Letters

Letters from the issue of Thursday, August 25, 2005

 Ethic Cleansing

Freedom of the oppressed: It's unbelievable that the misconception is so prevalent that there's an "oppressed and occupied" Palestine ("Der Füror," Sarah Fenske, August 11). Your writer touched on the central point when she observed: "[The YWCA leadership] focused on the Palestinians' mistreatment without a word about [Yasser] Arafat's . . . unwillingness to accept a two-state solution."

The well-known Israeli diplomat Abba Eban often declared that "the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity." And on May 14, 1948, Jews unilaterally claimed their independence, which had been internationally supported for 25 years. Jews were immediately attacked by what was known as the Arab League (including Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq). Nineteen years later, Arabs residing in Palestine invited neighbors to attack Israel.

It's unbelievable to me that a body of people can be liberated by another political entity, make so many poor political choices, launch two massive failed military campaigns, continue in ad hoc aggression, and be depicted as "oppressed and occupied."

People like those governing the YWCA only give virtue to the misguided who commit acts of terror. Palestinians should be constantly reminded that the only behavior that will lead to international support is humility and subjugation. Until then, the wrongs Israel commits are merely responses to an un-recalcitrant foe.

For what it's worth, I'm not Jewish. However, I am a liberal (Democrat) who believes it's exactly this kind of unattractive single-minded pursuit of a cause that has made the Democratic party so very unpopular today. It's reminiscent of the anti-gun movement of the late '80s and early '90s. History and integrity are tossed out the window as individuals with an apparent need to identify with something create an "in" group and an evil "out" group. The movement becomes about preserving identity; it's not about the cause the "in" group claims to champion.
Mark Fuller, Tempe

Genocide, by any other name . . . : Sarah Fenske's screed against alleged anti-Israel bias in the Maricopa County YWCA is itself a good example of slanted reporting. The piece is shot through with innuendo against Connie Robinson, the YWCA's board of directors president.

Robinson is discredited as a frenetic, steamrolling politico whose beauty and ambition far outstrip her brains. Likewise, world YWCA Vice President Doris Pagelkopf is painted as "a well-meaning Lake Wobegon liberal who's spent all of two weeks in Palestine." That is, she's just another anti-Semite defaming Israel by exaggerating the plight of Palestinians in the occupied territories.

In contrast, Fenske's heroine, Barbara Lewkowitz, ex-executive director of the county YWCA, is a role model of "steely" resolve and virtue, who's got a "voice so sweet" and a "manner so kind." The photo of her crossing her heart was a nice touch.

But let's have another look at the specific passage of the "Witness Report" that stirred Lewkowitz to righteous indignation and set off the tempest in the local Jewish teapot: "Hitler tried to exterminate the Jews, and now a group of Israelis, not all Israelis, is trying to choke off and rid the land of Palestinians."

Does Lewkowitz actually believe that there is no faction in Israel that would do exactly that if it possessed the authority and power? Genocide, or ethnic cleansing, can be accomplished by means other than gas chambers. Does she believe that all Jews are above such bigotry and hate? If so, she herself is possessed by a racist mentality that sets up her group as morally superior to all others.

All criticism of Israel's policies in the Middle East is summarily dismissed by apologists as anti-Semitic, a red herring that even many Jews are well aware of. But Lewkowitz and her brethren should remember that Palestinians are Semites, while a large portion of the Jews in Israel aren't.

The red herring of anti-Semitism to deflect attention from the anti-Arabism in much of Israeli society and government is a fish that is increasingly failing to swim in international waters.
A. Wayne Senzee, Phoenix

It depends on what your definition of "is" is: In your article "Der Füror," I was mentioned as the "Jewish" consultant for the YWCA during a very challenging time for both the YWCA and the Jewish community.

I'm concerned that we're continuing to build a wedge between the Jewish community and the Christian community by ethnically labeling ourselves. I am a Jew and I am a consultant, but why am I a Jewish consultant? Is that relevant to this matter?

I also want the record to show that I never said the Jewish community should step aside. I did say the current leaders who have been engaging in this dialogue haven't successfully built a bridge to reconciliation, and as such, it's time for new leadership to intervene.
Lisa Benson, Phoenix

Bias fear: After reading your YWCA article, I want to point out a few observations, and one outrage.

First, did your writer read those lines of the Doris Pagelkopf report objectively? It seems that someone told her that the report was racist and biased, and then she just accepted it. The report uses the word "correlation." When someone makes a correlation, or observes similarities, between two things, this isn't the same thing as saying they are equal. Only someone who's reading the report with the predetermination that it's bad or wrong would interpret the word as meaning equalization of Hitler to Israel.

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