Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Three things Israel can do for peace

An Answer to Ronata Dermansky and Persistent Zionists All

Rebuttals to this letter follow, a record of American-Zionist Comment to local objection to the violence leveled against the Palestinian people by the Israeli government.

Ronata Dermansky (Tribune, Dec 11) says that her comments are "facts," implying that those sympathetic to the Palestinians are misrepresenting "truth" or missing the point. Unfortunately, Zionist facts tend to be defined differently than one would find in the universal human rights canon. Anyone who actually wants to know what's true and what's not can find plenty of references in books or on the Net about Zionist myths including the tale of the "generous offer."

Nothing about the Palestinian/Israeli debacle is all black or all white and most of the time one side considers evil or black what most of the world would deem good or white and vice versa. We've seen this white is black and black is white mentality stretch to Washington, and we've also seen a majority of Americans asking for change.

Is it possible that the Zionist's political machine will recognize the value of changing their attitude, with or without Palestinian compliance (from my corner, Palestine has already complied and plenty), and really want peace, a peace that would renew Israel as a trustworthy partner in the citizenship of their neighborhood as well as in the world?

Three things come to mind (and could well apply to the U.S., too). Given worldwide financial concerns, there is something to be said for ending a "war economy" even if it was part of Israel's basic foundation. For example, leading in electronics is much more productive and representative of the modern age than sending Israeli kids out to shoot Palestinian kids, regardless of the demographics and the history of the Maccabees.

Two, by deciding to establish "real borders" which any state that claims to be sovereign and recognized should have (Israel doesn't have established, legal borders, except between land they can make fertile and the impossibly sere Sinai, a fact that makes one wonder about sincerity), Israel could cure their own creeping settlement disease.

Three, accepting their "win" in displacing or destroying the Arabs living on the land Israel chose might give us all a sense that the Jews really are special in Biblical terms because, as colonists, they have the unprecedented grace to show compassion in return for the acceptance they demand. Might caring about everyone living in their region be a plus that could do much to improve local and worldwide acceptance and appreciation?

I hesitate to bring up Albert Einstein given the history of articles in The Tribune about this subject, and I admit to the "fact" that yes, the great man appreciated and subscribed to Zionism. But, he said this in 1938, "...one more personal word on the question of partition. I should much rather see reasonable agreement with the Arabs on the basis of living together in peace than the creation of a Jewish state. Apart from practical consideration, my awareness of the essential nature of Judaism resists the idea of a Jewish state with borders, an army, and a measure of temporal power no matter how modest. I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will sustain-especially from the development of a narrow nationalism within our own ranks, against which we have already had to fight strongly, even without a Jewish state. We are no longer the Jews of the Maccabee period. A return to a nation in the political sense of the word would be equivalent to turning away from the (spiritualism) of our community which we owe to the genius of our prophets."

Sounds good to me.

Elizabeth S. Mayfield

Another Name Calling Rebuttal against Me

In the rejectionist camp
Updated 12/30/2008 11:38:25 AM CST
To the Editor

My father used to say that when someone sticks in a "and by the way" at the end of their conversation it is likely to be their most important agenda item and that everything else might well be a subterfuge.

Elizabeth Mayfield's "and by the way" conclusion to her letter of Dec. 18 illustrates the subterfuge perfectly. At the end of her letter which she might describe as "only criticizing Israeli policies," Mayfield pulls up a 1938 quote that Israel as a political entity is not really needed.

That the mass murder of Jews between 1941 and 1945 recontextualized the debate about Israeli statehood (and moots the point of the 1938 quote) is of no interest to Mayfield.

She'll use the 1938 quote anyway because, as she expressed on her Web site for more than a year, she questions the need for - and, by extension, the right of - Israel to exist.

One would think Mayfield's rhetoric would be transparent by now, but maybe not. As demonstrated in her current letter, her demonization of "the Zionists" both dehumanizes and casts as evil the vast majority of Jews in Israel (and elsewhere) and promotes the hope one day, when "the Zionists" are overthrown, the world will not have to endure a state explicitly created by the United Nations as a Jewish state. In the foregoing sentiments Mayfield is joined, of course, not only by Iran's intolerant regime but by Hamas, Hezbollah and by arguably countless millions of neighbors, as well as Mayfield's domestic allies.

The implications of Mayfield's ideology are clear. If Israel has no right to exist, then Israel bears the entire responsibility for the tragic plight of the Palestinians, and the Palestinians themselves bear little or no responsibility at all. This is not right. The complex matters between Israel and the Palestinians must be resolved, yet to claim that "Palestine has already complied" and to keep insisting in subtle ways that Israel has no need to exist and no right to exist places Mayfield in the rejectionist camp and not in the peace camp.

Mark S. Finkelstein
director of community relations
Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines
Des Moines

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Out of context response and bitter rebuttal against my comments, Ames Tribune

If the tone of this rebuttal to my last letter to the Ames Tribune is out of context, the assumptions wrong and the reader a reactionary Zionist, consider that this nothing compared to what his compatriots are doing to the Palestinians in Gaza on this very day. I will respond, but today, name calling has no sting compared to the sadness I feel for the children, the mothers and fathers and people unlucky enough to have been born or transported to Gaza. ESM

Israel eventually will find its peace

To the Editor

The expectation that Jews should prove their "specialness" is a very real, though subtle, expression of anti-Semitism. No other group is expected to demonstrate "specialness" in order to be tolerated or respected.

According to Elizabeth Mayfield ('Three things Israel can do for peace', Dec. 18), if Jews would just "have the unprecedented grace to show compassion," then perhaps we might all "sense that the Jews really are special."

Mayfield, and people like her, need to learn that Jews are people. Jews are under no obligation to prove that they are "special." If they don't prove their "specialness," they do not deserve the regular condemnation they receive from Mayfield in the pages of the Ames Tribune.

Following in a long tradition of seeking to indict Jews with their own words, Mayfield quoted Albert Einstein in 1938. Had Mayfield shared the title of the source of her quote, Einstein's "Our Debt to Zionism," a casual reader would have realized that Mayfield's selective quote subverted Einstein's message.

Einstein summarized the thesis of his speech by noting, "In this hour, one thing, above all, must be emphasized: Judaism owes a great debt of gratitude to Zionism." He talked about the greatness of the Zionist project by saying, "The productive work in Palestine, to which self-sacrificing Jews throughout the world have contributed, has saved a large number of our brethren from the direst need."

And, even in those days, when the Jews had no state, terrorism against the Jews was commonplace. Einstein described the plight of Jews in Palestine, noting, "Fields cultivated by day must have armed protection at night against fanatical Arab outlaws."

In light of his energetic defense of the national home of Jewish people, Einstein sought to distinguish the Jewish national project from the National Socialism that was then destroying the Jewish people. Unlike racist Nazi Germany, Einstein envisioned a Jewish future in a place like Israel today. Citizens of Israel today are not only Jewish, but also Arab, Druze, Circassian ... Israel is not the completely peaceful place Einstein hoped for, but Israel embraces the values he espoused.

Fortunately, Einstein also gave us guidance about those like Mayfield and the people she defends when he said, "Anti-Semitism has always been the cheapest means employed by selfish minorities for deceiving the people. A tyranny maintained on such deception and maintained by terror must inevitably perish from the poison it generates within itself."

When Einstein wrote these words in 1938, the worst of the Holocaust was still to come.

He remained optimistic even as darkness loomed.

Israel still has not found its peace, but just as Einstein's words eventually proved true, Israel eventually will find its peace and prove wrong those who seek to defame it and the Jewish people.

James Eaves-Johnson