoard more than 25% of critical resources when they represent but one-half of one percent of the population? I would submit that the answer is a people who consider their neighbors less than human. What does that say about such a people’s own humanity?

Prager claims that Palestinians want Jews dead. I have met many Palestinians in the U.S, Israel and the West Bank and not one has ever hinted at such a heinous desire. In fact, all would like to live in peace with their Jewish brothers and all made clear that the problem is not religion but Zionism. Today, unfortunately, the majority of Jewish defenders of Israel have made Zionism an essential element of Judaism.

Of course there are Arabs who would like to see Jews dead, just as there are Jews who would like to see Arabs dead but I would bet there is a far greater percentage of Jews who would be relieved, if not happy, were the Palestinian people destroyed. If you would read Israeli newspapers and the accounts of various Israeli and other Human Rights groups about the behavior of Israeli soldiers and settlers in occupied Palestine you would be exposed to some of the most primitive hatred imaginable. I have seen this hatred in the writings and speech of countless Israeli and American Jews, some of whom I know personally. I wonder if the Torah encourages Jews to hate their neighbor and to discriminate against and steal from their neighbor if their neighbor happens not to be Jewish. Deuteronomy 10:19 and Genesis 18:1-5 certainly do not.

Prager finishes his diatribe with irrelevant, yet typical, arguments that merely show how deluded and bigoted he is. His statement that Arabs have many states and Jews have only one is based on the tribal consciousness of separateness, of an unwillingness to live together in peace. It is the statement of a deluded, self-righteous and self-destructive segregationist whose life is dedicated to the humiliation and destruction of another people all because of a narcissistic need to protect a false identity into which he has never had the courage to inquire. The fact that there are many Arab (an ethnic group) states and only one Jewish (not an ethnic but a religious group) state does not justify deliberate policies and practices that routinely violate international humanitarian law and that have caused immense suffering for an entire people while costing a large segment of the Jewish people their humanity and their collective soul. Speaking as a Jew I cannot ally myself with this disturbing position.

If the purpose of the Jewish people is to bring blessing to the world, if T’shuva (repentance, transformation) really is a valued concept in Judaism, then it is incumbent upon every Jew to reflect upon his or her views, to overcome the dangers of indoctrination and dehumanizing beliefs and awaken to the clarity and compassion that is the authentic nature of reality. That is the true path to Peace.


[i]National Mega-pastor Hagee: Hitler Was a ‘Half-Breed Jew,’” by Troutfishing, http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/08/01/760593/-National-Mega-pastor-Hagee:-Hitler-Was-a-Half-Breed-Jew

[ii] Shlomo Ben-Ami, Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy (Oxford University Press, 2006), pp 32-34.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Ibid

[v] Ze’ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky (1880-1940) was founder of the Zionist Revisionist Movement and leader of the militaristic underground organization known as the Irgun (IZL). Moshe Dayan (1915-1981) was the fourth Chief-of-Staff of the Israel Defense forces (IDF) as well as Minister of Defense and Foreign Affairs.

[vi] Since the disengagement natural gas reserves, which Israel covets, have been discovered off the coast of Gaza.

Rutgers University Must Put a Stop to Discrimination

Below is a letter I wrote to Rutgers University President Richard L. McCormick. I did so because the Zionist Organization of America has accused Rutgers of violating federal regulations by allowing a campus environment that is “increasingly hostile, anti-Semitic, and even includes violent threats against a Jewish student.” ZOA alleges that activities organized by BAKA: Students United for Middle Eastern Justice have “demonized Jews in Israel” and have attempted “to delegitimize the Jewish state.” Although I deplore discrimination in any form I am familiar with the tactics of groups like ZOA. Their common practice is to call anyone who supports human rights in the Middle East or calls for an end to an illegal occupation an anti-Semite. This is hysterical and self-destructive thinking and must be countered.

It also appears that Pamela Geller and her group, Stop the Islamicization of America, recently classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, have been recruited to intimidate Rutgers University’s Muslim community with threats of physical violence.

BAKA is an Affiliate of SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine). Among its activities, it organized a US to GAZA Flotilla fundraiser last fall, and the Never Again for Anyone tour in early 2011. Not only did neither activity demonize Israeli Jews or delegitimize Israel, both had a prominent Jewish presence.

