Letters to the Editor
The Algerian model
In response to “It’s not the settlements” (Gideon Levy, June 8).
I agree with most of Levy’s assumptions and conclusions, but disagree with his statement that the amount of settlers reached critical mass long ago, making the situation “irreversible” and eliminating the option of evacuation. This argument was already being advanced decades ago, when the number of settlers was much smaller.
But we have the Algerian precedent. There were more than a million settlers in Algeria, who went there about 130 years before it won independence. With independence, the settlers were given three options – to stay and receive Algerian citizenship; to remain as permanent residents with French citizenship, subject to Algerian law; to return to France. Nearly all returned to France.
Settlements have been evacuated in the past to prove how difficult it is for us, with huge compensation fees and confrontation games. So it was with the disengagement from the Gaza Strip, which was intended to enable Israel to control Gaza from outside, without the burden of protecting the settlements.
The Algerian model can be applied to Israel. If any settlers want to live in the Holy Land under Palestinian rule, I assume they’ll be allowed to do so. When Immanuel’s ultra-Orthodox settlers were asked about it a generation ago, they said they’d be willing to live even under King Hussein’s rule. In any case they see the Zionist Israeli government as a heresy that violates the sages’ prohibition against leaving exile and going to the Land of Israel en masse, against bringing about the end of days prematurely and against provoking the nations of the world.
Grapple with reality
In response to “How a radical anti-Israel Jewish group colluded with the U.S. Presbyterian Church" (Eric Yoffie, June 23).
Rabbi Eric Yoffie refuses to grapple with the reality of the occupation or to address the role Jewish American institutions play in repressing concrete actions to end Israel’s ongoing human rights violations against Palestinians. How sad, and revealing, that instead of engaging with the deeply critical message and moral issues being raised by the Presbyterian vote to divest, he resorts to ad hominem attacks against Jewish Voice for Peace and the Presbyterian Church.
We honor the deliberate and thoughtful process that led the church to vote to divest from three American companies, in accordance with their ethical investment principles. We were proud to play our part in supporting their process, but the decision was their own. To suggest otherwise is insulting and indicative of Yoffie’s approach to interfaith partnerships.
Throughout the weeklong General Assembly, no one from Yoffie’s movement made a single concrete suggestion about how to end the occupation — the growth of the settlements, the daily indignities or the structural violence against Palestinians. Instead, they used their voice to attempt to threaten and bully the Presbyterians into voting against their conscience.
The Union for Reform Judaism prominently displays a photo of Martin Luther King Jr. with Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel on its website. The Reform movement is justifiably proud of taking action during the civil rights struggle. How sad that the leadership of the Reform movement today finds itself defending inaction, and therefore promoting injustice. Is the movement’s only response to the Presbyterian vote to attack Jewish Voice for Peace rather than recognize the merits of heartfelt and fact-based deliberations?
Despite Yoffie’s protestations, Jewish Voice for Peace is increasingly attractive to more and more Jewish Americans, including many within the Reform movement. In fact, we welcome new members daily. How beautiful to see so many Jews want to be part of an organization that supports equal rights and justice for Palestinians, Israelis and all people — in the best of Jewish tradition.
Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director, Jewish Voice for Peace and Donna Nevel, board member, Jewish Voice for Peace.
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