Pro-Palestine note was hostile

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Pro-Palestine note was hostile
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To the editor: 

Regarding the letter entitled “Amplify Gaza voices, not an upset diner” by Boyd Walker in the January 18 Alexandria Times, I agree with the writer’s opinion about the weighting and placement of the story about an unprovoked, inappropriate and hate-based message written by a restaurant server and delivered to a patron. 

Noteworthy as it may have been, I agree that there were probably other things going on in Alexandria that week that could have appeared in that story’s front-page placement. Next, the writer focused the core of his letter on the issue of free speech within the context of the Hamas/Israeli conflict – certainly a complex topic – and that’s fine, but I feel urged to respond with additional points that the writer appears to ignore. 

As important as free speech is to the core of the American democracy – and I have lived in some countries where free speech is sharply curtailed, and I’ve have seen the effects of that curtailment – it is clear that there have to be limits on free speech if we are to survive as a civil society. We do not have the right to falsely shout “fire” in a crowded theater and we do not have the legal right to engage in such things as hateful, threatening and inciteful speech. It is naïve to believe that an unprovoked message from a pro-Palestinian server to a Jewish patron would not be perceived as a hostile one. 

The courts have been active on the issue of free speech, but Walker does not seem to accept the fact that there must be limits on hateful, threatening and inciteful speech and that there must be consequences for violating those limits. Yes, it’s a difficult topic to define and enforce, but doing so is one of the responsibilities of the legal system, as we see regarding the perpetrators of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. 

The author also discusses and criticizes the recent actions being taken by the Israeli government, but nowhere in his letter does he mention Hamas or its intentionally murderous and terrorist attacks in October which precipitated the current crisis. Shouldn’t he at least have mentioned that rather vital fact, instead of suggesting that Israel’s actions simply took place without cause? 

And in decrying the certainly regrettable damage done in Gaza and saying that “the whole world should be concerned,” couldn’t he also have been more geographically specific, by stating that the oil-rich countries in that region – which don’t seem committed to taking in refugees or supplying substantial assistance in food and medical care – certainly have the cumulative wealth to readily eradicate poverty there and to rehabilitate Gaza? 

Doesn’t he think that the countries in that part of the world have a priority interest in, and the necessary resources, to do so? 

The current crisis between Israel and Hamas, tragically, is certainly not a new one, regardless of the simplistic solutions offered by critics. To the Jewish people, antisemitism and efforts to eradicate the religion and its followers have their origins in long history, including the Crusades of the Middle Ages, the Spanish Inquisition and the countless European state-and-church-led acts which stripped Jewish people of their legal, citizenship and property rights – and, of course, the Holocaust along with the 1948, 1967 and 1973 wars. The list goes on and on. Cumulatively, these events provided the impetus for the formation and maintenance of the state of Israel, which has become the symbol of the Jewish religion worldwide. 

And a final point: Certainly, any one nation’s leaders can be criticized, but from the Jewish perspective, when many critics – whether they acknowledge the notion or not – are attacking or demonizing Israel, we believe that they are, in fact, attacking the Jewish religion per se, and are merely hiding their antisemitism behind a geo-political cloak. 

Demonizing Israel is increasingly just a dog-whistle for antisemites. Jewish people comprise less than 2.5% of America’s population, and certainly, within this small number, there are lots of different views on Israel, but to most of us, one fact stands out among all others: Israel’s neighbors can lose any number of wars, and they can regroup and come back for more, but Israel can lose only once. 

Organizations like Hamas and their sponsors will always pose a mortal danger to the population and state of Israel, unless they are gone. 

-Stephen Leeds, 

Alexandria 

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