Letter to the Editor: Israel is Not a Colonial, Racist Society

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To the Editor,
Israel is not “a colonial settler society based on racial apartheid” (“There’s no pride in apartheid; stop pink washing Israel’s crimes,” Keegan O’Brien, June 7). Instead, Israel emerged as a refuge for people fleeing intense persecution in Europe, which culminated in the worst manifestation of racism in history. Almost half of Jewish Israelis are descended from the nearly one million Jews from Arab countries forced from their homelands from the 1940s through 1960s, often preceded by pogroms there. The Israeli-Arab conflict is a regional one. And its fundamental cause is the Arab world’s failure to accept a Jewish presence in its midst. The conflict is much more complex that the European colonial conflict O’Brien depicts.

Jews have lived in Jerusalem, Hebron and other parts of Israel/Palestine for millennia. They were oppressed by the Arab majority, as they were throughout the Middle East and by the Christian majority in Europe. The claim that Israel is “a colonial settler society” implies a privileged status that Jews never had. Hundreds of thousands of Jews traveled to Palestine and many purchased land there in the early 1900s to escape anti-Semitic persecution and be in control of their own destiny. After the war the United Nations tried to share Palestine between Jews and Arabs. Arabs rejected this and attacked the small (less than a million) Jewish community there. Israel fought back and has been defending its right to exist ever since. [pullquote]The claim that Israel is “a colonial settler society” implies a privileged status that Jews never had. Hundreds of thousands of Jews traveled to Palestine and many purchased land there in the early 1900s to escape anti-Semitic persecution and be in control of their own destiny. [/pullquote]

Gaza and the West Bank were occupied in 1967 after Israel’s neighbors threatened its “annihilation” (Syrian Defense Minister Assad) and “destruction” (Egyptian President Nasser). Iraqi President Arif said, “The existence of Israel is an error which must be rectified… Our goal is clear — to wipe Israel off the map.” Syria and Jordan launched missiles against Israeli villages and Jerusalem. Israel fought back and defeated its Arab neighbors.

Since then, Israel withdrew from Gaza, only to have Hamas launch thousands of rockets and attacks through tunnels against Israeli civilians (and that was before the current 2014 war). Hamas refuses to accept Israel’s existence, advocates its destruction, and teaches Palestinian children hatred of Jews. Fatah, which rules the West Bank, now seeks to rule the Palestinian territories with Hamas, an international terrorist group. This is the Palestinian leadership with which Israel must negotiate. [pullquote]In 2000, Israeli Prime Minister Barak offered 95 percent of the West Bank and all of Gaza to a Palestinian state. Unfortunately, PLO Chairman Arafat refused this offer. When the Palestinian leadership accepts Israel’s existence and stops attacking its citizens, and agrees to a reasonable peace deal, there will be peace and a Palestinian state.[/pullquote]

The security wall is not “an apartheid wall.” In the five years before the wall was built (2000-2005), suicide bombers killed nearly 1,000 Israeli civilians and wounded thousands more. Since the wall was built, these attacks have dropped sharply.

In 2000, Israeli Prime Minister Barak offered 95 percent of the West Bank and all of Gaza to a Palestinian state. Unfortunately, PLO Chairman Arafat refused this offer. When the Palestinian leadership accepts Israel’s existence and stops attacking its citizens, and agrees to a reasonable peace deal, there will be peace and a Palestinian state.

What is currently happening is tragic, and I hope a cease fire and peace talks can be restarted soon. But it’s important to understand that Israel has a right to exist, and to live in self-determination and peace, free of rocket and terror attacks.

Sincerely,

—Sean Cahill, Beverly, MA