Liberal Jewish Israel Bashers: Ignorant or Malicious?
I must confess to a rising sense of frustration and rage when observing the increasing number of ill-informed and fallacious critiques of Israel by liberal Diaspora Jews…writes Isi Leibler.
This is not in reference to the loathsome so-called anti-Zionist Jews who call for boycotts of Israel. Nor even to jaundiced far-Left Jewish groups like J Street, that inflict considerable damage on the Jewish state by calling on the US government to pressure Israel, or orchestrate petitions such as those recently circulated among liberal Jewish clergy demanding that Israel cancel plans for residential construction in Jerusalem’s Jewish suburbs and the E-1 area.
I refer to those Jews who, when it was fashionable, were enthusiastic supporters of Israel. But the estrangement of many of their liberal non-Jewish friends from the Jewish state encouraged them to also assume politically correct attitudes, even adopting an “anti-Zionist chic.” Some were swept up in the tide of post-modernism with its often espoused view that Israel was born in sin and represents one of the last bastions of colonialism.
This was an evolutionary process which began with the progressive application of moral equivalence to Israelis and Arabs and climaxed with Binyamin Netanyahu’s election and demonization as an extremist nationalist. At this point, these Jewish liberals began chanting the mindless mantra that Israel had become obsessed with maintaining “the occupation.”
They adopted the Arab narrative that settlements represented the greatest obstacle to peace, dismissing the fact that settlements comprise only two percent of territory over the Green Line and that since Oslo, every territorial concession from Israel merely emboldened Palestinian radicals and resulted in intensified terror.
AS A RULE, these liberal Jewish critics ignored the facts that the PA, no less than Hamas, consistently refused to make reciprocal compromises and that the conflict was not related to territorial compromise but over ongoing Jewish sovereignty in the region. They also downplayed the ongoing missile attacks and vicious incitement and anti-Semitism infusing all levels of Palestinian society.
Israel is now more isolated than at any time since its creation. We are surrounded by anti-Semitic Islamic regimes bent on our destruction and Iran is on course to becoming a nuclear power. Most European countries, whose soil was drenched in Jewish blood, are again standing on the sidelines as they did prior to and during the Shoa when Jews were being slaughtered. Surely, at such a time, even liberal Diaspora Jews could be expected to unite in support of the Jewish state. Yet alas, increasing numbers of them are distancing themselves further from Israel.
A recent example was the condemnation by the North American Board of the Union of Reform Judaism of housing construction in the exclusively Jewish suburbs of east Jerusalem and E-1. This undermined a central Israeli policy, endorsed by the vast majority of Israelis.
Were the Reform Jewish leaders not aware that this area had always been designated to remain within Israel and that the Bush administration even acknowledged this in a letter to prime minister Ariel Sharon in the wake of the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and the forcible uprooting of Jewish settlements?
Were they unaware that the uproar instigated by the Palestinians over residential construction is a ploy to undermine our vital interests in areas which until now were never in dispute? That they are seeking to impose upon us, as an opening benchmark to negotiations, indefensible borders based on the 1949 armistice lines? That this formula would deem the Temple Mount and the Old City of Jerusalem occupied territories?
Or the subsequent extraordinary outburst by the progressive rabbis of Bnai Yeshurun, one of New York’s most prominent temples, who proclaimed that “the vote at the United Nations was a great moment for us as citizens of the world… an opportunity to celebrate the process that allows a nation to come forward and ask for recognition.” This, in the immediate wake of the UN speech by PA head Mahmoud Abbas, who accused Israel of killing innocent Palestinians during the Gaza war and indulging in ethnic cleansing.
Aside from also endorsing the 1949 lines as future borders for Israel, were these rabbis not aware that Abbas was calling for reunification with Hamas, whose leader had just proclaimed that “Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the south to the north… there is no legitimacy for Israel… We will free Jerusalem inch by inch, stone by stone. Israel has no right to be in Jerusalem.”
THE EXTENT of the breakdown among Jewish liberals was highlighted when even David Breakstone, vice chairman of the World Zionist Organization and a devoted Zionist, recently provided a Kosher certificate to Peter Beinart, one of Israel’s most biased and hostile Jewish Diaspora critics.
Breakstone stressed that while strongly disagreeing with Beinart’s call to boycott Israeli settlement products, he was attracted to him because he is a committed Jew, sends his children to Jewish day schools and provides a service to Zionism by criticizing our failure to sufficiently promote peace and uphold the ethical high ground because we maintain the “occupation.”
Few would dispute our obligation to be self-critical and expose injustices in our midst. But this is not what Beinart and other liberal Jews like New York Times columnist Tom Friedman promote. They produce distorted one-sided evaluations demonizing Israel as the principal obstacle to peace. They promote anti-Israeli politicians like Chuck Hagel and accuse Jewish leaders of promoting McCarthyism. They call on the US and other governments to exert pressure and force Israel to conform.
How can Breakstone possibly describe such people as “champions of good old-fashioned Zionism”?
THERE IS also an increasing tendency among Jewish liberals to hijack the memory of assassinated Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin as a means of discrediting Netanyahu. This is outrageous. Rabin, whom I knew and admired, was a genuine patriot. His “gamble for peace” proved disastrous. But at no stage did he even come close to promoting the views attributed to him today by liberals.
He was adamantly committed to the unity of Jerusalem and initiated the E-1 project. He would never have contemplated delaying its construction or freezing residential building in Jewish Jerusalem. It is therefore unconscionable to shamelessly exploit his name to promote views he himself bitterly opposed.
The reality is that Netanyahu has made more concessions and is far more accommodating to the Palestinians than Rabin.
One would wish to believe that much of the condemnation of Israel by liberal Jews, compounded by purportedly being grounded on Jewish values, is not malicious but based on ignorance. The blame for such behavior could then be directed solely toward Israel’s failure to convey the reality of our situation.
Yet sadly, one becomes increasingly convinced that many Jewish liberals have closed minds and do not wish to be enlightened, because their principal motivation is to demonstrate to their “progressive” friends that they are more open-minded, universal and tolerant than their “bigoted” Israeli kinsmen.
Isi Leibler lives in Jerusalem. He is a former president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.