Chicago Zionist tells local crowd: Palestinians don’t need new state

Ben Snyder

Palestinians living in Israel should not be allowed to form their own separate state or even vote in Israel, a prominent Chicago Zionist told a group of about 40 people at the Tannenbaum Chabad House on Wednesday night.

“This little pimple on the face of the globe is where a Jew should act like a Jew,” said Jack Berger, vice president of the Zionist Organization of Chicago. “If you don’t want to act like a Jew, don’t go to Israel.”

Berger said a Palestinian state already exists in Jordan, where 70 percent of the population is Palestinian. Creating a new Arab state is unnecessary and would create more problems and more violence, he said, because a peaceful Palestinian state is an “oxymoron.”

“We don’t need another ruthless dictatorship,” said Berger, who criticized Palestinian leader Yassar Arafat as an “unemployed engineer looking for a job” before stumbling into his position as president of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Instead, Berger said Palestinians living in Israel should be permitted to either emigrate to an existing Arab state or remain in Israel, subject to laws based on Jewish religious beliefs and established by a strictly Jewish electorate.

“It’s a Jewish state,” he said. “Jews have a vote. Non-Jews don’t. I don’t think that’s racist — that’s realistic.”

He went on to say many Arabs would remain in the country to take advantage of the high standard of living even after losing the vote, because Arab culture does not place as much emphasis on the importance of suffrage as western society. He mocked the 100 percent approval rating that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein received in a recent election and said that the leaders of Saudi Arabia are even worse.

“Why give them a vote? They wouldn’t get it in an Arab state anyway,” Berger said.

This sort of strong statement drew fire from some members of the audience. Laura DeBock, 38, of Chicago called his views “do as I say, not as I do-ism.”

“I don’t think he’s extremist, but I think some of his views are,” DeBock said.

Other audience members seemed less put off by his strong words and ideas. Joel Scher, 53, of Wilmette agreed with much of what Berger had to say.

“When do people realize that (creating a Palestinian state) is not going to happen? There’s no reason to continue to talk about it,” Scher said.

Weinberg senior David Kohn was one of the few Northwestern students to attend the presentation. He said the views Berger espoused were not “conventional wisdom” but that he found them informative.

“I think he illustrated a couple of things more vividly than I really understood them before,” Kohn said.