Commentary Magazine


Israel

To the Editor:

In “A Jerusalem Diary” [May], Yaacov Lozowick tells the sad story of an Israeli Jew who was shot while walking his dog. But both sides have more than enough sad stories. Repeating them only obscures the underlying cause of the conflict—the land. It is for the land that people die.

Mr. Lozowick states that the Israeli government has been dismantling its settlements since the 1993 Oslo Accords. Why then did I recently see a slide show presenting advertisements for new apartments in the West Bank and Gaza? When Palestinians witness new buildings erected daily, their desperation and rage only increase.

Mr. Lozowick also portrays Ariel Sharon’s September 2000 visit to the Temple Mount so innocuously as to bear no resemblance to the actual event. He fails to mention the hundreds of soldiers accompanying Sharon, and states that the Palestinian Authority approved the visit, when in fact the Palestinians in charge of security of the Mount urged him not to come. And then Mr. Lozowick concludes, “The visit was uneventful.” Uneventful? It was only the beginning of the second intifada.

By far the most disappointing entry in Mr. Lozowick’s diary is his meager attempt to feel empathy for Muhammad, the twelve-year-old Palestinian caught in the cross-fire at Netzarim. He pleads for the Israeli soldiers who could not “have had any idea there was a child there,” while blaming the French cameraman for not warning away the Palestinians who were firing at the Israeli sentries. Mr. Lozowick uses the maudlin term “lonely outpost” to describe Netzarim, where Muhammad died, obscuring the underlying reason for the conflict—that Netzarim is an Israeli settlement, built on land seized in the 1967 war. According to the Geneva Conventions, which Israel signed, this land is mandated to be returned. The settlements are the instigation and provocation for the intifada.

Finally, and inexplicably, Mr. Lozowick criticizes his friend Arthur for saying that Ariel Sharon has committed war crimes. But Arthur is right. Sharon is not exonerated by pointing to the blood on Yasir Arafat’s hands. The crimes of one man do not make acceptable the crimes of another. Perhaps Mr. Lozowick’s desire for “security” has caused him, like so many other Israelis, to abandon his moral compass.

Annique Caplan
Cambridge, Massachusetts

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To the Editor:

Among the more incomprehensible aspects of Israeli culture is the bitter animosity directed toward the “settlers”—perhaps the most idealistic and patriotic sector of the population, a group that other nations would treasure, honor, and fully support. These brave people, who risk (and frequently lose) their lives on the frontiers to protect the land, water resources, and defenses of the nation, are regularly portrayed in Israel itself as, in Yaacov Lozowick’s words, “the evil, brutal edge of Israeli society, their avarice for Palestinian land having provided the spark that led to the entire conflict.” It is gratifying to see that many Israeli doves like Mr. Lozowick have finally come to the realization that it is not the settlements but the very existence of Israel that the Arabs object to.

George E. Rubin
New York City

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Yaacov Lozowick writes:

How to respond to Annique Caplan? Would refuting her letter point by point achieve anything? Basking in her moral superiority over my countrymen and myself, is she even listening? Better, perhaps, to say that on two major points we agree, though not quite in the way she intends.

First, there was indeed nothing innocuous about Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount. The fact that he required hundreds of policemen for a mere fifteen-minute walk on a platform built in ancient times by Jews and for Jews indicates the degree to which the Palestinians violently reject our right to our own identity, even after eight years of a “peace process.”

Secondly, as she correctly notes, “it is for the land that people die.” Indeed it is: all of the land, from sea to desert. As the historian Efraim Karsh so depressingly records in “The Palestinians and the ‘Right of Return’ ” [May], our neighbors still seem to be striving for the destruction of Zionism and the Jewish state, one way or another, and in pursuit of this goal are willing for people on both sides to die. Would that it were otherwise.

George E. Rubin may be harsher on many Israelis than they deserve. The portrayal of settlers as “the evil, brutal edge of Israeli society” is a specialty of the European, and to a degree, the American, media. Israelis, even of the far Left, rarely make such foolish statements, if only because they tend to remember that the conflict with the Arabs long precedes the building of today’s settlements. Instead, they have tended to reproach the settlers for prolonging this conflict at a time when the Palestinians might have been willing to end it. Today, that dream having been destroyed, I see no rise in political support for the settlers’ enterprise, although their suffering has brought them back into the national fold.

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