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Sunday, October 12, 2003

Submitted to the Boulder Daily Camera for consideration as a "Guest Opinion"
Can we please do without Richard Cohen’s opinions in the Camera? He is such a whiner! He has one friend who left Israel; therefore, Israel’s enemies are winning, Israelis are in despair and the Zionist dream is in tatters. Such a dismal portrait is deeply flawed: Two days after “Fury and despair in Israel” (Oct. 7) appeared in the Camera, Café Hillel reopened in Jerusalem.

Café Hillel was attacked by an Arab terrorist suicide bomber on Sept. 9th; seven people were killed and scores wounded. You may remember, this was the attack that took father and daughter the night before her wedding. One month to the day later, the café reopened. In the close-knit Jerusalem community of English-speaking immigrants known as the German colony, this hideous attack had failed. It failed to demoralize, to inspire fear, to turn the neighborhood into a place without life, devoid of happiness.

The Jerusalem Post report on the reopening quoted American-born Yisrael Campbell, Rich Brownstein who moved to Jerusalem this summer from Oregon and Alan Kruger who immigrated from Canada. Their comments were unanimous: It’s good to see the café open again, and nice to see people coming back.

19-year-old Avital Shvut, having salad with her grandmother, had never eaten at Café Hillel before. “We chose this café on purpose,” she said, “in order to strengthen it, and to show that the Nation of Israel is alive.”

Martin Lee, a New Jersey-born businessman and neighborhood resident, picked up the tab for all drinks at the café on its opening night. “I think it is crucial that in the face of what is going on in the country, people continue to come out, and think positive,” he said.

Certainly, Israelis are besieged by a hideous war on their existence. They have suffered inordinate loss of life and irreparable damage to the lives, bodies, and spirits of thousands of wounded and maimed. No doubt the spirits of all are deeply challenged. Yet the dream and the hope of Zion, to be a free people in our land, is alive and well.

Immigration may be down since the onset of this newest intifada, but in these last three years almost 100,000 people have immigrated to Israel, from more than twenty countries on six continents --Cohen’s lamentations notwithstanding.

The premise that all is lost in Israel, is a distortion; so it is no surprise that it led Cohen to an equally twisted conclusion: that the “rational course” would be for Israel to withdraw from the predominantly Arab territories in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

Cohen is one among many well-intentioned but confused American observers who believe that the present terrorism is some organic, spontaneous response to Israeli “occupation.” What if I told you this is not true, that it is merely the continuation of an Arab war on Israel that precedes even the establishment of the Jewish state?

You might know, I hope you know, that the UN offered in 1947 to partition what was left of the British Mandate of Palestine into an Arab state and a Jewish state -after 80% was lopped off and given to make Jordan. The Jews accepted a lousy deal, and the Arabs refused. Rather than accept their own sovereign state next to Israel, they started a war. As a result of that war, Egypt came to “occupy” the Gaza Strip, and Jordan “occupied” and controlled the so-called West Bank of the Jordan River.

During the two decades that followed, when Israel did not “occupy” these territories, were Arabs not killing Jews? On the contrary, the headlines then were little different from those today. In 1952 alone, there were about 3,000 incidents of cross-border violence, and from 1951-1955 nearly a thousand Israelis were killed by Arab terrorists infiltrating the country from Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon. These terrorists ambushed buses, threw hand grenades and opened fire on crowds at weddings and in synagogues. They attacked innocent people in their houses and cars, planted explosives on train tracks, roads and pathways. They killed Jews, Christians and Druse. In 1965, the PLO’s Fatah carried out its first attack, an attempt to bomb the National Water Carrier.

There is thus no reason to assume, as Cohen does, that Israeli withdrawal would lead to peace. It would simply take a chunk out of Israel, make the country more difficult to defend, and so place her in greater danger of annihilation.

Like so many, Cohen doesn’t question the Arab desire to rid the territories of Jews. It’s simply what they say they want, so give it to them. Maybe then they’ll stop blowing themselves up around innocent Israeli citizens. (Yeah? And if they don’t? And Israel is only 9 miles wide? Then what?)

Cohen obviously supports the widely held contention that 200,000 Jews living in the predominantly Arab territories constitute an “obstacle to peace.” The flip side of the situation, the fact that the Jewish state embraces 2 million Arabs with full citizenship, is seldom included in this equation. How often is it pointed out that the only democratically-elected Arab officials in the world . . . serve in the Knesset? (If Arafat is so elected, then somebody tell me which viable candidate he ran against, and on what date his term will end).

Jews were slaughtered sixty years ago because they didn’t have a nation. Now we are slaughtered -albeit on an installment plan- because we do. Yet the Jews of Israel, like little energizer bunnies, build and rebuild and continue to celebrate life, every week welcoming more fellow Jews from all over the world to join them. They don’t stop (or stoop) to pay attention to doomsday nay-sayers like Richard Cohen.

Nor should we.

Anne Lieberman