Monday, July 28, 2008

Luban's response to my Truth-Lying Letter

Obama is a Zionist
By Pnina Luban

To the Editor:

A recent speech by Barack Obama (June 4) provides a thoughtful, intelligent and factual rebuttal to the ideas repeated in scores of virulent anti-Israel, anti-Zionism letters published over the last several years in The Tribune chiefly by two letter writers (most recently "A story for our times," Elizabeth Mayfield, July 6).

Their fixation with besmirching and seeking to delegitimize one country, Israel, should be contrasted with Obama's warm song of praise.

In his speech, Obama stated "I learned of the long journey and the steady determination of the Jewish people to preserve their identity through faith, family and culture. Century after century, Jews carried on their traditions and their dreams of a homeland in the face of impossible odds ... I understood the Zionist idea that there is always a homeland at the center of our story ... We know that the establishment of Israel was just and necessary, rooted in centuries of struggle and decades of patient work. But 60 years later, we know we cannot relent ... Not when there are still voices that deny the Holocaust, not when there are terrorist groups and political leaders committed to Israel's destruction, not when there are maps across the Middle East that don't even acknowledge Israel's existence and government funded textbooks filled with hatred towards Jews ... And then there are those who would lay all the problems of the Middle East at the doorsteps of Israel and its supporters as if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the root of all trouble in the region. These voices blame the Middle East's only democracy for the region's extremism. They offer the false promise that abandoning a stalwart ally is somehow the path to strength. It is not; it has never been and it will never be. Our alliance is based on shared interests and shared values. Those who threaten Israel threaten us ... Just look at what Israel has accomplished in 60 years, from decades of struggle in the terrible wake of the Holocaust, a nation was forced to provide a home for Jews from all corners of the world ... In the face of constant peril, Israel has prospered. In a state of constant insecurity, Israel has maintained a vibrant and open discourse and a resilient commitment to the Rule of Law."

The historical context for Sen. Obama's remarks is highly relevant. The land of Israel became the home of a Jewish state 3,200 years ago. Two hundred years later, Jerusalem became its capital, and the Jewish state continued until its ruthless conquest by the Roman Empire in 70 CE.

Although the majority of the citizens were forcibly and cruelly exiled, Jewish life in the Holy Land continued uninterrupted for 1,900 years and often flourished. Meanwhile, against all odds, the strong bond of Diaspora Jews to their ancestral homeland was never broken, and often when circumstances allowed, they made determined efforts to return.

A successful large-scale effort got underway toward the end of the 19th century, when fewer than 250,000 people (Muslims, Christians and Jews) inhabited the desolate land, ultimately leading to the re-establishment of Israel in 1948.

The Holy Land has the capacity to sustain more than 10 million inhabitants, easily accommodating two states for two peoples: Israel, the state for the Jewish people, and Palestine, the state for the Palestinian people.

Note though that democratic Israel has a large Arab minority (20 percent) whose equal rights are guaranteed by law. Whether the Palestinians will agree to tolerate and ensure equal rights and essential freedoms to a comparable Jewish minority in their future state, if and when it is established, remains to be seen.

Historically, Jews always have been second-class citizens (Dhimmis) in the many authoritarian Arab countries they inhabited for millennia. These Jews were denied many rights and opportunities and were required to pay special taxes, until essentially all of them, nearly one million, fled in the wake of pogroms (1940-50) organized by the Arab governments and the street crowds.

The two-state solution could have become reality already 60 years ago if not for the Palestinian vehement rejection of a Jewish state next to their proposed state. The two-state solution can still become reality once the Palestinians agree, as does Israel, to share the Holy Land and make it a home for two countries, allowing two nations to live in peace and security alongside each other.


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