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Israel’s Riot Control

In response to:

Israel from the March 17, 1988 issue

To the Editors:

Professors Gross and Furstenberg’s comment [Letters column, NYR, March 17, 1988] on Israel’s riot control policy exploits the current tragedy to put forward a general critique of Israel as a Jewish redemptive experiment. The recent statement on the disturbances by the American Friends Service Committee (I serve on the AFSC Middle East Committee), an organization not reputed to be pro-Zionist, is more balanced and statesmanlike. Long involvement of the Friends in Middle Eastern affairs has taught them how to wend their way through the complexities of any political moment.

The comparison of Israeli police and soldiers to Nazis attacking Jews is abhorrent. Does the expression “free lance fascists” imply that Israelis are preparing gas chambers or that the soldiers see themselves as squashing “vermin”? Relativizing the Holocaust by evoking its imagery in a mundane conflict is worthy only of revisionists such as a German colleague of mine who interpreted the Holocaust to me as a chapter in the history of slavery. Gross and Furstenberg should immerse themselves in Holocaust documentary history and visit Auschwitz.

The reference to the “falsity of Zionist dogma” sweeps away Jewish rights in Palestine as recognized by the League of Nations and the documents of the British mandatory and the rights earned by Jewish toll, treasure and blood. In this anti-Zionist context Gross and Furstenberg invoke the binationalist program of Ihud. I have known of two of its leaders, Buber and Simon. Their views are those of hardy Zionists who would prefer that Gross and Furstenberg teach in Jerusalem rather than Philadelphia.

A constructive letter would address the resolution of the several basic Middle Eastern conflicts. Discussion of a two-state solution or of an International Peace Conference is appropriate. Belittling the Holocaust and revisionist Middle East history are out of bounds.

Samuel Z. Klausner
Professor of Sociology
Associate Middle East Center
The University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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