It is with great sadness and concern that I find myself compelled to respond to an opinion piece which immediately struck me as glaringly anti-Semitic and dangerously ill-informed. The piece, authored by James Ansel, was titled “Revisiting the 1967 Six-Day War” and published on April 26 in the Roslyn Times. To that end, my intention is to address the author’s claims, which I perceive to be malicious or incorrect, and juxtapose them with what I hope will be a fair treatment of the topic which rightly concerns him.
Ansel begins by distinguishing the anti-Zionism which he defends from anti-Semitism on the grounds that “Zionism (is) a nationalistic rather than a religious movement.” The anti-Semitism that is inevitably, if not inherently, a tenant of his anti-Zionism is not threatening because it attacks believers for their theological claims. Rather, it attacks a specific group of people with a distinct national identity. I hope that Ansel is not so naïve as to think that the long history of hatred towards Jews is racism-free and due solely to the religious convictions they share.
After lamenting Israel’s existence and baselessly insinuating that the Jewish nation is “brutal and non-humanitarian,” Ansel makes the following assertion: “Due to the half a million settlers in the West Bank, a two-state solution is not workable.” While I support the establishment of a state of Palestine and share in his worry that the settlement movement is detrimental to that dream, the implication that it can only be achieved if the West Bank is cleansed of Jewish inhabitants is a frightening position which has been advanced far too often in human history. Moreover, I doubt Ansel thinks that the 1.5 million Arab citizens of Israel are an obstacle to peace. Contrary to Ansel’s rejection of the possibility of co-existence, I posit that no amount of border-drawing or erasing will be sufficient. Before any political solution can establish a sustainable peace, a cultural solution — whereby all those who love Israel/Palestine recognize their shared rights, homeland, and humanity — is needed.
Ansel’s next vilifying statement calls Israel an “apartheid theocracy” and is defended largely by the recent “Nation-State Law.” I, too, believe the law to run counter to the democratic norms and egalitarian ideals on which Israel was founded, and I also wish Israeli voters did not elect right-wing legislators. With that said, Israel is the opposite of an apartheid theocracy. Apartheid is the South Africa which had no black legislators or the Lebanon where Palestinians cannot be citizens and own property. Theocracy is the Saudi Arabia where women may not expose their hair or the Iran which hangs gays from cranes. In fact, no other country in the Middle East provides full political, social, and economic equality to all of its citizens regardless of race, religion, gender or sexuality.
What follows strikes me as the most hurtful and untrue position of the piece. In contrast to the “indigenous Palestinian(s),” Israel’s Jews are described as “colonialist(s).” By no means do I mean to deny Israel/Palestine as the homeland of the Palestinians, and to the extent that Israel rejects their history, it does a great injustice. Indeed, the right of Palestinians to exercise self-determination is no different than that of Jews. Rather, it is Ansel’s denial of the unbroken historical connection between Jews and their homeland that I find anti-Semitic.
He writes, “Palestinians are blame free of the Holocaust, yet their homes and land continue to be taken,” as if to imply that Israel is a white colonial enterprise which only exists because of the Holocaust. Why do most Jews not consider themselves indigenous to Europe? Have Europeans not made it clear that it is not the home of the Jews? I therefore ask Ansel to make his claim to the 60 percent of Israeli Jews who are of Middle-Eastern ancestry or the Ethiopian Jews, who thinking they were the only Jews left on Earth, faced north as they prayed to return to their ancestral homeland. Ansel’s claim is an insult to the generations of Jews, who for thousands of years prayed for rain in the Land of Israel, followed its calendar, and debated the biblical laws of the harvest and jubilee years as they longed to return to Israel in redemption.
I wish now to touch on Ansel’s treatment of the Six-Day War. He correctly notes that Israel fired the first shots of the conflict in a pre-emptive strike against Egypt, but the Six-Day War in which Israel captured the West Bank, Golan Heights, and Gaza Strip was unquestionably a defensive war. The misrepresentation of Israel as a belligerent conqueror is viciously inaccurate and anti-Semitic. Public broadcasts and secret battle plans made it clear that the intention of the surrounding countries was to destroy the State of Israel. Personally, I am glad they did not.
Finally, despite Ansel’s unsupported accusation that Israel is not a “reliable ally,” Israel has been and continues to be a valuable partner for the United States in combatting terrorism, fostering security, and aiding the developing world. Organizations like AIPAC — which, for transparency’s sake, I am involved with — represents a diverse group of Americans who advocate for a strong US-Israel relationship because it is in the best interest of both countries. Nonetheless, Ansel characterizes AIPAC as the agent of a foreign country using the age-old anti-Semitic narrative of Jews — who cannot possibly care about (insert country) — infiltrating and influencing its political system.
And so, I ask Ansel and all my readers, do we defend the same rights for and apply the same standards to the Jewish people as all other peoples? When the answer is so clearly no, we do ourselves no favors by calling it anything other than what it is: anti-Semitism.