Michael Jackson

Reflections on an Interruption     

I was sitting with four friends at the kosher Cafe Noir restaurant in Hollywood, Florida in mid-March 2024. I mentioned to them a 2010 congressional election between Jan Schakowsky, the US House of Representatives Democratic incumbent, and her Republican challenger, Joel Pollak. I recalled the debate between them on the topic of Israel at an Orthodox synagogue in the West Rogers Park district of the City of Chicago. This was and is a heavily Orthodox area. I mentioned how supporters of each candidate had to register upon entry. The Pollak supporters heavily outnumbered Democratic supporters. At our table, I said that Joel Pollak came armed with a large cardboard map of the Middle East and North Africa showing a tiny geographic Israel surrounded by a mass of huge, hostile Arab nations.  

For about an hour and a half, the debate focused entirely on Israel, her neighbors, peace negotiations, terrorism, settlers, the Palestinians, etc. I mentioned this to my friends explaining my perplexity at a debate focused on an election for House representative in America focused almost entirely on Israel and I wondered how non-Jewish Americans might be more surprised than I was.

At the end of the debate, Representative Jan Schakowsky mentioned a couple of domestic issues, particularly Obamacare. These domestic issues elicited a response from a few members of the audience who shouted “Israel, Israel”. I imitated this by putting my hands to my mouth, megaphone style, and saying “Israel, Israel”

At the next table, sat two women, an Orthodox man (black kipa), and a young baby.  Suddenly, one of the women turned around and faced me. She then stated, “There is no Palestinian people”. I instantly responded, “Golda Meir said that 50 years ago.  She was wrong then. It is wrong now”. The woman turned and went back to her meal and conversation. 

I suspect that she identified me as a member of the “opposite team” and needed to state her case. Since the Gaza war was continuing at that time, she could have stated that Gazans deserved the onslaught, or she could have said we had to get the hostages back, or she could have stated that Arabs always have hated, do hate, and forever will hate Jews. But instead, she denied the existence of the Palestinian people. The denial of Palestinian peoplehood determines the denial of Palestinian statehood.

The Turkish government and nationalists deny Kurdish peoplehood. The Spanish government and nationalists deny Catalonian peoplehood. The Chinese government denies Tibetan peoplehood. It is the best political argument for denying these people a state.

Similarly, some in the Israeli government and some Israeli nationalists do the same with the Palestinians.

About the Author
Born in London in 1949. Studied Maths at Warwick University. Came to Israel (WUJS program at Arad) in 1971. I became a citizen and served in the army in 1973. Returned to the UK in 1974. Worked in Information Systems. Married an American Orthodox woman in 1977 and moved to America. For a few years I have led a retiree philosophy class.
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