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Country Versus Policy

The recent Voices opinion piece “Troubling flags Fly on State Street” wades deep into the troubled waters of Israeli-Palestinian history. Unfortunately, the article is factually inaccurate from start to finish, and it is clear that its author is in way over her head.

The importance of civil discourse and honest debate is a deeply held Jewish value, one fully embraced by Santa Barbara Jewish Federation. Jewish Santa Barbara is a tent big enough to embrace a great many perspectives on Israel, and the Federation bears no resemblance to the picture Marcy Winograd paints of a sinister Jewish propaganda machine dedicated to inculcating children with viciously anti-humanist values and to suppressing debate in the adult world.

The author apparently misunderstands the meaning of the term “Zionism.” She calls on Federation to remove images of the Israeli flag from its website, associating Federation with “colonialism” and worse. She implies a link between Zionism and Charlottesville white supremacists, self-styled “white Zionists” whose views are in fact hateful to the Jewish community. She treats the Israeli flag as a stand-in for those deplorable values. It’s guilt by association, where in fact no association exists

In fact, the Federation supports the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state, which is the very definition of Zionism. Beyond that premise, however, Jewish views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are as diverse as those of the greater Santa Barbara community. And like the American flag, the Israeli flag is a symbol of a country, not the policies of its government. In her passion for Palestinians, the author confuses the two. And in vilifying symbols of Jewish Santa Barbara, she only perpetuates cycles of bitter misunderstanding.

Peter Melnick is president of the Community Shul of Montecito and Santa Barbara.

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