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Allan C. Brownfeld
Spring - Summer 2022

Wake Up and Reclaim Your Humanity:  
Essays on the Tragedy of Israel – Palestine  
By Richard Forer  
Mindstir Media  
291 pages, $14.99  
This thoughtful book, which won the New York City Big Book Award, tells the story  
of Richard Forer, a lifelong supporter of Israel and Zionism, who underwent a  
remarkable spiritual awakening. His decision to engage in a careful search for  
historical facts that might question his unwavering acceptance of the Zionist  
narrative enabled him to write about the Israeli occupation of Palestine with  
honesty, separating fact from fiction.  
Forer grew up in Trenton, New Jersey where he attended a Reform synagogue. His  
identical twin brother has been a prominent member of an Orthodox Hasidic sect  
since the early 1970s. Another brother is a former president of one of the  
largest Reform synagogues on the East Coast. Other Orthodox members of his family  
live in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Forer is a past member of American  
Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). His first book, “Breakthrough:  
Transforming Fear into Compassion― New Perspective on the Israel-Palestine  
Conflict” was published in 2020.  
“Until my confrontation in 2006 with the circumstances that obliged me to begin  
an intensive study of Israel-Palestine, I had never even bothered to research the  
history. My view of the Middle East had been shaped by my attendance in Sunday  
School in the 1950s, where my impressionable mind soaked up stories of my  
people’s sometimes triumphant and often harrowing past and of the heroic  
establishment of Israel, the one sanctuary from the monstrosity of anti-Semitism.  
History was not in doubt. We had maintained a presence in the Holy Land since  
time immemorial and, in spite of great hardships had persevered to establish a  
Jewish state. With bravery and grit, we had expelled Arab forces that resented  
our presence and were too uncivilized to appreciate that after thousands of years  
of longing and prayer we had returned home. At the mercy of blind loyalty, I  
rejected any consideration my beliefs might be erroneous…With my journey as a  
guide, this book asserts that blind loyalty, false beliefs and enemy images do  
not have to dictate our destiny…Through hard work and a commitment to the truth…  
we can achieve a just resolution to this tragedy.”  
“More To the Story… Than I Already Knew”  
On July 12, 2006, Hezbollah militants killed three Israeli soldiers and abducted  
two in a cross-border raid into northern Israel. This and other recent events,  
notes Forer, “reinforced my lifelong fear that the Arab world would not rest  
until it had wiped Israel from the face of the earth.” He attended a rally at the  
Jewish Community Center in Albuquerque and contributed to AIPAC. Then he received  
an unexpected call from Sam, an old Jewish friend, who was planning a visit: “I  
launched into a two-hour diatribe against Israel’s enemies. Sam just listened,  
never arguing... Unlike me, he had studied the history of Israel-Palestine for  
years…he suggested I look into the writings of two Jewish Israeli professors I’d  
never heard of: Baruch Kimmerling and Tanya Reinhardt…until that moment…I had  
never allowed myself to consider the possibility that there was more to the  
Israel-Palestine story than what I already knew.”  
Shortly thereafter, Forer went to the library and took out several books, “The  
Palestinian People: A History” by Baruch Kimmerling and Joel Migdal, and “Beyond  
Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History” by Norman  
Finkelstein. He saw on the Finkelstein book jacket the words “Joan Peters exposed  
as an academic hoax.” This interested Forer because Peters’ book, “From Time  
Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict over Palestine” had “been  
my bible, the treasured source I had used to rebut criticism of Israel and the  
only book I had ever read on the subject.”  
Peters claimed there was no such thing as a Palestinian people. In his reading of  
the Finkelstein book, Forer found that his sources included Human Rights Watch,  
Amnesty International and the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. He recalls  
that, “Consistent with each other, their findings castigated Israeli policy and  
behavior. Documented charges included deadly force by Israeli soldiers against  
unarmed men, women and children; the bulldozing of houses, sometimes with  
inhabitants still inside, collective punishment of large numbers of civilians  
based on alleged crimes by lone individuals; using Palestinians as human shields;  
the theft of water from Palestinian villages; Israel’s commonplace use of torture  
and its reliance on political assassinations.”  
