- As a Jewish refugee from the Nazis who narrowly escaped
the Holocaust, I feel free to express negative views of the Zionist experiment,
Israel's policies, and one-sided US support of Israel without fear of being
instantly branded a Jew-hater. Jewishness, I insist, does not require I
may belong to a minority, but I count myself among the Jews who oppose
the Zionist movement. Perhaps it was in part because of Nazi insistence
on defining me as a member of a different, "non-Aryan" race that
already as a boy I came to regard Judaism as first and foremost a religious
faith and community. As a young teenager in Nazi-occupied Austria, I was
offended by what struck me as parallels between Nazi and Zionist definitions
of the Jews as an ethnic group.
- When I first read The Jewish State, the "bible"
of the Zionist movement written by founder Theodor Herzl (comparable in
its political influence to Uncle Tom's Cabin), I came across the naive,
romantic slogan coined by this Austrian Jewish journalist, "People
without land, come to the land without people!" That sentence alone
persuaded me to regard the Zionist experiment in Palestine as based on
a hopelessly unrealistic premise, doomed to create the tragic, insoluble
problem which now confronts us daily in news, in order to keep the issue
alive as a weapon to use against Israel. Today the population of the territories
occupied since 1967 is growing much faster than that of Israel, and there
is no obvious solution to that equation.
- If I could envisage a reasonably quick and comprehensive
solution to the crisis in Israel/Palestine, I would not have entitled this
US piece "The Insoluble Problem." I do believe that certain steps
are possible to mitigate the crisis, but here, too, I am pessimistic that
moderate or even drastic changes in American policy will improve our relations
with the region, at least over the short term.
- I advocate that we adopt a much tougher stance, using
our massive assistance program much more effectively as leverage to insist
on Israeli compliance with UN resolutions and our long- standing demands
that settlement construction cease. Already existing settlements in the
occupied territories should be dismantled. As for our dealings with the
Palestinian side, there is a steady deterioration of Jewish-Palestinian
relations and to a dead end. One could ask whether:
- Israel might have done better to face the wrath of the
world and openly annex the conquered lands back in 1967 rather than render
their occupation irreversible through the back-door method of building
all these settlements. Instead, Israel has succeeded only in creating three
classes or, better yet, "castes" of people: Jewish citizens of
Israel; Palestinians with citizenship rights in Israel proper; Palestinians
living in the occupied territories without any apparent rights or protection
against arbitrary measures taken against them by the Israeli authorities.
Is it possible to imagine a surer recipe for anger, hatred and violence?
- In the event of withdrawal, Israel must repatriate the
settlers, daunting though the size of the problem (200,000 people) makes
this task.* But they cannot be left behind without facing almost certain
- I am deeply skeptical that the "Palestifind not
only the PLO, Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, al Qaeda, El Sendero
Luminoso and so on and so forth, ad infinitum, guilty of terrorism, but
equally so the government of Ariel Sharon with his brutal and futile efforts
to impose "peace" on the Occupied Territories, equally guilty
the increasingly brutal Israeli military which is harassing, maiming and
killing innocent people, including women and children, wantonly razing
civilian homes, tearing up their streets and roads, keeping people pent
up and prevented from going where they need to go in order to earn a livelihood.
Can there be a more cruel historical irony than Jews inflicting on Palestine's
native population forms of harassment, suffering and horrors reminiscent
of what their forefathers were condemned to experience at the hands of
the Nazis half a century ago? A plague on both their houses, I say-Arab
and Israeli terrorists both in their pursuit of policies and actions which
create no solutions but only more rage, more violence, m must be automatic,
even at the expense of American interests in the Middle East and around
the world. I fear that the consistent US "tilt" toward Israel,
our unwavering support of Israeli policy, stems from fear by our elected
officials of a specter called "the Jewish vote." I fervently
hope that this "Jewish vote" is a political myth, that in reality
there is no such bloc vote. Having suffered Nazi hatred and persecution
at first hand, I am like the child "once burned, twice careful,"
and I worry that, fed by blind support of Israeli policies and actions
by many American Jews, and by powerful lobbies like AIPAC (the America-Israel
Public Affairs Committee) and even the terrorist gang known as the Jewish
Defense League, Anti-Semitism may increase rapidly in America.
- I fear that blind Jewish support of Israel will sooner
or later give rise to suspicions of divided loyalty. It may seem absurd
(for now), but as a retired US Foreign Service officer, I have nightmarish
visions of Jewish state.
- The author of this commentary, a retired senior diplomat,
was born in Austria in 1925 and lived under German rule there from 1938
to 1940. He then managed to escape with his immediate family to the United
States. Mr. Heichler served in the US Army during World War II, becoming
a US citizen in 1944. He entered the Foreign Service in 1954 and retired
as a minister-counselor in the American Foreign Service in 1986 after serving
at seven posts abroad, in addition to Washington DC.