I am saddened and frustrated by the vitriol contained in various letters to the Standard on June 19. Coming from Jews, aimed at (ostensibly) other Jews, one is reminded of the discord that must have been felt b’midbar, in the Sinai wilderness. One author spoke of “intellectual Jews who are illiterate on Jewish affairs,” claiming that one “left-of-left organization” will destroy Israel.
Now I will not engage in a debate about the merits of military vs. pacifist means of change or the necessity of maintaining a strong, vigilant defense. I merely wish to comment on words. Names and labels have power. One rarely sees AIPAC, AJC, ADL, WZO or any number of Jewish interest groups characterized with L or R words (left, liberal, right, reactionary). Why is this? Because all Jewish groups – including J Street – are composed of people with varying interests.
With the exception of fringe groups like Neturei Karta, all modern Jews are Zionists. Ariel Sharon, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, Shimon Peres, and Tzipi Livni are surely Zionists, and yet can we (or should we) question their views in regard to confrontation, communication and cooperation with Palestinians? Netanyahu makes a point to accept the reality of a Palestinian state and sees the promise of a Palestinian people transformed by economic development. Does this make him a traitor to the cause? Hardly.
The problem with using these L and R words is that they are fossils of a French legislature two centuries past, and that they add heat to an already volatile topic. And to the letter-writer, a friend of mine, who used the epithet “left-of-left,” I ask that he read French history and understand that left-of-left is right. These terms are no longer meaningful. We are all one in the circle of Judaism, and it is time for brothers and sisters to ratchet down the hyperbole, to use kinder and gentler words, and to realize that am Yisrael chai. We have real enemies.
But when Jews call each other names, or predict doom at the hand of our Jewish brethren, I look at these actions as chillul hashem, an affront to God. Please, let’s stop the name-calling. Support Israel. And by the way, kudos to Dr. Ben Chouake for funding the publication of Sen. Robert Menendez’s remarks in their entirety. His speech ought to be required reading for every American.