Shocked at Israeli Behavior  
Many of the reports cited were posted online and Forer spent hours going over  
passages quoted in the book. He found that they had all been accurately cited and  
he slowly “felt shocked that a country in which I had invested a lifetime of  
loyalty would treat people this way. My shock turned to anger that Israel was  
perpetrating these abuses in my name as a Jew…I could not accept any more what my  
society had taught me to believe…Just as throughout Eastern Europe my people had  
been guilty of the crime of being Jewish, under Israeli domination every  
Palestinian is guilty of the crime of not being Jewish…My unquestioned acceptance  
of the Jewish Zionist narrative had distorted my ability to empathize with  
another people.”  
His continuing study of Israel’s relationship with Palestinians caused Forer much  
anguish. He read in detail about June 14,1982 when the Israel Defense Forces  
began a siege of Beirut, Lebanon, bombarding the Lebanese capital from the sea,  
air and land and killing thousands. A few weeks later, Menachem Begin told the  
Knesset, “No one, anywhere in the world, can preach morality to our people.” On  
Sept. 16, Ariel Sharon and Chief-of-Staff Rafael Eitan sent Israel’s allies, the  
Christian Phalangists, whom they had armed and trained, into the Lebanese  
Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. For four days, Israeli troops  
surrounded the camps and sealed all exits. Phalangists dismembered, raped, and  
massacred residents in a bloodbath the U.N. General Assembly denounced as “an act  
of genocide.” Estimates of fatalities ran as high as 3,500. Sharon called the  
dead, who were mostly children and older men and women “terrorists (who needed)  
mopping up.”  
In February 1983, Forer points out, “…the Kahan Commission of Inquiry issued its  
report…Accusing the Israeli government of ‘indirect responsibility for what  
occurred in the refugee camps’…The commission reprimanded Begin…and criticized  
other officials, some―Sharon included―with the recommendation they be removed  
from their posts…Aside from Kahan, no other deliberative body charged a single  
Phalangist or Israeli soldier for crimes related to Sabra and Shatila. The  
message from the international community was that Israel could get away with  
Silencing Criticism of Israel By Calling It “Anti-Semitic”  
Forer devotes a chapter to the manner in which Israelis, and their American  
allies, do their best to silence criticism of Israel by categorizing it as “anti-  
Semitic.” Shulamit Aloni, a leader of the Meretz party and former Minister of  
Education, who received the Israel Prize “for her struggle to right injustices  
and for raising the standard of equality,” described how this works: “It’s a  
trick. We always use it. When from Europe, somebody is criticizing Israel, we  
bring up the Holocaust. When, in the U.S., people are criticizing Israel, then  
they are ‘anti-Semitic.’” (Democracy Now, Aug. 14, 2002).  
Early Israeli leaders, Forer shows, promoted this idea even before the state was  
established. David Ben-Gurion declared, “Henceforth, to be anti-Israel was to be  
anti-Semitic.” Abba Eban, who served as Israel’s ambassador to the U.N. as well  
as deputy prime minister, expanded the definition of anti-Semitism: “One of the  
chief tasks of any dialogue with the Gentile world is to prove that the  
distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is not a distinction at all."  
Ironically, Forer shows us, Zionism’s founder, Theodor Herzl, had little  
familiarity with Judaism and did not practice the religion: “Herzl was so  
disaffected with his heritage, he offered to convert Jews to Roman Catholicism if  
the Pope would back his plan for a Jewish state. His disaffection may explain a  
prediction he made, one that has come to pass: ‘The anti-Semites will become our  
most dependable friends, the anti-Semitic countries our allies.’ In Herzl, who  
did not circumcise his son, religious Jews saw an Am Ha’aret (ignoramus)…this  
founder of a movement so influential it supplanted ‘God’ with ‘Israel’ and  
transformed a religion into a nationalistic movement…”  
Replacing Religious Judaism with Nationalism  
As Zionism moved toward replacing religious Judaism with nationalism, many Jewish  
leaders objected. On July 16, 1947, four months before the passage of the  
partition plan, Yosef Zvi Dushinsky and Zelig Ruven Bengis, the Chief Rabbis of  
the Ashkenazi Jewish community in Jerusalem, gave written testimony to the U.N.  
Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) announcing the community’s “definite  
opposition to a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.” They urged that Jerusalem  
be an international zone where “there should be implemented the unity of  
international brotherhood towards all mankind…”  
Forer’s research has uncovered many little-known Jewish critiques of Zionism. New  
York rabbi David Shapiro, for example, criticized Zionism’s insistence that  
Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people. In Dec. 2017 he said: “The  
Jewish people don’t have a capital. We have never had a capital. Countries have  
capitals…The Jewish people are not a country or a region, the Jewish people are a  
religious community.”  
Israel’s treatment of Palestine’s indigenous population violates both  
international law and Jewish values, Forer shows us. He quotes Israelis who admit  
this reality. Former Shin Bet (Internal Security Agency) directors Avraham Shalom  
and Carmi Gillon admitted that Israel acts as “a brutal occupation force.” Gillon  
declared: “We are making the lives of millions unbearable.” One of Israel’s  
founding myths, which Forer remembers being taught in religious school, was that  
Arab leaders instructed Palestinians to flee their homes in 1948 and that Israel,  
therefore, is not responsible for the Palestine refugee problem.  
Arab Leaders Never Urged Palestinians To Leave  
In 1959, Columbia University historian Walid Khalidi proved this claim to be  
false, and two years later Irish scholar and U.N. diplomat Erskine Childers  
independently corroborated Khalidi’s findings. “By examining archives of Arab  
governments and newspapers and the reports of the CIA and the BBC,” writes Forer,  
“which monitored and transcribed every Arab radio broadcast of 1948, both men  
proved that Arab leaders never gave such instructions. To the contrary, they  
broadcast appeals to Palestinians not to flee their homes. There were even times  
they threatened to punish anyone who left their village or city. (Israeli  
historian) Benny Morris’s research supports Khalidi and Childers. ‘There is no  
evidence that the Arab states… wanted a mass exodus or issued blanket orders or  
appeals to flee.’”  
Indeed, in June 1948, the Arab section of Israel’s Intelligence Service produced  
a paper titled, “Migration of Eretz Yisrael Arabs between December 1, 1947 and  
June 1, 1948.” It said: “Without a doubt (direct Jewish hostile actions against  
Arab communities) were the main factor in the population movement.” Forer notes  
that, "When asked by the U.N. To account for its claim that Palestinian flight  
was encouraged by Arab leaders, the Israeli Foreign Ministry library could not  
produce a scintilla of supporting evidence.”  
Forer’s continuing research showed him that Zionism, from its very beginnings,  
sought a Palestine free of its indigenous Palestinian population. In 1895,  
Theodor Herzl wrote in his diary: “We shall try to spirit the penniless  
population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit  
countries , while denying any employment in our own country…Both the process of  
expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and  
circumspectly.” In conjunction with denying employment, Herzl proposed starving  
Palestinians and forcing them into exile.  
Population Transfer Committee  
Forer writes that, “The Jewish Agency established the first Population Transfer  
Committee in 1937 to develop strategies to rid the land of Palestinians.” David  
Ben-Gurion declared: “I support compulsory transfer. I don’t see anything immoral  
in it." On December 20, 1940, Joseph Weitz, director of the Jewish National  
Fund’s. Lands Department, wrote: “It must be clear that there is no room in this  
country for both peoples… If the Arabs leave it, the country will become wide and  
spacious for us… the only solution is a land of Israel without Arabs… There is no  
room here for compromises. Not one village must be left, not one (Bedouin)  
In religious school and in his involvement with the Jewish community over the  
years, Forer always was told that the Jews were the “chosen people.” He writes  
that, “Israel’s occupation of Palestine and its duplicity regarding its promises  
to the nations of the world demand an answer to the following question: what,  
according to Judaism, are the Jewish people chosen for? Are they chosen to covet,  
steal, lie, oppress, rob, and pervert justice, or are they chosen to rectify  
injustice, to be a blessing to the world, a light to the nations; to reflect  
God’s goodness and perfection by observing His mitzvoth…If Judaism is a divine  
revelation that aspires to elevate the consciousness of humankind, then adherents  
must understand its most sacred principles place a higher value on human life  
than on emotional and messianic attachments to land, no matter how holy they  
imagine that land to be.”  
