The Israeli feminist peace activist (of the currently persecuted New Profile organisation) is here writing to Leonard Cohen. But I think the letter would work for anyone you need to broach the subject of Israel and Palestine to who may be labouring under common misconceptions about the issues and professing support for the state of Israel. From Mondoweiss–
Dear Leonard Cohen,
I realize that via your manager you have received numerous requests not to appear in Israel. This is not such a letter, even though I do agree with the requests and the principles of the boycott. Still, you are an adult and must come to your own conclusions.
However, your decision should be grounded on facts, as, for instance the cost of Israel’s occupation and colonization to Jewish Israelis.
Just so that you know who is writing, let me briefly describe myself.
I am a 77 year old Jewish Israeli female who has both US and Israeli citizenship, and a PhD from Tel Aviv University. I have lived in Israel for 51 years, having come here with the desire to raise my 3 children in a Jewish state. Having been of the Holocaust generation, I was sure that Jews needed a state of their own. I convinced my Israeli husband, who had come to the US to study (and who at the age of 10 had escaped from Austria with his parents and brother to Palestine in 1939), to return to Israel, although he would have been quite content to stay in the US (he has an MA in engineering from UC Berkeley).
I was utterly ignorant at the time of Palestinian suffering. I believed the mantra that the Jews were a people without a country coming to a land without people. It took years before I discovered that this and other such claims were lies, and that the Zionist founding fathers themselves were aware of this.
But I do not want to write about the injustice and tragedy that Palestinians have suffered. I am sure that you have had more than enough of that in other letters. Again, I by no means imply symmetry between Palestinian suffering and Israeli when I claim that Israeli Jews pay a high price for occupation.
Still, that price exists, and you should be aware of it. It can be stated in a single phrase: the devaluation of human life, Jewish as well as Palestinian. This devaluation is due to the policies of expansion and ethnic cleansing common to all Israel’s governments.
Devaluation, in turn, can be divided into at least 4 areas: loss of life and limb in violence, socio-economic conditions, the incidence of PTSD among Israeli combat soldiers fighting a civilian population, and the total absence of security.
Since I realize that to detail these would take more time and space than you would have to read, I attach 2 compilations that I have made, and which I hand out at my presentations abroad (mostly in the US). One of these, Living in a continuous state of war shows that over 22,000 Israeli ’security’ forces have been killed in violence since Israel came into being, and over 1000 civilians since the year 2000. These numbers may seem small to an American. But remember that Israeli Jews number but 5 million-about as many Jews as presently live in the US.
These figures alone tell you that the Zionist dream of a safe haven for Jews is a myth. It has never occurred. In fact, since WWII there is no place in the world (excepting war zones as Afghanistan, et al) less safe for Jews than is Israel.
In Israel the Jewish womb is a mechanism for producing soldiers, with no end to this in sight. According to Jewish lore God refused to allow Abraham to sacrifice his only son. But in Israel mothers who love their children no less than mothers elsewhere (but who are thoroughly brain washed) lead their sons and daughters (Israel is one of very few countries that conscripts females) to sacrifice their lives if need be. That so-called need has come up in 12 (yes TWELVE) wars and military campaigns in less than 61 years! Can you imagine at your age having lived through these And for what? For the sake of expansion and ethnic cleansing. Israel’s forces are not defense forces (as they claim to be) but occupation forces carrying out their governments’ theft of Palestinian land and the harassment and killing of Palestinians.
Furthermore, while Israeli governments expend huge sums of money on expansion and ethnic cleansing, they continue to call on the Holocaust to justify their acts while at the same time leaving aging Holocaust survivors to live under the poverty line in misery (the second compilation has statistics and reports on this and other such matters).
With the hope that you will at the least thumb through the 2 compilations, I end with only one further comment: Israel not only is not a haven for Jews, it is one of the worst things that has happened to them. Israel is not a democracy. It is an ethnocracy. And just as any country grounded on race, religion, ethnos will always have an eye to demographic concerns rather than to democratic ones, so Israel is racist, undemocratic, and is always preparing for the next war.
Only when there will be justice for the Palestinians and an end to Israel’s colonization of Palestine will there be peace for all who live here and a future to look forward to. Jews, Muslims, and Christians lived here in peace for centuries until Zionism began to raise its head in Palestine. It can happen again. If there is a will, it need be no dream.
Please keep these data in mind, Leonard Cohen, and rethink your decision to sing in Israel. Since your intention to come to Israel has become public, Israeli radio has been singing your praises.
Thus by coming, you are putting a feather in Israel’s political and cultural cap, but are not doing a favor to either Jews or Arabs or others who live here. Your place should be on the side of right and justice, not on the side of the strong who use force and brain washing to attain political aims.
Finally, if you nevertheless decide to come, I should be happy to accompany you to Sderot and other such Israeli communities as well as to a tour of a portion of the West Bank. Seeing is not necessarily believing, but it can help to inform those who wish to be informed.