Thank you to Guy Gelbart for informing the wider Jewish community about our series: Steadfast Hope, the Palestinian Quest for Just Peace. For people interested in the topic of Israel/Palestine, we will offer other, similar programs in the future.
As one of the organizers and presenters of the series, I would like to point out a a few things:
1) The event was never intended as a dialogue or discussion group of various viewpoints on the conflict but rather a presentation of views less often heard in mainstream media and certainly not within the Jewish community. An event that attempts to find common ground and engages in peace-building within the Jewish community may be a worthwhile enterprise, however, it would be very different from our series. Some of us would love to attend such an event if and when it is organized.
2) The presenters’ perspectives were that most Palestinians, as well as most Israelis, are indeed good, kind and peace-seeking people. Guy’s contention that Israel was portrayed as an evil entity that needs to be destroyed is completely his conjecture. Criticizing Israeli policy and the occupation does not mean we want to destroy Israel, just as criticizing U.S. policies in Iraq and Afghanistan does not mean we want to destroy the United States.
3) The conundrum of how a state can be Jewish and democratic is not new and has been debated in the Knesset and elsewhere for many years. Avraham Burg, a former Knesset speaker and former head of the Jewish Agency, as well as other Jews and Israelis, have opined that the two attributes are not compatible.
4) The accusation about experimental weapons testing on Palestinian children is another conclusion Guy reached on his own from our mentioning the use of dense inert metal explosives and white phosphorous during Cast Lead, something that was well-documented in the Goldstone report and elsewhere.
What Guy apparently was looking for was that his version of the truth be heard: Israel can do no wrong and the Palestinians are to blame for everything. Bad things do not exist in the occupied territories and if they do, they are justified. This is exactly the message that our series was intended to debunk.
All of the above is debatable. However, most disturbing is Guy’s last paragraph, where, under the guise of a few rhetorical questions, he intimates that people like us, Jews who are outspoken and opposed to the occupation, have no place within the Jewish community. Questioning the democratic character of Israel and worse yet, supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, makes those of us who are Jewish no longer legitimate. What chutzpah for Guy Gelbart, a representative of a foreign country, paid to represent the Israeli government here in our community, to weigh in on who should be part of the Jewish community in Tucson, Arizona.
—Dina Afek and Racheli Gai