April 15, 2011

Dear President McCormick,

As a Jew raised in New Jersey, with numerous relatives having graduated from Rutgers, I appeal to you to issue a statement making it clear that the administration of Rutgers will not tolerate discrimination in any form. And furthermore, that it deplores the use of any tactics that are intended to provoke, misrepresent or slander any student or group of students.

I am a former member of AIPAC and have been involved in human rights and equality for both Palestinians and Israelis for a number of years. I am author of Breakthrough: Transforming Fear Into Compassion – A New Perspective on the Israel-Palestine Conflict. While writing this book, I conducted voluminous research into the history of Israel-Palestine, mostly from Israeli sources, many of them governmental and, like any competent and objective historian, was compelled to conclude that a significant number of claims made by organizations such as Hillel and ZOA are not based in reality. They are, at best, recycled myths intended to portray Palestinian society as inherently violent and irrational while hiding the truth that the greatest violence has always been a deliberate strategy meant to dispossess the Palestinians of their indigenous homeland.

Likewise, claims that groups such as the sponsors of the Never Again For Anyone tour or the courageous individuals who’ve formed the Gaza Flotilla Movement are anti-Semitic, attempting to delegitimize Israel or existential threats to Israel are equally irrational, if not hysterical. Both in Israel and the U.S. there has been an increasingly vicious and hateful backlash against the growing revelation of the inhumanity and violence of the Israeli occupation. Throughout humankind’s history there have always been periods of potential growth and more enlightened education that have been interpreted as grave threats to the existing order, which often responds emotionally with fear and tactically with repression.

As the truth of the occupation becomes more manifest its defenders become even more frightened – and more dangerous. Although they express their fear by slandering their “enemies” as misinformed and anti-Semitic, the truth is that they are afraid to investigate the actual history of the conflict out of fear for what they might discover about Israel and about themselves. Throughout college campuses their tactics are the same: to portray any who criticize Israel as the enemy. They define an anti-Semite as someone who challenges Israeli policy or who believes that Palestinians are entitled to the same basic rights as Israelis. By that definition David Ben-Gurion was an anti-Semite for acknowledging that “we stole the land” from the Palestinians. I define an anti-Semite as someone who attacks a Jew because of his or her commitment to human rights and equality for all people. Since many Jews are appalled at Israeli treatment of Palestinians who is implicated by that reasonable definition?

The truth is that the tactics of groups such as ZOA are not meant to defend or protect Israel or the Israeli people. Their tactics are meant to defend and protect their self-image as individuals or a people who have not lost their humanity. By painting the Israeli governments’ critics as irrational and anti-Semitic they can deny any authenticity to the criticism of Israel. And they can deny their lack of humanity despite their support for an oppressive and dehumanizing Occupation.

Please do not allow those who narcissistically favor one group at the expense of another the power to intimidate, threaten or suppress the dawning of knowledge and awareness that eventually will lead to freedom for the oppressed and a more humane perspective for the oppressor.

Many white Southerners, freed from dehumanizing beliefs, are far more moral and humane than they were during segregation. At some point leaders in all walks of life must take a stand for equality and common human decency. I urge you to do so now.   Sincerely, Richard Forer

SPEAKING ENGAGEMENT AT UNIVERSITY OF OREGON

On Thursday March 10th I will be speaking at the University of Oregon’s Chiles Hall, Room 128, 955 E. 13th; at 13th & Kincaid, Eugene, OR. Starting time is 7 pm. The event will be sponsored by the Al-Nakba Awareness Project, the Univ. of OR Arab Student Union and the Univ. of OR Muslim Student Association.

If you know anyone in or within a couple hours of the Eugene area, regardless of their position on the Israel-Palestine issue, maybe even especially if they identify with the Israeli side, please encourage them to attend the talk.  Thanks, Rich

To the Members of the Eugene Human Rights Commission and Concerned Citizens of Eugene, Oregon

On July 20, 2010 the Eugene Human Rights Commission (EHRC) approved a request by the al-Nakba Project to write a letter of condemnation of Israel’s lethal attack upon the Gaza Freedom Flotilla on May 31, 2010.  The letter was to be sent to the City Council as well as Congressional leaders. The Jewish Federation of Lane County and Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), accusing the al-Nakba Project of being a “virulently anti-Israel” group, strongly objected to the statement. When I heard about this controversy I looked at the arguments that members of the the Jewish Federation  made to convince the EHRC not to issue the statement and decided to write to the EHRC myself.

