On April 15, 2002, a quarter-page ad appeared in the New York Times. It was entitled "To Our Fellow Americans" and it detailed what its sponsors clearly felt to the urgent, self-evident truths:We affirm our love for the State of Israel, the hope of the Jewish people. Our gratitude goes out to the citizen-soldiers of Israel who protect one another from their would-be destroyers. We embrace the resolve of the Israeli citizens who suffer ongoing merciless terror in the streets, busses, restaurants and synagogues.
We declare that it is past time for the governments and leaders of all Arab and Muslim nations to recognize - unconditionally and unequivocally - The State of Israel, a democracy that has flourished honorably for fifty-four years despite repeated Arab attempts to annihilate it. We justly expect Arab and Muslim countries, as members of the family of nations and claimants of numerous lands and extensive territories, to respect the sovereign right of the Jewish people to its one historic homeland.
We invite all people of conscience to join us in condemning the murderous suicide attacks on our fellow Jews in Israel, and in asserting the incontrovertible necessity of self-defense in a war that Israel neithyer sought nor initiated - a war begun 18 months ago by the Palestinian leadership as an attack upon constructive diplomacy. Civilization chooses the credo of life, not the worship of death.
We confirm our confidence in the President"s adherence to principle and our gratitude to our fellow Americans for their recognition of Israel's bravery and resiliency. Confronting the storm of Islamist terrorism that assaulted these shores on September 11, 2001, we are reminded that the State of Israel has been the fighting front line of democracy since its founding in 1948. In this hour of peril and anguish, we call upon the continuing support of America for our Israeli allies.
The list of signatories to this declaration could not have been more illustrious, including some of the most prominent names in Jewish-American literature and intellectual life: Robert Alter, Saul Bellow, Harold Bloom, Allegra Goodman, Jerome Groopman, Mark Helprin, Neal Kozodoy, David Mamet, Leonard Michaels, Cynthia Ozick, Martin Peretz, Norman Podhoretz, Chaim Potok, Elie Wiesel, Leon Wieseltier, and Ruth Wisse.
In March 2002, before the ad appeared, a series of sixteen bombs, most of them carried by suicide bombers, had killed 100 Israeli citizens. Israel's response to this slaughter, Operation Defensive Sheild, was to reoccupy the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Rage and grief over the death of so many Israelis must have been a catalyst for the decision by these prominent Jewish Americans to make public their absolute and uncritical support for Israel, and their demand that the world understand Israel's military response as nothing more than self-defense in a war against a murderous foe.
It is remarkable that these eminent people decided that a successful defense of Israel's actions must feature a refusal to let slip one syllable of concern for the non-Jewish, non-Israeli civilians caught up in the carnage, or even to mention that these people exist. The word "Palestinian" does not appear at any point in the declaration. It is useful, as we note this silence, to remember what was happening to Palestinian civilians in the occupied territories, reported around the world, while these Jewish American leaders composed their ad copy.
The authors of the New York Times ad fail to express the merest concern for a civilian population under such fearsome duress (perhaps the signatories were too busy "confirm[ing]" their "confidence" in George W. Bush's "adherence to principle.") They fail to recognize even the existence of the Palestinian people.
- Tony Kushner, Alisa Solomon, from their Introduction to Wrestling With Zion