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Today I am a Jew

This article originally appeared in the Calgary Herald and is reprinted with permission. Visit www.calgaryherald.com .

He was slaughtered far away from Jerusalem or Ramallah. But Daniel Pearl's death and mutilation in Pakistan, because he was an American, but most importantly because he was a Jew, has done what no other act of barbarism accomplished.

The Wall Street Journal writer's death turned my heart to stone. Even this week's peace overtures from Saudi Arabia are no longer enough. Not after yet another Jew has been humiliated, slaughtered, and his remains debased.

There is an apocryphal Second World War story during the German occupation of Denmark: When the Nazis ordered all Jews to wear a yellow star, so did King Christian X. And he encouraged all of his subjects to do the same. That Queen Margrethe II says it didn't happen doesn't in any way debase the symbolism. The myth continues because bravery and defiance in the face of hatred is always inspiring.

Today, those who hate Jews are able to do so because too many gentiles will not stand up and be counted as the Danish myth proposes. Too many non-Jews tacitly accept racism and discrimination.

No more. Today, I proudly echo Pearl's last words: I am a Jew. I join my husband, his family, our friends, and my colleagues who are Jews.

I am a Jew because I can no longer accept the excuses made for anti-Semitism.

I no longer accept the lies that hatred on the part of Arab countries and hatred shown the Jews in the West is something individual and isolated. It is not. Our silence for long years has encouraged Holocaust deniers, revisionists, baiters and haters to spread their poison.

I used to think there was a middle ground, that especially when the question of Israel arose, that both "sides" were equally at fault.

No more.

I can't agree with the actions of Ariel Sharon's government, in its eye-for-an-eye, death-for-death retaliation against the Palestinians, but my disgust for anti-Semites and Israel-deniers who populate Israel's Arab neighbours is worse.

For as far back as I can remember, the "solution" to the crises in the Middle East has been to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians and Arab countries. Yet, the proposal by Saudi Arabia that Israel return Gaza and the West Bank in exchange for peace is not enough, even in the unlikely event the Sharon government would agree.

The West has a role and a responsibility in this conflict to affirm, publicly, our support for Israel and to demand others do the same. Only then will negotiations have any chance of success. I don't mean mealy mouthed political niceties, I mean insisting Israel's neighbours, such as Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Iraq, and all the Arab countries, accept Israel or accept the consequences.

There are few countries in the Middle East that share our civilized values and democratic principles as closely as Israel does. It is time to stand up and be counted in more than words. We have the power and the moral responsibility to do so, and it doesn't need to be with bombs, even if we want to expand the so-called "axis of evil." We have a far greater hammer. We have the economic clout to impose sanctions. All we need is the will.

The time for playing nice with killers is over. The time for "understanding" the plight of the Palestinians is past. It's now time to affirm on the world stage the inherent right of Israel to exist in peace. Israel's neighbours must accept their responsibility in fomenting hatred and open their borders to the displaced Palestinians. For nearly 50 years these countries have done nothing to alleviate the suffering of their kith and kin.

They have allowed terrorists, anarchists, dictators and religious fanatics to flourish within their borders. It's not necessary to bomb Iraq or any of them into submission. Sanctions are more devastating. No truck; no trade. No immigration. No visas. No money or goods.

Bombing promotes self-pity and lets the evildoers blame the United States for their sorry plight. Bombs are easy. They require no sacrifice on the part of the West other than money to pay for material.

How much more devastating to shun them. If we are committed to Israel, we have to show we mean it, and if that means less oil for SUVs because we refuse to trade honour for comfort, too bad.

It is time for all of us to stand up and say: I am a Jew.

Catherine Ford is a columnist for the Calgary Herald. She can be reached by e-mail at fordc@theherald.southam.ca.

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