Gerald Steinberg, in his Opinion piece, “Beyond Tikkun Olam” (July 19), completely misrepresents Hillel’s famous dictum. Hillel said “If I am not for me who will be for me and if I am only for me, what am I?” He does not, as Steinberg says, enjoin us “first to be for ourselves, and then, with our security and survival in hand, to expand our commitment to people who are outside the fold in need of assistance.” The two obligations are simultaneous.
This same callous attitude is reflected in his use of quotation marks around the phrase “human rights violations” (as if Israel has never committed one) and “occupation” (as if Israel’s presence in the West Bank could reasonably be described in any other way).
He conflates the desire for peace with a rejection of Israel’s right to self-defense and suggests that seeking peace with the Palestinians is at odds with Israel’s security. To the contrary, as leading Israeli security experts like the former heads of Shin Bet noted in the documentary “The Gatekeepers,” peace with the Palestinians is vital to Israeli security.
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