Sunday, June 02, 2002 Sivan 22, 5762

From the Israeli newspaper HA'ARETZ

Payback time

By Alec Dubro

For the past 55 years, or to put it another way, for my entire life, Israel has asked me and other American Jews for one thing: help. I think it's time Israel realized that it might owe a debt to the 60 percent of Jews who choose not to live there.

That's right, I want help from Israel, a big favor. I'm asking you to remove the settlements from the West Bank, Gaza and Golan. And try - as hard as you've worked to build Israel's military power - to come to a workable peace with your neighbors.

I realize you're in trouble right now and it's a lot to ask, but then you've asked a lot of us. Although it's hard to get accurate statistics on this, it seems the U.S. sends about $10 billion a year in public and private aid and donations each year. Over the years, that amount may have been less, but comprised a larger share of Israel's GDP. It's hard to see how we contributed less than half a trillion to Israel.

Israelis at least owe me a hearing on this. When I was young, my father worked for United Jewish Appeal and then for Bonds for Israel. We didn't see too much of him because his work was important. As I got older, I donated money and purchased trees for plantation. To be honest, at a certain point, I ceased to support Israel, largely out of disaffection for Israeli policies, and because Israel became wealthy. But in the last half century, the relationship has been entirely one-sided: You asked, we responded.

Now, I'm asking. Your insistence on maintaining gated suburban communities in the West Bank and Gaza, and the conflict that flows from this policy, is endangering Jews who live throughout the world. The current spate of attacks in Europe and elsewhere is directly tied to the occupation. I don't need any lectures about the durability of anti-Semitism throughout the world. I've been subject to it and lived with it. But until the last few years, anti-Semitism had grown increasingly marginalized in the developed world. The fight over the West Bank has breathed new life into a moribund, although not dead, ideology.

From my perspective, Israel is holding the world's Jews hostage to the principle of greater Judea or greater Samaria or whatever you're calling it these days. So that 200,000 Jews can live in defiant comfort in the West Bank, Gaza and Golan, the rest of us see deteriorating relations with our neighbors and an increasing sense of danger.

As far as I'm concerned, the flawed idealism of Zionism has run up against a wall. Even if I accepted the biblical premise that Jews are entitled to that piece of Levantine real estate - and I don't - the political reality is that you cannot find peace by pursuing your current objectives. And you threaten more than yourselves and your immediate neighbors; you are threatening those of us who contributed so heavily to your existence.

So I ask you again to have some concern for the world's Jews, for the supporters of Jews, and for peace in general. If you fail to relinquish your semimilitary communities, there will be only war and division. And, as you further endanger those of us outside Israel, you risk losing your base of support.

In fact, if Israel insists on maintaining the occupation, I will take action. I will demand my trees back. You owe me. 

Alec Dubro is a freelance writer in Washington D.C.