To the Editor:  May 9, 2024

I am a regular reader of Amjambo Africa. I appreciate your efforts to provide a source of community and helpful information for recent immigrants, especially those coming from areas of war and conflict, and I understand why your articles about these conflicts tend to focus on humanitarian issues while staying neutral on politics. 

That’s why I was surprised and disheartened to see the letter you printed from Steven Koltai, “The Sadness of Israel.” You rarely print letters, and I am baffled as to why you chose to print this one, especially right now, while Israel continues to commit genocide in Gaza. 

Like Mr. Koltai, I am Jewish and a child of Nazi Holocaust survivors. Unlike Mr. Koltai, I am not a Zionist. I am distinctly anti-Zionist. I am not antisemitic, and I say this because criticism of Israel is often equated with antisemitism. 

Mr. Koltai states that Israel’s “accomplishments” have been a source of “immense pride” for him all his life.  His book, Peace Through Entrepreneurship, is published by Brookings Institute, a right-wing Washington think-tank. The premise is that “global unrest threatening American security” can be quashed by creating jobs through entrepreneurial startups. 

Israel is the self-described start-up capital of the world, and websites such as startupnationcentral.org present a glowing picture of hardworking entrepreneurs who “tackle today’s most complex challenges by harnessing Israel’s bold and determined approach to tech innovation.” 

To a very large extent, Israel’s startup tech boom is used to create weaponry and surveillance systems which are tested on Palestinians and sold around the world to just about any nation that wants them. We can thank Israel for high-tech surveillance at the U.S.-Mexico border, leading to death in the desert for thousands of migrants, and for the repression of millions of human beings, mostly Black and Brown, throughout the Southern Hemisphere. For more depressing examples, I suggest Antony Loewenstein’s The Palestine Laboratory: How Israel Exports the Technology of Occupation Around the World (Verso Press, 2023). 

Mr. Koltai barely mentions the Palestinians. According to Zionist ideology, the Indigenous people of Palestine have no right to the land where their ancestors lived for thousands of years. Those “green” Israeli startups (agriculture, alternative energy) are built on stolen land. 

Mr. Koltai is horrified by Israel’s attack on the World Central Kitchen (WCK), but is apparently not bothered by tens of thousands of Palestinians bombed or starved to death in Gaza, nor the many more wounded, disappeared under the rubble, or detained in Israeli prisons, many subjected to unspeakable torture. Of the seven WCK workers killed, only one was Palestinian. Does he think the lives of white North Americans and Europeans are more valuable? 

The rest of Mr. Koltai’s argument, blaming Israel’s current troubles on a schism between Haredi and mainstream Jews, is nothing but a diversion from the real issue and a thinly veiled argument for Zionism. 

Zionism is racism. Israel is an apartheid settler-colonial state, as recognized by the world’s major human rights organizations. Just as most of us recognize the United States as a multicultural nation where Christians, Muslims, Jews and others are allowed to worship freely, we should condemn the very concept of a Jewish-only nation. 

Many of today’s recent immigrants are survivors of genocide and yet Israel would have us believe the Nazi Holocaust was the only one. We know that is not true, and what happened to European Jews under Hitler is no excuse for the present apartheid state. 

All Palestinians must be allowed to return to their ancestral homeland as is their right under international law. Those Jews who wish to remain must learn to share the land, with equal rights for all. The rest can go elsewhere, perhaps to the United States, Britain or Germany, three countries largely responsible for bankrolling the current genocide. 

Jamila Levasseur 

Waldo