What to do now?

Every sentence in Howard J. Cohn’s letter of March 29 requires a serious rebuttal, but I will focus on his statement: “If Israel wants to have a chance to live in peace, Hamas must be destroyed”  and offer what Mr. Cohn would call “the rest of the story.”

Hamas should have never existed. It started as an offshoot of the Palestinian Islamist movement that Israel helped to create in the 1970s as a “counterweight” to the secularist Palestine Liberation Organization led by Yasser Arafat (who always called Hamas “a creature of Israel”).

For decades, Israel helped Hamas survive and flourish, with the goal of dividing the Palestinians, and be able to point to a terrorist group in support of the theory that Israel had no partner for peace. To that end, Israel allowed the emissary from Qatar to carry a suitcase containing million of dollars for Hamas through the Tel Aviv airport every month, a fact that was common knowledge in Israel. Mossad officials repeatedly pointed out that Israel had the means to crush Hamas “by using only financial tools,” but Netanyahu’s position was: “Whoever opposes a Palestinian state must support delivery of funds to Gaza, because maintaining separation between the P.A. in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza will prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.” All the key political choices that Israel made over decades were made according to that logic. Examples are the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, which allowed Hamas to take over the strip, and forbidding reconciliation between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, which would have required Hamas’s demilitarization. The goal was always to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state, and to settle and eventually annex the occupied territories in pursuit of a “Greater Israel” from the river to the sea.

Given that Israel was growing a monster in its own backyard, how could it ignore all the warnings ahead of the awful events of October 7? Why did it take so long for the IDF to come to the rescue of the kibbutzniks? Why is Netanyahu still in power? These are all questions awaiting answers.

The single most pressing question is: What to do now, after months of war and destruction in Gaza and harassment of Palestinians in the West Bank?  Mr. Cohn’s statement must be turned around. In fact, the only way to destroy Hamas is to live in peace with the Palestinians, implementing a two-state solution that offers dignity to the Palestinians and security to Israel.

Chiara Nappi

Anti-Zionism – coming to a music venue near you

“How are things in America?” I am asked frequently. “All is OK,” I respond to friends in Israel. Like many American Jews, even post October 7th, I considered antisemitism/anti-Zionism, to be a threat largely felt elsewhere. That was until this past Sunday night, when my teenage granddaughter from New Jersey and her two friends attended a music venue in Brooklyn. They were excited to hear their favorite bands, but instead a woman wearing a kufiyah grabbed the megaphone and began chanting “From the River to the Sea…” while the audience of 200 cheered.

Shaken, my granddaughter and her friends left immediately, forfeiting the price of the ticket and the opportunity to enjoy the music they had so looked forward to hearing but were no longer able to enjoy among a crowd of Jew-haters. They walked out while being heckled with racial slurs: “Leave, Zionists, we don’t want you here. October 7th is our victory.”

Arriving back at my apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where they are spending their spring break, they appeared traumatized from their first encounter with the harsh reality of antisemitism. In that moment I learned that it is so much harder to watch your child and grandchild face antisemitism than it is to experience it yourself.

I told them how proud I was that they were not intimidated. That they stood up for their values, in the face of verbal violence, and refused to be frightened into submission. They told me that while most people were glaring at them with hate as they exited, a few were looking downward uncomfortably. I suggested that they were probably also supporters of Israel who were too paralyzed in the moment to extricate themselves.

I ask myself; how did we Jews arrive at this juncture, where a carefree evening of music can turn into a political frenzy to Free Palestine? My generation believed that we had successfully created a bubble for ourselves here in the United States, and that the state of Israel further guaranteed our safety, since we now have a place to go to that would protect us. Yet it appears to be a fragile bubble, ready to burst at any moment.

Fortunately, I live in a vibrantly passionate Jewish community, where just the day before I had attended an amazing presentation at Lincoln Square Synagogue by the Sharaka organization, on Building Peace in Times of War. Sharaka (Partnership in Arabic) is comprised of Muslims, Christians, Jews, and Druze, working together to shape a new Middle East, built on dialogue, understanding, cooperation, and friendship. It gives me hope.

Despite their tears and trauma upon leaving the music venue, my granddaughter and her friends continue to dream about their upcoming gap year in Israel, and there’s even talk of joining the IDF and going to college in Israel. Fortunately, the sting of the Free Gaza protest didn’t puncture their love for Israel.  Am Yisrael Chai!

Tani Foger, Ed.D, L.P.C.

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