Defending Israel against Jewish detractors

by Steve Kramer
One of my readers asked for help in answering friends who have been “awakened” to anti-Zionism by Antony Lerman, who recently wrote, “The End of Liberal Zionism” (8/22/14) in The NY Times Sunday Review.


Lerman is a British writer who on the subjects of anti-Semitism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, multiculturalism, and the place of religion in society. From 2006 to early 2009, he was Director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research think tank. Lerman has publicly advocated for pro-Arab/anti-Israel initiatives, often writing op-ed pieces in the notoriously anti-Zionist Guardian newspaper.


What is Liberal Zionism anyway? Wikipedia defines it as a strong trend in Israeli politics advocating free market principles, democracy and adherence to human rights. If that’s what it is, it doesn’t sound to me what Lerman described in his article. Let me say what I think Lerman is talking about. His “Liberal Zionist” is someone who may live in Israel but probably doesn’t. That person doesn’t want to get his or her hands dirty with the nitty-gritty aspects of life in Israel. Lerman’s Liberal Zionist lives comfortably in some other place, perhaps, Manhattan, Washington, D.C., or London.

Israel’s neighbors don’t even vaguely resemble Canada or Mexico, Scotland or France. Israel’s neighbors either want to destroy Israel or have a very frigid peace with it. Consequently, Israelis who expect the Arabs to be rational and reasonable are few and far between; their champion is Shimon Peres. The rest of us have learned that there is no significant peace movement among the Arabs. It exists, of course, but its impact is negligible.


From afar, it’s easy to be a “Zionist” of some stripe. The committed ones often make Aliyah or buy a second home here. Others donate money or fund Zionist projects. Still others, such as Lerman describes, undermine Israel, some purposefully and others unwittingly. Below I will try to counter some of Lerman’s contentions.


Antony Lerman: “‘Never do liberal Zionists feel more torn than when Israel is at war,’ wrote Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian’s opinion editor and a leading British Liberal Zionist, for ‘The New York Review of Books’ last month. He’s not alone. Columnists like Jonathan Chait, Roger Cohen and Thomas L. Friedman have all riffed in recent weeks on the theme that what Israel is doing can’t be reconciled with their humanism.”


Steve Kramer: It’s a shame about Thomas Friedman and others’ “humanism.” They don’t agree with Israel’s tactics in defending itself against thousands of mortars, rockets, and missiles. They probably think that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s battle strategy is too harsh. That’s ironic, because most Israelis have the opposite opinion and we are the ones on the receiving end of Hamas’ attacks. For some reason, Israelis object to our lives being turned upside down by the Arabs in Gaza, just because they want to replace Israel with a caliphate.


A.L.: “But it’s not just Gaza, and the latest episode of ‘shock and awe’ militarism. The romantic Zionist ideal, to which Jewish liberals — and I was one, once — subscribed for so many decades, has been tarnished by the reality of modern Israel. The [1] attacks on freedom of speech and human rights organizations in Israel, [2] the land-grabbing settler movement, [3] a growing strain of anti-Arab and anti-immigrant racism, [4] extremist politics, and a [5] powerful, intolerant religious right — this mixture has pushed liberal Zionism to the brink.”


S.K.: Ah, yes, the “reality of modern Israel.”


1. Freedom of speech/human rights: There is a cacophony of free speech in Israel, up to and including the Supreme Court allowing Muslim Members of Knesset (!) to praise an enemy of Israel during wartime. All Israelis are accorded human rights, regardless of race or religion. Israeli Muslims, for example, have more human rights in Israel than in any Arab country. They refuse to even consider giving up their Israeli citizenship to become citizens of “Palestine.”


2.  land-grabbing: the Arabs are occupying Judea and Samaria, more than the other way around. Jews certainly have no less right to live on the land than the Arabs, and by my reckoning, much more right. This is because borders are defined by the victors in nearly all existing states, including the United States and Britain.  Capsule history: (Putting aside all the religious and historical/legal arguments) Israel conquered Judea and Samaria during the defensive Six Day War of 1967. This is the land which the Arabs declared to be the “West Bank” only a few years after Transjordan conquered it during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. The Arabs (soon to be renamed Jordanians) ethnically cleansed all the Jewish residents at the start of their 19-year period of rule over Judea and Samaria.


3. racism: Unfortunately, racism exists throughout the world. It is no more prevalent in Israel than in the United States or Britain. In comparison to Muslim countries, which allow no Jewish residents (with a few small exceptions), Israel is a human rights paradise.


4. extremist politics: These also exist throughout the world. In Israel, however, there are no prominent and rapidly growing parties like the racist/xenophobic Jobbik in Hungary and Golden Dawn in Greece.


5. religious right: Yes, there are religious parties in Israel. They run the gamut from nationalist right to anti-Zionist Ultra-Orthodox. They are an example of Israel’s right of free speech.


A.L.: “J Street in America and Yachad in Britain, founded in 2008 and 2011 respectively, describe themselves as ‘pro-Israel and pro-peace’ and have attracted significant numbers of people who seek a more critical engagement with Israel.”


S.K.: Sorry to say, but J-Street undermines Israel. (I don’t know anything about Yachad.) Critical is one thing, but encouraging groups such as college Hillel chapters to be inclusive by promoting hate-spewing Palestinian speakers is helping turn impressionable college students against Israel.


A.L.: “I still understood its dream of Israel as a moral and just cause, but I judged it anachronistic. The only Zionism of any consequence today is xenophobic and exclusionary, a Jewish ethno-nationalism inspired by religious messianism. It is carrying out an open-ended project of national self-realization to be achieved through colonization and purification of the tribe.”


