History of Israel taken out of context

To the Daily:

Ari Paul’s latest viewpoint (The supremacist Blue Block, 5/12/03) lacks the logic, thoughtfulness and attention to accuracy that typically characterize his work.

First, Paul did speak with me in early March. However, his article failed to provide the context in which I mentioned the invasion of England. Paul questioned the legitimacy of the state of Israel, based on the fact that others once inhabited the land. My reply was that accepting his categorical argument – a state is illegitimate if predated by another – would render nearly all states illegitimate. France, England, Russia, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary, to name just a few, all had previous inhabitants. Furthermore, arguing about the founding of Israel is unproductive. Israel is an internationally recognized state and is here to stay. As Ahmed Qurei, the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, recently pointed out, the key to progress is in looking toward the future, not debating the rights and wrongs of nearly 50 years ago.

Second, Paul did question me about Israel’s immigration policies. However, he failed to supply my response. I informed Paul that people of all ethnicities and religions are eligible for citizenship in Israel. It matters not if one is Christian, Muslim, Hindu or Zoroastrian. It is true that Jewish immigrants do not have to undergo naturalization. However, such immigration systems are common all over the world. France, Hungary, Romania, Germany, Korea and Japan, among others, all have similar systems. These policies are not based on notions of “ethnic supremacy” as Paul alleges. Rather, they are attempts to preserve the self-determination and cultural cohesion of the state’s inhabitants.

Third, Paul’s tirade about Zionism and the “Blue Block” is ill-conceived. Zionism, or Jewish nationalism, is equivalent to Palestinian nationalism or, for that matter, Korean, Canadian or Bolivian nationalism. Paul may wish that our international system were not organized into nation-states, but condemning Zionism while failing to take reality into account is illogical, at best. Paul also attacks students who question the motives of those who propose to hold Israel to a double standard. Resolutions endorsing divestment from Israel crop up time and time again, while their sponsors never suggest similar measures against Sudan, where human slavery still exists, or North Korea, Iran, China or Russia, where human rights abuses exceeding those allegedly committed by Israel frequently occur. Separating Israel out for condemnation is unfair and, perhaps worse, unhelpful. Resolutions like the one considered by the Michigan Student Assembly only make compromise more difficult and peace less likely.

If Paul wants to contribute to a lasting peace, he should invest his energy in finding forward-looking solutions, rather than arguing over ancient rights and wrongs or encouraging selective divestment.

David Livshiz


Viewpoint ignored persecution of Jews

To the Daily:

Ari Paul’s column (The supremacist Blue Block, 5/12/03) was misguided, offensive and generally unfortunate. Paul’s distasteful (and, sadly, all too common) comparison of the destruction of terrorists’ homes by the Israeli Defense Force and the Nazis’ industrial-style genocide is just plain wrong. Were Jews in Germany blowing themselves up in crowded marketplaces? No. (And even if they were, the punishment would not have met the crime.) Are Israeli forces stuffing starving Palestinian Arabs into over-crowded trains, sending them to camps to starve them to death, or, to make things easier, simply gassing them and incinerating their bodies? Thank God, no, no and no. The comparison is grossly invalid on all counts and what’s worse, it weakens arguments for real Palestinian grievances, as well as degrades the memory of Nazi victims and the reality of what the Nazis did.

Paul wondered which side of the “human rights fence” Goldberg would have been on during World War II. I wonder what Paul would be doing in that same era if he were a European Jew. Would he have smuggled himself into British-controlled Palestine and become part of the tiny minority that escaped the Nazis? And in 1948, after Palestinian Arabs rejected the United Nations proposal for a sovereign Arab state next to the proposed Jewish one – when Israel declared statehood and was promptly attacked by Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq – would Paul have returned to Poland to nothing but seething hatred and looted property? Or would he have stayed, fought and become an Israeli? And in 2003, when synagogues burn in Europe (see Brenner, Vanity Fair, June 2003; Rothstein, The New York Times, 5/17/03; or just type in “Europe anti-Semitism” at bbc.co.uk), when “Death to Jews!” is the rallying cry at state-sponsored parades in Tehran (this is well-documented), and with this sentiment refracted across the Arab states, how could Paul still retain his starry-eyed political naivit

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