Considering Question #5


To the Editors of The Crimson:

As an ardent Zionist, I am saddened that I find myself compelled to vote in favor of Question #5 in the Cambridge election next month. I encounter two reservations which, upon careful consideration, are ultimately outweighed by the gravity of the current situation in Israel and the occupied territories.

First, I am well aware that I may be voting "Yes" alongside someone for whom this referendum is intended as one step toward the eventual annihilation of Israel. But Israel's right to exist is implicit in the wording. And, as the Jewish philosopher Maimonides wrote, we must take truth from wherever it comes. It would be a shame for the American Jewish community to relinquish its right to independent thought by automatically countering every argument put forth by the "opposition," regardless of its veracity.

Contrary to the claims of many Jewish groups, I cannot accept that the measures called for in this referendum, if enacted, would jeopardize Israel's existence. In the long run, Israel's survival can only be ensured through a resolution of the Palestinian issue; any step in that direction will ultimately strengthen Israel. Peace in the Middle East has been achieved only through United States intervention and pressure; Israel, though wanting peace with Egypt, was extremely hesistant to relinquish the Sinai. And we should remember that the current Prime Minister, Yitzhak Shamir, opposed even this treaty. What makes us think that he would be any more willing to compromise in the current situation on his own initiative? U.S. pressure on Israel is a prerequisite to peace. Political pressure is certainly preferable and should precede the withdrawl of aid, but I cannot disagree with the spirit of this provision.

Second, I am disturbed that this referendum implies that responsibility for peace rests solely in the hands of Israel. It ignores both the history of the situation (the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem by the Jordanians) and the repugnant terrorist tactics employed by the PLO. But history can only do so much; it may explain why Israel justifiably occupied the territories, but it cannot exonerate Israel's present government-sanctioned atrocities.

Amidst all this point-for-point criticism of the referendum, we may lose sight of the broad situation that it addresses. The proposed statement is a necessary outcry against the deplorable behavior of parts of the Israeli military and against recent legislation allowing incarceration without charge. Now is the first time I have not heard the "double standard" complaint used in defense of Israel. This can only be because we Jews are beginning to understand that Israel's human rights violations are not merely "as bad" as those of many other countries. They are worse. Analogies to South Africa--though often simplistic and malicious--are becoming increasingly valid.

The implications of this referendum are tremedously complex. The rhetoric in the Cambridge press has done little to clarify the matter. Nonetheless, we cannot afford to ignore the dilemmas raised by the referendum. Americans, Jews and non-Jews alike, must cry out both against the injustice perpetrated by the Israelis upon the Palestinians in the territories and against the lack of any substantial move towards peace in the region as a whole. Whether deep reflection upon the matter leads one to vote for this particular referendum or to abstain from voting on it is not the issue of primary importance. What matters most is that the citizens of Cambridge enter into serious consideration of the matter and publicly express their thoughts, questions and reservations. Jonathan Springer '90,   Co-chair, Harvard-Radcliffe Zionist Alliance

Editor's Note: The author made clear that this letter reflects his personal opinions and not necessarily those of any other member of the Harvard-Radcliffe Zionist Alliance.