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Op-ed Rebuttal: The Last Word in Debate Series on Israel 

Op-ed Rebuttal: The Last Word in Debate Series on Israel 


Sherry Wolf's piece is full of the usual misinformation about Israel.

Wolf claims that only Jewish LGBT people in Israel enjoy progressive reforms. Simply not true. All citizens--whether Jewish, Christian, or Muslim--enjoy LGBT rights in Israel, as I point out in my op-ed piece. LGBT Arabs live openly in Israel, as they could nowhere else in the Middle East. Aswat, a lesbian Arab group was founded in 2003: Guess where in the Middle East? Haifa. Jerusalem Open House, which provides a home to LGBT organizations and is open to all LGBT people -- Jews, Christians, and Muslims -- started Alqaws in 2007, a group that reaches out specifically to LGBT Arab Israelis.

Wolf describes Israeli policies as "racist" and "apartheid." In fact, Arab citizens of Israel have equal rights under the law. They can worship as they want. They can vote for whomever they want.As citizens of Israel, they are entitled to a virtually-free education, paid for by the state -- including university education in some of the best universities in the world. Arabs are in the Knesset (the Israeli parliament); there have been and are Arab Israeli political ministers and members of the Israeli Supreme Court. I challenge Wolf to tell me what apartheid country could say that, or what other Middle Eastern country treats its minority citizens as well.

Wolf says that Israel has "brazenly occupied Palestinian land for decades." Space makes a proper history lesson impossible -- but to be brief: For 400 years, the area of "Palestine" was ruled by the Turkish Ottoman Empire -- not "Palestinians."

After Turkey was defeated by the Allies in World War I, the British, with the consent of the League of Nations, became administrators of the area. In 1920 the Allied Supreme Council resolved that a Jewish state should be established in part of this area (formerly governed by the Ottoman Empire -- not "Palestinians").

In 1922, the worldwide League of Nations voted to uphold the resolution and Britain was given the mandate to see it through. Nothing was done: In the years that followed Jews who had lived for centuries in Middle Eastern countries -- Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Yemen --became the victims of numerous bloody and very deadly programs. (I won't reiterate the well-known story of the destruction of European Jewry around this time, except to say that in 1938, Hitler offered to let the Jews of Germany leave; but as the whole world saw in that year through the Evian Conference, in which FDR brought together 30 nations to help find homes for these people, absolutely no country in the world was willing to take in European Jews; even the British, who had been mandated to help establish a Jewish state, kept them out of Palestine at this urgent time, at the Arabs' demand.)

Finally, after World War II, the United Nations voted by a huge margin (that included not only the United States but also the Soviet Union, almost all the South American countries, almost all of Europe) to establish under international law two statesin the territory -- one for the Jews and one for the Palestinian Arabs. (The Jews were given about 8,000 square miles, which is approximately 1/640 of the Arab countries 5 million-plus square miles.) The Jews accepted the two-state solution; the Palestinian Arab Higher Committee rejected it. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem (who'd been the instigator of a deadly program against the Jews in Palestine in 1929 and had been Hitler's ally during the war) urged all Palestinians to flee immediately and to return as soldiers fighting for the entire territory. Most of them did flee; they came back to fight, and they lost the war in 1948.

Now, Israel took in refugees fleeing from anti-Semitism around the world, including from other Middle Eastern countries; but the Arab countries, with their 5 million square miles, refused to take in Palestinians -- who shared both language and religion with them -- in what could have been an equitable population exchange. It was these Arab countries that created the refugee crisis. (Incidentally, in what sense are people who never saw the inside of Israel, as is true of most people who call themselves Palestinian today, "refugees." Am I a "refugee" from Eastern Europe because my mother and her family had once lived there?)

Wolf is critical of Israel's response to Gaza. If Gaza stopped firing its tens of thousands of Qassan rockets into Israel (sometimes over 100 per day), Israel could stop retaliating for them. What would you want your government to do if Mexico (which has a very long and strong historical claim to California, and indeed, to all of the Southwest) started firing rockets on territory that is now the United States? How about if the Native Americans decided to take back Manhattan, where they'd once lived, and started firing a few rockets?

Finally, Wolf claims there is widespread malnutrition in Gaza. Not according to Mathilde de Riedmatten, who is the head of the Red Cross delegation in Gaza. Even the Christian Science Monitor (not exactly a "pro-Israel rag") has to admit that there is plentiful food in the supermarkets of Gaza. But such misinformation as Wolf disseminates in her op-ed piece is typical of anti-Israel propagandists, who even put out the word recently that Ms. Riedmatten (whose name they misspelled Redmattn) was a fictitious character and did not work for the Red Cross -- though even the Christian Science Monitor managed to find her and has confirmed what she'd said.

But anti-Israel propagandists, such as Ms. Wolf in these pages, have little interest in truth or accuracy.

Lillian Faderman has published nine books on LGBT history and literature. She is the recipient of several LGBT lifetime achievement awards, including Yale University's James Brudner Award, the Monette/Horwitz Award, Publishing Triangle's Bill Whitehead Award, and the ONE National Archives Culture Hero Award.

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