Criticism mischaracterizes Friends of Israel

To the Editor:

I am surprised that Stanley Heller ’69 of the Middle East Crisis Committee was so sharply critical of Yale Friends of Israel in his letter to the editor (“Editorial misrepresented the Middle East Crisis Committee,” 10/25). Heller argues that we are extremists, for our “blind support for a government that is taking more and more Palestinian land.” Monday’s editorial by three YFI members did focus on Finkelstein’s visit, and thus only mentioned the suffering of Palestinians in passing. Yet how Mr. Heller concluded from that article that we are “blind supporters” of the Israeli government is a mystery. YFI’s record as an organization certainly doesn’t support this conclusion.

Just last year YFI, along with Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, hosted Naomi Chazan, a member of the Israeli Knesset who has been an unwavering advocate for a negotiated resolution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict and a strong critic of Israeli security policies in the occupied territories. We also co-sponsored, with the Arab Students’ Association, a theater troupe whose play, “An Olive on the Seder Plate,” highlighted Palestinian suffering and sharply criticized many Israeli policies. As I see it, we endeavor to highlight the rich cultural, technological and intellectual contributions that Israel and its people bring to the world, while carefully examining the conflict in which both Israelis and Palestinians are victims.

Calling us blind “extremists,” Heller is guilty of the same sort of mischaracterizations that make Finkelstein such an ineffective speaker. Throughout his speech, Finkelstein highlighted the most absurd, unaccepted arguments about Israel and anti-Semitism, only to knock them down as straw men. In so doing, he elicited cynical chuckles from a fawning audience, but he ignored the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and sidestepped any serious debate on the subject.

Charlie Carriere ’07

Oct. 25, 2005

The writer is co-president of the Yale Friends of Israel.

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