Friday, May 15, 2015
To the Editor:
In response to Tuesday night’s letter by Gregory Williams, one of the two misguided young men who, whether they intended to or not, terrorized an event held at my synagogue,Temple Israel, I would like to state the following for consideration by your readers:
First, the jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes has been famously quoted to say that “a man’s right to swing his fist freely through the air ends where another man’s nose begins.” In an astonishingly immature display of arrogance, Mr. Williams avers that, after entering the premises and reaching the second floor “We [told Temple staff] that we had come to read a statement from a Palestinian woman at the FIDF event, and that we would leave voluntarily when we were done, or when we were ordered to do so by a police officer.”
With all due respect, the premises of my Temple are not public property where Mr. Williams and his companion are at liberty to do whatever they deem fit, including exercising their right to free speech. I appreciate that, as a Jew, he is welcome to enter a Jewish house of worship, especially this one, in order to pursue a desire to worship according to our faith and commune with other people of our faith.
But he needs an invitation in order to express his unwelcome political viewpoints and should have deferred to the authority of Temple staff when told that he was acting inappropriately in the context that he was. For him to claim a right to be allowed to complete his objective or only leave when told to do so by the police, betrays a complete disregard of the laws of trespass.
Second, the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is a complicated and complex issue that requires an intellect far greater than the one displayed by Mr. Williams and his companion to unravel, understand and begin to address.
It certainly will not be solved by people, like him, who lace their diatribes with vitriolic, emotionally laden semantics that deliberately seek to paint only one side as the villainous, callous, murderous and occupying “colonialists;” and the other as the poor, hapless, innocent “victims” of our oppression.
I am an Israeli whose parents were on the wrong (pointy) end of thousands of missiles lobbed at them from the Gaza strip last summer. The organization, Hamas, that launched these weapons of death and destruction is committed, in its founding charter, to cause the obliteration of all Jews everywhere, not just in that particular land, and including Mr. Williams and his comrade in arms.
Hamas seeks this mass genocide in addition to its purported secondary objective to “liberate” Palestine. Don’t take my words for it. Read their charter. It is easy to find on the internet.
Third, specifically to Mr. Williams’ charge of Israeli society being inherently racist, I would respectfully refer one and all to Israel’s Declaration of Independence, as well as its Basic Laws that guarantee equal rights to all of the country’s citizens regardless of race, religious affiliation, gender, sexual orientation as well as any other distinction.
Any objective, sane and balanced review of how the country’s legal system operates will inevitably conclude that “racist” is not a label that can be appropriately attached here. While Zionism is essentially about re-establishing a homeland for the Jews in the place from which we demonstrably originated, for the country to have this essential link to a given religion is no different from the fact that Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia among others, are Islamic states, or that Ireland is a Catholic one and the UK has the Anglican Church as its official religion (with its monarch as the head of same).
To label only Israel as “racist” because of its stated link to Judaism, while accepting as normal all these other countries’ link to other faiths, betrays an anti-Semitic viewpoint rather than a logical inference from the facts.
Fourth, with regards to Mr. Williams labeling Israelis as “colonialists,” I was born in Haifa and can trace my family in Israel for over 400 years through birth certificates, death certificates, gravestones, records of marriage and property transactions. In this regard I can claim to be more “Palestinian” than Yasser Arafat who was born in Alexandria, Egypt.
My family history is not unique. There are numerous Jewish families that can trace their existence in Israel through the ages The simple historical truth is that the entire population in the Land of Israel, both Arabs and Jews, had dwindled under centuries of neglectful Ottoman rule to fairly low numbers by the 1800s.
Both populations re-grew subsequently, in large part as a result of the same Zionist re-settlement movement that Mr. Williams is objecting to. The returning Jews cleared swamps and enhanced agriculture to the point where the land could support ever greater numbers of people to live there. This development, in turn, provided economic opportunities that attracted Arabs to relocate from surrounding areas.
The narrative that Jews came and just displaced an indigenous Arab population in the past century or so is a canard that belies a reality that is amply documented through official records as well as a pictorial history given the advent of photography. In fact, if Mr. Williams is so viscerally incensed by colonization, it begs one’s reason as to how he can bring himself to reside on property that incontrovertibly has been taken from the original population that inhabited these United States before the arrival of the Pilgrims.
Before he can claim the right to demand that my parents cede title to their home in Israel, he should respectfully request the same from his own parents in this country first. And if he doesn’t, then he is a hypocrite.
The foregoing should amply demonstrate that one can take apart every single hateful claim that Mr. Williams states in his diatribe and provide accurate information that belies his veracity. Indeed, if his intent is truly to use dialogue to achieve greater justice for the populations co-existing in the region, then I would challenge Mr. Williams to take our rabbi’s suggestion, in a letter to the congregation after this unfortunate incident, to call up and request an appointment with our clergy to discuss his grievances against the government of the State of Israel and its Defense Forces.
I am sure they’d be delighted to debate his views, as I am sure would several of our lay leadership and congregation, myself included. But at the end of the day, Mr. Williams was not interested in seeking Truth and Justice, instead he sought to disrupt a private event that he was not invited to and didn’t belong in. Nor does his self-serving letter seek Justice.
It seeks, instead, to justify his erroneous actions in the guise of asserting his right to protest in the manner that he did. In so doing Mr. Williams’ letter neither serves his moral purpose, nor his legal one. He claims that he acted peacefully and that congregants, as well as Westport’s school and town officials over-reacted.
He is clearly mentally incapable to have placed himself in all their shoes, when planning his sortie, and have tried to anticipate how people might react in a place that is not 20 miles away from Sandy Hook in Newtown, or in a world where Jewish institutions have recently been attacked with deadly effects by small groups of terrorists.
Had he been capable of such thought, he would surely have seen that his particular course of action would assuredly have achieved the reactions that occurred and that perhaps an alternative plan was warranted.
As already highlighted, his letter does serve as an admission that he committed criminal trespass and can serve as evidence in his upcoming prosecution. One might have expected more intelligence to be displayed by a student that made it through the rigorous admissions process of Yale University and its Divinity School. Or, perhaps, the fact that he is a student, is prima fascia evidence that their standards have dropped?
Posted 05/15/15 at 01:32 PM Permalink