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To the Editor of "The Guardian", May 1st, 2008. I am celebrating Israel's 60th anniversary

A number of British Jews made public their decision not to celebrate
sixty years from the establishment of Israel ("We're not celebrating
Israel's anniversary", The Guardian, April 30). The mere fact that
they felt the need to let the world know about this decision is
strange. Would Italians living in the U.S., or Indians living in
Zambia, feel the need to approve or disapprove of Italy or India
celebrating their independence? This group is, however, united by
their absolute rejection of the very existence of Israel, as it is
today, and by their wish to replace it by an entity in accordance
with their ideological and political tenets. I am signing this letter
as an individual, who immigrated to Israel from an East European
Communist dictatorship and was educated in Israel, the U.S., and
England. My upbringing, education, life experience and, I dare to
assume, my liberal outlook are, most likely, quite similar to that of
many of the authors of the letter. Thus, I feel the need to respond
to their call by questioning the soundness of their arguments, in a
manner fitting a dialogue among persons who are willing to listen to
each other.
1. The rights and wrongs of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict cannot
be discussed and even less remedied by one-sided analysis of the
history of the conflict.
2. No nation's history is free of injustice inflicted upon another
nation, people or minority group. Some of the wrongs can be made
good; some cannot. There is no doubt that the foundation of Israel
was associated with wrongs done to the Palestinians living in the
areas that became Israel but it is not helpful to quantify the extent
and intensity of the injustice done by one side in a conflict without
taking in consideration the actions of the other side. One cannot
discuss the bombing of Dresden without placing it into the context of
World War Two and what happened in London and Coventry. This is the
task of historians but these have to be as free as possible of
political bias, a thing that it almost impossible to achieve while
the parties to the conflict are active in "politicizing" historical
research, be it from the Left or the Right of the ideological spectrum.
3. It is unfair to state that "it is now time to acknowledge the
narrative of the other". At least some of those who signed the letter
must know that the Israeli press, communication media and films are
serving as outlets for the free diffusion of views and opinions,
representing this narrative, which are unpopular or rejected by a
significant part of Israel's Jewish population. They must be aware of
the liberal, open and critical atmosphere prevalent in Israel's
vibrant academic and cultural life, unfortunately entirely absent in
the Palestinian society.
4. It is lack of feeling for the "narrative" of every Jewish Israeli,
to write a letter to be printed on the eve of Holocaust Memorial day,
citing Edward Said's equaling the Holocaust with the Palestinian
Nakba. The late Dr. Said can surely not be considered an objective
observer of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; would one cite Zeev
Jabotinsky, in support of the Zionist claims?
5. I am not a historian and I do not feel qualified to doubt or offer
counter-arguments to the description of the wanton cruelty of the
Jews towards the Palestinian Arabs but even the laymen can feel the
extreme lack of objectivity in this highly unilateral rendering,
bearing the heavy imprint of those who belong to the school of the
"new historians". The authors of the letter cannot be unaware of the
too numerous to mention examples of killing and maiming of innocent
Israeli civilians by Palestinians, not only during episodes of war.
6. The description of the only democracy in the Middle East as "a
state founded on terrorism and massacres", is a distortion of the
truth similar in its viciousness and vulgarity to the worst examples
of anti-Semitic diatribes. Equally unbalanced is the description of
what happens in Gaza as "(Israel) inflicting monstrous collective
punishment", when the indiscriminate dispatch of Quasam rockets from
Gaza went on throughout the very day in which the whole of Israel was
remembering the victims of the Holocaust.
7. Americans celebrate the 4th of July in spite of what was done to
the North American Indians; the French celebrate the 14th of July
even though the Marseillaise was also sung during the Vichy era and
thousands were guillotined during the Jacobin terror. As an Israeli,
I do not expect British Jews to celebrate my national holiday and
ex-Israelis who choose not to join us in celebrating have every right
to do so. However, I do not think that it is honest for persons, many
of whom made a profession out of seeking the truth, to justify their
action by a distorted description of what happened in the past and
happens now in my country.
One should leave that to Mr. Ahmadinejad.

Sincerely,

Edgar Pick, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor
Sackler School of Medicine
Tel Aviv University

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