Allow me to introduce myself. I am an American-born Israeli, and since my early childhood I have been sympathetic to the civil rights movement in the US, and human rights movement around the world. My mother was a civil rights activist, a marcher in the Washington demonstrations of the 1960’s, just as she marched for the rights of beleaguered Jews in the USSR to gain their freedom. Among my proudest personal accomplishments has been the co-founding, with black and Jewish colleagues at Harvard University, of the pre-eminent website for Africans and African-descent people, now called AOL Black Voices.
I therefore have been interested to read of your attempts to connect the civil rights movement and the Israeli-Arab conflict. Most recently, you were quoted as telling, in a closed-door meeting at Annapolis, a story from your childhood in Birmingham, using it to show what you thought was empathy for the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. You said you did not want to draw historical parallels or be too self-reflective, but you did so anyway, recalling the time when a local church was bombed by white racists, killing four girls, including your classmate.
“Like the Israelis, I know what it is like to go to sleep at night, not knowing if you will be bombed, of being afraid to be in your own neighborhood, of being afraid to go to your church,” you said.
But then you went on to say, that, as a black child in the South, you were told that you could not use certain water fountains or eat in certain restaurants, you also understood the feelings and emotions of the Palestinians. “I know what it is like to hear to that you cannot go on a road or through a checkpoint because you are Palestinian,” she said. “I understand the feeling of humiliation and powerlessness.”
“There is pain on both sides,” Rice concluded. “This has gone on too long.”
Well, we can agree on that, Madame Secretary. I recognize that you are trying, in what you think is a balanced way, to use your personal history to make the opposing side see the humanity of each other, to overcome the Mideast equivalent of the “Jim Crow” mentality which saw one side trying, and succeeding, to denigrate and demonize the other.
But the more I thought about your attempt at a historical parallel, and how it was expressed in Annapolis and on the ground here, the more it disturbed me. I am writing in a constructive spirit, in the hope that you can yet adapt your approach so that it has a better chance of success.
Dr. Rice, I will tell you frankly: you are wrong about how Israelis feel, although no doubt those you meet in diplomatic circles and cocktail parties are congratulating you now. You keep saying that the vast majority of Israelis support leaving all of Judea and Samaria and handing it over to the Palestinians. But poll after poll shows that is simply not true. Most Israelis are pragmatic and we (sometimes) learn from experience. We saw what happened when we withdrew from Lebanon and Gaza, and we are not willing to repeat that mistake and allow Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and our airport to become a target for Palestinian rockets.
You are wrong, too, when you think that all we care about is personal security. These days we worry less about being bombed, because of the security measures our government took, over Palestinian objections. Those same checkpoints you complain about, and the security barrier that we built which so many others complain about, keep bombers and drive-by shooters out. What are we to think when the Palestinian policemen the United States is training and arming turn their guns, as a group, on a father driving home? And our own government, like yours, covers up that fact until after Annapolis so as not to spoil the party? What are we to think when the Palestinians keep one of the killing cops in protective custody, refusing to hand him over for trial, or to try him themselves? Does the word Ku Klux Klan and White Alabama Sheriffs ring any bells?
But we are also fearful about the security at the national level — the unbearable ease with which a country of six million Jews can be wiped off the map with missile attacks and a flood of millions of hostile Arabs.
But even if security weren’t an issue, you need to understand that when you speak about Judea and Samaria, you speak about the Jewish People’s heartland, not some foreign country. The Bible you read in Church is filled with those places because here is where our faith was formed, here is where our history was lived for millennia more than the United States has been in existence. And Jerusalem — above all, the Old City and the Temple Mount at its center — has been the spiritual core of our existence since the time of David and Solomon.
For centuries, the Jews were denied even the right to pray at our holiest sites near and on the Temple Mount. There and at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and in many other places throughout Judea and Samaria, the Arabs cruelly allowed us to get close, but never to touch, never to enter the place itself.
That didn’t change even in 1948 when we earned our own nation by defeating 6 attacking Arab armies and the local Arab population. But that victory was only partial: we lost the Old City of Jerusalem, Hebron and Gush Etzion, each loss accompanied by massacres by the Arabs.
They burned down our synagogues: 17 out of 18 in the Old City of Jerusalem alone after the Jordanians took control in 1948. The other one they couldn’t find because a decent Arab concealed it.
Secretary Rice, I am going to be blunt, as you have been to us in speaking about how Jews building homes in our capital city does not create confidence. Look in the mirror and think about what does not build confidence in us: You are doing business with some of the worst racists and anti-Semites on the planet, and it would seem that their bigotry is turning you into a racist and an anti-Semite, and an advocate for racist and anti-semitic policies. Now, it seems, you and your government appear even willing to negotiate with Iran’s Ahmedinejad, who denies the Holocaust, threatens to wipe us off the map, and then races to develop the means to do so. Suddenly your government pretends that isn’t happening and looks to find excuses to open up a dialogue with this enemy of civilization, ours and yours.
It’s not like the world doesn’t know who the Saudi royal family is, or the Iranian clericalregime is, and what they stand for. Jews can’t even visit, for God’s sake, and blacks are as close to slavery there as in most countries, except of course most of the other Arab non-democracies you invited to your little gathering. You know that, I assume, but you choose to ignore it.
What stunned me was when I read that you gave in to the demands of the Saudis and agreed that the Israeli delegation would not be allowed to enter the same door as the representatives of the Arab states. The Israelis had to enter through the service entrance. The Israeli delegation had to agree not to be photographed in the same pictures as the Saudis and other Arabs lest Muslims be embarrassed by appearing in the same photograph. God forbid that the two religions should mix! And this Saudi nonsense about no handshakes with Israelis. Doesn’t this offend you in the least? Can’t you stand up for what’s right and decent?
