January 15, 2010

Mideast Myth-Busting Missed Some Things

Some of the myth-busting in J. J. Goldberg’s December 25 column “Four Myths About the Mideast and Real Estate” bears closer examination.

Goldberg claims that Israel, in violation of its commitments under the Bush administration’s 2003 road map, has increased settlement expansion, while the Palestinians have, in accord with the road map, made progress against violence. One can oppose settlement expansion, including “natural growth” (as I do), without ignoring the elephant in the room: Gaza. Israel’s 2005 exit (settlement contraction) from Gaza, met by incessant attacks from the Palestinian-elected Hamas, puts a rather different nuance to claims of Israeli expansionism vs. Palestinian pacifism.

Goldberg also acknowledges that Israel is the only country condemned by the entire world for building in its declared capital, or more precisely in its eastern portion. This he balances by noting that Israel is the only country that includes in its capital areas recognized by no other country as belonging to it. One can oppose Israel’s eviction of Palestinians from East Jerusalem (as I do) without ignoring the fact that the world’s non-recognition includes the Jewish Quarter, rebuilt on the ruins of the old Jewish Quarter, and indeed (with a few brave exceptions), any part of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

One might also compare the international obsession with building in Jerusalem with the world’s disinterest in a rather larger sin: building in someone else’s capital, expelling its inhabitants from that capital and countless other towns and cities, occupying and annexing that capital’s country, and murdering over a million of its citizens — China in Tibet.

A black-and-white moral calculus is a spurious conceit. The devil is in the details.

The writer is a member of the board of the Forward Association.

Article Overlooked ZOA Dinner’s Spirit

I was surprised that your article about the Zionist Organization of America’s national dinner omitted important aspects of the event and misrepresented others (“From the Right: ZOA Faithful Challenge Israelis on Freeze,” December 25).

For example, the article made no mention of the keynote speech by House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, who spoke powerfully about the question of when will it become too late to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Your article also didn’t mention Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s moving description (delivered via video) of the ZOA as an organization that “refuses to compromise on the truth regardless of prevailing fashion and no matter what the costs may be.”

While mentioning that the ZOA opposes a Palestinian state, the article failed to note that we take this position because the Palestinian Authority hasn’t ended incitement against Israel in their schools and media and refuses to arrest terrorists. And instead of inaccurately stating that I dismissed Palestinian claims to the West Bank, your article should have noted that I only made the legal case for Israelis’ right to live in the West Bank, citing the views of major legal scholars.

It is also troubling that your article ignored the fact that Israel’s vice prime minister, Moshe Ya’alon, was given a standing ovation by the 700 attendees. Instead, you conspicuously cited a few people who yelled out for several seconds when Ya’alon discussed the settlement freeze.

Finally, your article did not convey the tremendous spirit at the ZOA dinner, which was perhaps the most inspiring we’ve ever hosted, as was noted to me by many attendees. Among the luminaries in attendance were a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Seymour Reich; the conference’s executive vice chairman, Malcolm Hoenlein; Hadassah’s national president, Nancy Falchuk; the president of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Martin Gross; and a former executive director the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Neal Sher. Attendance by such a diverse group of major Jewish leaders illustrates the unity Jews feel when it comes to supporting Israel.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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January 15, 2010

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