Editor’s Note: We followed closely, John Spritzler’s correspondence with the Boston Globe which refused to publish his poignant response to an article by Shimon Peres, published earlier by the Globe. We asked him if he would consider writing an article about his experience with this corporate newspaper, owned by the New York Times. He generously agreed to our request and wrote the following analysis. – Les Blough, Editor
On October 21 the Boston Globe ran an Op-Ed piece by Shimon Peres, a former Prime Minister of Israel, stating that “Israel has always been about serving the world from the uniqueness of our history and culture.” On the same day the Globe’s Op-Ed editor emailed me that my Op-Ed submission, titled Is It Anti-Semitic to Oppose a Jewish State? “does not meet our needs at this time.”
At this time there is a virtual united front, on the part of America’s major newspapers and media outlets, to censor opinions about Israel which cross a certain line in the sand. Since around 1967 it has been taboo — verboten! — to challenge the new central dogma before which the Anti-Defamation League insists we all bow down in somber agreement. The dogma says: It is anti-Semitic to oppose the idea of a Jewish state. Granted, admits the ADL and media pundits, it is not necessarily anti-Semitic to criticize a particular policy or action of the Israeli government (though who besides an anti-Semite or a Jewish “self-hater” would want to do so?); but to oppose the idea of a Jewish state, per se, crosses the line and is pure anti-Semitism.
My Op-Ed piece made the following simple points to refute the dogma. 1) Prominent Jews like Albert Einstein and Judah Magnes (the first Chancellor of Israel’s Hebrew University) opposed the idea of a Jewish state. 2) What makes Israel a Jewish state is that it officially declares the ultimate sovereign authority in Israel to be “the Jewish people” rather than all Israeli citizens regardless of their religion. 3) One fifth of Israeli citizens are non-Jews and therefore are officially second class citizens as long as Israel remains a Jewish state. (The word limit on the Op-Ed prevented it from pointing out that this second class citizenship is the basis for discrimination against non-Jewish Israeli citizens in their ability to own, buy and lease land, live in certain neighborhoods, gain access to public services and government benefits, marry a Jewish person, and so forth – the kind of discrimination which the ADL would denounce as anti-Semitic if directed against Jews in the United States.). 4) The founder of the World Zionist Organization, Theodor Herzl, in 1896 rejected the principle of democracy — that a state’s legitimacy derives from the consent of all whom it governs, not just those of a favored religion or race or ethnicity. Herzl argued, instead, that the Jewish state’s authority would derive from the need of Jews for a state to be their guardian, even if Jews were a minority of its citizens. 5) In 1948 when Zionist leaders founded the state of Israel as a Jewish state they knew that it could only gain legitimacy by purporting to be a democracy. But this required that Jews make up the overwhelming majority of the citizenry. And this in turn required ethnic cleansing, which — as documented by pro-Zionist Israeli historian Benny Morris and others — Israel’s new leaders did indeed carry out, resulting in the Palestinian refugees whom Israel continues to bar from returning to their homes in Israel. 6) Far from being anti-Semitic, opposition to the idea of a Jewish state is the only way to consistently embrace the universal values of equality and democracy. 7) Exactly the same arguments apply to a Muslim, a Christian, a Black or a White state.
The above points are almost never seen or heard by the general public. Most people who support the idea of a Jewish state do it out of sympathy for Jews resulting from horror at what they have learned about the Holocaust. They have been told over and over again that sympathy for Jews equals support for the idea of a Jewish state. They have never been asked to think about whether they actually approve of the idea of a state officially making non-Jews second class citizens, or engaging in ethnic cleansing in order to ensure that the majority of the population belongs to the officially approved religion. They have never been asked to consider whether ordinary Jews would be better off living in peace with ordinary Arabs as equals instead of living in daily fear of violence from Arabs who are raging with quite justified anger at being treated like dirt in refugee camps because a Jewish elite insists on lording it over non-Jews in a Jewish state (this was Einstein’s great concern.)
No Gallup poll asks people if they approve or disapprove of these things. To read our major newspapers, one would think that a Jewish state is no different from a French state or a German state and that its existence is no more controversial. Pundits don’t point out that in Germany, once you’re a citizen you’re legally German; but in Israel, being a citizen doesn’t make one a Jew. Ted Koppel, when interviewing ADL’s director, Abraham Foxman, on Nightline doesn’t ask him these embarrassing questions. And the Boston Globe, drawing the same line in the sand, refuses to print an Op-Ed piece that raises these simple questions.
Were these questions to be raised publicly, the entire structure of U.S. foreign policy would be called into question. Why, people would ask, does our government support and defend, almost unconditionally, the state of Israel when it is founded on a principle that violates the basic idea of democracy and equality? Is U.S. foreign policy really about supporting democracy and equality or not? Does our government actually want Israel to foment hatred between Jews and Arabs? Does this make it easier for undemocratic Arab regimes to control “their” people in the Middle East and preserve arrangements whereby rich Americans and oil-rich Arabs gain at the expense of ordinary Arabs and Jews? Who’s really running America? Do we have a democracy?
It is not hard to understand why the Boston Globe, always the voice of corporate New England even before it was bought by the New York Times a few years ago, decided that my Op-Ed piece “did not meet their needs at this time.” If, on the other hand, you think it does meet your needs at this time to hear a truly balanced mix of opinions about Palestine/Israel, then you might want to let the Op-Ed editor, Marjorie Pritchard, know about it at email@example.com.
Perhaps Ms. Pritchard will one day come to the conclusion that the needs of the Globe to retain some shred of credibility for being fair and unbiased will cost them the price of printing views on the wrong side of their line in the sand.
John Spritzler, © Copyright 2003 by AxisofLogic.com