To the editor:
Two letters printed in the Feb. 4 issue of your newspaper offer a stark contrast.
The first letter from Rabbi Avi Weiss is eloquent, passionate — but most importantly, fact-filled. Rabbi Weiss has dedicated his life to helping the Jewish people, in particular; and humanity, in general.
Rabbi Weiss is speaking the truth based on facts to Congressman Jamaal Bowman’s power.
It will be interesting to see if he responds with the same respect Rabbi Weiss accorded him.
Congressman Bowman made a conscious choice to circulate a lie about Israel on Twitter when he sent out the following tweet: “Netanyahu must ensure that both Israelis and Palestinians have access to the COVID-19 vaccine. This cruelty is another reminder of why the occupation must end.”
As a congressman, Mr. Bowman has a large following on Twitter, and many people saw this tweet, retweeted it, and probably believe it, even though it’s a lie based on lies.
As a member of Congress and our representative, he has a special responsibility to deploy the abundant fact-checking resources at his disposal before messaging under his name — our name — on Twitter, or any other platform.
While he did take the tweet down, as far as I know, he has not issued an apology or tweeted a correction of this modern-day blood libel.
As Rabbi Weiss correctly noted in his letter, the Israeli government offered COVID-19 help to the Palestinian Authority, but they turned it down. He also noted that the authority elected to purchase the less-effective Russian Sputnik V vaccine because political considerations are more important than the lives of their own people.
Based on the Oslo Accords and the Paris Protocol, the authority’s health ministry is the decision-making body responsible for the vaccination of its population.
Congressman Bowman should direct his criticism to the authority’s health minister, Dr. Mai al-Kaila, who by her own admission, only submitted an official request for help to Israel on Jan. 5 after their Russian and World Health Organization COVax suppliers came up short.
In fact, Israel immediately approved 5,000 Moderna doses for Palestinian health care workers, and in the meantime, 10,000 Sputnik V doses arrived as well as 37,000 COVax doses.
It’s interesting that someone who made attention to local concerns one of his signature campaign issues found the time to circulate this lie when he had been in office less than one month, and his congressional district is the borough with the lowest vaccination rate in the city.
Perhaps the congressman should show the same level of concern for the people he was elected to represent as he does for those living under Palestinian Authority control.
He certainly was not elected to smear a longtime friend of the United States with mendacious lies that do the opposite of advancing the cause of peace between Israel and her neighbors that he claims to care so much about.
The second letter from Maayan Seligsohn is all feelings and completely devoid of any facts. She says she is “heartbroken” to see Rabbi Weiss “calling out” Congressman Bowman. She said we should listen to him instead of offering an alarming shout of “anti-Semitism” when, in fact, Rabbi Weiss made no such reference, and in fact, he respectfully suggested to him that he also hear from Israeli and Jewish leadership before he circulates any more falsehoods.
Seligsohn would do well to listen to her own advice and ask Congressman Bowman to pay attention to the facts before spreading more lies about Israel. We stand ready to hear Ms. Seligsohn’s and Congressman Bowman’s concerns, and expect they will be equally as receptive to the facts.
The author is vice president of the Riverdale chapter of NorPAC, a pro-Israel political action committee.