I write in response to Mr. Peter Reitzes’ guest column (“Don’t stand in solidarity with hate,” CHN, March 8). I found the article poorly researched, full of inaccuracies and misconceptions, and not helpful in a time when there is deep polarization and lack of respect for truth.
Mr. Reitzes smears Rasmea Odeh, one of the organizers of “A Day Without a Woman,” as “a convicted terrorist” and “charged with immigration fraud for allegedly concealing her terrorism-related conviction in Israel from U.S. authorities.”
In fact, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a new trial (May 17) on the immigration charge on the grounds that the judge refused to admit expert testimony that Ms. Odeh was wrongfully convicted because her “confession” was extracted under torture in an Israeli prison (beatings and trying to force her aging father to have sex with her). After 45 days of cruelty and degradation, she finally “confessed.” Such accounts of torture in Israeli prisons have been verified and well-documented by respected human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Israel’s own B’tSelem. No mention of this from Mr. Reitzes.
Next up for shabby treatment is Congressman Keith Ellison, the first African-American Muslim member of the U.S. Congress.
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Reitzes castigates Mr. Ellison for his youthful support of the Nation of Islam and its leader Minister Farrakhan. As a leader in the African-American community, Mr. Ellison saw firsthand the positive impact of the Nation of Islam’s message of racial pride, dignity, and empowerment, turning young black men from drugs and crime into responsible fathers and productive members of society. Later, Mr. Ellison repudiated anti-Semitic and homophobic statements from Louis Farrakhan. Rather than accept Mr. Ellison’s public disavowals, Mr. Reitzes permanently tars Mr. Ellison with guilt by past association, labeling him an anti-Semite.
Finally, Mr. Reitzes targets the Movement for Black Lives. The MBL platform is known for its “intersectionality,” e.g. highlighting connections between the oppression of blacks in America and persons of color in other social contexts, including the Palestinian struggle for self-determination.
The MBL platform calls for divestment from Israel due to its well-documented systemic violations of Palestinian human rights. Mr. Reitzes cries foul, citing Israel bashing and “demonizing Jews.” He wonders why the platform says nothing about human-rights violations in countries like North Korea, Libya, Syria, Iran and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He insinuates this is because “the left” is anti-Semitic.
Unfortunately, Mr. Reitzes perpetuates the canard that legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies and practices is ipso facto evidence of anti-Semitism. This misconception has been widely refuted by reasonable people across the political spectrum.
Anti-Semitism, such as the recent wave of bomb threats at Jewish institutions and desecration of Jewish cemeteries, is real and must be unequivocally condemned by all people of conscience and good will. Similar dehumanizing acts against Muslims, Sikhs and other minorities, should also be forcefully condemned.
I agree that moral consistency demands that human-rights violations in countries other than Israel should also be condemned. That said, lumping them all in together obscures the critical difference that Israel is far and away the largest recipient of U.S. military aid ($38 billion over the next 10 years), while the U.S. military aid given to all the countries mentioned by Mr. Reitzes combined is miniscule (less than 5 percent) compared to what is guaranteed for Israel over the next 10 years.
The point is that we have serious skin in the game when it comes to Israel. Our fingerprints are all over what Israel is doing to the Palestinians. Human-rights violations in these other countries, not so much. But Mr. Reitzes seems content to obscure our extensive taxpayer involvement and deep complicity in Israeli human-rights violations.
I would hope that wherever we may fall on the political spectrum, we will all stand against hate. But job No. 1 in the fight against hate is speaking the truth about our fellow human beings and not bearing false witness.
J. Mark Davidson lives in Chapel Hill and serves as the pastor of the Church of Reconciliation.