Yaron Sideman does not promote peace
Some of us who attended the presentation on Oct. 27 by Yaron Sideman, consul general of Israel for the Mid-Atlantic Region, may have hoped for comments that would help us understand the basis of the current terrible events that have occurred in and around Jerusalem. That violence has clamed the lives of at least 50 people, mostly young Palestinians, and brought fear to entire communities. It deserves attention. Unfortunately, what we received was a one-sided view that pushed the possibility of understanding – and peace – backward.
Sideman’s opening comment was laudable — that we must all respect the humanity in each person. But, sadly, there his all-embracing worldview ended. Sideman suggested instead, as he did in his piece in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last week, that the cause of the violence rests squarely in the hands of those who educate Palestinian children to hate Israeli Jews. No evidence for this claim was provided. And indeed, the recent report funded by the State Department on a bias in Israeli and Palestinian school textbooks indicates there is almost none.
Sideman implied that the education occurs in other ways, as when a Palestinian child is handed a wooden gun and told to prepare to kill Jews. Maybe. But as a 14-year-old in Israel in 1955, I received military training as part of my school curriculum — how to fire a real rifle, crawl under barbed wire, throw a hand grenade and jump from a wall into a net. All my Israeli classmates did. We were not told to kill Palestinians; yet, living as I did in Jerusalem in the shadow of the Old City, we knew of no other enemy.
Sideman longs for the day that Palestinians will accept the validity of the State of Israel. Yet, I have I searched Israeli shops in vain for an Israeli map that indicates the “Green Line” between Israel and the land it has occupied since 1967. And it is not hard to find statements by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu such as the one he made earlier this year: “Anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state, anyone who is going to evacuate territories today, is simply giving a base for attacks to the radical Islam against Israel.” As CNN put it, there will clearly not be a Palestinian state on his watch. One would not have guessed any of this from Sideman’s remarks.
And what about the role of settler violence? When a particular incident was raised during the question-and-answer period, Sideman quickly indicated that this was the work of a lone Jewish terrorist who will certainly be punished. Yet, Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, former West Bank commander of the Israeli Army, testified on Oct. 23 that right-wing Israeli extremists have played a major role in promoting Palestinian terror, and the record shows that they are very seldom caught and punished.
We have a new director of the Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh [Joshua Sayles; see story on page 3]. Let us hope that he will use his position to shed light on the crisis affecting Israel and the occupied territories rather than obscure the problem as occurred at the JCC on Oct. 27.
Michael J. Zigmond