To be considered Pro-Israel you must support her, not condemn her

By Ted Belman

I usually agree with Evelyn Gordon but not now with the points she made on peace in her Commentary article, What Does it Mean to be Pro-Israel?. She writes,

    Moment magazine’s latest issue has an interesting symposium on what it means to be pro-Israel today.

    I found Hillel Halkin’s definition particularly helpful. But I’d like to add one thing to his list. Clearly, it’s okay to criticize any particular Israeli policy; Israelis do it all the time. But those with influence in the Jewish community, like rabbis or officials of Jewish organizations, also have an obligation to try to understand – and explain to his community – why Israelis might view the issue differently.

    For instance, it’s perfectly acceptable to argue that Israel should withdraw to the 1949 armistice lines, or unilaterally evacuate West Bank settlements; I disagree with both positions, but they don’t make you anti-Israel.

I would argue that they might and invariably do. Only if the offer is on the table for Israel to accept and then real peace will be attained, you might be considered as pro-Israel when arguing that Israel should accept it.

    Nevertheless, the fact remains that Israel’s government also disagrees, as do most Israelis. So a pro-Israel leader can’t just say “this is what Israel must to do to bring peace”

They can’t say that, in any event, because there is nothing Israel can do to achieve peace, other than committing suicide.

    …and stop there, leaving his audience to conclude that since Israel’s government thinks otherwise, it must be anti-peace. He must also explain to a community that quite genuinely might not know why Israelis are reluctant to take such steps –like the fact that every previous withdrawal has produced a surge in anti-Israel terror, or the fact that Palestinians’ insistence on a “right of return” and refusal to recognize a Jewish state leads Israelis to fear they still haven’t given up their dream of destroying Israel. He thereby shows that while Israelis, in his view, are misguided, they are not anti-peace. And that is critical – because an Israel that’s “anti-peace” is evil; an Israel that’s merely misguided is not.

I am disturbed by this whole line of thinking because it assumes peace with security is the highest value. How about peace through strength, or how about peace with our rights to the land or even to negotiate or how about the securing of our right to the land as our goal rather than peace shorn of our land and rights. That doesn’t make us evil because we are anti-peace.

Then who is to say what our goal should be? Israeli Jews or diaspora Jews? Diaspora Jews can remain pro-Israel even if they try to convince Israel that she is pursuing the wrong goals but should they go so far as to condemn us for the goals we pursue, they are no longer pro-Israel.

Bottom line is that to be considered Pro-Israel you must support Israel, not condemn her

    This rule is even more vital in light of the current assault on Israeli policies that critics portray as “anti-democratic,” because to most American Jews, Israel’s democratic character is even more important than its positions on the peace process. Again, there’s nothing wrong with opposing any or all of the recent controversial legislation. But a pro-Israel leader cannot just assert that, say, proposed changes to the judicial appointments system are “undemocratic”; she must also explain why many Israelis consider such changes essential: the fact that Israel is virtually the only democracy in the world where Supreme Court justices are chosen by unelected legal officials rather than the public’s elected representatives, or where sitting Supreme Court justices not only help choose their own successors, but actually have veto power over them; the fact that Israel therefore has one of the most monolithic courts in the democratic world; and the fact that it also has one of the world’s most activist courts, making the justices’ worldviews of paramount importance. She thereby tells her audience that even if a particular bill is flawed, Israelis aren’t “anti-democratic”; they are grappling with a genuine democratic concern.

    The necessary information generally isn’t difficult to obtain; Israel now has several English-language news sites, including The Jerusalem Post, Israel Hayom and Ynet, that can usually be counted on to run multiple articles arguing both sides of any controversial issue (the main exception is Haaretz, where opposing views are few and far between). So all that’s needed is a bit of time and effort.

    If a Jewish leader isn’t willing to invest that time and effort – if he would rather just slam Israeli policies as “anti-peace” or “anti-democratic” – then far from being pro-Israel, he is one of its worst enemies. For he is exploiting his own credentials as a Jew and self-proclaimed “lover of Zion” to convince others to hate the Jewish state.

