Jan 2010 Journal

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Letter from Israel


A refreshing pro-Israel voice

‘You must read this,’ a friend said, thrusting some typed pages into my hand. They contained the text of a speech given by Elena Bonner, the Jewish widow of former Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, at the Freedom Forum held in Oslo, Norway, in May 2009.

I read the typescript with growing astonishment. Elena Bonner spoke out bravely and unequivocally in favour of Israel, berating her hosts and the representatives of other countries for applying a double standard to Israel when it came to the issue of human rights. After giving a brief account of her own personal history - left parentless at age 14, father executed, mother imprisoned and exiled, brought up by grandmother, orphaned again by the Second World War, married Sakharov, exiled - the 86-year-old Bonner summed her life up as ‘typical, tragic and beautiful’.

She quotes some of the statements made by her late husband: ‘Israel has an indisputable right to exist;’ ‘Israel has a right to existence within safe borders;’ and ‘With all the money that has been invested in the problem of Palestinians, it would have been possible long ago to resettle them and provide them with good lives in Arab countries.’

After referring to the wars and terrorism which have targeted Israel since its existence, Bonner notes that a new motif - ‘two states for two peoples’ - has become fashionable. She claims that it sounds good and that there is no controversy on this score in the peacemaking quartet made up of the US, the UN, the EU and Russia, adding with regard to the last ‘some great peacemaker, with its Chechen war and its Abkhazian-Ossetian provocation!’ Without making any attempt to fudge the issue, she states that the demand for the return of the Palestinian refugees from 1948 is simply another way of working to destroy Israel. She shows that the statistical record has been distorted since the very beginning, with the connivance of the UN. She describes a ‘judenfrei Holy Land’ as ‘Hitler’s dream come true at last’.

Bonner also cites the case of Gilad Shalit as showing up the hypocrisy of the human rights activists, saying: ‘You fought for and won the opportunity for the Red Cross to visit Guantanamo. You know the prison conditions, the daily routine, the diet … The result of your efforts has been a ban on torture and a law to close this prison … But during the two years that Shalit has been held by terrorists, the world human rights community has done nothing for his release. Why? ... I can find no answer except that Shalit is an Israeli soldier and a Jew … This is conscious or unconscious anti-Semitism. It is fascism.’

Ms Bonner concluded her remarks by stating that when she first visited Oslo in 1975 to represent her husband at the Nobel Prize ceremony she was in love with Norway, but today she feels both ‘alarm and hope’ (the title of the essay written by Sakharov in 1977 at the request of the Nobel Committee). Alarm because of the anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment growing throughout Europe and even further afield, and hope that countries, their leaders and people everywhere will recall and adopt Sakharov’s ethical credo: ‘In the end, the moral choice turns out to be also the most pragmatic choice.’

How refreshing to come across a voice which openly expresses support for Israel in these days of inveterate Israel-bashing wherever one turns.

Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

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