Forer cites many respected Jewish voices who object to what has happened in the  
name of Judaism. The philosopher Martin Buber expressed the view that, “Only an  
internal revolution can have the power to heal our people of their murderous  
sickness or cause less hatred (for the Arabs). It is bound to bring complete ruin  
upon us. Only then will the old and young in our land realize how great was our  
responsibility to those miserable Arab refugees, in whose towns we have settled  
Jews who were brought here from afar, whose homes we have inherited, whose fields  
we now sow and harvest, the fruits of whose gardens , orchards and vineyards we  
gather, and in whose cities, that we robbed, we put up houses of education,  
charity and prayer, while we babble and rave about being the ‘People of the book  
and the light of the nations.’”  
A Form Of Idolatry, Replacing God And The Jewish Moral Tradition  
Making the State of Israel the center of Jewish interest and concern, Forer  
argues, represents a form of idolatry, replacing God and the Jewish moral and  
ethical tradition. He recalls the point made by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel:  
“Judaism is not a religion of space and does not worship the soil. So, too, the  
State of Israel is not the climax of Jewish history, but a test of the integrity  
of the Jewish people and the competence of Israel.”  
In a discussion of Israel’s “Strategies of Dispossession,” Forer writes: “Israel  
is the only country in the world that uses home demolitions to collectively  
punish a population under its rule. Since 1967, it has demolished over 48,000  
Palestinian homes but not one Jewish home. Among the reasons for the demolitions  
are: the inhabitants of a home are friends, neighbors or relatives of someone  
suspected of a security offense; they built their homes on land Israel covets for  
settlements; they built them without permits. From 2010 to 2014, the Israeli  
government approved 1.5 per cent of Palestinian permit requests.”  
Discrimination against Palestinians, Forer shows, is built into the very  
structure of Israeli government. On July 18, 2018, the Knesset passed the Basic  
Law: “Israel the Nation State of the Jewish People.” It pronounced that, “The  
exercise of the right to national self-determination in the State of Israel is  
unique to the Jewish people.” This law, in Forer’s view, “enshrines a right to  
discriminate against Palestinians and other minorities and annuls the promise of  
Israel’s Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel to ‘ensure  
complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants  
irrespective of religion, race or sex.’ The minority is 25.5 percent of Israel’s  
total population. Jews now have legal justification for barring non-Jewish  
families from living in their communities. Accenting its bias, the nation-state  
law affirms the ‘ingathering of the exiles,’ a Jewish right of return to Israel,  
while ignoring the same right for Palestinians.”  
“Not a state for all its citizens”  
Months after the Knesset passed the nation-state law, Israeli television  
celebrity and model Rotem Sela commented to her 830,000 Instagram followers:  
“When the hell will someone in this government let the Israeli public know that  
this is a country for all its citizens and that every person is born equal. And  
also, that the Arabs are human beings.” Prime Minister Netanyahu responded: “Dear  
Rotem Sela, I read what you wrote. First of all, an important correction: Israel  
is not a state for all its citizens. According to a basic law we passed, Israel  
is the nation-state of the Jewish people―and the Jewish people only.”  
In earlier years, when Israeli leaders such as Ehud Barack boasted that, “We have  
the most moral army in the world,” Richard Forer believed what he was told. He  
recalls that, “For most of my life it went without saying that Israel’s armed  
forces were the most moral in the world. I didn’t need its leaders to affirm the  
obvious. I just knew it, but when they did affirm it, I felt a sense of pride  
along with gratitude that my people were superior to other people. If someone  
tried to contradict my dogma with tales of attacks on schools, hospitals,  
mosques, and other civilian structures, I maligned their information as anti-  
Semitic propaganda. My confidence was based on a life-long conviction that Jews  
were by nature both innocent and just, then comparing those qualities to what  
little I knew about Arabs…it never entered my mind that I might be biased or  
could learn something of value if I took the time to research the history. The  
difference between Jewish honor and Arab enmity was self-evident.”  
He views it as his “good fortune” that his reawakening in 2006 transformed his  
view of the world and motivated him to correct the arguments he once cherished:  
“In the years since, my research has concentrated on Israeli sources…Earlier I  
mentioned that compulsory transfer of the indigenous people was a tenet of the  
Zionist movement. Neither Ben-Gurion nor other Zionist leaders were under any  
illusions they could achieve their goals through peaceful efforts…During the 1948  
War of Independence, Ben-Gurion said, ‘A small reaction to (Arab hostility) does  
not impress anyone. A destroyed house―nothing. Destroy a neighborhood and you  
begin to make an impression.’ “  
“strong and brutal reaction”  
In his diary, Ben-Gurion recorded Palmach commander Gen. Yigal Allon’s  
intentions: “There is a need now for strong and brutal reaction…If we accuse a  
family ―we need to harm them without mercy, women and children included.  
