To the Editors: In response to Newton Minow
by Joel Finkel

Sent to the Chicago Tribune on December 13, 2001.

To the Editor,

In thanking the Tribune for publishing the various Jewish perspectives on the Israel/Palestine conflict, and with particular praise for the clear thinking and forthright humanity exhibited by Cindy Levitt, from Not In My Name, I wish to respond to a Newton Minow's use of Golda Meir's statement, "We can forgive you for killing our children, but we can never forgive you for making us kill your children."

Meir, who made famous the great Zionist myth, "A land with no people for a people with no land," claimed that the Palestinians turned the Israeli Jews into killers against their will.  As an American Jew, I am insulted by such intentional dishonesty and its racist underpinnings.

The Palestinians did not force the Jewish militant underground, Igrun, to blow up Palestinian buses in Jerusalem, Haifa, and Jaffa, starting in 1939.  They did not force the Stern Gang to dynamite homes, still occupied with their families.  The Palestinians did not force the Zionist armies to utterly destroy over 450 Palestinian villages in 1948, massacring its inhabitants or driving them out of their ancestral homes at the point of a gun.  It was not the Palestinians who then rewarded those who led the massacres and ethnic cleansing with the leadership of the new State of Israel.

When I was a child, I gave money to plant trees in Israel.  Years later I learned that they were used to hide these demolished villages, to shield the atrocities from the world, and from the Jewish conscience.  Then, to complete the veil of deceit, Golda Meir, mythmaker and racist, laid the blame upon the victim.  After all, Jews are superior; we could never commit such crimes.  Only a people as low as the Arabs could drag the Jews down to such depravity.

The sorry fact is that this attitude still prevails among much of American (and Israeli) Jewry.  As a result, many of us cannot possible see the Palestinian people as human beings.  When their children are murdered, we feel no guilt, we feel no angst, and we feel no humanity.  We feel only anger that "they" made us do it.  This is why not a single person will be punished for shooting 11-year old Khalil al-Mughrabi in the head as he played peacefully with his friends.  So what if an Israeli soldier used him as target practice?  "They" made him do it. 

This self-deception has destroyed our humanity.  It is not something that the Palestinians have done to us.  It is something we have done to ourselves. 

Until we are able to destroy these myths, until we are able to regain our humanity, we will be unable to appreciate the fact that stealing another people's land, destroying their homes and farms, torturing their children, murdering them, and surrounding every village with tanks are crimes against humanity. 

Further, we will continue to believe that it is "generous" to offer the Palestinians a "state" that is, in reality, three non-contiguous territories completely surrounded by the Israeli military, which will exercise full and complete control over the borders and water, and which constitutes less than 20% of the historic homeland that was taken from them. 

The time has come for us to reclaim our conscience and our humanity.  This means, first and foremost, that we must break through our racism and myths, which have imprisoned us apart from the world: our sisters and brothers.  The challenge is one that we have always had to face.  Intellect, honesty, dignity, and a thirst for true justice are our only weapons.

Joel Finkel