December 24th, 2006
Mr. David A. Harris
Israel on Campus Coalition
Dear Mr. Harris,
We are writing to you to express our concern and outrage at the letter issued to you by ZOA's executives regarding ICC's relationship with the Israeli IDF veterans group, Breaking the Silence. In their letter, ZOA refer to BTS as "a hateful anti-Israel program" and do their utmost to cast doubts on the veracity of the testimonies brought forth by its members, branding them as "hateful, distorted and inaccurate."
As Israelis, Jews, former soldiers and officers in the IDF, who also served in the occupied territories, we find this letter offensive and deeply troubling. The fact of the matter is that anyone attending one of BTS's activities and who also happened to have served in the occupied territories hears nothing that he himself has not seen, heard or done in the course of his service there. This fact is also attested to by the hundreds of testimonies contributed by Israeli soldiers to the group's documentation project of the reality of the occupation.
Moreover, it is precisely the ability of the Israeli and Jewish-American publics – both on the right and on the left – to avoid fully facing this reality that is the raison d'être of "Breaking the Silence", as signified by the group's name. Therefore, all that ZOA's branding of the group – as providing "a hateful and inaccurate view of Israel and its relationship to the Palestinian Arabs" – reveals is their willful ignorance of their work, or otherwise their purposeful misrepresentation of it. In any case, it seems to us that whatever ZOA's agenda is, their insinuations should not be confused with the truth.
BTS brings a meticulously documented presentation based on hours upon hours of interviews with hundreds of IDF soldiers and officers, and on personal experiences. Instead of gainsaying BTS's arguments by means of opposing evidence, and without even taking the trouble to attend one of BTS's presentations, ZOA concocted a letter that merely attests to the powerful effect of the truth that BTS members bravely unveil.
The fact that the letter's authors admit they have not attended any of BTS's activities raises some questions. For instance, one wonders on what basis ZOA's executives deem themselves qualified to accuse BTS of "promoting outright falsehoods" and to judge their testimonies as "hateful anti-Israel propaganda"? Have any of the authors served in Hebron, Jenin or elsewhere in the occupied territories? Can they attest to a different reality than the one depicted by BTS? If they indeed can, we are certain that BTS would be prepared to add their testimonies to the group's archives. But to accuse BTS of "factual inaccuracies, distortions and omissions" without a single shred of evidence is libelous. And, quite frankly, since it is patently clear that the authors do not have first-hand knowledge of the situation on the ground, nor do they posses a soldier's experience, their letter cannot be regarded as anything but an expression of ignorance and perverse ideological bias. Moreover, reference to Israeli combatant GIs as "hateful" and "anti-Israel" in attempt to delegitimize voicing their opinion by those pretending to support Israel from afar is downright outrageous. Thus we find the content and tone of their letter as sheer chutzpah.
Equally distressing is the manipulative invoking of anti-Semitism as a tactic intended to stifle any critical voice. This abuse of the term is not only out of place, but, more importantly, the biased identification of criticisms of Israel with anti-Semitism runs the risk of inadvertently contributing to this gruesome moral perversity. To be absolutely clear, manifestations of anti-Semitism are dangerous and should in no way to be taken lightly. Precisely for that reason, however, any Jew in Israel and in America, regardless of political affiliation, must condemn ZOA's irresponsible use of the concept in the harshest of terms
Surely the members of ICC recognize the diversity of opinion within Israeli society regarding the grave political and moral consequences of the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians. But in recognizing this plurality of opinion one must also see that capitulating in the face of ZOA's bullying tactics refashions the aim of support for Israel to fit the mold of the narrow interests of this one group. By silencing BTS in the U.S. you will be excluding a significant part of Israeli society from the discussion in this country –and that in the name of so-called support of Israel!
We believe that the ICC will resist the inflammatory rhetoric and false allegations of ZOA. Moreover, in light of ZOA's preposterous claims against BTS, and seeing as ZOA is a member of ICC, we expect that ICC issue a demand for ZOA's written apology for their offensive and unfounded allegations.
Nir Evron, Stanford University Stanford and Jerusalem
Reshef Agam-Segal, University of Oxford, Oxford and Jerusalem
Hadas Ben Eliahu, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Carmit Ben Meir, Jerusalem
Nomi Drachinsky, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Nir Evron, Stanford University Stanford and Jerusalem
Amir Engel, Stanford University, San Francisco and Jerusalem
Galia Epstein, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Doron Hammermann Schuldiner, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Noam Hoffstater, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Avner Inbar, University of Chicago, Chicago and Jerusalem
Kinneret Lahad, Bar Ilan University, Jerusalem
Ofer Neiman, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Michael Ravvin, Columbia University, New York and Jerusalem
Michael Ritov, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Assaf Sharon, Stanford University, Stanford and Jerusalem
Avital Sharon, Stanford and Jerusalem