Liberal Jewish Israel Bashers: Ignorant or Malicious?

January 17, 2013 by Isi Leibler
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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.

Isi Leibler

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 antisemitism infusing all levels of Palestinian society.

Israel is now more isolated than at any time since its creation. We are surrounded by antisemitic 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.


16 Responses to “Liberal Jewish Israel Bashers: Ignorant or Malicious?”
  1. Liat Nagar says:

    It would be a pity to use this forum and this particular article as an opportunity for some to denounce different streams, or forms, of Judaism. There are Jews with rigidly closed minds, and agendas, within the ranks of the Ultra Orthodox and Orthodox, as well as within Conservative, Progressive/Reform (the latter quite commonly referred to as ‘liberals’. These kinds of attacks could also create a schism in the world of Jews by denying the legitimacy of religious pluralism and further weakening necessary unity. Extreme lack of tolerance only ever provides distortion and ugliness,

  2. Liat Nagar says:

    You are absolutely right, Isi. I find myself in agreement with most of what you have to say on issues of all kinds. I am glad towards the end of this article you state ‘many Jewish liberals have closed minds …’, because there are so many Liberal Jews who do not have this destructive and ignorant take on what is becoming a huge problem in sensible, honest and informed discussion on this subject. It’s fast becoming the Achilles Heel for Israel insofar as the mounting international aggression against the State of Israel is concerned – pseudo-intellectualism and false camaraderie, as well as a ‘state of denial’,in relation to reality gone mad.
    For those who are not willing to receive Israel’s explication of its reality, it would be a waste of energy, breath, written words, to give it. However, of course, it still must be publicised again and again.

    It seems to me the new reality is that the ‘two state solution’ is over. (The world’s leaders just don’t seem to get this!) The Palestinians have made it an impossible option with their pre-conditions to peace talks, while simultaneously working hard to get international recognition of their State which would mean no recognition of security for Israel and therefore Israel’s demise. How this is so difficult for so many of these Jewish idealists to see is mind-boggling to me and others, however probably has its explanation in the nice, yet false, bonhomie provided by their stance.

  3. Michael says:

    Yes Ben Jewish judges and academics Examples of useful idiots . I have yet to hear from Jewish academia , judges or qc,s loudly supporting Israel only ever loudly critizing Israel .

  4. Rita says:

    I have just started “The Boxthorn Tree” by David Solway. In the essay “The Beginning of the Night” he writes:

    “…disconcerting is the attitude of many in the Jewish community today, mainly of the Left, who have made common cause with their enemies, defamers and traducers. There is not much question that what we are observing is a pathology of the first magnitude, what the Talmudic sages called “sin’at akhim”, or brotherly hatred, an element of Jewish life sufficiently pronounced to merit a name of its own………

    It is almost as if our “non-Jewish Jews”, in Isaac Deutscher’s telling phrase, have taken their marching orders from the Muslim scriptures, internalizing Koranic surah 5:64 which says of Jews that “They spread evil and corruption in the land”………….The late Harold Pinter won a Nobel Prize, not for his over-rated plays, but for his anti-Israeli posturing. Equally influential are fellow Jewish anti-Zionists like Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Naomi Klein,……Richard Falk……

    What these Jewish quislings have not understood is that Jews, as Primo Levi insisted, are not permitted to forget. Survival demands that contemporary Jews retrieve the Maccabean strain in their heritage, eschew the myopia of complacency, and take the necessary measures – starting with memory and awareness – to combat a menace that remains perennial……

    Masking the syndrome of self-contempt as a quest for “justice”, these Jewish turncoats seek redemption in a denial of both history and genealogy. Diagnostically speaking, it is not so much a mental illness or clinical aberration we are witnessing, but a sickness in the soul supple enough to contort itself into a spurious idealism, a simulacrum of ideological nobility….”.

  5. Ben says:

    If people want to keep calling liberal Jews ignorant, malicious, self-hating no bodies, don’t be surprised by haemorrhaging support.

    Engage in civilised, measured discourse and you might get another result.

    Firstly, there is no monolithic group of so called liberal Jews. Many give rock hard support to Israel on issues like self-defence and acknowledge Israel’s “rough neighbourhood”. But they have profound issues with the legality of the settlement building in WB and East Jerusalem, not to mention the damage this causes politically. Many don’t care much for the BDS or their supporters but are uncomfortable showing support for anything which legitimises the settlements. This does not make them ignorant or malicious.

    Settlement building is a complex and controversial issue for Jews both in and outside Israel. It is not some minor roadblock and attempts by Israel to characterise it as such have been self defeating. Have already posted on this before in response to David Singer’s various missives. Whichever way you look at it, international law simply does not favour Israel’s position.

    There are some highly distinguished Jewish judges and academics who have criticised settlement building such as Theodor Meron (former legal advisor to Israel) and Thomas Buergenthal, a Harvard Professor of International Law, ICJ Judge and concentration camp survivor. Are these people malicious and ignorant ? Are they “useful idiots” ? What utter rubbish. The Israeli right needs to wake up and realise that as they sling unsubstantiated insults at all and sundry who disagree with them, support plummets.


