Tuesday, January 22, 2013

To the editor:

I am Jewish. Most of my family, which includes a few Zionists, is Jewish. I have known Fred Nagel for nearly fifteen years and worked closely with him on many issues including human rights, civil rights, the environment, peace, and the economy. He is compassionate, caring, and has an unquenchable thirst for truth and justice. Fred is a tireless advocate for the rights of the oppressed and the powerless regardless of their religion.

Rabbi Jonathan Kligler's attack on Mr. Nagel is both unfounded and disturbing. It defies logic that Rabbi Kligler would focus on a few words from letters months old rather than the heinous behavior of the State of Israel (supported by the Israeli lobby).

Fred Nagel's words are not the problem. Mr. Nagel's words were strong and provocative, perhaps even inflammatory, and maybe even ill- chosen. But they were words of TRUTH. Anti-Semitism thrives on distortion, deception, lies and myths. Fred Nagel is a truth teller and, as such, is the antithesis of anti- Semitism.

Every time Israel demolishes Palestinian homes, builds illegal settlements, bombs civilians, imprisons or shoots children, steals water and resources, or humiliates and degrades Palestinians at military check-points the flames of anti-Semitism are fanned. The intention of Mr. Nagel's letters seem to be to encourage Israel to stop actions that are, in fact, causing anti-Semitism.

I would humbly suggest that Rabbi Kligler owes Mr. Nagel an apology. I would further suggest a meeting of some kind between Mr. Nagel and Rabbi Kligler in an effort to clear the air and foster an open and honest dialogue. Perhaps Rabbi Kligler could extend an invitation to Mr. Nagel to participate in a forum that would discuss anti- Semitism.

Eli Kassirer

Dangerous Thinking

I knew a former Soviet film professor and cultural official who as a boy lived across the way from Sergei Nilus, the former Czarist police spy credited with having written The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Beyond paying his rent on time (or whatever cliche you want), Nilus was an unapologetic anti-Semite, the real deal, not an angry phrasemonger. Seeing Jews as bloodsucking parasites was the least of it. Instead the Protocols tried to make the case that the Jews have a master plan to take over the world, year by year and nation by nation.

Interestingly, the "plan" involves "confusing the goyim" by promoting both revolution and plutocracy, the 99 percent and the 1 percent. It also involves (as Henry Ford's editor, Willia Campbell, promoted in his version, The International Jew) an elaborate plan to "infect" and destroy other "races" through sex and intermarriage with Jews.

Through it all the creation of a Jewish homeland does not receive any real focus. It's the Jews as a PEOPLE that the racialist masters -- Nilus, Chamberlain, Ford, Hitler -- vilify through phrases, images, and fantasies -- NOT a Jewish state.

Those who see criticism of Israel's policies as dangerous anti-Semitism are barking up the wrong tree. The discourse they should examine is that of international conflict. Some of us see Israel as a drain on the USA and most of us see it as an oppressor of the Palestinians. But then again, many Israelis see the USA as both a "weak and corrupt" country and an arrogant superpower. If there is dangerous thinking involved here, it is in the language of national identity...not that of racialism.

Barry Fruchter

On Anti-Semitism and Israel

On Sunday, January 13, I attended an End The New Jim Crow event at the Woodstock Jewish Congregation. When asked about the Jewish perspective on The New Jim Crow, Rabbi Kligler talked about the correspondence of racism and anti-Semitism as one of the main reasons that Jews should care about racism. 

While I take issue with that rationale as being too narrowly based in self-interest and not broadly enough based on shared humanitarian values, it was his example of anti-Semitism to which I most strongly object. He related that since its inception, of the more than 700 votes in the United Nations, over 400 of them have been over Israel, and that this, in and of itself, is anti-Semitic. Now firstly, the concatenation ofIsrael and the Jewish people is troubling. Israel is a state of almost eight million, over twenty percent of whom are Arabs. Yes, the ruling elite are Jewish and the second-class citizens are Arabs and other minorities, but to blur distinctions between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism is just wrong. 

Secondly, most of the votes condemning Israel concern the ongoing abuse of the Palestinian population and the illegal occupation of their lands. Generally speaking, those votes have broken down along the same lines, more or less, as the November 2012 vote on the elevation of Palestineto non-member observer state status. On that vote, 138 nations voted with the Palestinian side (including France, Italy, Spain, and Switzerland), while only 8 nations (USA, Canada, Czech Republic, Panama, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, and Palau) voted with Israel, and there were 41 abstentions.

