For a while now I’ve been a Mondoweiss reader and occasional contributor. Now I’m excited and honored to be coming on as publisher and want to tell readers something about myself and why I’m engaged on the Israel/Palestine question.
I grew up on the north shore of Long Island, in a predominantly Jewish community. Like many Jewish American families, my family cared about Israel. I first visited the country as a toddler with my parents and my grandparents (my parents have not been back since) and after my third visit at age 15, I knew that what I now call Israel/Palestine would play a prominent role in my life. I had always been fascinated by geography, politics and languages, and that tiny country seemed to be the epicenter of so many issues involving those subjects that it was intoxicating. Add to that that I am Jewish and because of that fortunate twist of fate, Israel was mine too, I was hooked.
My views began to change in my late teens. On my annual trips over I began to feel less and less comfortable. The notion that the place belonged to me solely because of what my religion happened to be didn’t sit quite well. In Israel I saw Palestinians and came to understand that this land had once been theirs. How was it that all this was supposed to belong to me? The separation began to seem not a good thing but a bad thing. I tried to reconcile my uneasiness with my allegiance to Israel, but many new questions arose. I tried to forget them – only I couldn’t. Some of these trips were followed by family get-togethers where a cousin of mine would challenge me on my still right-wing Zionist views. I found I had no morally or intellectually acceptable answers. College soon followed and I came to the unexpected and inevitable realizations that much of what my community had taught me about Israel was falsehood, or worse, indoctrination, and my former Zionism had been predicated on this dishonesty.
I’m 36 years old now, and Israel is agonizing to me. I think about it every day. I see people under Israeli rule living in ways that should outrage any human conscience. Moreover, I see violations of the rules and norms established in the later 1940’s to prevent criminal behavior that can result from ethnic nationalism. I see European and global communities that more and more will not accept Israel as entitled to ignore the law or to cause injustice and suffering. I see the obstacle to peace and justice is located here in the U.S. and in the Jewish community. Too many Jews have turned to the surrogate of Zionism and lost sight of Judaism. If they knew more accurately about what Zionism did and is doing, and if they thought more carefully about their religious tradition, they could turn Israel towards justice, and that change ultimately will be our only guarantor of peace.
People can’t think clearly and come to fair conclusions if they don’t have accurate information. That is why I was drawn to this site. Mondoweiss fills the void that the mainstream media has created by abdicating its role on the issue of Israel/Palestine. By reporting on facts on the ground, Mondoweiss is adding to the store of information that informs peoples’ opinions on this issue and it is helping to move the conversation to a more fair and even place.
I feel that by being critical of the State of Israel I am being true to the humanistic values of my religion — things like social justice and true appreciation for rigorous intellectual debate. At a time when mainstream American politics and the mainstream media are obscenely silent about the conflict, this site, Mondoweiss, makes it possible to be true to those values and to attack the odious, morally repugnant effects that result from the practical application of Zionist principles.
I look forward to working on this site and I hope you will hold me and Mondoweiss to the highest moral and journalistic standards.