Letter to the editor:
It is good to see that free speech and open debate are alive and well at the AJT, unlike in so much of our media, universities and Hollywood.
The recent letters from my friends Elliott Levitas, the distinguished former Congressman, and the passionate and courageous Israel supporter Chaya Leah Starkman, debating whether Jews should continue to support the Democratic Party, are sensible and instructive. But very respectfully, I think Congressman Levitas, a very smart and respected lawyer, is arguing a losing case.
Starkman’s letter provoked three other letters as well, because she made an excellent, if inconvenient and depressing, point that Democrats try to avoid facing, but someday must.
Congressman Levitas is, of course, correct that Israel should not become a partisan political issue. But this is hard to avoid when the state comes under frequent attack by very prominent, media-dominating Democrats like Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. He does not mention them, but they are becoming increasingly influential and powerful in the party, while other Democrats react to such attacks largely with passivity and silence, and pride in the “diversity” of their party.
This is one reason why Ms. Starkman, also understandably and sensibly, writes that it “has become the party of hate, the party of divisiveness, the party of anti-Semites and Jew haters … hijacked by the younger radicals and leftists in the party. No Jew should vote Democratic today. We must open our eyes and see the reality and climate of Jew-haters in the Democratic party.”
Of course, Jewish Democrat leaders like Levitas should stay and try to prevent the party from becoming even more welcoming to and tolerant of radicals who spew hatred of America, Israel, the free enterprise system, Western culture, and, especially, Jews. Maybe the next election will change the composition of Congress somewhat for the better.
But this is not going to happen if the voting habits do not change among Jewish voters, 79 percent of whom voted Democrat in the last election, and 70 percent of whom did so in 2016.
The way things are going, Congressman Levitas may not have to make the decision whether or not to leave the Democratic Party — it seems to be leaving him. It’s their loss.
Lewis Regenstein, Atlanta
Letter to the editor:
Leon Van Gelderen writes: “Hank Johnson did not refer to Jews as termites, but rather referred to the effect of right-wing settlers usurping Palestinian land and destroying the social fabric of the West Bank like termites in a house.” Hank Johnson later apologized for using the word “termites,” so he himself realized it’s defamatory. More important though, is the implication that before there were “right-wing settlers,” the West Bank was OK. That’s wrong.
Prior to the 1948 war, which was started by Arab regimes, there were Jewish communities there. For example, there was an ancient Jewish community in Hebron, at least until the 1929 massacre; its 90th anniversary was commemorated recently. In 1948, when Jews accepted a two-state solution, and Arabs rejected it, the Jordanian army destroyed the Jewish communities in the West Bank and smashed all synagogues in East Jerusalem. The West Bank is not simply “Palestinian land.” During its annexation and control of the West Bank from 1948 to 1967, Jordan did nothing to develop the area.
After the Six Day War, Israel did try to develop the region, instituting the first four-year colleges for Arabs. Ironically, those were later to become Hamas strongholds. As always, identity has far more emotional pull than economic development. The real decline came when the PLO took over after the Oslo Accords. Its corruption and incitement to violence continue to this day. Mahmoud Abbas’ $20 million-plus mansion, built with filched aid money, receives little attention. And what sort of “social fabric” is it that runs television programs for kindergarten-age children, urging them to become suicide bombers?
Nor can Israel just withdraw from the West Bank. It is one thing to hand over land to an opponent who accepts your existence. It is another to hand it over to a movement whose sole obsession is the destruction of Israel, especially when Israel is small, and missiles from the West Bank could destroy all its coastal cities, just as the ongoing rockets from Gaza are making life difficult in its south.
Doron Lubinsky, Atlanta
Letter to the editor:
I cringed when I read Van Gelderen’s letter. The Jews have lived in the West Bank – Samaria and Judea – for centuries.
When he was a World War II MIA/POW in Stalag 11b, my husband met three Hebrew- speaking prisoners. He had entered the British compound to trade cigarettes for bread in order to save his starving 94th Infantry Division buddies. They were fighting with the British to vanquish Hitler and had been captured in 1941 – three years earlier.
Now, listen Van Gelderen, these are the Jews of the West Bank – 1944 mind you. On their shirts was sewn the word PALESTINE.
Not only are these the indigenous Jewish people of the West Bank, but they are the Palestinians. If you want to reinvent history, then market it as a novel with the title, “Alice in Wonderland II.”
Dr. Carol Fineblum, Needham, Mass.
Letter to the editor:
A brief history lesson is in order.
Arab violence, aimed at preventing Israel’s rebirth in the Jews’ ancestral homeland, actually denied the Arabs of Palestine their first-ever chance at self-rule. Between 1949 and 1967, the land the Palestinians now claim for their state was controlled by Egypt and Jordan. Neither offered the Palestinian Arabs any degree of autonomy, but both occupiers allowed areas under their control to be used as staging grounds for terrorist attacks on Israel.
In 1967, Israel liberated Gaza and the “West Bank” (Jordan’s name for eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria) during the Six Day War. The war had been instigated by Egypt and Syria with the open intention of destroying Israel and annihilating her people. Israel did not attack Jordanian positions until Jordan fired on western Jerusalem, which was under Israeli control.
Shortly after the war ended, Israel offered to withdraw from liberated land in return for recognition and peace. The Arab League responded, “No negotiations. No recognition. No peace.” Palestinian leaders have kept to this intransigent stance.
Both Yasser Arafat (2000/2001) and Mahmoud Abbas (2008) flatly rejected Israeli proposals that would have led to the establishment of the first-ever-to-exist Arab State of Palestine, even with the possibility of shared governance in parts of Jerusalem.
No Palestinian leader endeavored to explore the ramifications of Benjamin Netanyahu’s call for a demilitarized Palestinian state co-existing, peacefully, with the nation-state of the Jews, as outlined at Bar Ilan University in 2009.
The Palestinians have also summarily rejected the Trump Administration’s yet-to-be revealed “Deal of the Century.” So, President Trump has decided to let the Palestinians know that their intransigence will no longer be tolerated. He moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to western Jerusalem. (This doesn’t limit Israel’s ability to allow a Palestinian capital in eastern Jerusalem if Israel wants to do so.)
President Trump recognized Israeli control of the Golan Heights, (necessary to prevent the Syrians from resuming shelling of Israeli communities at the base of the Heights). And President Trump cut U.S. funding to UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency], recognizing that millions of descendants of Arabs who fled Arab-initiated violence in the 1940s should have been rehabilitated by Arab countries long ago, just as Israel absorbed and uplifted Mizrachi Jews thrust from their homes in Muslim countries in the first two decades of modern Israel’s existence.
There are some signs that the Trump strategy is working. The predicted violent reaction to the embassy move did not materialize. The Gulf nations have criticized the Palestinians’ rejection of the Trump administration’s peace plan. And, most recently, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination censured the Palestinians’ hatemongering against Israel and Jews.
Toby F. Block, Atlanta