Otherwise, this is not an effective reaction. During the operation there is no  
need to distinguish between guilty and not guilty.”  
Israeli military historian Ariel Itzhaki, director of the IDF archives in the  
1960s, tried to convert Israeli discourse from denial to reality. He wrote: “A  
generation has gone by and it is now possible to face up to the ocean of lies in  
which we were brought up. In almost every town conquered by the War of  
Independence acts were committed that are defined as war crimes, such as blind  
killings, massacres and even rapes.”  
Richard Forer laments the hatred toward Palestinians fomented by religious  
leaders in Israel: Murderous hatred toward Palestinians is no aberration. Shmuel  
Eliyahu, chief rabbi of Safed, one of Judaism’s four holy cities, urged the  
Israeli army to stop arresting Palestinians, proposing instead that ‘it must  
execute them and leave no one alive.’ In 2010, Rabbis Yitzhak Shapiro and Yosef  
Elitzur from the Old Yosef Chai Yeshiva in the settlement of Yitzhar near Nablus  
published ‘The King’s Torah, Part One: Laws of Life and Death Between Israel and  
the Nations.’ Endorsed by prominent rabbis, this compendium of Halacha explains  
that the sixth commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ applies only ‘to a Jew who  
kills a Jew.’ The rabbis instruct their readers: ‘There is a reason to kill a  
child if it is clear that they will grow to harm us; in such a situation the  
attack should be directed specifically at them.’ The rabbis also teach that goyim  
are ‘uncompassionate by nature’ and that attacks on them ‘curb their evil  
Living By The Sword, “We will Destroy Ourselves”  
In a Nov. 2003 interview, former Shin Bet directors Ami Ayalon, Carmi Gillon,  
Avraham Shalom and Yaakov Peri warned that if Israel failed to make peace with  
the Palestinians, it would be “heading downhill towards near-catastrophe. If…we  
go on living by the sword, we will continue to wallow in the mud and destroy  
ourselves.” Sixteen years later, at the 2019 J Street national conference,  
Ayalon, also a former commander-in-chief of the Israeli navy, predicted that  
Israel’s quest to expand its borders, build more settlements and prevent the  
establishment of a Palestinian state “will isolate Israel …increase anti-Semitism  
around the world …and be the end of Israel as the founding fathers of Zionism  
envisioned it.”  
This book, Forer concludes, “… is my way of standing up and telling the truth, of  
saving Israel from itself and the Palestinian people from the unfair and, yes,  
cruel treatment they have been subjected to for generations. It is a product of a  
commitment to separate fact from fiction and learn the documented history of two  
peoples. When I first made this commitment, it set in motion a release from an  
existential condition I was not even aware I had embodied for most of a lifetime.  
As denial and dogmatism gave way to an urgency to carry on objective research, I  
observed how a core identity affected my relationship to the world, influencing  
what or who I was drawn to, what or who I was repelled by, how I judged or  
tolerated others…No longer blind to Israel’s intentions…I was liberated from the  
dark side of indoctrination and the bondage of unquestioned loyalty.”  
This book tells the story of a lifelong supporter of Israel who underwent a  
remarkable spiritual awakening in which he came to the spiritual realization that  
he was as much Muslim or Christian as Jewish and as much Palestinian as Israeli  
or American. We share, he came to see, a common humanity, and we should examine  
events in the world objectively, seeking to discover what is true and what is  
not―and then to act upon it.  
It is regrettable that the organized Jewish community, for so long, has presented  
a version of history which is seriously flawed. Many thoughtful individuals have  
sought to discover the truth and Richard Forer stands out among them. His book  
deserves as wide an audience as possible for it seeks and presents the truth  
about a situation in which Jewish moral and ethical values have been sacrificed  
for narrow political ends. Truth may not always be easy to confront, but Richard  
Forer has done so effectively in this important book.

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