  6. Michael says:

    Every time I hear the description” live long devoted Zionist’ it rings alarm bells and trying to justify .
    I even hear this same description used of the leadership of Israel/ Arab extremist group NIF.
    The actions of Life long Zionists Eric speak for them selves they promote the positive side of Israel and Zionism and their worldly views are not so closely aligned to our enemies or those that wish Israel harm.
    Perhaps we should use someone like Nitsana Darshan Leitner as an example of how a true Zionist should behave and how others should follow in her footsteps.

  7. Eric says:

    Isi Liebler expresses his frustration. Then perhaps others can feel frustrated by repeated attempts to impose a spurious “correct line” on fellow Zionists, instead of focussing on broadening the tent of support for Israel. In this article Mr Liebler now attacks Masorti Olami and Mercaz Olami Vice President David Breakstone, a life long devoted Zionist and senior leader of the World Zionist Organization. Perhaps rather than attack, this might have given Mr Leibler reason to pause for thought? Perhaps the threat of growing isolation requires a different approach? www,

    • Otto Waldmann says:

      Excellent argument Eric: “you are wrong because we are right” !!!
      And what makes it even more decisive is that we need not hear from you any more.

      In case you did not notice, Isi is, in fact, covering the entire “tent” and you are kind of in it – the kind of on the very outside.

  8. Otto Waldmann says:

    Truthful and clear Isi is giving us an analyssis worth remembering each time “progressive” leaders insinuate themselves as defenders of “real” Jewish values, only to engage in falacies that can only give assistance to the overt enemies of averything Jewish. Most of the messages contained in the Liberal Jewish philosophy, as emerging from genuine Jewish values, are distorted in order to undermine one of the principal targets of the progressive movement, the traditional Jewish, Orthodox fold. From its inception, early in the 19 Century statements akin to plain anti Semitism have emerged from the Progressive movement. The stark, aggressive language has been adjusted to the newly conceived farce of “political correcteness”. Both as in the didactics of the Progressive charter and their para-political alliances with groups well outside the Jewish area of activism, Progressive Judaism has mounted a vigurous campaign against genuine Jewish institutions, as Isi stated, as far as undermining the BEST, most ethical initiative taken by the Jewish State.
    That this attitude is most welcome and enjoyed as perhaps the most efficient assistance to the devout anti Israeli, anti Zionist and anti Semitic camps is no logical mystery. By immediate extention, the overt enemies of all Jewish values value the contribution given to them by these self-proclaimed Progressives, Liberals.

  9. Michael says:

    Kol hakavod Isi another spot on op-Ed from you
    Just reiterating what we already know progressive Jews make the best Palestinian advocates or useful idiots .

  10. Rita says:

    Liberal (Leftist) Jewish Israel Bashers: Ignorant or Malicious?


    I lost the source of this quote, but it fits: When the consequences of ignorance become indistinguishable from the consequences of malice, it is wiser and safer to assume malice.

  11. Gina says:

    Is this satire or is it for real? Surely no literate person could be so unaware.

    • robert says:

      For real !
      Satire are the smug,self satisfied, jumped up nobodies who parrot leftist propaganda and slogans and refuse to acknowledge anything the Arabs say and do.
      Who ignore the neighbourhood,what Arabs do to each other, their abuse of human rights and what they openly say they want to do to ALL Jews .
      They insist Israel tie its hands behind its back and let the Arabs do to them what they do to each other and what they incite in their media against Israel

  12. Peter says:

    I cannot comment on what is happening in the USA. But Isi’s article which may well be completely correct unfortunately conflates political liberals with members of what we in Australia regard as Progressive and Conservative Jews. The use of the word liberal in a Jewish context mean either an open mind or a Jewish movement which reinterprets Halacha. These religious Progressive movements are in no way opposed to Israel and should never be confused with Jews who promote actions which diminish the reputation of the Jewish state.

    Certainly there are Jews who criticise certain aspects of the Israeli government’s handling of the awful conflicts with the Arabs. How these people can sit in the diaspora and pretend to know better than those in Israel is not understood by me, but certainly they do cause great damage. Are they really liberals in any sense of the word? I am not so sure.

  13. geoffff says:

    Well said.

    Professional Jews. People who are Jews only because they are anti-Israel.

    If you want to leave Jewishness then leave. That is easy anywhere where Jews live but especially in the US, Australia and Europe. But to then use a Jewish identity to attack the Jews or Jewishness and especially Israel suggests something unpleasant at the very core of their souls that might be best left unexplored.,

    Especially from the comfort of the other side of the planet.

    That is what I believe.

    They have forgotten the most important lesson of the last century. Ultimately it is they who define who is a Jew. As surely as slave-owners defined who was black in the century before.

  14. robert says:

    Then there are the Jewish nobodies who without their loud Israel stance would continue to be nobodies.
    This way they get invited onto the ABC for soft interviews and get to speak unchallenged nonsense on panels selected for self indulgent lefties to agree with each other.

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