Published in the USA Today, August 24, 2020

Published in the USA Today, August 24, 2020

I applaud USA TODAY reporter Jack Kelly's interview with the eminently respected Dr. Mustapha Barghouthi, as well as his reference to other human rights groups that have condemned the killings of Palestinians.  ("We're going to get them: Israel hunts terrorists amid controversy.  An inside look," Cover Story, News, Tuesday).

I find it unfortunate, however, that more space was devoted to the discussion of techniques currently used by the Shin Bet and IDF to carry out such killings.

Rather than focus on the human suffering wrought on the victims, their families and other indirect victims pursuant to a policy that subverts and violates all legal and human rights principles, Mr. Kelly chose to implicitly glorify and give credibility to the justifications provided by Israeli officials.

Shin Bet, Israeli officials and now prominent Jewish religious leaders all proclaim that this type of policy is justifiable under principles of self-defense.  How absurd to think that the existence of the militarily and economically strong State of Israel is existentially threatened by these attacks, or that Israel's current policies have anything to do with pursuing peace.

The only path to non-violence is non-violence, not infliction of preemptive death and destruction.  If Israeli leaders truly want stop the violence and protect their citizenry, their primary concern should be how to end, not tighten, the Occupation.

As long as Israel continues to demolish Palestinian homes, expand settlements, create impassable roadblocks, choke the Palestinian economy and carve up Palestinian territory, we can be sure that suicide bombings will continue.

As a faithful Jew who has lived in the West Bank and worked on Palestinian human rights issues, I can say with confidence that a vast majority of Palestinians desire peace in the same way most Jews and Israelis do.  Rather than teach soldiers and security officials Arabic and Islam for purposes of training them to be extrajudicial incognito assassins, this training should be used to promote cross-cultural education programs that may promote relations between the two peoples.

Many Palestinians whom I met in the West Bank and Gaza had never met an Israeli or Jew other than a soldier or settler.  Peace simply cannot be forged in such a circumstance.  There is a growing number of Israelis and Jews who have begun to understand this and further recognize that Israel's defenses of targeted killing, indeed all occupation policies, are morally and politically flawed.

— Brad Rubin, Washington, DC

Here is my answer to one of the responses.

To the editor:

I write to answer reader Steve Palazzi's response to my letter of last Friday.  Although a full response would require an inordinate amount of space, I wanted to at least address one set of facts and comment about how we might move forward in this debate.

First, Israel has not withdrawn from, and the Palestinians do not in fact control, "most of Judea and Samaria," as Mr. Palazzi asserts.  Although a vast majority of the Palestinian population is under theoretical control of the Palestinian Authority, there is nothing even close to resembling geographic contiguity in the West Bank.  Israel's settlement policy and manipulation (and recent violation of the boundaries of) of Areas A, B and C, as well as control of by-pass roads and much of the land outside major population centers, has rendered any actual Palestinian control of land moot.  This does not even address issues of water supply, border control, commercial supply chains, port access, etc.  One point: were Mr. Palazzi's home state under occupation by a stronger foreign power, would his concerns somehow be eased if New Yorkers were allowed to "control" solely the cities of Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and the Five Boroughs, but nothing in between?

Second, I would like to address Mr. Palazzi's confusing turn to pre-Occupation history at the close of his letter.  Blind supporters of Israel's Occupation are fond of picking and choosing particular moments and events in history to justify what is done to "protect" Israel from threats, as are blind supporters of Palestinian extremist groups prone to highlight the most brutal Israeli acts in order to vindicate continued violence.  Simply stated, this is senseless.  The goal of all people concerned about the situation in Israel and Palestine must be to end the destructive violence and pursue a just and lasting peace.  Reliance on, or endless debate about, particular moments in history does little to actually change anything in the present, other than insure our recreation of those terrible moments.

Insinuating that Israel can, and should, use the words of Nasser, acts of Hafez al-Assad, or deeds of the fledgling PLO, to commit human rights violations and occupy Palestinian land only insures that we will be stuck in that past and suffer as the violence continues on all sides.  The Judaic traditions underlying the State of Israel instruct all Jews to pursue justice, view all humanity in the image of God and remember the times when we were strangers in Egypt.  And these tenets are not conditional; they do not permit us to wait until we are 100% comfortable with everything in our midst to begin observing them.  The daily violations of these core tenets through the Occupation implicates all Jews in what is occurring in Israel.

The fact is that the Occupation could be ended, without endangering the State of Israel, if our hearts and minds were directed toward pursuing our traditions and truly viable paths of coexistence.  It seems at present that Mr. Palazzi—indeed the Israeli government and all of its supporters—are only interested in arguing in circles about a history that will never be agreed to by all sides, thus erecting additional obstacles on those paths.

—Brad Rubin, Washington, DC