S.K.: Yes, Jews are a tribe, both a nation and a people, unlike any other people on earth. Israel is moral and just, but not perfect. Perhaps if Lerman were in charge of Israel, it wouldn’t be so “anachronistic” in trying to remain the State of the Jews. It could be more trendy by inviting the Arabs to be our friends. . Running a country is tough, just ask President Obama, who is probably in sync with Lerman’s post-Zionist views. (Post-Zionism: a set of critical positions that disparage Zionist ideals and the historical narratives and social and cultural representations that it produced.)


A.L.: “Since liberal Zionists can’t countenance anything but two states, this situation leaves them high and dry.”


S.K.: Two states will not work and it’s not the only option. In this region, where Muslims slaughter each other with regularity, only a naive person would cling to a failed paradigm. I don’t know exactly what the best solution is, but I recognize a “solution” has no chance to succeed, such as the two-state vision. With Israel sitting on less than a half per cent of so-called Arab land, to give land for peace is worse than fruitless, it’s a recipe for disaster. My view is that things will eventually settle down in Israel’s favor, because the Palestinian Arabs have proven themselves incapable of governing, let alone sharing, even a part of this tiny space between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.


If Lerner and the others doubt this, take a second look at the Gaza experiment, or just imagine if Israel had turned over the Golan Heights to the Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad, who has previously been called a “reformer” by Hillary Clinton and “generous” as well as a man of his word by John Kerry.


Antony Lerner and his ilk find it easy to criticize Israel from their comfortable arm chairs somewhere else. Israel is a vibrant democracy which invites all Jews to make it their home. Lerner can move here and say whatever he wants, without fear of imprisonment or worse. In fact, that’s what many like-minded critics do, as loyal Israeli resident-citizens.
August 31, 2014 | 154 Comments »

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4 Comments / 154 Comments

  1. @ yamit82:

    “When a coin (like seduction) is counterfeit, you don’t reject just the head or just the tail. You reject the whole coin.”

    “Someone who claims to get direct messages from his deity as a convincing argument that he is never wrong, is not counterfeit?”

    Still havin’ a hard time staying on point, aintcha? The subject was SEDUCTION, not genuineness. The image of the counterfeit coin was merely an explanatory device.

    But if you aren’t willing to check out the possibility of a personal leading from haShem for yourself, you’re in no position to be calling the very idea fakery. Truth is, at this point, you simply don’t know — one way or the other.

    @ yamit82:

    “In other words, no support necessary because god told you…….”

    “Not ‘told’ — SHOWED.”

    “In your context it a semantic equivalent or a distinction without a difference.”

    To one who understands, they ARE the same.

    But we BOTH know, Yamit, that if I had just said, ‘yes,’ and let the words stand without being precise, you would have jumped on that ‘yes’ like a dog on a bone, with some jive-ass garbage about how I was hearing voices like Son-of-Sam, or some such similar crap. No way were you going to let any response of mine go down (regardless of which way I stated it) without a screech from you, So I simply chose the more precise one.

    “The DSM-IV Diagnostic Criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder”

    ROFLMAO. Can’t help watching you trying out ever newer analyses of my condition. You’ve gone thru at least six or seven over the past few years. Every time you come up with new one, it puts me in stitches to split a gut. Carry on!

  2. @ yamit82:

    “If YOU listened to Him in these matters, then YOU wouldn’t ever be wrong either.”

    “It’s because I am connected, I know you are full of shit.”

    It’s because you speak of deriving a “different analytical conclusion” that I know you are neither “connected” nor intereted in becoming so.

    “Lately he wants me to ‘prove’ that I’m not ‘delusional’ in my assessment of him. He’s never been able to show a single instance of me being wrong about somebody’s emotional & psychological makeup (including his own) — which would surely constitute the evidence that I am delusional (if I were).

    But instead he wants me to ‘prove’ that I’m not delusional. LMSS. Strictly Kafkaesque.

    “So far we only have your word for it which is proof of your delusional state of mind.”

    The only way you can disprove — or even dispute — the soundness of my judgments in that particular department (psychological & emotional matters) is by finding an instance in which I was wrong. UNTIL then, as far as you know, I might be wrong and I might be right.

    “Just who’s the aggressor here — and whom, aggressed upon?”

    “Should I add Paranoia to your NPD?”

    There are paranoiacs on this board (some more pronounced in their mishegasse than others) — but I am not one of them.

    @ yamit82:

    “What it’s called is self-confidence — not denial NOR hogwash. Nor do I make any apology for it. And you bet I believe it. But what offends you, Bernard, is not that I believe it — what offends you is that I have
    the balls to SAY it out loud. That’s what you find absolutely unforgivable.”

    “Prove it, Barbie!”

    “Already did, Bozo. Read the bold print.

    “That’s proof??”

    Yes, it is. You just haven’t thought thru the implications of it. When you have, you’ll see that it is indeed proof.

    “I know you have it in you to defend your stupid inane inflated opinion of yourself”

    It’s got nothing to do with my opinion of myself.

    “Stating opinion is opinion not proof; even if you type in BOLD!!”

    What I typed in bold was not opinion.

    Everybody has certain kinds of things they believe true, but would never say or write. It’s considered gauche to do so, and they know they risk opprobrium for breaking that taboo (regardless of what it’s about). The pressure is often internalized, it is so ubiquitous & constant. So they are inwardly constrained to keep silent about those matters.

    I’m not.

    Remember though that this is NOT about whether I’m right or wrong about those things. (That is a separate matter.) This is specifically about whether I have balls.

  3. @ yamit82:

    “He claimed paul never lied when he claimed “no one is is righteous,not even one” Romans 3:10”

    “I rest my case!!!”

    You have yet to make a case.

    Absent argument, a mere citing of scripture (or anything else) is insufficient.