I write to you as an American Jew with ultra-Orthodox relatives living in Israel; and as a former member of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), America’s largest pro-Israel lobby. I also write to you as one who, for most of his life, was a blind defender of the Israeli government’s behavior toward the Palestinian people.

Until a few years ago I shared with many of my fellow Jews around the world the fear, the anger and the mythic stories of the heroic establishment of a Jewish state only a few years after the genocide of six million of our people. But then I embarked upon an intensive and daily study of the history of the Israel-Palestine Conflict. My primary sources were all Israeli, including the Israeli Ministries of Defense, Internal Security and Foreign Affairs. What I discovered precipitated a change in consciousness and a profound compassion for all people, not favoring one group at the expense of the other. I realized that I was as much Palestinian as Israeli, as much Muslim or Christian as Jew.

I have followed the controversy over your decision to draft a statement of reprimand toward Israel for its illegal and lethal attack upon the Gaza Freedom Flotilla less than one year ago. And I have read the comments of many of Eugene’s Jewish residents, especially those who oppose any action on your part. I see my former self in the words of these frightened citizens. I know some have admonished you for issuing a statement when you “are totally ill-equipped to deal with international issues.” Others have accused you of being biased, cautioning you to “keep silent . . . or send a letter of honor to Israel, lest you be tagged with the label of anti-Semitism.”

These Jewish citizens will tell you that their strong and defensive emotions arise out of a belief that Israel is being delegitimized, that Israel faces an existential threat from a hostile world that has never accepted Jews in its midst. I am painfully aware of the fear and anger in their words and I do not doubt that they believe that what they are saying is accurate. However, it is because of that awareness that I respectfully ask that you exercise your responsibility as people of conscience by following through on your earlier decision to write the statement.

Speaking from my own experience and from my awakening to the reality that my rationalization of any Israeli behavior had contributed to the suffering of millions, the truth is that none who beseech you to turn a blind eye to these issues, none who make veiled threats that you will be labeled anti-Semites has ever honestly studied the history of the Israel-Palestine struggle. Encountering the documented history, as described in Israel’s own archives and in the statements of Israel’s leaders from David Ben-Gurion to the present, is the real fear, to a far greater extent than any concern for the state of Israel. For such an encounter would bring each individual face to face with his or her lifelong denial that their fellow Jews could act so inhumanely toward those who compassionately intercede on behalf of a beleaguered people; that Israel could use premeditated lethal force, as it did against the Mavi Marmara, and as it has done for more than sixty years against the Palestinian people.

We are all, individually and collectively, interconnected through our attitudes, our thoughts and our actions. The Israeli occupation of the Palestinian people could not take place without the moral and financial support of Jews and Christians around the world, especially from communities throughout the United States, from places like Eugene, Oregon. The Occupation could not take place without the support of American taxpayers who make the acquisition of powerful weaponry possible for the Israeli military. Without this combined support, Israel could not maintain a blockade against one-and-a-half million people in Gaza, nor would it be able to collectively starve Gazans to the point that eighty percent rely upon food donations from charitable organizations for their subsistence-level existence. That Israel brutally prevented the Freedom Flotilla from bringing humanitarian aid to the residents of Gaza and has suffered no sanctions by the international community; that Israel unnecessarily invaded Gaza less than two years earlier in an horrific display of contempt for human life and has been able to avoid censure despite the universally consistent reports of numerous human rights organizations, including the UN Human Rights Council’s Goldstone Report, is all a consequence of the ability of organized and powerful interest groups, such as AIPAC, to intimidate politicians at every level of government. And all of that can be understood as a consequence of our unexamined beliefs and our apathy toward the humiliation and subjugation of others who, though they may live far away, are impacted in very concrete ways.

