I went to a Jewish School Too: How Context Plays a Part in Every Middle-East Conflict Story, A Response

If I’ve learned anything in my short twenty-one years of life, it is that if you start an argument with a mild irrelevant means of justification, you don’t really have a strong argument.

But that’s just what you did, Mr. Veselka. In your article entitled “David Then Goliath: How Israel Has Transformed From a Scrappy Underdog Into It’s Own Worst Enemy,” you did not start out with a solid point on why you feel this is so. Nor did you start with all the apparent wrongs Israel has done to your beloved Palestinian people. Rather, you started off with the irrelevant fact that you attended a Jewish Sunday school.

But you see, I’d be perfectly able to move past that if you had legitimate and justifiable claims in the remainder of your article. However, I didn’t see evidence of that. Rather, I saw a lot of wild presumptions, without the presentation of context, and without proper verification. I honestly felt like you were spewing things you might have heard someone’s brother’s aunt’s cousin’s friend say to you last night in between the loud music at a party. But in case these are the very beliefs you continue to stand by, I would like to present you with some concrete facts that may lead you in a different direction from here on out. That is, if you’re actually willing to listen for a bit.

Firstly, you speak in abundance about some alleged “occupied territories.” If you are referring to Judea and Samaria and East Jerusalem, which is what many in your position do, you are mistaken in that they are indeed not “occupied.” They are actually legitimate dwellings of Jewish and Palestinian residents alike. In fact, as of this year’s Israeli census, Jewish people still only number 722,000 in Judea and Samaria. That’s about 24%. In addition to that, the Israeli government has divided the land into Areas A, B and C. Area C contains mostly Jewish residents and is controlled solely by the Israeli government, Area B has a diverse population so it is controlled mutually by the Israeli and Palestinian government. And Area A contains only Palestinian residents and is controlled only by the Palestinian government. No Jews are ever even allowed in Area A. Because of this pure diversity amongst the governments, I see this as a clear if not ultimate democracy over the residents living in the alleged “occupied territories.” How many nations would allow the people that constantly call for their destruction while residing within their conquered borders to have their own exclusive government? Name me one other than Israel and I’ll stop and rethink my own beliefs as well.

Moving on, you also quote the 2009 Human Sciences Research Council of claiming that the above described situation is an “apartheid” against the Palestinians. You also claim the notion of Israel “colonizing” the Palestinian residents. Yes, the HSRC compiled a mountain of research to claim what they said. However, the fact that the coalition was based in South Africa leads me to believe they did not address the context these situations took place in. When conducting research, there is always more to the story and hard facts. The reason behind the current wall snaking through Judea and Samaria is because it was proven to reduce terrorist attacks. Veteran British political Journalist John Torode who has been to Israel numerous times and has seen the context of the wall can only quote “Good fences make good neighbors.” He doesn’t love the wall, but he understands the necessity. Israel has a right and obligation to protect its citizens. If a wall is the only way it can, it will exercise its power accordingly.

Another point you dwell upon is the alleged Israeli military blocking roads to Palestinians. This, again, is a falsehood. There are various checkpoints throughout Judea and Samaria. But they are checkpoints. Meaning everyone, Jewish or Palestinian, must be checked. I myself have been part of a group that was checked at these checkpoints. As long as someone has the proper paperwork to travel and contains nothing illegal within their cargo, they are able to pass through the checkpoints. The whole meaning behind the checkpoints is to ensure that no weapons or bombs will be taken into civilian locations, which has been a bad habit of the Palestinian locals. To ensure the safety of Israeli citizens, Jewish, Muslim and Christian alike, these checkpoints are a necessary evil. Israel does not prevent the Palestinians from attaining citizenship. Nor do they force Palestinians to join the IDF if they do become citizens. Rather, it is the Palestinians themselves that, by choice, refuse to take upon themselves citizenship. Instead, they refuse to acknowledge Israel as a legitimate country, and try to do whatever is within their power to destroy it.

But again, your piece goes in a circle as you return to the statement of the “seizure of land” that is now Judea and Samaria. This apparent seizure was won in a preemptive strike during the 6 Day War, which you also like to claim is what is the cause of Israel’s doom. When a country wins a war that they did not start, they are entitled to ensure that they are not attacked again. We see this in evidence from WWII. The allies were able to ensure that Japan and Germany would not go and attack them again. Therefore, they said it would be illegal for either country to rebuild an army. If we are ever to learn from history, it was then. During the Six Day War, Israel attained the Golan Heights, a place Syrians used to murder Israelis from above. They also attained East Jerusalem, a place of Jewish as well as Muslim significance. They hold joint custody there, by allowing Muslims full control of the Temple Mount and giving Jews free access to the Western Wall. Lastly, they acquired Judea and Samaria, a place of Jewish significance as well as Muslim, and a place that enabled Israel to have defensible borders.

