As the current issue of Left Turn goes to press, we are witness to another round of Israeli violence against the Palestinians followed by another cease fire. There is a definite need to raise critical awareness of the Question of Palestine, Zionism and the US-backing for the apartheid state of Israel. Clearly, the most recent spectacular Israeli assault on the Palestinians requires attention in itself. Even more importantly, there is the matter of the need to counter the intention of the powers-that-be (namely, the US, Israel, and the ruling elites in the Arab client states of the US in the region) to conduct politics in West Asia as if Palestinians don’t matter. We believe that Palestinian lives matter and that their suffering constitutes the oldest wound in the heart of the “Middle East” requiring urgent attention. Lastly, the official US and Israeli narratives employ fictions to obscure the reality of Palestinian struggle. They also leave behind historical voids in their accounting of what has transpired leading to the present unsustainable and violent moment.
In this issue of Left Turn two essays one by Faramarz Farbod and the other by Tariq Ali discuss the Palestinian struggle for justice and self-determination, Zionism and anti-Semitism. We are also using the remainder of the space in this Notes from the Editor section on this topic by reprinting a letter written to President Biden on Gaza by Dr. Sara Roy,a senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University. Dr. Roy is the author of several books, including the indispensable book The Gaza Strip: The Political Economy of De-Development (1995) and most recently of Unsilencing Gaza: Reflections on Resistance (2021). Her letter first appeared on www.counterpunch.org on May 21, 2021.
We hope that the two essays and the letter below help readers develop more critical awareness of what’s at stake and what remains to be done.
A Letter to Biden On Gaza
Dear President Biden,
I am writing to you about Gaza, a place that I have studied and written about for the last 35 years, a place that I consider another home, filled with the kindest and most generous people you will ever meet—have you ever been there? But I am writing not only as a scholar of the region but as a Jew and one whose parents survived Auschwitz.
I have a question for you, Mr. President: When is the death of a child acceptable? Or perhaps I should ask the question this way: When does the death of a Palestinian child become unacceptable? You have experienced the unspeakable loss of your own children so you are better placed than most to answer my questions.
Last week after 87 Palestinians in Gaza were killed and over 500 wounded you stated that you had not seen a “significant overreaction” on Israel’s part to Hamas’s rocket attacks. Among the dead at that time were 18 children. I did not know any of them but I know people who do. Would you please help me explain to my friends why the death of these 18 children does not constitute an overreaction? This brings up another question I have for you, Mr. President: How many children must die in Gaza before you would consider Israel’s response excessive particularly since you have made human rights the center of your foreign policy? I need to know so that I can explain it to my friends. As I write this, over 60 Palestinian children have been killed by the government of Israel. Is that enough to qualify?
I know people inside our government who work on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I need to tell you something I heard from one of them about the death of Gaza’s children. This individual implied that some of the dead were likely the children of Hamas officials so their deaths don’t really matter, that is, their deaths are acceptable. Is this the answer to my first question? Should this be the way I explain it to my friends? Please help me out here.
It is tragic that after more than three decades of research and writing, I still find it necessary to argue for the humanity of Palestinians, even to you.
One more thing before I end this letter if you’ll indulge me. It is about my mom. When she was imprisoned in the Lodz ghetto during the Holocaust, she risked her life hiding children who were chosen for deportation to Auschwitz and other extermination camps. The Nazis eventually found the children and sent them to their deaths. But my mom tried to save them even though she knew she was powerless to do so. And I can assure you, knowing her and learning from her as I did throughout my life, she would have done the same for any child under threat, Jewish or Christian or Muslim. She would have been horrified by the senseless killing of children in this terrible conflict, both Palestinian and Israeli, and she would have railed at the injustice of it all. And this is my last question for you: Why haven’t you done the same?
Dr. Sara Roy