Monday, December 10, 2007

Reaction to B. Lewis's 'On the Jewish question'

Three letters were published in The Wall St Journal in reaction to Bernard Lewis's piece On the Jewish question, in which he states that it is Israel's existence that is in question, not its size. Furthermore, Lewis writes, refugees were created by all major 20th century conflicts, including the war resulting from the partition into India and Pakistan. The Arab-Israeli conflict is no exception, it too having produced an exchange of refugee populations.

Both the first two letters miss the point about 'population exchange'. Steve Feldman is so outraged at the injustice of Palestinians 'losing their land' that he does not consider the issue of the Jewish refugees at all. Gary Goldman sees the Jews only as usurpers of Palestine. The fact that the Jews were indigenous to the Arab countries they were forced to leave, and not even party to the conflict in Palestine, has no effect whatsoever on his thinking. All that matters is that Palestinians were indigenous to Palestine, even though history has shown so many had been in the country for such a short time that they qualified for UNWRA refugee status if they had lived in Palestine for as little as two years.

So brainwashed are certain well-meaning westerners about the 'tragedy' of the Palestinians that they just cannot conceive that Jewish rights were violated as well. What would it take for a paradigm shift in western thinking to take place?


Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Newspaper letter pages are usually skewed in favor of the ideology of the editors amd proprietors. It is to the credit of the WSJ that they consciously avoid this trait, something that cannot be said for the NYT, the Guardian, the Independent and other liberal agit-prop broadsheets.

Babylonian Jew said...

Myabe messrs Feldman and Goldman have never met any Jews from Arab countries???

Anonymous said...

Babylonian Jew:

Ashkenazic Jews like Feldman and Goldman are too busy trying to look like fair minded liberals to bother themselves about historic facts, but then I also know a Maronite who proudly notes that his family were listed among the hundred and fifty or so that are mentioned in the Tanack as having signed the covenant with God, but identifies himself as an Arab and not a convert, however early on, from Judaism.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

I wonder about these persons: "steve feldman" and "gary goldman." Are these really the names of those who wrote the letters. I especially have doubts about "feldman." These names were very typical of American Jews born in the 1940s and 1950s but became much less popular. Now, anyone can write to a newspaper and use any name he likes. These two names in question seem to me just too typical, the sort of names that might appeal to an impostor. Of course, I could be wrong. But the veracity of the names should not be assumed or taken for granted, especially "steve feldman," also because his message is too blatant and one-sided.

Steve Feldman said...

The letter by Steve Feldman was really by Steve Feldman. If it seemed one sided, perhaps it was because it was pointing out that Bernard Lewis' article had left out that side, or because the WSJ had truncated the full letter because of space issues. Here's the full letter I submitted to the WSJ.

As an American Jew, I find Bernard Lewis’ Commentary “On the Jewish Question” lacking. Lewis says the issue is either about the size of Israel or the existence of Israel. The other point of view is that it is about returning Palestinian refugees to their homes. I was taught in Hebrew School that we Jews returned to a land of empty swamps and created a great country. That idea is proven false by the fact that 700,000 Palestinian men, women and children were made refugees. The elephant that no one seems willing to talk about is whether Palestinians get to return to their homes in Israel.
Lewis admits he isn’t talking about Israel’s right to exist: he is talking about Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State. To do so requires Israel to keep out the Palestinian refugees who wish to return to their homes. That was the Zionist agenda from day one, not to create a Jewish State as we were taught, but to create a Jewish State in a land where Palestinians were already living. Unless we consider Palestinians a different class of human being than we do Jews, there’s no justice in this.
Claiming that Palestinians were compensated by giving other Jews the land from which the Palestinians had been driven by European Zionists is patently ridiculous. I understand how Jews feel after what the Germans did to us, but making the Palestinians pay for the crimes of the Germans doesn’t make sense to me or to people in the Muslim world.
Lewis’s point that Palestinians remained stateless in other Arab countries is a distraction; the relevant issue is that the Israelis have refused to let the Palestinians return to their homes after violently displacing them. The claims that the "return" of the refugees means the destruction of Israel is about as sensible as White South Africans calling the end of Apartheid the “destruction of South Africa.” As to whether it is likely that an Israeli government would approve the return of refugees, I think it is only about as likely as White South Africans dismantling Apartheid.
Allowing people to return to their homes would make Israel whole, lead to immediate acceptance of Israel, and to immediate peace. Without repatriating Palestinians, no partition would be viewed as fair, no acceptance could be expected. Hamas, the democratically elected representatives of the Palestinians, can and should be included at the table. While Hamas has committed horrible acts of violence, Israel has (with US assistance) done so as well, far exceeding Hamas’ violence. Given that Jews came to Palestine to create a Jewish state and had to take the land away from the Palestinians living there, there’s no way to call the Palestinians the aggressors in this conflict. If Palestinians were allowed to return to their homes and Hamas is involved and accepting of such a plan, we would have peace.