Letter to the Editor: Toby F. Block
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Letter to the Editor: Toby F. Block

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Letter to the editor,

Jewish Atlanta’s Big Tent Closed to Anti-Israel Left – Dec. 15, 2023
This article uses the terms “anti-Israel” and “anti-Zionist” interchangeably. However, they do not have precisely the same meaning and the differences provide insight into the question of which groups should be excluded from our Big Tent and which should be welcomed in.

Many Haredi (fervently Orthodox) Jews do not recognize the authority of the secular Israeli government. Yet, Haredi Jews live in Israel and acknowledge that the modern State of Israel sits in the Jews’ ancestral homeland. While many secular Israelis resent the fact that Haredi men generally do not serve in the IDF, the Haredim, nonetheless, do contribute to the well-being of their fellow Israelis.

When my daughter was being treated in an Israeli hospital some years ago, I saw Haredi women providing visitors with sandwiches and Haredi men arranging for prayer services attended by patients and their visitors. Uri Lupolianski, a Haredi Jew, founded Yad Sarah, an organization which lends out medical equipment and supplies a variety of services to the sick, elderly, and lonely (regardless of their religious affiliation or level of observance). Following the Oct. 7 attack there has been a dramatic increase in the number of Haredi men volunteering for military service explaining that; while Torah study exempts them in quiet times, they are required to fight when Israel’s people face an existential threat. These anti-Zionists deserve a place in our Big Tent.

In contrast, the members of Jewish Voices for Peace and If Not Now, although often labelled “Pro-Palestinian” are, in fact, “anti-Israel.” Dave Schechter mentions JVP’s support for “the Palestinian freedom struggle.” But anyone who has followed the actions of the Palestinian leaders since the Oslo process began thirty years ago should recognize that the Palestinians are not working to build a State in which the people can become productive citizens. All their efforts have been focused on attempts to delegitimize and dismantle the nation-state of the Jews.

IfNotNow calls for an end to “Israel’s apartheid system” and demands equality, justice, and a thriving future for all Palestinians and Israelis, ignoring the fact that Israeli Arabs have full civil rights (including the right to vote and serve in the Knesset and on Israeli courts, the right to volunteer for service in the IDF, the right to receive and render medical care in Israeli hospitals, and the right to study and teach in Israeli schools). IfNotNow also ignores the fact that, in signing the Oslo Accords, Israel did what no Arab country had ever done for the Arabs of Palestine, affording them the opportunity to live under the administration of leaders of their own choosing. The problem – those leaders have enriched themselves on monies donated for the people’s benefit; taught their people to hate Jews, incited them to kill Jews, honoring and rewarding those who answer the call; and flatly rejected multiple Israeli and U.S. proposals aimed at ending the conflict. As anti-Israel groups, JVP and IfNotNow do not deserve a place in our Big Tent.

Toby F. Block, Atlanta

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