I read Guy Gelbart’s “Shaliach’s View” column (“Local talks contrast false, real views of Israel,” AJP 10/29/10) with some interest, and then with increasing dismay. Guy will not be surprised to know that I disagree with a number of his statements, as we have already had this argument.
His characterization of Norman Finkelstein as a member of a worldwide anti-Israel movement is completely unfair. Finkelstein has certainly been critical of many Israeli policies, but he also spoke of his support for a two-state solution, and I have never heard or read of his delegitimizing Israel in any way. As an Israeli citizen and a supporter of Israel, I would love to simply dismiss his criticisms of Israel as lies and distortions, but if I take a long, hard, honest look at what he says, I can only (unhappily) agree with most of his conclusions. He limited his talk, for the most part, to facts, which are impossible to argue with. One could claim that he chooses facts that fit his argument (as do we all), but one cannot claim that they are not true, as Gelbart has done. Finkelstein did state that he was going to draw a conclusion on Israel’s planning a war with Lebanon, and one can certainly dispute his conclusion there. Gelbart’s interpretation of Finkelstein’s “call to action” as being a call to violence is a huge stretch, with no evidence whatsoever to support it.
I have become increasingly frustrated with the attempt to tar anybody who is critical of Israeli policies as being anti-Israel or anti-Semitic. I do not doubt that there are many people out there who are truly anti-Israel or anti-Semitic, and for whom the existence of Israel will always be wrong. But we cannot simply lump everyone with legitimate criticism of current Israeli policies into this camp.
Mr. Katz’s talk focused on the dangers Iran poses for Israel, and came to the unhappy conclusion that there are not a lot of good military options to deal with the threat. In response to a question from the audience, he did state that an end to the conflict with the Palestinians, and the larger peace with the Arab League that would result from this, would be the best way to defuse the situation. He criticized the Palestinians for being the main impediment to peace, but in a long conversation after his talk, he admitted that the current Israeli government’s policies, including continued building of settlements, was counterproductive to peace. I hope that Guy Gelbart will not lump him in with Norman Finkelstein for this observation!