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Jewish claim questioned

In response to "A moment before the next flotilla," Week's End, June 24

In his editorial about joining the flotilla to Gaza, Gabriel Schivone represented himself as a Jewish college student. I feel I must point out that this not his true identity, but one he has created in order to generate insider credibility, shield himself from accusations of anti-Semitism, and resonate with a target audience.

I met Gabriel in 2004 while attending the University of Arizona, where we became very close friends. I am a strong supporter of Palestinian human rights and agree with Gabriel that the blockade of Gaza has caused great humanitarian suffering. However, readers have a right to know the facts and reach their own informed conclusions.

Gabriel is not Jewish, whether in terms of ethnic ancestry, religious belief, or cultural identity. He has never identified as a Jew until it became useful in advancing his political agenda. During the High Holiday season of 2007, Gabriel told me that he discussed Israel with campus representatives of Chabad, identifying himself as a Jew. When asked why he did this, he explained that he has a distant Jewish relative and that "you use what you have."

In all the time I've known him, he has never expressed feeling morally conflicted about Israel, nor has he succumbed to pressure to be "silent." The editorial's narrative is not Gabriel's story, but one crafted to lend moral and emotional weight to his argument while appealing to the young, college-aged Jews whose participation is so vital to the pro-Palestinian movement.

The aim of this letter is not to discredit that movement or the flotilla, or to take a political side, but to alert readers to specific distortions in this editorial. It is a shame that the war of narratives so readily eclipses and manipulates the truth.

Valerie Saturen

Tacoma, Washington

Gabriel Matthew Schivone responds:

I'm astonished by the bizarre charges about my most cherished sense of personal identity made by a person I haven't seen, nor corresponded with, in years. It is precisely through my work organizing for Palestinian human rights with other Jews that I evolved to become deeply proud of my identity as a Chicano Jew.

This is not an uncommon story. Many of us find, after years in the wilderness, that this work has brought us closer to our Jewish roots because we found a community of other Jews who believed as we did and who commit themselves, with every ounce of their being, to full equality for all people, especially Palestinians.

Petty attempts at personal defamation of this sort act as distractions from the urgent task that should concern us all: to expose, and resist, U.S.-Israeli policies of closure and the ongoing destruction of Palestinian life under occupation.

Gabriel Matthew Schivone

Athens, Greece

A justified bourgeois dream

This is not a socialist revolution. It is a justified protest on the part of the middle class that wishes to see the national cake divided in a different way. This is the same public that thought that privatization would be to its advantage, that globalization would bring Tel Aviv closer to Amsterdam and Berlin. This public discovered that the extreme privatization transferred its assets to a small number of families and that it has to bear the burden now of paying for parasite populations.

The pathetic attempts by Knesset members Don Khenin and Zahava Gal-On, as well as of Uri Avneri and other armchair socialists, to connect the tent dwellers' bourgeois dream of an apartment in Tel Aviv to a political struggle are baseless. The claim also that the money for the settlements is the cause of the economic disaster is unfounded.

There is general agreement that the settlements "five minutes from Kfar Sava" and the large settlement blocs will remain in Israeli hands when there is an agreement, and this is true also of suburbs of Jerusalem that have become an integral part of the city. Most of the residents of these close by settlements and neighborhoods went there in order to maintain their standard of living. They were not motivated by the ideology of a Greater Land of Israel. For many years, these settlements were not the problem but the solution.

The longing of kibbutz sons and others to return to the collective settlement is also the result of their intention to improve their standard of living and their life.

The pendulum that motivated Israeli society to spring away from the collective society of the 1950s in the direction of "piggish capitalism" has to swing back in the other direction - with moderation. Certainly not to the red pole.

Shmuel Eyal

Ma'aleh Adumim

We must build small apartments

The municipalities, local councils, contractors and banks are interested in building large apartments. The municipalities get more fees from large apartments and also more municipal taxes later on. The contractors of course earn more from large apartments and the banks provide larger mortgages for them.

In the 1950s, the Haifa municipality set up a housing scheme for its workers. These were very small apartments planned in a way that could be enlarged in the future. And indeed, some decades later, all the buildings of this housing scheme were indeed enlarged. Clearly this was the means to avoid taking out a mortgage which would have made the apartments much more costly.

The solution to the housing crisis is to compel the municipalities to allow the construction of small apartments that can be enlarged in the future.

Gideon Katz

Haifa

The difference between Greek and Israeli soldiers

In response to "What lies behind the mask?," July 25

Amira Hass writes that Greek commandos who took over the Canadian Ship Tahrir were unmasked and could be identified, unlike the masked Israelis who took over the Karame. Unlike the Greek commandos, their Israeli counterparts are in the midst of a prolonged military conflict. It seems that the Greek fighters can allow themselves to spend weeks chatting with human rights activists while their faces are unmasked and their tongues are free. On the other hand, the commandos from Shayetet 13 cannot show their faces for security reasons to people who may have some interest against them. They certainly cannot be unmasked when being photographed by those who send their pictures around the world. It is surprising that such basic facts are not clear to the reporter.

Idan Soncino

Petah Tikva