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A Letter to All Israelis

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  • World View
    A Letter to All Israelis http://avigail.customer.netspace.net.au/letter_to_israelis.html I sent this letter to Ha aretz, The Guardian, The Independent, The
    Message 1 of 1 , May 5, 2004
      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
      not important.

      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
      get answers.

      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,

      Avigail Abarbanel
      Canberra Australia
      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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