August 23, 2021
In Letters To Finkelstein
The disillusionment of a former admirer of Israel (G.M., from Florida)
I speak as someone who grew up with so much admiration for Israel, and I have to admit, I had a lot of contempt for Palestinians. I grew up hearing how Israel is “the only democracy in the Middle East”, that it “lives in a bad neighborhood with organizations like Hamas who want to destroy Israel and throw Jews into the sea”, that Israel is only “defending itself”, that it keeps extending its hand for peace and offering a state but it only gets war and violence, and that the Palestinians are the Arab equivalent of Nazis, justified by the fact that their leader during World War Two, the Mufti of Jerusalem, collaborated with the Nazis. When I used to be on social media, I followed StandWithUs, the Jewish Virtual Library, CAMERA, Algemeiner, the Jerusalem Post, UN Watch, HonestReporting, and other Israel advocacy sites. This “villa in the jungle”, with its technological advancements, democracy, gorgeous women seemed so cool.
I internalized all of this, and didn’t begin to question it until I decided one day to email Dr. Finkelstein to hear his take, because it baffled me why a Jewish son of Holocaust survivors was so critical of Israel. I had my opinions, but I was fair and wanted to hear from someone like him. He gave very convincing arguments and scholarship, and I slowly came around to understanding that Israel wasn’t the rosy place I made it out to be, but learning more about what actually happened showed me that a lot of what I internalized was just propaganda.
I was initially all in favor of ‘Eretz Israel’ going to the Jews, but I don’t see how this can be implemented in the 21st century without thousands of people being utterly screwed over. I saw a video of a settlement leader in May saying “Yes, Arabs lived here (in East Jerusalem) and it’s at their expense, but then again, so was our state”, and an Israeli girl at the recent riots in Jerusalem saying something like “I don’t want to say “death to Arabs” like the Lehava, but we should say nicely “we’re taking the land, so please get out”.” I can’t defend that. When I saw some of the videos of the riots, and from Sheikh Jarrah, it made me cringe. Seeing an overweight American man saying “If I don’t steal your house, someone else will” to an innocent Palestinian woman, it made me angry and somewhat ashamed. I can’t stand making a woman, elderly man, or children homeless on ideological grounds. I didn’t appreciate how bad this is in reality. If you have a state recognized by the world, then why not just stick to that and be content? I read an article in Foreign Policy about Ma’ale Adumin and it cuts the WB in half, and even the mayor in 1992 admitted that it was built to do that. I wonder if Maale Adumin killed the two-state solution. And Israel kept insisting that it keep most of these big settlements, even though NO one recognizes it outside of Israel. I was shocked to see that. It wasn’t the “generous offer of 97+% of the West Bank” that we keep hearing. The Palestinians committed horrible acts with the suicide bombings and the 2nd Intifada, so there are obvious security concerns even today with terrorism. Why not just build the wall on the Green Line if you want a two-state solution? You can’t talk about Judea and Samaria in the 21st century. Sorry. I fully acknowledge the Jewish connection to the land, but we can’t recreate what happened 2000 years ago. That’s just silly. No one outside of Israel recognizes Judea and Samaria. It’s the West Bank.
As someone who still wishes well for Israel, why doesn’t it simply just do the right thing rather than just dismiss every criticism labelled at them as anti-Semitic. Wouldn’t it be best just to do the right thing, go back to the international borders (Israel already exists as a state in this framework), implement something like a referendum for the refugees (I doubt all 5 million refugees would all go back to Israel, maybe 1/5 or so; Israel would still be Jewish majority in that case). What does Israel stand to gain from all this? The Palestinians aren’t going anywhere, they’re already just over 1/2 the population from the river to the sea anyway.
Israel can’t sustain itself this way. I don’t see how it can continue to live in a bubble and taking more land. It seems like it’s just shooting itself in the foot. I think, if it carries on this way, the Palestinians will eventually win by virtual of sheer numbers, and the fact that even the human rights organizations are closing in on it, American Jews are losing patience with it, Palestinians will continue to reproduce and exist on the land.
I’m just tired of all the theatrics, and constant excuses and justification for any and everything. It’s like a spoilt child who claims to be a darling angel. They say “oh you can criticize Israel, but…”, and yet, literally NO one who has solely legitimate criticisms has NOT been called an anti-Semite or self-hating Jew. And now they’re literally telling our own governors to boycott and investigate Ben and Jerry’s. And they’re following like pathetic hypocrites. This is where I draw the line. You don’t meddle in the affairs of my country and our businesses. They don’t need Israel’s input or approval to do things. And then when Palestine applies for statehood through the UN, UNESCO membership, ICC membership, looks for an ICC investigation, most of the world says “yes”, Israel and the U.S. say “no”. Like they want to control everything and any and all things as it pertains to Israel and Palestine. It’s like they’re oblivious to the fact that the Palestinians want real self-determination and sovereignty, not some franken-road, strip of land they can pretend is a state. I feel bad for not seeing that before. An ice-cream company can’t even take a stance that aligns with international law (while still remaining in the int’l recognized borders of their state) without being castigated and accused of “anti-Semitism” and “terrorism” (give me a break). And then they claim to be this liberal, democracy with values who cares about the Palestinian people, who just need to be “free from their leaders”. It’s “all their leaders’ fault”. “They make us kill their children”. And it was convincing. I bought into it for all these years. I’ve had enough now. You don’t bomb a media building, a hospital, a school, force people to demolish their own house (on their own land) claiming they don’t have a permit, and feel good about yourself and say that you feel bad for doing so, but say that it is necessity. This is sick. Of course Israel has security concerns, and of course I abhor Palestinian acts of violence, but why don’t they look in the mirror as to why there is violence, rather than saying, “oh they’re just savage Arabs who want to kill us”? I was watching i24 and this Natasha Kirtchuk presenter was putting on this show of outrage over the “anti-Semitic attacks” in the US during the recent conflict, as if she’s some principled woman. The people who piss me off aren’t the right-wing fanatics. It’s the ones I used to look up to, the ones who are proudly liberal and patriots to Israel, the Rudy Rochman types who claim to have principled values and care about Palestinians while defending their state and its rogue actions and refusing to look in the mirror. Now I know why many people find liberals annoying. I don’t like being played for a fool. I’m not a smart or highly-educated guy by any stretch, but I’m not stupid either. They’ve lost a supporter. I’m certainly not an enemy at all, and I am not in the ‘pro-Palestine’ camp, but I’m not defending or approving of Israel, certainly not while they’re carrying on this way. It’s an ugly place that puts on this pretty outer appearance, but the inner ugly is coming out more and more. The right-wing element is the inner ugly. If they keep deluding themselves, then we will have a one-state reality, and Palestinians will eventually outnumber them anyway. They are slowly but surely destroying the Jewish state without realizing it.