A Letter to All Israelis
I sent this letter to Ha'aretz, The Guardian, The Independent, The
Sydney Morning Herald and an indpendent web-based Israeli news
service on 25th June 2002. I hope they will publish it.
My dear Israeli brothers and sisters,
I am writing to you from faraway Canberra, the Capital of Australia.
It is 2.30am and I got out of bed because I could no longer resist
the persistent call of this letter to be written right now. It did
not want to wait until morning.
I was once one of you. On my mother's side I am descended from
Holocaust survivors. My grandmother lost two baby boys in the camps
to hunger and disease. I was born and raised among you, your culture
was my culture, your language my beloved language. I left you when I
was 27 at the end of 1991 and migrated to Australia. I left because I
was looking for an identity. One day I realised that although we have
worked very hard in Israel to create a new Jewish identity, the truth
is that we have not succeeded in moving very far from the identity of
our persecuted ancestors. I realised that as an Israeli Jew I was
still in essence defined by those who have hated the Jews. I could
not go on living with an identity that was given to me by hatred and
went away hoping to find a fresh and healthy identity for myself. It
has been a difficult and painful journey emotionally but every tear
and every moment of anguish and pain has been precious to me. They
have given me back my life and have helped me find my purpose and
My heart goes out to all of you these days. I see through the
television screen the horror and destruction of the suicide bombings
and other attacks by Palestinian militants. I send my deep
condolences to all the families and friends of those who were killed
and maimed in these attacks. I have very close family among you. The
safety and well-being of my brother and his young family are
particularly on my mind these days.
I know that from your point of view what the Palestinian extremists
are doing is no different than what all other zorerim [Note] have
always done to the Jews. It all seems like more of the same some kind
of a horrible déja vu, does it not? I know what it felt like to live
in Israel and believe that no one wants to let us live in peace. But
my dear brothers and sisters I am writing to urge you, plead with you
to open your minds and your hearts to the possibility that in fact
what is happening to you now is not the same.
The Zionist movement from its early days has taken away from us the
right to see ourselves only as victims. It is in its desperate
attempt to save us all from persecution by creating a national home,
that it turned us for the first time in modern history from victims
into perpetrators. From its early beginnings, from Theodore Hertzl
himself, the Zionist movement had intended consciously to disinherit
the people who were already living in Palestine. It had no intention
of coming and settling there together with them as our Sephardim
ancestors did. They came to Palestine only to live close to the sites
that were sacred to them and die and be buried in their beloved land.
They had no other agenda and they lived respectfully with the local
Arab population. The Zionist movement on the other hand was bent on
transferring, expelling the majority of Palestinians to the
neighbouring countries (Morris, 2002). The Palestinian people were
seen as insignificant, primitive peasants who would not mind being
uprooted from their villages and a way of life that they had known
for thousands of years. The thoughts and actions of the Zionist
movement were brutal, cold and heartless. They showed no compassion
or sympathy and no sense of morality. The Zionist movement was
motivated only by the single-minded survival-driven goal of creating
a national home for the Jewish people as a solution to persecution.
The fact that this solution came at the expense of someone else was
This is a painful truth for me to realise because I grew up
believing, as most of you probably still do, that we were good,
noble, peace-loving and right. I know now that no matter how bad
things were for us, our persecution and suffering have never given us
the right to commit the appalling crime that we have committed.
My fellow Israelis, the history of Israel is not pretty. No matter
how much we try to paint it in heroic colours and how much we try to
move away from it or cover it up with progress, technology,
literature and other achievements, it is not possible to build a
sturdy and healthy building on a rotten foundation. While we were
determined to thrive, revelling in our own achievements we were
uprooting and destroying a whole culture. The suicide bombers are
there to remind us of our true legacy. And they will not go away
until you hear what they have to say. Unfortunately, in your
understandable pain you are hearing the wrong message.
