Dear Editor,

On April 20, 2023, you published the imbalanced “Israel cannot stop fighting for one second.”  Alex Selsky (a member of organizations advocating a Zionism that delegitimizes and displaces Palestinians) closed his exhortation that Israel must always “hold the sword” in one hand with:  “Anyone who thinks otherwise is living in a dream world.” 

Judaism refutes Selsky and his distortion of Palestinians.  Even if Israel must temporarily “hold the sword” in one hand it must always hold the olive branch in the other.  Anything less is not Judaism.  It is not Jewish.  Selsky’s approach to have Israel forever maintain its “steely fist” perpetuates rather than mitigates all the mutual hatred and unending warfare.

The fact is that significant, early Zionists recognized (and many have since long preached) that Israel/Palestine “is a land of two peoples.” Whether Jews and Palestinians share the land as two nations or as one nation is for the two peoples who inhabit the land to decide.  A majority of people living in the land have the human right to decide how to rationally self-govern themselves.  Instead, we see authoritarians on each side, respectively representing only minorities of their people, who have acquired disproportionate influence to perpetuate the ongoing death spiral.  In contrast, Martin Buber and many other relevant past and present inclusionary Zionists have grasped and understand that only collaboration with Palestinians will ultimately benefit Judaism and Jews.

Selsky correctly recognizes that Palestinian resistance to the creation of a Jewish nation has existed since the beginning of Zionism.  He justifiably acknowledges:  “We are at war . . . [and] always were . . . There is war all the time.”  Nevertheless, a vigilant attention to Israel’s security does not negate an unyielding quest for peace and reconciliation with the Palestinians. 

I do not advocate unilateral disarmament. However, Palestinians have a genuine and deeply felt grievance and even the extreme Right in Israel acknowledges that the State of Israel was forged by the expulsion of Palestinians. Judaism and Jews cannot reasonably expect atomic bombs and bullets to allow Judaism and Jews to survive and thrive.  Yet, Selsky perpetuates the myth that Israel must live by “the sword” because, he falsely infers, Palestinians are our enemies and they will “rise up to destroy us.”  To the contrary, whether as two nations on the land or one, the majority of Israelis and Palestinians want to peacefully coexist and they reject Selsky’s stridency.

At what cost to Judaism and Jews to have Israel continue to “hold the sword” as it continues to burn the olive branch?  There are about two hundred and seventy Christians and Muslims in the world for every one Jew.  Soon, four hundred Christians and Muslims for every one Jew.  As long as there is Christianity and Islam, anti-Semitism will exist. Nevertheless, subjugating Palestinians and following Selsky’s militaristic and authoritarian advice only fans the flames of anti-Semitism while simultaneously causing degradation from within. 

Different kinds of Jews seriously question the efficacy of a sectarian nation of any kind. Some ultra-Orthodox Jews, for example, consider a sectarian Jewish nation to be sacrilegious and oxymoronic.   At another extreme, many secular Jews consider a sectarian Jewish nation without borders and without a constitution contrary to the fundamental human-enhancing principles embodied within the United States Constitution.  Here, in the United States, we always strive to separate government from religion.  We fight for equal legal rights and equal economic opportunities for all. Selsky may be well-intentioned, but he is misguided.  The dream that Jews live safely and freely in this world in a vaguely defined sectarian nation cannot be achieved by bombs and bullets.  The continuing attempt to secure Jews with militarism, without simultaneously achieving a just reconciliation with Palestinians, is destined to become a nightmare.

Richard Ganulin

Cincinnati, OH