What’s wrong with this picture?
(Editor’s note: This letter was originally addressed to Eric Ringsby, an artist whose exhibit, The Indian Wars of Palestine, is now showing at the David Floria Gallery in Aspen.)
The claim that Israel is to Palestinians as America was to Indians is just plain wrong.
While there is nothing improper with criticism of Israeli policy, doing so based on factual and historical distortion ” as this exhibit does ” promotes dehumanization and bigotry.
The conflict in the Middle East is long-standing and complex. But it is not the story of white colonialists coming to steal the land of, and subjugate, a native population.
Quite the opposite. There has ALWAYS been an indigenous Jewish population in the land of Israel, even after many Jews were dispersed around the globe. The land of Israel has always remained the focus of Jewish people and the Jewish religion, which celebrates holidays tied to events and seasons in Israel. The majority of Jews in Israel today are either from, or the offspring of Jews from, the Middle East when the state was reborn in 1948. And while Arabs are indigenous to that region too, there has never been a Palestinian state, nor until recent decades, a Palestinian national identity. Contrast this to the history of the many Indian nations, including the Iroquois Confederacy, with a constitution older than America’s that begins, “We the People.”
Jews in Israel, like American Indians in the United States, are trying to reclaim their sovereignty on a small part of their former land, surrounded and frequently threatened by hostile others.
In 1917 the Balfour Declaration endorsed the rebirth of a Jewish state in British Mandatory Palestine. Five years later, 80 percent of the land was carved away to create the Arab country of Jordan. In 1947 the United Nations divided the remaining 20 percent of the land into two states, one Jewish, one Arab. The Jews accepted; the Arabs declared war. In the aftermath, between 1948 and 1967 ” when the Arab armies would again try to wipe out an organized Jewish presence in one-sixth of 1 percent of the land in the Arab world ” there was never any claim that Egypt and Jordan, the rulers of Gaza and the West Bank respectively, were occupying Palestinian land.
To describe Israelis without this history, as this exhibit does, is no less bigoted than those who dismiss the history of various American Indian nations in attempts to erase their historic hunting and fishing rights.
Indian people, probably more than anyone else, understand the pitfalls of trading “land for peace.” But Israelis remain willing to do so, even after they received suicide bombers in response to their offer to give up more than 95 percent of the West Bank and 100 percent of Gaza during Camp David. All they ask in return is a true willingness for Arabs to accept the small Jewish state as a permanent part of the Middle East, and to end cultural, political and religious efforts to dehumanize and stereotype them. This is a dream Indian people in many parts of North America certainly understand.
In order for there to be lasting peace and freedom, historical distortions that promote dehumanization of Israel and Israelis ” just as old-line anti-Semitism used historical distortions to demonize Jews ” must end.
We hope that the next exhibit will be focused on using art to bring Israelis and Palestinians together, rather than driving them apart.
American Jewish Committee
Twenty-eight years ago I was challenged, attacked, threatened and my professional reputation impugned by a slimy, cold-blooded, 6-foot reptile intent upon seizing control of City Hall. Though cooler heads prevailed and we retained the keys to the city, the mental anguish, physical abuse and monetary diminution I suffered in beating back the premeditated, hostile attack upon our community took its toll.
Today, I languish in New Delhi, India, 12,000 miles from my beloved Aspen, and only experience the bumps of Ruthie’s; the fresh, nurturing swell of budding Aspen; the cool, soothing rush of Hunter Creek; and the crisp, thirst-slacking draft of a Little Annie’s draw vicariously.
And, why? Because a lizard, manipulated by a nefarious cartoonist, bent upon destroying our community, reared its ugly head from the storm drains of Mill Street and ran amok through our town.
Fellow Aspenites, I beseech you to stomp this insidious creature back into the primordial slime of the prehistoric era from whence it came. Do not let Sal A. Mander pander to your heartfelt instincts of fair play and a democratic process. This reptilian scourge does not share your values. It is a chameleon, who will change its colors to suit your mood.
Banish Sal A. Mander from Aspen, and deny him the forum he so dearly wants, or suffer the consequences, which may range from Donald Trump being invited to town as the commissar for employee housing, and McLain Flats being flooded as a breeding pond for Sal’s offspring.
Rise up and keep the forked-tongued politics of Sal A. Mander from shaping Aspen’s future.
Stacy Standley III
New Delhi, India