Did you know that our early leadership led by David Ben-Gurion drew a
great deal of inspiration from Nazi Germany's practices of moving
whole ethnic populations for political gains? This information is
taken directly from protocols of meetings of the Zionist leadership
and the diaries of David Ben-Gurion (Morris, 2002).
I wonder how many of you know that in the 1948 war, called in Israel
the `War of Independence' and that the Palestinian people call `al-
Nakba', `the disaster', we outnumbered the Arab armies by 3:2 and
were far better equipped. How many of you know that we won that war
simply because we were bigger and stronger? There was no `few against
the many' (Shlaim, 2001). It is a myth like so much of what is taught
and celebrated in Israel as history. Have you heard of Operation
Hiram during that same war? Do you know that we committed
premeditated massacres, explusions and razing of whole villages, not
just Dir-Yessin but also in Majd al-Kurum, al-Bi'na, Dayr al-Assad,
Hahf, Safsaf, Jish, Sasa, Saliha, Ilabun and Hula? The massacres in
these villages were committed mostly after the end of the fighting.
Did you know that Israeli troops continued to commit atrocities
including gang rapes in the 1950's? As a woman this is something that
I particularly did not want to hear. All this and much more is
documented in your own archives. It is time to look openly and
honestly at our own history. Ask questions and do not stop until you
It is not possible to change the past but you can change the present
and the future. It is time to recognise the sins that we have
committed against the Palestinians, ask them for forgiveness, invite
them back into the country that was their own for thousands of years,
and make the brave decision to begin a journey of healing together,
and together create a life of peace and prosperity. If you start it
right now such a journey will take at least one generation, if not
two. So the sooner you begin the better are the chances of your
children and grandchildren and of Palestinian children and
grandchildren to live in true peace and harmony.
What is happening to you right now is inexcusible. No murder ever is.
But it is happening for a reason. And the reason, for the first time
in your history, is not to do with Jewishness. It is time for all
Israelis to start recognising your own contribution to the situation
that you are in now. And most of all, it is now time to select a
healthy and courageous leadership, people who possess the capacity to
lead you through a soul searching journey of healing. Military
leaders cannot do it for you. Military leaders will give you military
solutions. And military solutions (if they can even be called that)
are short-lived and breed more problems. As Shlomo Artzi wisely sang,
``no one has ever won any war''. A journey towards real peace will be
painful but this pain is the pain that comes from the healer's knife
and it does end. The pain you are going through right now is
senseless, unnecessary and most of all endless. It is the pain that
comes from going around and around in circles.
You can choose what is good and noble in Jewish-Israeli culture and
strengthen it. By healing you can also transform what is wounded,
sick, angry, aggressive and paranoid within Jewish culture. You can
redefine yourselves as I have done. If you want to live in peace
start creating it by looking inwardly and by reaching outward with a
hand of peace to everyone, even those who seem like sworn enemies and
in particular to those against whom we sinned. Follow the brave
legacy of the late Anwar el-Sadat.
There is no one else left to blame. What is happening to you now is
merely the natural unfolding of a journey that our ancestors have
begun in the 19th century. To change your destiny you need to change
direction and choose a new journey. This is a time for unconventional
thinking, and courageous action. I call upon you, beg you, as the
people amongst whom I grew up, to wake up and create the life that
you say you want.
Peace and light can come out of Jerusalem to show the way to a lost
and confused world, as the ancient biblical prophecies tell. I
believe that you can choose the path that will make this possible. It
is in your hands.
With all my love,
24 June, 2002
1. Zorerim is a Hebrew word meaning something like: ``those who try
to annihilate us and who make our life hell for no apparent reason''.
Morris, B., `Revisiting the Palestinian Exodus of 1948', in Rogan, E.
& Shlaim, A. (Eds.), The War For Palestine, Cambridge University
Press, 2001, (pp. 37-59)
Shlaim, A., The Iron Wall, Israel and the Arab World, New York: W.W.
Norton & Company, 2002.
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