Yossi’s Response to the Palestinian journalist Haitham Fadel. You can find the translation to Haitham’s response here


Dear Haitham Fadel,

Thank you for responding to my book. I invited Palestinians to respond and you were among those who did. I didn’t ask for a positive response, only for an honest one. You have contributed to the conversation I was hoping to initiate, and for that I am grateful.

You write that “the neighbor that the author fantasizes about is a weak neighbor who agrees with everything that he wrote in the book.”  If that were the case, I would have felt no need to waste my time writing this book. It is precisely because I know that we disagree about almost every aspect of this conflict – from history to yesterday’s news – that I felt compelled to write. My intention was not to convince my neighbor that I’m right, only to help my neighbor get a glimpse into how Israelis think about this conflict. I hope that for you, as a  journalist, that is useful in itself, regardless of what you think of my arguments.

You write that I “paint a rosy picture of the occupation.” Some right wing Jews who read the book would certainly disagree with that. When I wrote about being an occupying soldier in Gaza, my intention was to portray a grim reality, to be self-reflective and self-critical. So too, when I described the situation in Hebron.

You write: “Palestinian, the Arabs and the Muslim shave never committed any attacks against the Jews before the establishment of the State of Israel.” It’s certainly true that Jews were much better treated under Islam than under Christianity, but there were attacks against Jews periodically in different parts of the Muslim world https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisemitism_in_Islam#17th_century

We don’t have to go too far back into history to find the 1929 massacre of Hebron’s Jews by some of their Palestinian neighbors (other Palestinians helped hide their Jewish neighbors from the mob).The anti-Jewish riots were started by false rumors that the Jews were planning to seize the Haram el Sharif. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1929_Hebron_massacre In Baghdad in 1941, the Farhoud, as it is known by Jews, resulted in the murder of over 180 Jews and another thousand injured (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farhud).

You write: “In Yossi’s eyes, the Palestinian has to accept the historical right of the Jews to live in Palestine just because Europe got rid of its Jews.” Here is what I wrote in Letter Nine: “I wanted to tell a narrative of the Jewish people’s return to this land that didn’t reinforce the assumption I’ve heard for decades from Palestinians and from Muslims generally: that the only reason Israel exists is Western guilt over the Holocaust…What about our four thousand year connection to the land?”

That is the core of my argument about why the Jews, along with the Palestinian people, are indigenous to this land. Not because of what Europe did to us but because we never stopped being attached to this place.

A majority of Jews in Israel today come from families with roots in the Middle East, not Europe. The Jews of Yemen, Iraq, Morocco, Tunisia, Syria: that is the Israeli majority. Why, then, only bring up the Jews of Europe? If your point is that we are a European colonialist invasion, then I understand the need to ignore the Jews of the Middle East. But that is not a reflection of Israeli reality.

There is much more to say, for both of us I’m sure. I would be happy to meet and continue this conversation if you are interested.

In any case, I am grateful for this opportunity to write to you.

With best wishes,