August 10, 2011
Letters to the Editor: Fair-weather Zionists, Spry Centenarian
How Do We Support Israel?
I read with dismay David Suissa’s Aug. 5 column (“Fair-weather Zionist”) characterizing me as a fair-weather Zionist — a judgment based not on my 10 years of writing, public speaking or activism on Israel, but upon a lone Tweet. Had Suissa bothered to speak with me, he would have learned that it is not I who have written off Israel so much as it Israel that has written off me.
Indeed, I have been involved with New Israel Fund (NIF), as Suissa recommended, as well as with J Street, and various other progressive Israeli causes. However, over the last year, the Knesset’s “House Un-
Zionist Activities Committee” has conducted special investigations into both J Street and NIF, unjustly deeming them — and thus, indirectly, their supporters — as abettors of Israel’s destruction. The Knesset has repeatedly proposed cutting off NIF’s overseas funding, which includes the thousands of dollars I have personally contributed annually to Israel’s social sector. The government has also instructed public officials to not meet with J Street delegates, thereby rejecting my community’s support for U.S. policies that promote Israel’s peace and security.
Furthermore, despite the majority of Israelis and American Jews’ consistent rejection of settlements, the Knesset recently passed a bill not only deeming it illegal to advocate the boycott of settlements — a position supported by many a proud Zionist before me — but equating opposition to settlements with opposition to Israel itself. This is only months after passing another bill deeming the return of any territory presently under Israeli control to Palestinians an act of treason punishable by death. Supporting the two-state solution and the dismantling of settlements is now legally equivalent to pursuing Israel’s destruction.
You can only spit in my face so many times before I turn my back on you. You cannot call me a self-hating Jew and an enemy of Israel because I oppose the occupation of the so-called “disputed territories,” nor can you frown upon my American Jewish identity, community and spirituality, and then have the chutzpah to ask me to donate to your annual campaign or to help you get an appropriations bill passed. I will not be your freier [sucker].
Since I do not live there, and do not vote there, and do not pay taxes, and have not served in the army, no matter how much money or care I give, my opinion and energies are considered worthless and even anti-democratic. Therefore, I am disinclined to expend either on Israel’s behalf any longer.
Despite being told that it is my homeland, and that I should see it as central to my Jewish identity, and as the central locus of Jewish peoplehood, I have been routinely demeaned, denigrated and delegitimized for expressing the values that are core to my Jewish and Zionist beliefs.
Israel must learn that it cannot take American Jews nor progressive Zionists for granted. I will not endure the beatings of an abusive lover. Nor will I stand by a nation that goes so far out of its way to prove time and again that it cares not for me.
David Suissa responds:
Daniel, nobody is out to get you or “write you off.” Those thousands of protesters looking for social justice in Israel never “spit on your face” — so why are you writing them off? Because you’re mad at their leaders? What kind of liberal activist and Israel lover are you? True liberal activists who love Israel channel their frustrations with Israel into constructive action that helps the people. They understand that the Zionist experiment is messy and imperfect, and also miraculous. They know that the true test of love is to hang in through thick and thin. They don’t give up on Israel — and if they do, they certainly don’t show off about it.
There’s Still Hope
Applause for the two Davids (Suissa and Myers) on their thoughtful reactions to the current Israeli scene (“Fair-weather Zionists” and “Where Hope Is to Be Found,” Aug. 5). I am a liberal, progressive Jew with long ties to Israel and often feel shocked, angry and disappointed in the nondemocratic, reactionary actions of the Knesset and the smothering power of the ultra-Orthodox in suppressing freedom in many arenas.
So what to do with my frustration and feelings of helplessness? At my place in the life cycle (age 86) all I feel I can do is support, morally and financially, those people and organizations who work for bringing the sun back into Israeli life. It isn’t much, but my love for the country continues unshaken in spite of the problems, and I hope that David Suissa’s description of “a mess in progress” will lead to better days ahead.
Kudos to Alfred Raider
Sophie Golub’s article about Alfred Raider (“Spry Centenarian Reveals Key to Longevity,” July 29) brought back memories of over 50 years ago when I recall the many times I made sales calls to Alfred and his wife at Fourth Street and San Pedro Avenue. Alfred’s small sundries business was one of three Jewish-owned small businesses within steps of one another at that corner selling almost the same products, but Alfred’s business persevered there regardless of all the competition. I commend Alfred for his business acumen and longevity.
Allen L. Mitchell