July 11, 2010
To the followers of the Reverend, the Imam, and the Minister:
If I could meet you personally, this is what I would say.
I do not come classified as a member of the third-world community, yet my people have much in common with those in that category. Some of us are light-skinned, others much darker. We have suffered oppression and continue to do so in many parts of the world.
Though I was not a slave, my forebears of long ago were enslaved in the land of Egypt. In one of our holiday prayers, we actually use the pronoun "we" to remind us of the horrible time of slavery -- to personally feel that we were actually there thousands of years ago.
When my people were finally released from their bondage, they wandered. Some of them headed toward Russia in hope of a better life. After all, Russia is such a large country, and the group was small in number. But after some years, the officials of the country began to dislike our different ways. Our poets and doctors were slaughtered, and pogroms bled the countryside of Russia.
One of our customs is similar to that of the Muslims. As they do, we observe dietary restrictions. But the Russian government would have none of this. They sent Cossack soldiers to pillage and kill everyone they could. My great-aunt was raped and murdered by one of these soldiers.
Not all my family who left Egypt headed toward the East. Some of them went to Spain. But it was not too long before an inquisition was held, and many of my brothers were burned at the stake by those ministers of religion who sought to save our souls by burning our bodies.
The smell of burning flesh must have carried across the land, for in Germany, many years later, certain leaders had similar ideas. But they do things on a grand scale. Six million of my family were burned in gas ovens. A cousin of mine, only four months old, was thrown alive into a burning pile of rubbish. A grandfather of a friend of mine had his beard ripped from its roots by a soldier who didn't like the fact that he let his beard grow.
My darker brothers in Africa were not treated too well, either. My black brethren in Ethiopia had to be surreptitiously rescued and brought out of that country to a place where they could pray as they see fit. In Damascus, Syria, a little farther north, seven of my family were hanged in the public square. Their crime: their religious beliefs.
Some sixty years ago, those of my family who survived this constant persecution decided that it was time to become part of the group of nations of the world. They had always lived on a small parcel of land, but they had not yet received official recognition of their statehood.
We fought for the home, and we fight even now. Of course, the land was home to some distant cousins of ours, and as in any family, we have tried to work out differences between us. And yet your Reverend and Imam claim that the "land has been illegally occupied." Don't they know that much of the land was legally purchased? Deeds are on file. Furthermore, our cousins now have their own parcels of land that they totally control, yet they continue to lob bombs into our kindergartens. They teach their children to hate other children just because they are different. Isn't that the racism that you recoil from? Isn't that inimical to Jesus' teaching? If you are following the words of the Koran, why should we not find your beliefs loathsome?
Thus, all is not well. Other nations resent the fact that we have finally stopped being the pawn of their convenience. They want a scapegoat just as they had in the past. Surely, you know the feeling. It is not new to either of our peoples. Even when actual events are evident on YouTube, hateful people deny them. Even when investigations prove that we did nothing wrong, no one notices the retractions.
And still other people want us to leave. Just pick up and move. In fact, your men of the cloth have stated it outright. This puzzles us. But if we leave our tiny home, where shall we go? We have lived in India, Spain, Africa, and even China. We are accepted when we number only a dozen, but when we begin to grow we are seen as a threat. Misinformation and outright lies come from your religious leaders' pulpits. Words are bandied about until they lose their meaning, but not their reprehensible results. A land no larger than New Jersey has been repeatedly truncated in order to gain peace, and its only reward is terror. We still await word from kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit as his kidnappers taunt the world with their deceit, and relief associations cannot even visit with him.
What is so alarming is that members of groups who have also suffered do not lend a helping hand to us. Instead they sound like our enemies, inciting violence, speaking distortions, printing half-truths.
If people who have suffered as we have do not understand and empathize, then how will anyone?
As more and more people stand idly by, aiding and abetting our enemies, we have no choice but to defend ourselves. But if you do not wish to aid us in our fight, at least do not join the camp of our tormentors.
If you continue to listen to the hatred of Reverend Wright, who uses the codeword "Zionist" to mean "Jews," or Imam Ahmed Dewidar, who engages in Jewish conspiracy theory and has stated that "the media -- most of which is under Zionist control" influences American society, then we must conclude that you are becoming an avowed enemy of us even though we did not pick a fight with you. Whether we live here or abroad, the tentacles of anti-Semitism are shadows that haunt.
And just a few days ago, according to the Washington Post, Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan wrote to U.S. Jewish groups demanding "repair of [his] people from the damage" he claims Jews have caused blacks for centuries. Farrakhan has long been associated with anti-Semitic canards, and for most Americans, Farrakhan epitomizes racism of the basest type.
Yet in 2007, Barack Obama's former minister, Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, bestowed the Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. Trumpeter Award to a man it said "truly epitomized greatness" -- thus, a man who consistently denigrates the Holocaust is seen fit by Obama's mentor to receive an award. Do you agree with him or not? If you deny the Holocaust of seventy years ago when so many primary documents exist to prove otherwise, what would you say if someone were to deny that slavery existed in this country? Facts are facts; are you deliberately distorting the historical record?
As you desire the truth about your past, do not distort my people's history to suit your own. Do not deny our right to exist, for we do not wish to deny yours. It is patently clear that your religious leaders are cloaking themselves under the guise of religion to hide behind hate speech and vile actions designed to destroy one group of people. You are being blanketed in a systematic barrage of odium and deceptions about a group of people who comprise about 14 million people compared to the 2.1 billion Christians and the 1.5 billion Moslems in the world. Mr. Farrakhan, your anti-Semitism is "obsessive, diabolical and unrestrained." Can one forget your calling Adolf Hitler "wickedly great"?
I am grateful to Bishop E.W. Jackson, who has spoken out about hatred. Now I ask that the followers of these other men look within their hearts and be fair -- totally fair in your analysis of the history of my people. For that is what we are; yes, the Jews are a people who must continually fight the slurs, lies, and falsifications of others. As a member of this world, not third, not second, not first, I want a little space on this earth, too!
Eileen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.