NYTimes: email from Israel

Mike Masnick mike@techdirt.com
Mon, 01 Oct 2001 19:43:23 -0700

I apologize if any of this has been covered in the past week in Russell's
posts.  As I said, I'm a bit behind on FoRK.

At 11:16 PM 10/1/01 +0000, Russell Turpin wrote:
>Daniel Gordis writes:
>>At a certain point in the conversation, one of the fellows raised his hand 
>>and basically said: "What you're demanding actually makes perfect sense 
>>from your point of view. But from our perspective, from the perspective of 
>>people whose parents or grandparents came here from across the world to 
>>build the one place on earth where Jews would be able to live in a Jewish 
>>state with Jewish values at its core -- what can you say to reassure us 
>>that the Jewishness of the state won't disappear if you're given what you 
>And this precisely illustrates the problem. It is at
>the root of the current war between the modern west,
>and fundamentalist groups who want state religion.
>The fellow who asked this question is far closer to
>Osama bin Laden, who fights for states with a
>particular Islamic character, than he is to citizens
>of western states who believes in secular democracy.

I disagree.  Israel is a homeland for Jews in the same way that Ireland is
a homeland for the Irish.  The traditions of the Jews have been codified as
a religion, sure, but it is more of an ethnic group than a religion (as
many Jews - especially many Israeli Jews will freely admit to).  The fact
that it really wasn't that long ago that so many Jews were killed
throughout Europe just for being Jews makes me believe in the importance of
a Jewish state.  Isreal is still a democracy, it just has Jewish
characteristics.  Just like Ireland has Irish characteristics.

Besides, it's amazing that you picked out that one paragraph that when put
alone takes it all out of context and blames it on the Jews.  You leave out
the next paragraph where the other guy responds by saying that all of the
Middle East must be a Muslim state and (basically) if the Jews want peace
they should *leave*.  There have been plenty of Jews in Israel who have
tried over and over again to work for peace in the middle east.  They have
tried to build a democracy that treats everyone fairly.  In response, they
are told they must die or leave because it must be a muslim state and "all
jews must die"?  And you want to blame the Jews?  Lovely.

Yes, there are some right wing nuts in Israel, but to put this all on the
Jews in Israel is so demeaning, and so ridiculous. 

Israel is a democracy, and I don't see why the basis of that democracy,
secular or religious, matters.  The US is a democracy that is based on it's
own "religion" which could easily be defined as a mix of christianity and
consumerism.  It's the democracy that's important.

I want a Jewish homeland because there was none 60 years ago when my
relatives needed one badly.  Instead they died in gas chambers.  I want a
Jewish homeland because should someone come to power wherever I am that
decides (again) that all Jews must die, I want to be able to hop a flight
to a homeland.  What is so wrong with that in your book?

Are there problems in Israel?  Certainly.  Will they be solved by a
"secular democracy"?  Hell no.  Don't blame the Jews for not allowing that
to happen.  You are putting your own world view (that religion is "bad")
into this argument without any rationale.  Yes, certainly some things done
in the name of religion are bad, but does that mean all things in the name
of religion are?  Besides, I might put some weight behind your argument if
the fight in Israel was *about* creating a secular democracy - but it's
not.  It's about making it a Muslim country, or keeping it as a Jewish
homeland.  Making it a "secular democracy" (which, I imagine would be seen
throughout the region as a "U.S. democracy", anyway) solves nothing.