Now, while anti-Semitism certainly exists and has existed for thousands of years, and Jews certainly suffer and have historically suffered from it, to claim that most of the world is anti-Semitic because it votes against Israel's treatment of Palestinians is farfetched. To see anti-Semitism under every rock cannot possibly be correct, nor does it advance the cause of equal treatment of Jews. Those who do not blindly support Israel, those who even have the temerity to criticize Israel, those who work for Palestinian freedom, are not necessarily anti-Semitic, nor self-hating Jews, and our political and religious leaders should know and acknowledge that.

Nic Abramson

Dear Rabbi Kligler,

I am sorry that you were upset by my recent letter. It must be hurtful to you and those in your congregation to think that I am spreading the type of anti-Semitic statements that have caused so much pain and persecution of Jewish people in the past.

I am also sorry that you express no distinction between the Jewish people and the state of Israel. That means that all criticism of Israel is inherently suspect as racist, no matter what the state of Israel does. Whether it oppresses millions of Palestinians under its domination or murders them with high tech weaponry, it is anti-Semitic to question Israel's morality. Surely, you can't believe that.

The vocabulary of racism is long and nuanced. In fact, about every negative attribute of humankind has been used in history to denigrate particular races, religions, and ethnic groups. The pejorative terms I used to describe Israel were not selected to attack Jewish people, nor inserted as code words to say something else. The words simply express my anger that American tax dollars go to support an imperialist state, that my country supplies the weaponry for Israel's slaughters in Gaza and Lebanon, and that the pro-Israel lobby in the US makes our elected representatives bow down and support such hideous war crimes.

In the spirit of fairness, I would remind readers that the phrases you use to condemn my writing, "bloodsucking parasite," and "force of global domination" aren't really in any of my letters. I am afraid they are your embellishments intended to raise alarm. In addition, please post anything I have ever written that criticizes all Jewish people and I will publicly apologize.

I would hope that you and I could meet sometime to talk about racism and human rights. The meeting might assure you that the movement for Palestinian rights is not inherently anti-Semitic. Only when one accepts the dubious conclusion that a religion, an ethnic identity, and a small country in the Middle East are the same thing.

Fred Nagel

The Language Of Anti-Semitism

I am once again wading into the debate about Israel in the letters column of Woodstock Times. Fred Nagel may or may not be aware of his choice of phraseology when he writes about Israel, but I feel compelled to point out his classic anti-Semitic rhetoric to your readers. On November 24 he wrote:

And there is nothing our elected leaders won’t do to please their foreign masters. The spectacle of our representatives pledging allegiance to Israel at meetings of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee is enough to turn one’s stomach.

Then on January 3, the following:

Then there is Israel, our perpetual leech.

So which is it, Mr. Nagel? Is Israel our “foreign master” or our “perpetual leech”? These labels have been the standard jargon of anti-Semitism for a very long time. I find it humorous in that it has never been clear to me how someone can both be a master and a parasite at the same time. The stereotypes of oppression are always bizarre. But I cannot let it pass, because the strategy of painting the Jews, and now Israel, as both a bloodsucking parasite and as a force of global domination led to unspeakable dehumanization and then destruction in the past, and I feel the obligation to point out this kind of public rhetoric when I encounter it.

I must be clear that I am not addressing Mr. Nagel’s political positions, nor am I expressing my own. That is not my purpose in writing this letter. I fully support the free expression of political positions. And Mr. Nagel might be surprised by the number of political arenas in which he and I might find ourselves in agreement. But Mr. Nagel should be aware that when I read the type of rhetoric in which he engages, I lose any interest in seriously considering his analyses or his policy proposals. I cannot support what amounts in my eyes to hate speech, and I am publicly refuting it with my comments today.

Rabbi Jonathan Kligler
Woodstock Jewish Congregation

Monday, January 14, 2013

Providing Justice for All

To the editor:

Courageous Israeli soldiers are telling the truth about official military policies intended to intimidate and terrorize Palestinian civilians. Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter speak the truth about Israeli apartheid, segregated roads, and violence against Palestinians. International human rights agencies speak the truth about the ongoing food, medical, water, and electricity shortages resulting from Israel's inhumane blockade of Gaza. Even the US government speaks the truth about the damage resulting from Israel's construction of illegal settlements on Palestinian land in the West Bank.

Some supporters of Israel do not like to hear these truths. I would humbly suggest that Israel's supporters pressure Israel to stop building illegal settlements for thousands of settlers, treat all Israelis and Palestinians equally, and make provisions for the return of farms and land stolen from Palestinian families. All of the whitewashing, spinning, and propaganda from the Israeli lobby and groups like AIPAC will not change the truth about official Israeli policy and behavior. Only the Israeli government is in a position to stop the illegal settlements, treat all Palestinians and Israelis equally, and make arrangements for Palestinians to return to land and farms that were confiscated from them. Ultimately, the truth will set Israel free. For Israel to live in peace with all, it needs to provide justice for all.

Eli Kassirer