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March 18, 1994 - Image 55

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-03-18

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Jews in Hebron in 1929, too. For every Kahane
there is a Hamas.'
"I always try to make clear that I am for the
survival of the state," he says. "But I am also
for human values."
The fact that he is "for human values" is
likely what allows Professor Nissani to excuse
in Palestinians what he would condemn in
others. Because he believes Palestinians have
so long been the victims of Israeli abuse, he
says he understands how they could be anti-
Zionist but not anti-Semitic.
"Not every anti-Zionist is an anti-Semite,
though every anti-Semite is an anti-Zionist,"
he says.
Professor Aronson also cautions that anti-
Zionist expressions can be based on ignorance.
"Sometimes there's no understanding or ap-
preciation of the Jewish experience, of the com-
pulsion Jews feel, understandably, to have
their own state with their own government,"
he says. That's not anti-Semitism.
What does constitute anti-Semitism: when
educated non-Palestinians say Israel has no
right to exist or refuse to recognize its right to
make mistakes like any other country.
"Though," Professor _Aronson says, "as soon
as people start to criticize Israel my antennae
go up: I ask myself, 'How far are they going
and what's their motivation?' " He believes it's
time Diaspora Jews stop regarding all such
criticism as threatening. Israel, he says, is not
a child.
"Most Jews live with a myth — the myth of
a poor, weak Israel," he says. "I believed that, Hymie Cutler: "Our very lives are at stake."
too. But in the '73 war, Israel showed a mas-
sive social, economic and military strength.
specific examples. His criticism was severe.
And I was proud of it.
Most sat and listened, visibly uncomfortable. Later,
"Israel is not a child," he adds. "It's a nation-state they would say, "Of course, what he said was absolutely
among other nation-states. We can't be blinded by this true, it's just hearing it said aloud that way... "
mythical image we have of Israel."
But one member of the audience stood up in the mid-

A local synagogue held a lunch with a guest speak-
er who had lived for more than a dozen years in Israel.
He is a devoted Zionist, an educator, an artist. He told
the audience: It's time to stop sending U.S. dollars to
Israel. He said he has watched, sadly, for years as Is-
rael wasted money and time and energy. He offered

dle of the speaker's lecture and began yelling. "Don't
talkabout Israel that way!" he screamed.

Supreme Court Judge Harry Blackmun,
whose classic definition of pornography left every-
J thin.g
thing to the imagination, Richard Lobenthal
can't quite give a one-sentence description of what
constitutes Israel-bashing. But he knows it when he
sees it.
The director of the Michigan Region Anti-Defama-
tion League offers ground rules for debate on Israel


"As soon as people start to
criticize Israel,
my antennae go up."

— Ron Aronson

Ron Aronson: "Most Jews live with a myth."

that start with Israel's right to exist.
First: You recognize Israel's legitimacy.
"If you say that Israel is illegitimate, or the effect of
your words is that Jews are not entitled to rights like
every other nation, that's anti-Semitism," he says.
Mr. Lobenthal recalls a page in a recent issue of a
city newspaper that listed brief news bytes from around
the world. Two paragraphs described Israeli soldiers
killing one Palestinian teen-ager. Four lines reported
on four Arabs, suspected of collaborating with the
Israelis, killed by other Arabs.
He called the editor.
"His response was, Well, we expect barbarism from
the Arabs, but not from Israel.'
"What happened," he says, "is that they were ma-
nipulating public opinion, though they didn't mean to

be anti-Semitic."
Second: You agree with the statement that Israel
has a right to exist within secure borders.
Third, "You acknowledge the fact that in a democ-
ratic society, people have the right to elect their own
government, and fourth, that government has a right
to be wrong."
And acknowledging that right to be wrong means
acknowledging, with equal fervor, that Israel's mis-
takes should not be singled out as more heinous, more
severe, more uncommon than those of any other na-
tion. Nor can those mistakes be exaggerated.
One of the anti-Semite's most famous tools is what
Mr. Lobenthal calls the "distortion of history."
The anti-Semite will speak at length about Deir
Yassin, then conveniently forget to mention Hamas.
He will talk about all the Palestinians killed by Israelis,
but somehow forget to raise the issue of the hundreds
of Israelis murdered by Arabs.
Or, he will make unwarranted comparisons replete
with key words designed to propagate evil images of
Jews or Israel. Look out for anyone who claims "Jews
are like Nazis" in their treatment of Palestinians, he
"There is nothing Nazi-like in terms of the way Is-
raelis have treated the Palestinians," he says. "When
you say 'Nazi,' you're talking about genocide, a
government-sponsored program of unspeakable
"Don't tell me that breaking legs is analogous to
operating on people without using anesthesia."
The ground rules are set.
Now, Mr. Lobenthal says, let's talk.


n 1980, Hymie Cutler sent a 14-page memo to
David Lawrence, then executive editor of the
Detroit Free Press. The letter was a follow-up to a
meeting the Zionist Organization of America held with
Mr. Lawrence, to review the paper's coverage of Middle
East news.
Five years later, Mr. Cutler wrote a letter to David
Lawrence, then publisher and chairman of the paper.


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