This is Yossi’s reply to Qais Shaker from Iraq. To read Qais’s full response check this link


Dear Qais,

First, my apologies to you for the long delay in responding.

Second, my gratitude to you for taking the time to read my book and to respond. When I wrote my book I didn’t ask for or expect a “positive” response from readers, only that people in the Arab world would take the time to read and hopefully, respond. You have done both, and so I am grateful to you.

That said, I read your letter with astonishment. I repeatedly had to ask myself, Did he read the book I wrote? What book was he responding to? Because so much of what you accuse me of writing is simply wrong – not only didn’t I write much of what you accuse me of writing, but I actually wrote the opposite.

Here are a few examples:

While I wrote about Nebuchadnezar, king of Bablyon, and Cyrus, king of Persia, I was simply recounting ancient and well-documented history. That story is very complicated. Not only did the Baylonians expel the Jews; but Jews were at home in Babylon – so much so that even when Cyrus allowed them to return, many chose to remain. So the picture is more complicated.

But more to the point: To draw any comparison between ancient and present times makes no sense. Today, Israel is increasingly aligned with the Arab world against the Iranians and Hezbollah. That is the basis for the peace agreement between Israel and the Emirates. The Arab-Israeli war is gradually ending; it is being replaced by an Iranian-Israeli war, which we are fighting every day in Syria and which threatens to break out at any time on our northern border with Hezbollah.

So, Kais, the reality today is exactly the opposite from what you accuse me of supporting. Israel’s future lies in positive relations with its Arab neighbors, and in resisting Iranian imperialism against both Israel and the Arab world.

You write that I believe in “Christ the savior.” But – where to begin? – Jews do not believe in “Christ the savior.” Many Jews were killed by Christians over the centuries for rejecting Jesus as the messiah; that was in fact the major reason for Christian persecution of the Jews. Don’t take my word for it; you can read about it in histories written by Christians – like xxx’s  The Sword of Constantine.

 As for the Soviet Union: Jews opposed the Soviet Union because it was persecuting three million Jews, forbidding them to study and practice their faith and express their Jewish identity. And yes, because the Soviet Union was arming the Arab world against Israel. The Soviet Union was one of the most oppressive countries on earth – not only for Jews but for all its citizens.  Millions of Soviet citizens died in the frozen wastelands of the gulag. Surely you don’t miss the passing of a regime that caused so much human misery?

Your point about Ethiopian Jews caused me to ask myself literally out loud: Really? Does he really believe this? We rescued Ethiopian Jews from a famine and brought them to their ancestral home, the home they had never stopped dreaming about for thousands of years. In Ethiopia their Christian neighbors called them “Falasha,” stranger. As for Egypt: We have a peace agreement with Egypt. It is not our enemy. I wish the Egyptian people well.

There is no proof we murdered Arafat. And Abbas seems to be well on his way to dying in his comfortable bed at a ripe old age.

You accuse me of supporting the expulsion of Palestinians. Please re-read the sixth letter of my book, which lays out my vision for a two-state solution. Go ahead and oppose me for what I believe; but don’t oppose me for what I don’t believe.

The same goes for your accusation that I see the Arabs as Nazis. I wrote that the tragedy of this conflict is that many Arabs see the Jews as colonialists and many Jews see the Arabs as Nazis – that we have imposed our worst historic traumas on each other. I make clear in the book that that is not my position – that we need to overcome those simplistic ideas about each other in order to move forward together. Again, please don’t distort what I wrote.

 You write that I am fearful of Israel’s future in the Middle East. When I read your letter and get a glimpse into the horrifying conspiracy theories that accuse the Jews of any and every possible crime, then yes, I worry about my future here. The good news is that things are changing, and I’ve received many letters – including from Iraq – that show a great hunger in the Arab world for a different kind of relationship with between Arabs and Israelis, a relationship based on mutual respect and curiosity about each other’s traditions and culture and history.

That is the future to which I have dedicated my book. If you’d like to continue this conversation, I am happy to do so.

With blessings,