I, LIKE Ms Heidi-Jane Esakov, am a product of a Jewish education where I was taught a love for Israel and the importance of Zionism. Like Ms Esakov’s, my education too was sadly lacking.
I have been very fortunate, though, as an adult, to have discovered great historians who have supplemented my education. Historians such as Martin Gilbert, Paul Johnson, Efraim Karsh and Michael Oren elucidate the history of the area for all those thirsty for knowledge and truth.
Did you know, Ms Esakov, that more than 800,000 Jews were forced to flee Arab lands that they had lived in for centuries, in retribution for Israel’s establishment? Gilbert recently published the book In the House of Ishmael, in which he documents the Jews in Arab lands. You will read of occurrences there that will make even your blood run cold. Of course we don’t hear of these refugees today because, unlike the Arabs who were made to languish in refugee camps by their host Arab countries, the Jewish refugees were absorbed into Israeli society. Do you think we should call for a right of return for these Jewish refugees also, Ms Esakov?
Of course, Karsh will explain to you in his book Betraying Palestine that there were Arabs expelled in 1948 as there are peoples expelled in every war. But he will tell you also of the call of the Arab leaders for their people to leave and return once the Jews had been vanquished.
You may even read two quotes in his book that for me sum up the tragedy of the conflict, both from September 1948: "Sooner or later the Jewish State would disappear. The war would flare up again, the Arabs would destroy the State of Israel," said Abdel Rahman Azzam, the Arab League’s secretary general between 1945 and 1952; and: "At the moment there are apparently no Arab factors ready to reach an agreement with the Jews. But should the possibility arise ... I’ll be prepared to ask the government and the Jewish people to content themselves with much less ... for in my view there is hardly a price that is not worth paying for peace," said David ben Gurion, first prime minister of Israel.
But let’s forget the history, and turn instead to modern times within our recollection. You must be aware, Ms Esakov, that until Oslo in 1992 (the start of the peace agreement for which we had yearned for about 50 years) and the return of the Palestine Liberation Organisation to the West Bank there were no checkpoints, security fences or blockades and that Jews and Arabs travelled freely between Israel, Gaza and the West Bank (known for centuries by the Jews as Judea and Samaria). They shopped together and worked together. These measures came into being only once terrorism reached such enormous proportions that Israeli citizens (Jews and Arabs) had to be protected.
You mention that gross human rights violations and discrimination committed in the name of Jews are hateful to you, and so they should be.
I will tell you, though, what is just as hateful to me: that you did not in your letter, nor in anything you have ever written, mention human rights violations committed against Jews and the Jewish state. Do you not believe that the call from Iran to wipe Israel from the face of the Earth is a human rights violation worthy of mention by you? Do you not believe that the stabbing of a four-month-old Jewish baby asleep in his cot is a human rights violation of the highest order, and do you not believe that a continual barrage of rockets fired against Israeli citizens is a human rights violation? It perplexes me that you do not see Israel’s neighbours’ refusal to recognise its right to exist as a human rights violation. I cannot fathom that you do not see Hamas’s charter, calling for the killing of all Jews, as a human rights violation. You would have so much more credibility if you saw both sides of the coin.
And therein lies my problem (and I think the chief rabbi’s) with deputy minister Ebrahim Ebrahim’s call for people to defer from visiting Israel. There are many countries in the world where there are gross human rights violations, and if one were to be honest, far greater than those found in Israel. To single out the one Jewish state as he did, and I’m afraid as you do, is discriminatory and racist.