I implore you not to give in to the forces of Us against Them. It takes a great deal of courage to stand for fairness and humanity, knowing that powerful groups will reflexively accuse you of hating Israel simply because you express concern for the lives of all people rather than some people. By taking a stand for human rights and decency, for equality and justice you will be contributing to a more benign legacy for all of humanity. Every thought and every action that takes into account the well-being of the other leaves its mark upon the collective consciousness of humanity, reverberating throughout time. Both the Talmud and the Koran say: “Whoever destroys a single life is as guilty as though he had destroyed the entire world; and whoever rescues a single life earns as much merit as though he had rescued the entire world.” By speaking out on behalf of those who risked and even sacrificed their lives so that others might have a better future, you will be sending a powerful message of compassion straight to the collective heart of mankind. Publish your statement of reprimand and rescue the world!

Sincerely, Richard Forer, author of Breakthrough: Transforming Fear into Compassion – A New Perspective on the Israel-Palestine Conflict.

JEWISH SUPPORT FOR ANTI-SEMITIC THEOLOGY DOOMS ISRAEL TO ENDLESS CONFLICT

On January 11, Albuquerque played host to A Night to Honor Israel, an expression of solidarity between Christians United for Israel (CUFI) and the State of Israel. The event was co-sponsored by the Jewish Federation of New Mexico (JFNM). John Hagee, CUFI’s founder, was principal speaker.

In the pages of the New Mexico Jewish Link and other venues, JFNM has repeatedly labeled critics of Israel’s decades-long, illegal Occupation as “Israel haters,” accusing these critics of anti-Semitism. The fact that some of the critics happened to be Jewish, some even reformed Zionists, has always been irrelevant to JFNM. How ironic, then, that in sponsoring this event, JFNM provided a platform for a man infamous for his anti-Semitic rhetoric.

Hagee, a “megachurch” pastor based in San Antonio, Texas, raises millions of dollars annually for Israel’s settlement enterprise on Palestinian land. He believes that the boundaries of Israel are set by God, that Judea and Samaria, otherwise known as the West Bank, are within these God-given boundaries and that these lands must be inhabited by Jews. This, of course, would require the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. One can argue that this viewpoint obstructs the chances for peace but it certainly doesn’t qualify as anti-Semitism.

Unfortunately, though, Hagee is an exponent of the “End of Days,” when Jesus will return to Earth and non-believers, Jews included, will have to either convert to Christianity or fall into a lake of fire (Hell). Hagee further believes that the Jewish people are guilty of deicide – the murder of Christ – the one unpardonable sin. This belief has been at the heart of anti-Semitism for nearly two thousand years. Without this belief, Adolf Hitler might not have been able to rely on both the hatred and the silence of those who supported or closed their eyes to the evils of the Holocaust.

But most perniciously, Hagee has stated that the Nazis had operated on God’s behalf to chase the Jews from Europe and shepherd them to Palestine. And, Hagee continues, Hitler was a “hunter,” sent by God to expedite His will of having the Jews re-establish a state of Israel.

For the Jewish Federation of New Mexico to sponsor a man who compares Hitler and his subordinates to Moses betrays its profound confusion and ultimate support for the continued ethnic cleansing of Palestine. JFNM’s self-destructive alliance with blatantly anti-Semitic forces can only doom both Palestinians and Israelis to generations more of conflict, while, ironically, fomenting anti-Semitism worldwide and drawing the global community into this quagmire.

Furthermore, Christians who ignore the suffering of human beings with the same justification as the more fundamentalist of Jews – that “God gave the land to the Jewish [or chosen] people” – need to take a closer look at the teachings of Christ. Did Christ single out some for his blessing while ostracizing others? Did he teach hatred or did he teach love and compassion? And they need to look more deeply into their own hearts. Then they will discover that in denying the humanity of some they deny their own humanity.

Christians and Jews who proclaim a Jewish (and, for Christians, an eventual Christian) divine entitlement to the Holy Land must begin to understand that such thinking requires a divine abandonment of all who do not meet the definition of “Jewish” (and, eventually, “Christian”). Separative thinking is never divinely inspired. It is always narcissistically inspired; it is, in fact, the very antithesis of the unifying and all-encompassing nature of the divine.

ADVOCACY FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IS NOT ANTI-SEMITISM

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