April 18, 2024
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The Less-Than-Progressive Approach Towards Israel

For over two decades I had the high honor of working with Representatives Nita Lowey and Eliot Engel on matters of community relations. Not being a victim of partisanship, one can rest assured that the only “R” I understand is “respect” and the only “D” I comprehend is “decency.”

I make no excuses for the fact that being the son of Holocaust survivors I believe that unfounded anti-Israelism is but one slippery step away from anti-Semitism. I have in excess of six million good reasons for believing that to be the case.

In an area approximately the size of the State of New Jersey, the sovereign state of Israel has an obligation—not a right—to defend her citizens. This defense invariably requires strategic depth and physical barriers. In extreme cases it requires all-out wars of defense against marauding neighbors. such as in 1948, 1967 and 1973.

I certainly wish that these necessary actions were not at the expense of the dignity or opportunities of other people. However, as President Biden recently reiterated, it is the perpetuation of the illusion of turning back the clock by Western as well as Arab nations that has prevented peace. This age of peace treaties abounding in the region, however, provides hope and indeed opportunities for those willing to try.

Our God, our Torah implore us to seek peace at every opportunity. To succeed requires that we all open a clenched fist to an outstretched palm as our poet Yehuda Amichai so eloquently states. The Palestinians were abandoned by their own brothers and sisters as pawns in the Arab League chess game against Israel, but the Arab League is no more. So it is time to readjust expectations and have their society move forward.

Israel is a regional oasis of democracy, enlightenment and advancement, all of which she so generously shares with those of open minds and hearts. In times of crisis Israeli emergency teams rush anywhere in the world to provide rescue services, medical treatment and humanitarian aid.

In that regard I am curious as to why the so-called “progressive” wing of the Democratic party are not so vociferous about how Israel was the only nation in the region to provide medical services to the tormented Syrian people, despite the fact that Syria has said it is still in a state of war with Israel.

I am curious as to why they are not so vociferous about that enormous Syrian humanitarian crisis that has left half a million dead and 5 million homeless. Please do not hide behind the internecine nature of the conflict when we all know it is stirred up by the Iranians and the Russians.

Talking about the Iranians, I am curious as to why progressives are not so vociferous about the Iranian oft-stated intent to destroy Israel with their newfound nuclear capability should they be allowed to obtain it.

I am curious as to why they are not so vociferous about how over 100,000 vaccinated by Israel (no obligation to do so under the Oslo Accords) Palestinian workers enter Israel every day for work at significantly higher salaries than in their own local market. That is aside from the hundreds of tons of vital supplies regularly trucked into Gaza—by Israel.

I am curious as to why they are not so vociferous about 20% of the Israeli population being Arabs with full citizenship rights and represented accordingly in the Knesset. Indeed, they are about to play a pivotal role in government in the wake of the most recent elections.

I am utterly convinced that Israelis would prefer to avoid conflict with 5 million unhappy individuals in their midst. However, the dissolution of conflict will come when Palestinian school textbooks no longer glorify suicide bombers whose families are paid a pension by the Palestinian Authority rather than that money going to pay the salaries of civil servants in Ramallah and elsewhere.

Peace will assuredly come when kitchens replace Katyusha rockets and when international aid is not squandered by terrorist organizations on terror tunnels but rather funneled into hospitals, infrastructure and playgrounds by a responsible and caring government. Peace will certainly come when a Palestinian advocate for closer relations with Israel does not have to fear the Palestinian threat to their own lives and the lives of their families.

Going to Israel to see for oneself what the closest U.S. ally in the region is really doing would be helpful, but the pandemic’s challenges to international travel remain considerable. In the interim I invite those who would demonize Israel and propose to cut off aid to come and engage with your constituents and learn firsthand of their interests and concerns. I am sure that these representatives would be welcomed with open arms and an open heart, and one would hope that they would come with an open mind. Given the location of my residence, I would be referring to Congressman Jamaal Bowman (D-NY).

Honest, constructive dialogue is truly a bridge in that it needs to be built out from both sides of the river.


Michael Turek is a resident of New Rochelle.

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