Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Open Letter to Thomas Friedman

by Shmully Hecht
Dear Thomas,

In a recent New York Times column you suggested that those who would like to understand the Middle East conflict should watch a movie "Precious Life" about Israeli doctors and philanthropists who save the life of a young Palestinian
The same rank stench has been emitted for years from under the desks of writers such as yourself who have sold the world on the idea that there are two sides equally committed to peace.
whose mother yet prays the child grows up to become a "martyr;" that is to say a murderer of Jews.

While that film may indeed capture the reality that Israel can do no right for those who dream of its destruction I have a different suggestion to those who desire to better understand the problems that comprise this conflict; travel to the Middle East and talk to the people who live there.

I recently visited Israel and spoke to a Muslim Arab taxi cab driver who drove me across East Jerusalem while telling me that he would not live in the capitol of any other state in the region, not Cairo, not Beirut, not Amman. It is not something you will ever see explored in mainstream American papers, but according to him, the life of an independent minded Arab seeking comfort, freedom and self-sufficiency is vastly better in the Jewish homeland. Measuring by any standard, what the taxicab driver said is an accurate description of life for all Arabs in Israel.
Upon my return I found myself on a connecting flight next to a Christian American who had spent years in Saudi Arabia working for GE, designing healthcare software for Middle East hospitals . After describing the vast differences between Israel and its neighbors he reminded me that non Muslims are not even permitted to enter Islam’s holiest cities, Mecca and Medina. How odd that the same Saudis have offered a “Peace Initiative” to the People of Israel .

So Thomas, I agree that there does exist the foul and ancient stench in the air that you mention. Hyper scrutiny and de-legitimization of Israel have been the hallmark of Arab activism and now we find it in both mainstream press as well as Europe and America's leading universities, including Yale where I serve as the Rabbi of Eliezer; the Jewish Society on campus . How did this happen?
It happened because the same rank stench has been emitted for years from under the desks of writers such as yourself who have sold the world on the idea that there are two sides equally committed to peace. You and your like-minded friends said that if only Israel does the right thing in the form of giving up land or demolishing its security walls then the Arabs will establish a state of Palestine which also only wants what is best for their citizens and the region. The stench is the result of trying to perfume the murderous intent of the PLO, Fatah and Hamas, calling it 'resistance' and statesmanship. The stench is the smell of Yassir Arafat's rotten Nobel Peace Prize.
The fullest and foulest emission of this noxious stench was the Oslo fantasy which began to evaporate even before it took any real form. Even President Bill Clinton could not achieve it’s goals after days of pleading with Mr. Arafat.
You, and most writers on the subject who strive to apportion guilt and responsibility "fairly," sold the world on Oslo and on the withdrawal from Gaza, the first which will never happen, and the second which brought about the daily bombing of Israel with thousands of rockets fired at civilians. Your suggestion that if only Israel now further dismantled cities in the West bank there would be peace, confirm your delusion that there will be a shortage of Kassam rockets fired on Israel from Ramallah.
How odd that the same Europeans and members of the United Nations that urged Israel to withdraw from Gaza were the first to condemn Israel for finally defending their civilians in the Gaza War.

Tom, you return to form with your desire to be a "fair" judge, urging we acknowledge lopsided and twisted criticism of Israel mainly so that Israel will listen better, so that you can be an even better critic.
Now is not the time to criticize Israel or "colonial settlements" on Jewish land that Israel captured in defensive wars and over which Israel maintains legitimate sovereignty. It is time instead to finally clear the air. Thomas, please remove the source of the odor. It is under your desk.

Shmully Hecht is the Rabbinical advisor of Eliezer; the Jewish Society at Yale

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