Stars of youth, where have you fallen?
None of you all do I see moving with the clouds.
You, comrades of my youth,
How promptly you made peace with the world!
For I, too, how poorly did I remain true!
But I continue to struggle.
Stand against the world!
If I cannot be victorious as a hero, then I shall fall as a combatant.
(Excerpts from a poem by Hermann Hesse).
Reuven Moskovitz – Jerusalem Garden, No. 721, P.O. Box 3686 , 96100 Jerusalem,
Tel. 00972 2 653 51 03, email@example.com
To those interested in Israel und Palestine,
I write these lines in a mood almost of anger and despair. I am now in the state of mind of the prophet Jonah, who stopped believing in his God-given task of warning the people of Nineveh. Despite this the people of Nineveh did penance and God alllowed his mercy to prevail. I am not a prophet but an old man in his late eighties who lived through the calamities of the 20th century and the early years of the 21st. I cannot bring myself to believe that in the circumstances prevailing here in Israel/Palestine a miracle such as in Nineveh might come to pass.
Born into an orthodox Jewish family, frequently afflicted by poverty, persecution and being uprooted; and having survived the terrible Shoah, as a child I believed in God and prayed for God’s health. I believed ardently in what my parents and my religious education, which began when I was four, taught me. Then came the events leading to the terrible Shoah – a Shoah that called into question the Jews’ right to survive. In 1933, shortly after my early school induction, I heard terrifying talk of a certain Adolf Hitler and of a Germany – a country venerated by most Jews – that wanted to destroy the Jews. My parents’ prayers and those of our small Jewish community did not help in the slightest. There was hope, there were fasts, alms for the poor were collected; people were certain that this widely admired country, Germany, would not tolerate for long a rascal such as Adolf Hitler. Expulsion, humiliations, and despair were what characterized my earliest years. Then came the unexpected liberation. Belief in the Holy Scriptures, prayer, and the utter certainty that Germany’s defeat was the judgement of God sank under a fascinating wave of belief in reason, justice and peace. These values have the liberation of the world as their goal. Aside from the love of human beings and of life nothing was more important to me than the belief that it is not God’s task, but man’s, to create a world free of need, hunger, hate, persecution and destructive wars.
For forty years I felt I knew who I had in mind when writing the words “dear friends”. Under present circumstances I know precisely which of them still are my friends, but I do not know if all the hundreds and thousands of Germans who I called my friends are still friends of justice, peace and reconciliation. A majority of the German people seems to me to be contaminated by an incurable disease, which I, “the child with a frown”, am unable to help heal.
I was amongst the first survivors and persecuted victims who dared to write about a “Germany that I love”. I still love that Germany, no matter how many do truly serve the cause of justice, peace and reconciliation. Unfortunately, the majority are paralysed by the traumatising effect of being vilified as anti-semites.
Following the hideous events of the past, contemporary Germany cannot under any circumstances allow itself to furtively claim innocence for reasons of state. We Jews are not the only victims of the Nazi régime. The one victim of this past that still suffers are the Palestinians; and Germany refuses to acknowledge their right to use the expression “Nakba” (the calamity of expulsion).
In my many letters and my first two books I warned indefatigably against uncritical solidarity with a state that has developed far from democratically and humanely. From the bottom of my heart I have to cry out again and again that this state has become a rogue state, a Sodom and Gomorrah, even if there are still righteous people making up, alas, no more than ten per cent of the population. The demagogy, the heartlessness, the belligerence, the greed, the xenophobia, and above all the hate for those who think differently have reached terrifying proportions. In Israel Palestinians are executed, whether children or adults, with the same levity with which rabid animals are put down. I am well aware of the anger I arouse with these words, yet it is the unvarnished daily truth. Many of my friends and acquaintances raised their eyebrows when they read in my first book that both before and after the foundation of the state of Israel Jews were cruelly killed by Palestinian resistance fighters. Palestinian resistance fighters – even if the manner of resistance is not acceptable – are “hunted down” or “destroyed” or, since the “knife intifada”, “neutralised”. These are not the only terms used by the government- compliant press.
As long ago as in the early 1950s Erich Fried wrote in his poem ‘In the language of the ancients’ (In der Sprache der Alten) (excerpt):
Come people of Israel! Arise from your injustice
Cease from that which leaves you disdained by the nations!
Those, too, who act friendly to your face, for their own advantage
They wrinkle their nose and mock you behind your back when you turn:
“That’s the people of the Bible for you!
As greedy and vengeful as any people in the whole wide bloody world!’”
How has it come about, I ask myself, that Germany, with one of the most awful of histories, speaks of only terror when it’s Palestinian terror.
Terror is terror is terror – even Netanyahu speaks of Jewish terror. Have those many Germans asked themselves what the difference is between Palestinians murdering innocent Jews and Jews murdering innocent Palestinians? Have all the Palestinians killed in Gaza been guilty of a crime? In just the most recent senseless war in Gaza thousands of Palestinians were killed, more than 2000 adults and almost 700 children. The response to Palestinian terror, even that of stone-throwing children is the destruction of all the families’ houses. Can anyone point to a Jewish- Israeli terrorist’s house being destroyed? How can these crimes be understood? What is more important than one’s homeland, what is worse than people being driven from their homes and having to stand by as their belongings are destroyed? Human history is full of supposedly victorious wars and terrible defeats. But rarely in history has a defeated people lost its right to a homeland.
