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‘What has Israel become?’ they ask in Kansas City

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The heartland is educated. Here’s a great letter printed by the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle from members of a local peace group, Citizens for Justice in the Middle East, defending themselves from the newspaper’s slur of them for commemorating the Gaza slaughter:

a deplorable editorial Feb. 5 that comes perilously close to calling a local peace organization, Citizens for Justice in the Middle East, both anti-Semitic and criminal. The editorial was titled “Beyond the Pale.” Indeed.

CJME, since 2003, has advocated for a just peace between Israel and Palestine as an obvious benefit to Israel, Palestine, the entire Middle East and, of course, to our own United States. To do that, we have criticized Israel for its 43-year occupation of Palestine and its ongoing confiscation of Palestinian homes, farms and businesses. We have attempted to educate the public to “78/22”, meaning that (fair or not) Israel has been allotted 78 percent of historic Palestine, while Palestine gets 22 percent of the land where lemon, orange and olive trees have been grown for centuries by Arab Christians and Muslims. This arrangement is recognized by international law, as are the boundaries. Alas, the Israeli government wants the whole, as demonstrated by the nearly half-million settlers, illegal by international law, who build in Palestine and who, often at gunpoint, drive Palestinians from their homes. The settlers are supported by Israeli government subsidies and U.S. taxes ($7 to $10 million per day). Check Bob Simon’s “60 Minutes” report online for an excellent primer.

Unfortunately, because so few in the U.S. government will speak freely, the settlers have painted Israel into a corner. Those who consider themselves friends of Israel have done it no favors by funding settlements and by permitting the Israeli government to continually defy the United States and international law.

Citizens for Justice in the Middle East supports aid to Gaza because it’s the right thing to do. The U.S. government and others also send aid to Gaza, as do several groups led by Jews. For The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle to write a scathing article about an event commemorating victims of Operation Cast Lead (“Author of report urging opening to Hamas to visit KC area,” Feb. 5) and to depict Hamas as cartoonish thugs does little to forward the genuine need for discussions that include all parties, if peace is, indeed, the desired outcome. Israel itself is in talks with Hamas, though this is not widely reported.

Some readers may know that Hamas was nurtured and funded by Israel in order to create opposition to the Palestine Liberation Organization. Yet when eventually Hamas was elected as the government of Palestine, Israel turned Gaza into a penal colony, putting its 1.5 million citizens under siege. Medicine, food, clothing, building materials — all were restricted or disallowed entirely, causing deaths and malnutrition. This contravenes international law against collective punishment. Operation Cast Lead rained further catastrophe on men, women and children, as Judge Richard Goldstone reported recently. Judge Goldstone, a courageous Jew and a Zionist, was reluctant to take on the investigation, yet he did so — and found war crimes committed by both Israel and Hamas. However, his report comes down much harder on Israel as the stronger power.

What has Israel become that it won’t allow Palestinian Fulbright Scholars out of Gaza to study? What has Israel become that it refuses medical travel even for children and their parents? What has Israel become that it denies hundreds of thousands of children food and medicine, clothing and fuel? What has Israel become that it puts families out on the street so that settlers can take over the house?

There is not a Jew in America who wouldn’t reach out to help a starving child, yet The Jewish Chronicle continues to roil its readers with articles that do nothing to embrace the tradition of Jewish progressive values towards all humanity. The Chronicle countenances no criticism of Israel at a time when the Israel that it professes to support is rapidly running out of options and needs its friends to offer realistic advice, not cartoon thugs.

Andrea Whitmore
Fairway, Kan.
Matt Quinn, Lee’s Summit, Mo.
Jim Kenney, Lenexa, Kan.
Ginger Kenney, Lenexa, Kan.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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