March 28, 2019

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Re: ‘A Jewish Case for Divestment’

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To the Editor:

I read the March 25 guest column in The Sun, “A Jewish Case for Divestment.” I graduated from Cornell in 1971, and I remember a course I took in the Arts School on public opinion. It is probably relevant to this discussion because all of us have beliefs based on what we read, see and hear.

I remember my dad reading about the 1956 Arab-Israeli war and crying, “They’re killing more Jews again.” Being seven at the time, I had no idea what he was talking about, but it seemed frightening to me since I knew I was Jewish and had no idea if I was in danger. Later in life, I learned he was stabbed by a Nazi who was trying to kill him, and that the Nazis murdered his uncle, aunt and their 18-year-old daughter.

I have read a lot about Israel, pre-Israel Palestine and the various attempts to attack the Jews. While some question whether European Jews had the right to settle there, I refer to the part of the Bible that specifically gives this tiny sliver of land to Jews. I also recommend reading about the barren, uninhabited area that was Israel prior to the arrival of European Jewish refugees, as Mark Twain captures well in his Innocents Abroad.

I believe it would be enlightening to read about the numerous attacks against Jews during the first half of the twentieth century in pre-Israel Palestine. Likewise if one studies the relationship between Adolf Hitler and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, one can’t help but wonder what hatred toward the Jews the Nazis planted in the Arab world, and if the present situation wasn’t kindled by this anti-Jewish attitude that is alive and well more than 70 years after Hitler’s death.

I further encourage an examination into whether Palestine was ever a country. I would encourage looking at the exponential growth of the Arab population over the last 100 years and asking if this need for living space helped cause the problem.

Furthermore, one may want to question how Yasser Arafat died a billionaire and where he got the money. What have the Palestinians done with the tremendous amount of money they received in aid from many countries including the United States for the last 50 years?

It is also worth questioning how much the Arab leadership in Gaza has spent on attacking Israel instead of improving the standard of living of their own residents. Unlike Israel, they do not have the rule of law, nor equal rights for women, gays, lesbians, Christians or blacks. In fact, I would study the alleged persecution of these groups in Israel, in comparison to the actual persecution within the Arab world.

From what I read in the media, they paint Israel as an apartheid state that is all Jewish with no other religions allowed. On a recent trip to Israel, I saw Arab women treated in a hospital in Haifa. I didn’t quite understand, but found out that there are around two million Muslims and Christians living in Israel, which has freedom of religion. On other trips to Israel, I met many Muslims, and while the Arab leadership may be anti-Israel, everyone I met seemed pretty happy. Contrast this to what is going on in Syria and the rest of the Middle East. If you are not part of a specific sect of Muslims you cannot live, vote or even visit these countries. In fact, if you simply say something about the government you may be put to death.

I really do not understand the BDS movement. There are millions of Arabs employed in the land between Jordan and the Mediterranean. Is the BDS movement trying to put these people out of work by trying to hurt Israel? Take a look at Ariel University and see where it is located and how many Jewish and Arab students go there. There are many businesses that benefit both Arab and Jews in the West Bank and Israel proper. Is BDS trying to hurt everyone?

I agree there are problems, and though there are hard feelings, over time I believe peace will come. Hopefully, in a future with a rising standard of living for all, a solution will be reached. It will not come from Ithaca, New York or the BDS movement.

Bert Distelburger ’71