Reality check needed

Sept. 12, 2021

After reading Loewith Rochwerg's words my immediate reaction was outrage followed by sadness. While I get her approach to the Black Lives Matter movement and to the Canadian Indigenous people's grievances, I do not understand the link between these and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I would rather mention in parallel the blatant human rights oppression in theocratic Iran and the oppression of the Uygur Muslims by communistic China. I was looking in her letter for some existential angst for the Jewish fate and for the fate of Israel but could not find any. Her opinions are strong and her indignation of Israel's political actions are equally forceful and I would also add superficial. Her opinions do not seem to express knowledge of Jewish history and the complexity of Israel's existence. An existence that has to face challenges on many fronts: domestic and foreign, sociodemographic and geopolitical. Caring about Israel requires grasping the complexities of its existence and being able to hold strong and sometimes conflicting feelings.

We, all reasonable and moral citizens of Canada, are against racism of any kind. The Palestinian refugee situation is something that should worry us all. However, one shouldn't make parallelism between the Palestinian refugee status and Israel's policies in regards to it and the BLM movement or the Indigenous people's plight. Singling out the Palestinians' displacement while ignoring other facts of history and geopolitics is not only superficial but also unjust. 

By judging based on historical facts, the Israeli Jews are not the "white colonialists" in this story.They are the homecomers, the returnees to their ancestral land.The circumstances under which this return has come to materialize are complex, holding differing truths and pains. The Palestinian "exodus" from the new State of Israel in 1948 was initially opposed by Ben Gurion, Israel's first Prime Minister and actually encouraged by many Arab countries that their leaving will be only temporary,  "until the Jews will be thrown into the sea". This sounds a lot like the so called "pro-Palestinian" slogan, very much en vogue today, " From the River to the Sea", requesting Palestinian rights restoration and effectively asking for the wiping out of Israel.

Where is her acknowledgement of the forceful expulsion of the Jews of Arab lands at the establishment of the State of Israel?

And speaking of more modern times, Loewith Rochwerg's views of the "social justice" in the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are nowhere mentioning the distress of three generations of  Israeli children growing up in shelters of the southern communities in Israel, suffering from decades of rocket attacks from their Palestinian neighbours in Gaza. How does she think growing up in that environment might feel?

Palestinian Israelis hold key positions in Israeli society today, including being members of the Israeli Parlament and recently of the government. This is what has happened to those Palestinians who did choose to stay in 1948. On the other hand, not a single Jew is accepted or welcome in the Palestinian Territories by the Palestinians or by the international community, despite their historical rights.

Loewith Rochwerg defines herself as a progressive, a "social justice warrior", somebody who" struggles to instill her love of Judaism to her children."  I wonder why being a "progressive" nowadays means focusing on only one aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (the Palestinian displacement) and choosing to neglect every other relevant aspect of it? Why being "progressive" means to prefer interpretations of this conflict that would place the Palestinians in a positive light and the Israelis in a negative one?

Why is the role of the Palestinians that they themselves have played and are playing in this conflict is never acknowledged by these "progressives"? Why are the Palestinians in this victim role forever?  Why is it not acknowledged that they have refused every peace offer of two states solutions the Israeli governments from the left and from the right have offered on multiple occasions: In 1948, 1967, 1993, 2000, 2003, 2005 (Israel's withdrawal from Gaza), 2008, 2011 and 2013 and what does it say about the Palestinians' approach to this conflict? Their revolt is not against occupation but against Israel's existence.

I think that in these times we are now living, when antisemitism soares ever higher, there is indeed a need "to stifle our criticism of Israel". There is enough Israel-hatred ( including some Jewish organizations like the Independent Jewish Voices and others mentioned in Loewith Rochwerg's letter), criticism of Israel and BDS without our help. I do think that we should keep our differences on our views of Israel "stifled" for now and be united and act as one to resist hatred and bring on a better future.

I wish for Loewith Rochwerg to do some reading and reality check which could inform her views on Israel. Two books come to my mind: Letters to my Palestinian Neighbor by Yossi Klein Halevi and The War of Return by Adi Schwartz and Einat Wilf, both available on Amazon. These would also make a worthwhile bed-time reading for her children.

Wishing everyone a Shana Tova and Gmar Hatima Tova!

Judith Coret-Simon MD and Alexander Coret MD
Associate Professors, Diagnostic Imaging, McMaster University