I noted Bird's book earlier and his anti-Israel stance gained him an op-ed in the New York Times with a shoddy presentation of the facts but a brilliant spin of the Arab falsehoods.
Here are the responses including one atrocious one by Seymour Reich, now extreme left-winger with the Israel Policy Forum
In a Neighborhood of Jerusalem
Re “Who Lives in Sheik Jarrah?,” by Kai Bird (Op-Ed, May 1), about his former neighborhood in Jerusalem:
Mr. Bird does not recognize that one of the greatest feats of the State of Israel was the unification of Jerusalem.
Before 1967, when Jerusalem was divided, not all were allowed free access to their holiest sites. Today, thanks to efforts by Israel, and thanks to the creation of a religious authority (made up of Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders), Israel is able to “ensure the freedom of worship and access to the holy places,” the country’s official policy regarding Jerusalem.
One must also not turn a blind eye to facts. Since the reunification of Jerusalem, the number of Jewish, Muslim and Christian residents has increased. The Arab population in Jerusalem has skyrocketed, with the number of Arabs in Jerusalem having risen faster than the number of Jews.
Thus, the number of Arab-owned apartments has increased at a faster rate than Israeli-owned apartments. While only a few Palestinians might choose to go to the “New City,” as Mr. Bird says, this is a choice, not the result of a policy.
As a democratic state, we will remain undivided, and we look forward to the day that a Palestinian state will live peacefully next to the Jewish state of Israel.
Consul for Media
Consulate General of Israel
To the Editor:
Palestinians who left their homes in the Talbieh section of Jerusalem in 1948 did so as a result of Israel’s defending itself against the invading Arab armies.
Unfortunately, it is frequently impossible to reclaim abandoned property lost during major conflicts. This was the case for European Jews fleeing the Nazi scourge and for Jews who lost their property in Arab countries after Israel’s War of Independence in 1948.
The Jordanian destruction of synagogues, and the desecration of Jewish cemeteries and homes, is a reminder of why we need Jerusalem under Israel’s control.
Boca Raton, Fla.
To the Editor:
Just last month, about 40 ultra-right-wing Israelis, you report, marched through a mainly Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem, “waving Israeli flags in a demonstration of Israeli sovereignty” (“March on East Jerusalem Stirs Anger as Envoy Visits,” news article, April 26). Opposition came from the Israeli prime minister’s office and a settlement group, with Israeli leftist and international activists joining Palestinian counterdemonstrators.
A representative of Fatah, you report, said this was proof that Israel did not have sovereignty there, asking, “Where else in the world would you need 2,000 armed, fully equipped police officers to secure a failed march of 70 of your own citizens in an area that you claim as your capital?”
It’s time for the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to rethink its policy of refusing, in a negotiated settlement, to concede East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state. Jerusalem could be divided into two capitals — Jewish areas to the Jews and Arab areas to the Arabs.
Maybe then Kai Bird’s Arab neighbors will be able to seek restitution for their claim (along with Jews who were forced to leave Arab countries after the 1948 war). Seymour D. Reich
The writer is a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
To the Editor:
Kai Bird’s article brought back searing memories of my experience as a Jew in Libya.
My family, threatened with death in 1967 because of anti-Jewish hatred, barely managed to escape. Other Jews, including close friends, were killed by raging mobs. So much was lost, including synagogues and cemeteries, not to mention personal property.
The Jewish community of Libya is gone, and this is a community that predated the Arab conquest of Libya by centuries.
The Jews who were forced to leave Arab countries, numbering nearly a million people, are the forgotten victims of the Arab-Israeli conflict. So much attention is paid to Palestinians, who had the chance for statehood in 1948 but rejected it and joined with the Arab world in waging war on the nascent Israel. They are still paying the price for that catastrophic error and subsequent refusals to accept a two-state solution.
To the Editor:
Kai Bird tries to create a moral equivalence between confiscation of property from Arabs and Jews. There is one line that tips the balance: In 1948, Vicken Kalbian and his family left their home in West Jerusalem, Mr. Bird writes, but “thought they’d be back in a few weeks.”
What Mr. Bird doesn’t tell us is whether the Kalbians expected the Jews to be quickly vanquished. That they were not in 1948, or in 1967, is surely a sore point, but it is hardly equivalent to the moral claim of a people chased through history from their homes and their roots.
The writer is an assistant professor of history at Salem State College.