August 5, 2004
Abraham H. Foxman
823 United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017
Dear Mr. Foxman:
How nice to hear your views. Years ago, fresh out of law school, I was reading your clear writings against bigotry and discrimination. Your charter has always been to advance civil liberties and free speech in our country by and for all ethnic and religious groups. These days all freedom-loving people have much work to do.
As you know there is far more freedom in the media, in town squares and among citizens, soldiers, elected representatives and academicians in Israel to debate and discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than there is in the United States. Israelis of all backgrounds have made this point.
Do you agree and if so, what is your explanation for such a difference?
About half of the Israeli people over the years have disagreed with the present Israeli government’s policies toward the Palestinian people. Included in this number is the broad and deep Israeli peace movement which mobilized about 120,000 people in a Tel Aviv square recently.
Do you agree with their policies and strategy for a peaceful settlement between Israelis and Palestinians? Or do you agree with the House Resolution 460 in Congress signed by 407 members of the House to support the Prime Minister’s proposal? See attachment re the omission of any reference to a viable Palestinian state – generally considered by both Israelis and Palestinians, including those who have worked out accords together, to be a sine qua non for a settlement of this resolvable conflict – a point supported by over two-thirds of Americans of the Jewish faith. Would such a reasonable resolution ever pass the Congress? For more information on the growing pro-peace movements among the American Jewish Community see: Ester Kaplan, “The Jewish Divide on Israel,” The Nation, June 24, 2004.
Enclosed is the “Courage to Refuse – Combatant’s Letter” signed by hundreds of reserve combat officials and soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces. It is posted on their web at: www.seruv.org.il/defaulteng.asp. One highlight of their statement needs careful consideration: “We shall not continue to fight beyond the 1967 borders in order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people. We hereby declare that we shall continue serving in the Israel Defense Forces in any mission that serves Israel’s defense. The missions of occupation and oppression do not serve this purpose – and we shall take no part in them” (Emphasis in original). Do you agree with these patriotic, front line soldiers’ observation that Israel is dominating, expelling, starving and humiliating an entire people – the Palestinian people – and that in their words “the Territories are not Israel?”
What is your view of Rabbi Lerner’s Tikkun’s call for peace, along with the proposals of Jewish Voice for Peace, the Progressive Jewish Alliance and Americans for Peace Now? As between the present Israeli government’s position on this conflict and the position of these groups, which do you favor and why?
Do you share the views in the open letter signed by 400 rabbis, including leaders of some of the largest congregations in our country, sent this March by Rabbis for Human Rights of North America to Ariel Sharon protesting Israel’s house-demolition policy?
Have you ever disagreed with the Israeli government’s treatment of the Palestinian people in any way, shape or manner in the occupied territories? Do you think that these Semitic peoples have ever suffered from bigotry and devastation by their occupiers in the occupied West Bank, Gaza or inside Israel? If you want a reference here, check the website of the great Israeli human rights group B’T selem.
Since you are a man of many opinions, with a specialty focused on the Semitic peoples, explain the United States’ support over the decades of authoritarian or dictatorial regimes, in the greater Middle East, over their own people which is fomenting resistance by fundamentalists.
These questions have all occurred to you years ago, no doubt. So it would be helpful to receive your views.
As for the metaphors – puppeteer and puppets – the Romans had a phrase for the obvious – res ipsa loquitur. The Israelis have a joke for the obvious – that the United States is the second state of Israel.
How often, if ever, has the United States – either the Congress or the White House-pursued a course of action, since 1956, that contradicted the Israeli government’s position? You do read Ha’aretz, don’t you? You know of the group Rabbis for Justice.
To end the hostilities which have taken so many precious lives of innocent children, women and men – with far more such losses on the Palestinian side – the occupying military power with a massive preponderance of force has a responsibility to take the initiative. In a recent presentation in Chicago, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak made the point explicitly – Israel should take the initiative itself unilaterally and start disengaging from the West Bank and Gaza and not keep looking for the right Palestinian Authority. Amram Mitzna, the Labor Party's candidate for Prime Minister in the 2003 election, went ever further in showing how peace can be pursued through unilateral withdrawal. Do you concur with these positions?
Citizen groups are in awe of AIPAC’s ditto machine on Capitol Hill as are many members of Congress who, against their private judgment, resign themselves to sign on the dotted line. AIPAC is such an effective demonstration of civic action – which is their right – that Muslim Americans are studying it in order to learn how to advance a more balanced Congressional deliberation in the interests of the American people.
Finally, treat yourself to a recent column on February 5, 2004 in The New York Times, by Thomas Friedman, an author on Middle East affairs, who has been critical of both the Israeli and Palestinian leadership. Mr. Friedman writes:
“Mr. Sharon has the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat under house arrest in his office in Ramallah, and he’s had George Bush under house arrest in the Oval Office. Mr. Sharon has Mr. Arafat surrounded by tanks, and Mr. Bush surrounded by Jewish and Christian pro-Israel lobbyists, by a vice president, Dick Cheney, who’s ready to do whatever Mr. Sharon dictates, and by political handlers telling the president not to put any pressure on Israel in an election year—all conspiring to make sure the president does nothing.”
These are the words of a double Pulitzer Prize winner.
Do you agree with Mr. Friedman’s characterization? Sounds like a puppeteer-puppet relationship, doesn’t it? Others who are close to this phenomenon have made similar judgments in Israel and in the United States.
Keep after bigotry and once in a while help out the Arab Semites when they are struggling against bigotry, discrimination, profiling and race-based hostility in their beloved adopted country – the U.S.A. This would be in accord with your organization’s inclusive title.