I am proud to have been a military volunteer at Israel’s founding. I am offended by criticism of those joining in defense of the Jewish state today.
Allow me to respond to Ahmed Tharwat’s reference to “Jewish jihadists” — his name for dual American-Israeli citizens who serve in the Israel Defense Forces (“Traveling warriors, treated inconsistently,” Aug. 13).
I am 91 years old and served in the U.S. Armed Forces. I had the privilege to serve in the Navy as an aviator in World War II. I flew off aircraft carriers and made 67 carrier landings in the Pacific Theater against Japan. I served with the greatest bunch of guys you can imagine from all over our wonderful country. I was fortunate to receive the Navy Cross and the Distinguished Flying Cross. I am very proud to have done my part — as a young man from St. Paul — to defeat one of the Axis powers terrorizing the world at that time, on behalf of our great democratic nation.
I am also proud to have had the opportunity — as a foreign volunteer — to fly in Israel’s War of Independence in 1948 with Jews and gentiles from around the world. We were present at the creation of the Israel Air Force. I took the risk because I could not stand idly by with my experience while a second Holocaust loomed, with the Arab nations telling the world they were going to destroy the Jewish state.
I am proud of the democratic nation of Israel, which shares so many of the values of our country: free speech, freedom of religion, and educational opportunities for Jews and Arabs. I remain hopeful for peace between Israelis and Palestinians and between Israel and its Arab neighbors. The reality is, unfortunately, that Israel must continuously defend itself against terrorist attacks, whether by rockets or tunnels or the threats of nations like Iran.
Given my life and experience, my blood boils when I read a phrase like “Jewish jihadists” as Tharwat exercises his right of free speech, which generations of American soldiers, sailors and airmen have fought and died to protect.
Let’s start with some basic facts. Many in my generation — my St. Paul Mechanic Arts High School classmates, for instance — were assigned to the European Theater in World War II and fought Nazi Germany. By comparison, a large part of the Arab world, led by the Mufti of Jerusalem, supported the Nazis. To use Tharwat’s word, they were “jihadists” against decency and democracy eager to assist in the defeat of the United States and Britain and the destruction of the Jewish people.
Of course, to see the meaning of “jihadists” we can also look to the present — practically this very minute. I am reading about the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant murdering the Yazidi people of northern Iraq — men, women and children. The ISIL jihadists are proudly celebrating and videotaping the executions, beheadings and crucifixions of their victims. In the streets of The Hague in Holland, the European supporters of ISIL are screaming “death to the Jews.” We can continue to discuss “Jihadist” terrorism whether it’s in the Philippines, Syria, or the United States on 9/11, as well as many other places around the world.
The soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces go into battle against the “jihadists” — Hamas, which terrorizes Israelis and Gazans. They fight according to a strict code of military conduct. They, like all Israelis, mourn the loss of innocent life among Gazans. I am proud of the IDF and those Americans who join it in defense of democracy and freedom and in the hope of a better life for Israelis and Palestinians. They are heroes. My generation of World War II veterans salutes them.
As for the expression “Jewish jihadists” — it is the lowest of the low. The good news is that Minnesotans recognize it and reject it for what it is: hatred.
Leon Frankel lives in Minnetonka.
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