Kalman Yeger spoke truth to power and power in turn spoke its concept of truth to Kalman Yeger.
The saga of Kalman Yeger opened with his March 20 tweet: “Palestine does not exist.” Yeger’s bosses – the leadership team of New York City Council – have been in the process of removing Yeger as a member of its immigration committee.
Yeger, who represents Borough Park’s enclave of Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn, was undermined by the manipulation of oblique language – what amounts to theater of the absurd. The councilman was merely responding to use of the word “Palestine” often espoused by advocates for the Arabs in Israel’s territories. Supporters of Israel have applied similar tactics to their arguments, but it does not appear to be quite as much.
None of New York City’s three dailies bothered to define “Palestine” when they reported on the controversy. That word – Palestine – has confounded me over the years when supporters of the Palestinians have uttered it.
There is a Palestine, Illinois, and a Palestine, Texas, and I am not familiar with any other sovereign nation, state, county or city called Palestine. In other words, Yeger stated what is true in reference to the Middle East’s “Palestine.”
It is challenging enough to debate the Israel-Palestinian conflict when speaking in plain, understandable language, yet how can we possibly get serious when one or both sides exploit words of dubious meaning?
Both sides have utilized skewed language, such as: “From the river to the sea,” “apartheid state,” “Greater Israel” and “the evil doings of Israel.” The “river/sea” remark is seen as Arab code for the land where Israel and its territories are located (from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea). Israel is frequently referred to as an “apartheid state.” “Greater Israel” is viewed, at the least, as Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza.
Then there is U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar’s 2012 comment: “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” While she did not hold elective office at the time, Omar had advanced far into adulthood by then. What sane person talks like that?
We can reasonably fear that disingenuous semantics will ignite future clashes among powerful people. As semantic skirmishes persist, millions of lives hang in the balance.
In the city known for its estimated Jewish population of 1 million, it took only about 10 days – on April Fools Day – before the council leadership decided to remove Yeger from City Council’s immigration committee. They were not fooling, while fooling themselves.
As mayor and council speaker respectively, Bill de Blasio and Corey Johnson must know what us lowly American citizens and mere members of council like Yeger do not know, since both of New York’s esteemed leaders swiftly pounced on Yeger.
“I very vigorously condemn his comments…They have no place in New York City,” said Johnson, as quoted in The New York Times. “The best thing about our city is our diversity, and includes our Jewish community and…our amazing Palestinian community.” Note: NYC’s council speaker regards only one of the two communities “amazing.”
“There has to be a Palestinian homeland,” the mayor chimed in during a radio program. “People in public life should be about unifying people and finding ways to work together. What he is doing is the opposite.” De Blasio added in a tweet,
“A two-state solution is the best hope for peace. I challenge anyone who thinks the state of Israel shouldn’t exist. But the same goes for anyone who would deny Palestinians a home.”
Who is denying Palestinians a home? Palestinians lack a sovereign home right now, and fabricating a name for an entity that does not exist yet will not make it happen. If Israel and Palestinians reach agreement on a two-state solution, then they will have an independent state which, presumably, its inhabitants will name “Palestine.”
Yeger was left with the choice of apologizing or losing his place on the immigration committee. He has so far refused to apologize. The Times reported that Council’s Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections must vote to drop Yeger from the committee to be followed by a two-thirds vote of all Council members.
Maybe Council will not follow through this, maybe they will reverse themselves later if they ever recognize how silly they are behaving. It seems obvious that de Blasio and Johnson are sincerely trying to be sensitive to a minority group, and in so doing they are abusing their power. Sounds like they need an interpreter.
Republished from San Diego Jewish World