At its narrowest point currently, Israel is nine miles wide. It takes approximately 4 minutes for a plane to fly over it. Such borders are hard to defend, yet Israel makes do. The current situation where the Palestinian government-either Hamas or Fatah-is requesting a creation of the Palestinian state within Israel’s current borders would lend Israel to serious indefensible borders. That is because if Israel would give back all the land won in the Six Day War, the Palestinians would be able to fire missiles to Tel Aviv, one of Israel’s major industrial cities. That almost as if President Obama would give Al Quaeda the state of New Jersey, so that they will never attack Manhattan again. It’d be a mindless decision, endangering millions not to mention destroying the nation’s economic infrastructure. It’s just not practical to ask Israel to do the same.

However, as you neglected to mention, it’s not like Israel hasn’t tried the “land for peace” method in the past. In 2005 it had a complete withdrawal of its citizens residing in the Gaza strip. This means it forcibly removed about 8,500 citizens into makeshift homes within its current borders. Israel was under the impression that the terrorism would stop if the Palestinians made for themselves a state there. They were wrong, sadly. In the last seven years, more than 4,000 missiles were sent from Gaza. In 2008, there was even a war there because of the excessive violence imposed on Israeli citizens by the Palestinians in Gaza. Since the end of that war, there have been countless claims, including your own, that the Israeli government is imposing a horrendous “blockade” on Gazans. That they only allow the bare minimums to pass through. This, my fellow Jew, is an outright and despicable lie. I was by the border of Gaza. I have pictures. There are tall buildings there, tall enough that I could see them from afar, since entering Gaza would render me in harms way since I am a Jew. In actuality though, no international journalist is allowed within Gaza’s borders so my ethnicity would’ve been a moot point. Also, there is an infrastructure built so well in Gaza that people are beginning to invest in the cities there. Talk about a blockade. The only reason there are Palestinians wallowing in Gaza is because Hamas, the allegedly democratically elected government now in power there, may be preventing the goods from getting to its citizens. It’d rather use the supplies to make homemade missiles to send back to Israel, to injure civilians, bothe mentally and physically as well as their property. Which again brings us back to why Israel cannot give up all the land it won in the Six Day War; it simply cannot put any more of its citizens in harms way.

Lastly, I’d like to get to your final ludicrous point: the alleged Humanitarian Aid Flotilla headed to Gaza but stopped by Israel. A video here, depicts what truly happened on that Flotilla. The Turkish people on the Flotilla were not only heading to Gaza with “vital supplies.” Rather they had countless weapons, which they exercised upon the paintball gun armed IDF soldiers. These were the same soldiers who had offered to ship the humanitarian aid overground and had warned the activists not to enter the waters. This was not the only time the IDF has warned militant civilians entering a conflict. It pained me to read that you claimed the IDF is “known to use excessive force” and raise civilian casualties as well as use Palestinian shields. This has NEVER been the case. Hamas in actuality has been known to do the aforementioned. Not only does the IDF not use excessive force, it even goes out of its way to protect Palestinians by sending leaflets down, calling their phones, sending texts, and every other mode of warning possible. What other military would do that? Warn their enemies before they attack? It’s like Navy Seal Team 6 warning Osama Bin Laden that they know where he is so he has twelve hours to evacuate or they will kill him. It’s unheard of.

I know I’ve been dissecting your article for quite a few paragraphs now, and unfortunately there are many points I still was unable to address. However, I don’t want to lose your many followers’ interests as well as your own. My point remains in that you should check your facts. There is much more than meets the eye about the Arab-Israeli conflict, and you pulling context without actually experiencing it, and then allegedly educating countless readers about it still mind boggles me. I too went to Jewish day school. I too, am an American college student. However, I make sure to do my research. I make sure to address the context of every story. I make sure to acknowledge personal testimony and combine it with my own. Then, and only then, do I begin to educate.

About the Author
Melanie Goldberg is a current student at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. She also serves as the research assistant for Versa: The Israeli Supreme Court English Language Repository, and founded a chapter of The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights on her campus. Most recently, she was one of the recipients of The Jewish Week's "36 under 36" award.