The physician Baruch Goldstein slew 29 Palestinians in the Mosque of the Mothers and Fathers in Hebron. Was Baruch Goldstein’s house destroyed? What greater terror is there than this crime, which is not the only one in the terrible history of the conflict between Jews and Palestinians – sister peoples according to the Bible?
It is with great respect and admiration that I follow those courageous Germans who protest against the supply of German arms to this terror-plagued land. But the German government, led by Mrs Merkel, has reached an almost criminal climax by raising Israel to world power status, a country rejoicing in its colonial exploits. What Islamic State or Daesh is doing in the Middle East is awful, but it is not only the western states who have meddled in the exodus of millions, mainly to western Europe; but at least as regards Syria, Israel is in my opinion the principal guilty party. For years the powers that control Syria have tried to agree peace with Israel on one condition: the return of the Golan Heights, conquered in 1967 by Israel, despite the fact that the war was not unleashed by Syria. This is explored in detail by one of the most important Israeli generals, Uri Sagi (for further details see my book, “Ein Leben für Gerechtigkeit, Liebe und Versöhnung” – “A Life for Justice, Love and Reconciliation”). This Israeli complicity is also discussed in Michael Lüders’ “Wer den Wind Sät” (“They who Sow the Wind”), especially in the penultimate chapter “A Free Pass for Israel?” (“Freibrief für Israel?”)
But it seems I remain a voice crying in wilderness.
For years I have consoled myself with the hope that mine was a voice in a small but very fruitful and peace-loving German oasis. But I now feel deeply disappointed and without hope. This statement does not refer to the hundreds or thousands of Germans who still take me seriously.
Many in government perhaps do not realise that Israel not only has fascist traits, but is coming heavily under the influence of nationalist clericalism, and dangerously so. It could be that many Germans have not yet realised that not only the Palestinians and the remaining political resisters are in the gunsights of this clerical nationalism. In the maelstrom of these concerning developments, however, the Christian churches have also been attacked. One of the most beautiful churches in Taba, the Church of the Feeding of the Five Thousand, was set on fire. The monastery in Latroun and the Dormitio-Abbey in Jerusalem, notable for its friendly relations with other faiths, were daubed with anti-Christian slogans. Amos Gwirzt, one of Israel’s best-known military service refusers and warning voices, was able to report 495 crimes under the title “Just say you didn’t know” (“Sagt nur, dass Ihr es nicht gewusst habt”). The Bedouin village of Araqib, for example, has been destroyed over 90 times.
It’s also important to mention that following the occupation of the West Bank 20% of the population were Christians. Today they scarcely make up 2%.
Despite everything I am still trying to get things moving. I would like to organise a delegation of representatives of all the faiths in Israel/Palestine to visit the German Bundestag to draw attention to the dangers of the present situation in my country. Democracy means giving a hearing to those who think differently and are of different faiths. My decision to come to Germany, following the shock I experienced in my own country, was the fulfilment of my hope that this help would come from a resurrected Germany and would be a model and symbol to other peoples, in particular the sister peoples. There has been a change in my thinking, not exactly under the influence of Jewish rabbis, but from German churches and Christians who seemed to have learned the lesson that God became man, Jesus, and that his teaching would be able to create peace in the so-called Holy Land.
In my first letter, written in 1974, addressed in the main to German Christians I recounted how Prof. Dr. Gollwitzer, at a Beer Sheba conference dedicated to the teachings of Martin Buber, told me that his lecture was to warn Israel of the danger of becoming a master race. He was brutally interrupted and not allowed to complete his lecture. As far as I am concerned Prof. Gollwitzer was one of the most important apostles of peace. In a publication at that time apostles of peace were described as “clergymen in the service of terrorism”. A short time later I organised a meeting of Prof. Gollwitzer with the Jewish-Israeli apostle of peace, Jesaja Leibowitz. At this meeting Prof. Leibowitz quoted Franz Grillparzer opining, very relevantly, that the world was turning from humanity to nationality and from nationality to bestiality.
Later I had a rare sense of satisfaction on hearing Prof. Gollwitzer say that his warning to Israel against becoming a master race had been influenced by a reading of my first annual message.
Dozens of clergy, such as Prof. Gollwitzer and Niemöller amongst others, converted me to being a friend of Christ and of Christians for the first time. What disappoints me profoundly and makes me despair is that, unlike Gollwitzer, many clergy lack understanding of the message of the apostles and its spirit. They are possessed by the fear of being cast as anti-semites, if they allow criticism of Israel’s dangerous policies.
What makes me sad and ill is that the rulers of Israel and a large number of Israeli rabbis cause me to feel that I must describe my newly won homeland of Israel as the “unholy state” and that I am in exile in a bloodthirsty diaspora.
Undoubtedly many will not agree with my message and I greatly regret this.
To the many hundreds and perhaps thousands who have remained true to me and my remaining hopes and continue to be commited to a just and peaceful future I express my deepest admiration and gratitude.
Reuven Jerusalem, March 2016
PS: I appeal to those who have not yet heard of my new book, “Reuven Moskovitz – Ein Leben für Gerechtigkeit, Liebe und Versöhnung” (“Reuven Moskovitz – A Life for Justice, Love and Reconciliation”), not only to read it but also to recommend it to others. You can order it from Hanja Van Dyck – firstname.lastname@example.org
Translated by Mike Bloom, Abingdon 29/04/16