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Jewish Journal

An Open Letter to Avraham Burg

by Arthur Cohn

October 9, 2003 | 8:00 pm

On Sept. 26, the Journal published an opinion piece by MK Avraham Burg critical of Israel's current government ("Leaders Stay Silent as Israel Collapses.") The following is a reply to Burg. To see Burg's letter, go to www.jewishjournal.com.

Dear Avrum,

I've known you -- within our long-time family friendship -- for many years. I never commented on any of your political statements when you gave them to Israeli newspapers.

However, your article "A Failed Israeli Society is Collapsing" is especially disappointing because it was not only published in Israel, but also abroad in the "International Herald Tribune," "Le Monde" (Paris) and "Suddeutsche Zeitung" (Munich). Under these circumstances I cannot restrain myself from reacting to it.

I must protest against your level of argumentation and the style of your essay. Your way of presenting issues is irresponsible, undemocratic and lacks basic honesty. It ignores all the great values that are the basis of the Jewish State up to this day.

In very general accusations -- which are characteristic of the whole article -- you say that the Israeli nation (!) today rests on a "scaffolding of corruption." No word about Israel being a state with a most developed judicial system and courts that are open to all parts of Israeli society (Arabs included) in order to supervise justice in the State of Israel and to fight corruption in all its manifestations -- a tiny state surrounded by totalitarian governments that are not bound by the rule of law. No word about the vast majority dedicated to Israel without any personal corruption whatsoever. No word about the tremendous job done in Israel with the huge emigration from Russia and Ethiopia. No word about the thousands of volunteers fulfilling a wonderful task for all underprivileged people -- from handicapped children to helpless aged persons. No word about the free press of Israel, which detects openly any irregularities within the government and its branches. No word about the unlimited devotion to Israel's security, even by regular citizens who endanger their lives in order to minimize the destruction done by terror acts.

You write that settlements are "run by an amoral clique of corrupt lawbreakers."

The settlements have been built since 1967 with the help of the Israeli government (Labor and Likud alike) and even their political opponents know that most of the settlers are great idealists. Far from being corrupt and amoral, they are loyal citizens. It is one thing to advocate removal of settlements, and another to demonize the settlers in such an unjust way.

How can you ignore the Jewish historic approach in your analysis of events? One example: Tens of thousands of Arabs worked for many, many years in Israel. Their entry to Israel started to be made difficult only after terrorists were smuggled in with the workers. To speak about the Palestinian difficulties with the roadblocks without mentioning the reasons that brought them about is morally questionable.

What is even worse: You invent the lie that Israel has "ceased to care about the children of Palestinians." You describe all of Israel as an inhuman entity and cause with this statement irreparable damage to Israel's moral image. As you surely know, the truth is the opposite: Despite the Palestinian children being educated to become genocide murderers and despite their being abused as shields for terrorists, Israel does whatever possible to avoid unnecessary damage to the lives of Palestinian children. Examples: The deaths of 23 soldiers in Jenin -- who were sacrificed in order to avoid a massive attack on the civilian population. Another recent example: Israel could have killed the main heads of the Hamas movement in Gaza, but refrained from using a stronger bomb in order not to endanger too many civilians. I don't know any other nation in the world that would act with such moral considerations even in their fight against frightfully inhuman terrorists.

"We must remove all the settlements -- all of them" -- what an odd, unreflective statement! If Israel has no rights in the disputed territories gained through the '67 war, how will you react to the request of the Palestinian prime minister that Israel has to go back to the 1948 borders and quit the "occupied territories" of the Independence War? And how will you morally reject the PLO argument, taught in the Palestinian schoolbooks, that all of Israel is "occupied" territories?

Can it be historically justified that Israel leaves Hebron, Gush Etzion or even great parts of Jerusalem, so that a future Palestinian state becomes "judenrein" while now, in Israel, there live more than a million Arabs with political rights?

Never in your article do you mention "peace" (perhaps you don't believe in the possibility of a peace treaty after the Barak experience), but you still expect -- in a most irresponsible way -- that Israel go back to the "Auschwitz" borders of '67, even without a permanent peace process.

Your appeal to "Israel's friends abroad, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, presidents and prime ministers" to influence the road Israel is going on is a clear undermining of Israel's democracy. Now that you and your party are a minority, you appeal to political forces outside Israel to interfere in Israel's affairs. Who would believe that this undemocratic view is expressed in a call from a man who was speaker of the Israeli parliament?

"The Arabs, too, have dreams and needs." The majority of Israel would like to assist the Arabs to fulfill these needs. But as long as their dream is "to kill Jews wherever you find them," Israel cannot be expected to assist them in making this dream reality.

It is truly unbelievable that a man of your position should have no hesitation, as a Jew and as a Zionist, to weaken the struggle of the Jewish People in Israel with an article full of generalizations, platitudes and baseless accusations, not mentioning with one word the high level of Jewish values and humane behavior kept alive in the State of Israel, despite the brutality used by its neighbors during all the years of its existence.

An old Jewish saying states that one of the greatest sins is to humiliate another human being in public. It is your right (and perhaps even your duty) to publicize your political views, but I am afraid that with your irresponsible article in significant publications worldwide, you transgressed this basic rule by humiliating the People of Israel in a most unqualified, ugly manner.

Arthur Cohn is a Swiss-based film producer whose productions include "The Garden of the Finzi-Continis," "Central Station" and "One Day in September."

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