Editor’s note: This letter references a letter to the editor from David D. Gladfelter, OC ’58, published April 1.
To the Editors:
To those alumni no longer on campus who refuse to consider claims that the State of Israel participates in colonialist behavior, who out-of-hand reject Israel’s responsibility for a form of apartheid, I too would ask, in the words of the fictional character Baron Munchausen, “Vas you dere, Sharlie?”
I do not mean to ask if you were there to experience the majesty of the Hula Valley, the history of the old city of Jerusalem, or the kibbutzniks warmly welcoming you to the Negev, nor do I mean to ask how much delicious shawarma and falafel you enjoyed. What I mean to ask is whether you were also there to experience the three major bombings of Gaza in the past 10 years, whether you have been to Hebron and experienced survival with less water than the minimum World Health Organization recommendation, whether you have seen the rubble from Operation Protective Edge still littering the streets and whether you have tried to walk from one end of the West Bank to the other, passing through some of the 96 IDF checkpoints in the area.
I do not pretend that my answer to this question is yes, just as I do not pretend that I have experienced all the beauty of the land we today call Israel; rather, I ask you this to remind you that appealing to how wonderful one country’s civilian life is in response to a question of whether that country is oppressing another people is ad hominem and illogical. If civilian life in white South Africa was a rich, fulfilling experience, should we not have questioned South African Apartheid? If life in Nazi Frankfurt was luxurious and carefree, should we not have questioned the Holocaust? This sort of thinking is not “objective and fair” but shortsighted and irreverently biased.
The fact that life for white, Jewish and otherwise normative persons in Israel can be so satisfying does not disprove the claim that Israel is participating in colonialism and apartheid — in fact, when compared with the daily turmoil faced by the average Palestinian, it does just the opposite.