January 24, 2005

Letters to the Editor

Iraqi Jews

Contrary to what Adam Weissmann wrote in his recent opinion piece ("Iraqi Elections: What about the Jewish vote?" 1/18/05), Iraqi-born Israelis would not "reject the concept of Jewish nationality" by voting in Iraq's upcoming elections. If they had wanted to do that, they would renounce their Israeli citizenship. Weissmann's preposterous claim, that a life as an Israeli Jew and participation in the political process of any other nation are mutually exclusive, does a great injustice to the fact that many Jews have developed very meaningful ties to countries and cultures all over the world and is an insult to the liberal democratic values that countries like America and Israel work so hard to uphold.

Weissmann seems to forget that the Jewish nation is made up of individuals whose identities, like all other human beings', are profoundly complex and ambiguous. Writing on this very topic, Leon Wieseltier asked, "Who in the world answers to just one identity? What man or woman on earth is not afflicted by contradictions between loves and commitments and beliefs and desires? Who anywhere adds up?" A Jew, like any person, is defined by much more than his faith, and this is something that members of a free society must accept. Weissmann's essay, however, is a call for the kind of political paranoia and cultural narcissism that has no place in Israel or any other civilized nation.

As for the Iraqi elections, it is not that Iraqi Jews reject the concept of a Jewish state by voting in them; it is that in response to this act Weissmann rejects them as Israelis and as Jews. I am shocked that Weissmann could be so quick to question the loyalty of these men and women to Israel, much less their worth as Jews. These are, after all, people who owe their prosperity, their opportunities, and their very lives to the good will of the state of Israel and who often risk those lives in its defense.

Most unsettling perhaps is the similarity between Weissmann's thesis, the incompatibility of Judaism with any other peoples' way of life, and the dogma of many of the Jews' most vicious persecutors. I am certainly not trying to paint Weissmann as an anti-Semite. All I claim is that it is ridiculous to try and win the "struggle for... Jewish national normalcy" by denying Jews a life as a free people in the community of democratic nations, and that it would not benefit Jews, be they within or outside Israel, to confront the fanaticism of their enemies with fanaticism of their own.

Igor Gorodezky

Third-year in the College