Secretary Rice, how could you have allowed this to go down? How could you tolerate this kind of bigotry? If that’s not a modern resurrection of Jim Crow laws, of out and out bigotry, then what is? How dare you! And then to lecture Israel about the morality of its checkpoints, which is all that separates defenseless citizens from suicide bombers? A couple of days after you preached in Annapolis about the humiliations of the checkpoints, a Palestinian was caught there with a bomb strapped to his body.
Let me put it in the bluntest terms I can think of, but no less true for being blunt: in the eyes of the Arabs, Israel is the nigger of the Middle East: not because of our borders but because of being — being a Jewish State, the Jewish state and, to make matters worse, beating the Muslims in every war.
For surviving in a sea of Muslims, we have been constantly insulted, humiliated, discriminated against. We are — because we are Jews, representing the Jewish State — treated as less than human or, as their imams continually remind us in their sermons, “a race of pigs and monkeys.”
As such, Madame Secretary, we have no faith in the possibility of a peace treaty in a year or even in ten years, maybe not in a hundred. Why? Because the Arabs, the Muslims in general, and the Palestinians in particular, are educating their people, their youth, to hate us, to dehumanize us, to demonize us, to deny our basic rights. The Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and parts of Mahmoud Abbas’ own Fatah, defined all as terror groups by your State Department — these are the local version of the Ku Klux Klan you remember from your childhood, with one crucial difference: they don’t just want to keep us down. They want to make us dead.
Theirs is not a non-violent civil rights struggle, but a nationalist struggle to exterminate the people of Israel from the Land of Israel, primarily by violent means and, when necessary, political means using well-meaning people like you.
I need not tell you that our fears are not without justification, with Muslims the world over, and some non-Muslims as well trying to foment the idea of a world without Israel, without a Jewish state. And, sadly, you have to some extent thrown your lot in with them, by morally equating them and us, by saying that we are equally guilty of terror and incitement as the Palestinians, those who with their hijacking and kidnapping and suicide bombings invented modern terrorism and incite against us in their mosques, media and government statements.
The joint understanding you worked so hard to achieve in Annapolis starts wrong, when it refers to the Palestine Liberation Organization as one of the two parties. It’s called that because it intends, has always intended, to liberate Palestine, all of Palestine, including all of what is Israel, expelling or exterminating all of the Jews who live here.
They are called the Palestine Liberation Organization because they want to liberate what they call Palestine from the Jews. The PLO has never, despite all the conferences and word play, retracted that desire. They continue to pursue their Plan of Stages to replace Israel with Palestine. They want a Jew-Free state of Palestinian and an Israel they will not recognize as Jewish, which they hope gradually turn into an Arab majority, by virtue of a higher birthrate and whatever “right of return” they can negotiate. You did not insist that the Palestinian recognize Israel as the Jewish Homeland, even though President Bush does. You are encouraging them to believe they can have Palestine, and also destroy Israel from within.
Your joint understanding is also wrong in its very end, when it sets up the United States as judge of who is and who is not implementing the “road map.”
Secretary Rice, neither you nor your bosses have the right to judge us, nor do our leaders have the right to let you to do so. You are acting in ways that show us that you are not an honest broker, nor someone who knows very much about our region, and certainly not our country. Only the people of Israel can and will decide what is in the interests of the people of Israel. Jews will determine, for better or worse, the fate of the Jewish State.
You, however, are aligning yourself with the world’s most racist and anti-semitic autocracies. And if your actions in Annapolis, and in your subsequent maneuver at the UN, are any guide, you are learning from them and following their orders like they were your slavers. You are applying Jim Crow laws to Israel, treating us like niggers, who must come in the side door, keep a low profile, submit to your one-sided edicts that we can’t go there, can’t build there, can’t live there. That should be as shameful and humiliating to you as it is for us.
I am sure that, at some level, you know that what I am saying is true, know that the Saudis and their ilk are odious, arrogant racists, who look down upon you at least as much as they look down at us.
I pray that one day you will recognize that the Arab despots, and the US interests they grease, are exploiting you as a willing slave to do their dirty work, a dhimmi to hew their wood and carry their water. And the job they expect is for you to make Israel, the Mideast nigger, the dirty Jew of the world, pay — pay so dearly and castrate itself to such an extent that it will not be able to defend itself when their inevitable killing attack begins, as they attempted in 1948, and 1967, and 1973, and as Syria and Iran are doing today with their nuclear weapons development.
We Israelis — most of us anyway — know that. We shall be forced to overcome the Arabs, and the Persians, and if necessary we shall be forced to overcome you and your masters, if you insist on forcing us into a situation of existential vulnerability.
We have no desire to rule over another people, but neither do we intend to allow that people or their cousins to destroy the Jewish homeland and end Jewish history, which is their clearly and continuously expressed intention. We want to be free of them, to liberate ourselves of them, in a way that does not allow them to threaten us, or undermine us, or kill us, and so they may feel safe and secure as well, from their brethren, I think, much more than from us.
I know that is your goal, as it is mine, to facilitate and support such as separation — dare I say “segregation”? — although honest men and women can disagree about what constitutes secure, and just, borders. But honest men and women cannot accept a situation where Jews must be removed from Judea and Samaria, our historical heartland, while Arabs can live freely as citizens in the State of Israel.
If you oppose the spirit and legacy of Jim Crow, you must not continue to allow Arabs to insist that Israelis sit in the proverbial “back of the bus” — or enter from the kitchen door — and countenance those who would deny the right of Jews to have a homeland of their own even as they demand a Jew-free state for themselves.
Let us all enter through the same gateway to free discussion so that we can reason together and reach a workable solution, where freedom can ring true for all.
May that day come soon.