The head of a leading American Jewish philanthropic organization has expressed support for refugees seeking asylum in the U.S. And, in the same message: utter contempt for Palestinian refugees.
The hypocritical position is of course typical of the U.S. Jewish establishment, which is progressive on issues non-Palestinian. But that hypocrisy is rarely exemplified so purely as it is by Eric Goldstein, ceo of the NY Jewish Federation, writing a Sabbath letter last week.
Goldstein lauds his organization’s efforts on behalf of refugees.
A number of UJA’s partners, both national and local, work throughout the year to provide support for refugees, and have been actively engaged in providing assistance. In particular, there are now more than 300 children separated from their parents who have been placed in facilities around New York, and UJA and our partners are in daily conversations about ways we can help.
But in the next breath Goldstein goes to Israel, and he has no sympathy at all for the Palestinian refugees in Gaza who are marching to be able to return to villages on land that is now Israel– thousands of whom have been shot, and more than 130 killed.
All Goldstein’s sympathy is for Israelis living near the border, “where life has become increasingly difficult.” Palestinians are afraid of bullets, but these Israelis are afraid of… kites and balloons!
We went to Kibbutz Nir Am, built in 1943 less than a mile from the Gaza border. In the last few months, 250 acres of the kibbutz’s wheat fields have been burned by kites and balloons set afire from Gaza, some rigged with explosive devices. Every day beginning at about 2:00 p.m. when the wind picks up, kibbutz members sit on tractors in the field, ready to put out the fires as soon as possible.
It’s as if the Israelis are experiencing a famine (as Scott Roth says). Goldstein is simply unrelenting in his sympathy with the Israelis. There is not one word about Palestinians, except a sharp kick in the shins of Palestinian history.
Another mother told us how her child pleads with her, “Can you promise me no red alerts tonight?” … All the parents we spoke with said that they wrestled with the decision to raise their children so close to the Gaza border, but are determined to stay because it’s home. And it’s worth stressing that this land near Gaza is indisputably part of Israel and has been since 1948.
The Palestinian marchers are not trying to destroy Israel; they are trying to end the siege of Gaza and assert their right of return to lands that became Israel. Their refugee claims are honored by international law and, as all peace negotiations acknowledge, will have to be part of any just resolution of the conflict.
Goldstein’s letter ends with a salute to young Israelis who in their pre-army service are living in the border communities. He says these young people “give us reason to hope.”
From America to Israel, we must all continue to hope.
Hope that all refugee children in our community will shortly be reunited with their parents.
And hope that the children and parents in Nir Am will plant and harvest their fields together for many generations to come.
Bear in mind that as a kibbutz, Nir Am is certainly all Jewish. So this guy Goldstein is saluting a segregated community and expressing pure contempt for the 1.8 million or so Palestinians locked in an open air prison a few miles away.
I can only imagine what the young Jews who are bolting Birthright and tabling for IfNotNow think of this hypocrisy from the Jewish establishment. As Goldstein himself said last year, lamenting the changes in the Jewish community: “Today, regrettably, I would say that Israel is the single most divisive issue in the American community, pitting American Jew against American Jew…”