Part of what drew me to Judaism and weekly studies at Temple was Judaism’s welcoming, and even encouragement, to ask questions about what I was being told.
The article by Janis Siegel titled “Back on the Bus” (Aug. 2) featured recent bus ads run in Bellevue by Pam Geller and her organization AFDI claiming that “The Palestinian Authority is calling for a Jew-free state.”
I looked at the articles Pam Geller cited as “proof” and found that every mention of the phrase “Jew-free state” was a fabricated distortion of what Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had actually said.
What Abbas actually said — back in 2011 when the rumor appears to have started — was that there would be no Israeli soldiers or Israeli settlers in any future Palestinian state.
Abbas made specific reference to Israelis that are serving as instruments of colonialism (Israeli settlers) and military occupation (Israeli soldiers) — not to Israelis like journalist Amira Hass, who lived for several years in Gaza before moving to Ramallah, and certainly not to Jews. The official Palestinian Authority position is that people of all faiths are welcome in a future Palestinian state.
The equating of “Israeli soldier” or “Israeli settler” with “Jew” is deeply problematic for the many Jews worldwide, including the many Israelis, who consider Israel’s ongoing settler and military dispossession, weekly violence, and deprivation of rights as antithetical to Jewish values. Even more “mainstream” Jews like beloved Fiddler on the Roof actor Theodore Bikel (whose family fled Nazi occupation to Palestine) are speaking up. Search “Theodore Bikel Prawer” on YouTube for his video condemning Israel’s newest plan to expel 40,000 Bedouin from their homes and villages in the Negev.
I traveled to Gaza several weeks after Israel’s Operation Cast Lead with a delegation that included many American and Canadian Jews. Several told the Palestinians we visited with: “I want you to know I’m Jewish.” Overwhelmingly, the Palestinians’ response was, “We have no problem with Jews. Our problem is with Israel’s occupation and oppression.”
According to all the articles I looked at in response to Pam Geller’s claim, that’s what the Palestinian Authority has been saying all along.