January 13, 2012 | 5 Comments »

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  1. The article and the points it makes are great. In order for the truly democratic nature of Israel to flourish, Israel as a “Jewish” state must first survive- not the other way around and those advocating that for Israel to survive it must give in to the “so-called” peace process, etc. are using the advocacy of democratic reform and the so-called call for greater “equality” and false reconciliation with the Palestinians as tools for its destruction. It is not undemocratic, for example, to limit or exclude immigration when such immigration would undermine the State’s very existence. Those saying otherwise are not Pro-Israel. As Jonathan Usher pointed out Israel should be as democratic a state as possible but for Jews. Therefore, I sometimes wonder whether the real agenda of those advocates of “real peace” and “real democracy” is to undermine Israel. Then again, I don’t really wonder.

  2. The article in Moment magazine had 24 pundits weigh in on the question of what it means to be pro-Israel. While the views mostly fell into leftwing, liberal left and conservative right wing camps, reading this reminded me of some Boards I sat on where discussions went on interminably to define a problem and discuss solutions, because each one at the meeting felt the need to put their own spin on things, try to outdo the other with their eloquence and win the admiration of their fellow board members.

    Though resented by most, my efforts were largely successful to get people to shut up and cut to the chase, recognize there were basically two views as to the problems and thus 2 solutions, vote on it and then we could all go home early.

    Now that 24 pundits have had their say, I suggest they all meet again to see if they can find common ground on what the answer to the question is.

    As for Gordon’s article, I generally agree with her points, subject to a number of exceptions and caveats that Ted has raised.

  3. Our job in the diaspora is to support Israel. Israel is in a very precarious situation. The world is trying to turn it into the Warsaw Ghetto. This time, they outsmarted the Nazis by getting the Jews to wall themselves in.

    You must have the will to survive. And Israel is not willing to take the necessary steps to ensure its survival. First, you must stop thinking about what other people think. Turn off that noise. Then, turn to the Torah. What did God command the Jews to do when they returned to Canaan? You must expel all the foreign hostile elements that are squatting on your lands.

    Those scummy Arabs have 22 countries to go to! The JEws have but ONE!

  4. All this bla-bla-bla around what Israel needs from those living outside her territory who may want or want not, and if not why not, to help her, it’s nothing else but bla-bla-bla. Israel has to show herself first and only later to others, that has indeed grown up, that has learned who the enemy is and what is that motivates this enemy’s insistance in pushing Israel off the map. We all know that those motives are not solely geo-political, but of a different nature altogether, so it’s time to talk about them openly and honestly, cards on the table. Mr Belman you righteously quoted Sarah Palin in an other article. She is a great friend of israel and she was the one and maybe the only honest American politician who said( quote from memory) also during her visit in the country that time has come for Israelis to stop apologizing! She probably meant that time has come for Israel to face her problems and act on those in a way that ensures nothing else but victory. How to do that? That’s for Israel to figure out without looking over her shoulders to see who likes it or not. Those who really want to help Israel should not speak from two sides of their mouth, but rather point out faux pas made in the past (See the Sherman article). Who doesn’t learn from history will repeat it. Stating that Israel should be helped no matter what doesn’t do any good to those in need of help. It only sustains the already unsustainable situation created.

  5. foo on democratic. If Israel wants to be democratic as all other non-western countries are then it will be democratic for Jews. If non-Jews have general equality but certain restricted rights, Israel is still democratic for the most important group for Israel – that is Jews. Westerners tend to forget that Israel was set up as a homeland for Jews – not for anyone else. Jordan was set up as a homeland for Palestinian Arabs and Jews have very restricted rights there.

    Israel is like family. You protect and support your family in public and only criticize it in private. Even if some Israelis are stupid enough to
    criticize Israel in public, it doesn’t give the right for all Jews to be stupid.