Smoke rises near a mosque as clashes continue between Lebanese army soldiers and Islamists in the Sunni border town of Arsal..
The complaint is sometimes heard that critics of Israel are silenced and that American Jews, in particular, are unwilling to publicly condemn policies that liberals believe are indefensible or even unconscionable.
The truth is that critics of Israel have a wide open field for expressing their views. The more critical, in fact, the more likely to be published by the major media, which views Jews attacking Israeli policies as the equivalent of “man bites dog.” As Haaretz columnist Ari Shavit puts it, “criticism of Israel gives the writer a place of honor in the international media.”
Today, Israel’s detractors don’t need access to television or newspapers because they can disseminate their views globally via the Internet. Their opinions range from those using facts to show that Israel has done something wrong to those who make up facts to pillory Israel to those anti-Semites who criticize Israel, which they see as a synonym for Jew.
As Joanne Feinberg Goldstein wrote in Haaretz, the Jewish Left believes that Israel is all wrong and can do no right. There is no acknowledgment that Israel has a right to protect itself or that its geopolitical circumstance is unique. For these liberals, Hamas isn’t responsible for its actions; Israel is to blame.
Most detractors don’t care about how their words are used; some knowingly make common cause with the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement as well as other anti-Semites who seek the destruction of Israel.
Supporters of Israel in the Diaspora, who have no shortage of complaints about Israeli policies, are often dismissed when they suggest that public criticism of Israel, even if legitimate, will have no positive impact on Israeli policy and will be used to flay Israel as an all-powerful nation bent on conquest and the abuse of Palestinians.
Other liberals criticize Israel out of love, but also recognize their words have consequences if not put in context. Shavit, whose paper Haaretz is known for its criticism of Israeli policy, saw how his concerns were twisted by Israel’s enemies and vowed “never again to forget that I belong to a small, persecuted nation, whom many in the world want to see gone. I will forever remember that the Jewish state, the Jewish people and the Jews as individuals arouse dark impulses among millions of people.”
Those “dark impulses” have been unleashed around the world in a paroxysm of anti-Semitism.
Israel is not a superpower and does not have the luxury of acting with impunity as the great powers do in wars with their enemies. Israel is pilloried for a single unintentional civilian casualty by the same countries that fire-bombed Dresden and dropped the atomic bomb on Japan knowing that tens of thousands of civilians would die.
“No honest person in the world believes that because of those strikes Britain and the United States are illegitimate,” says Shavit.
Many of the same liberals who are champions of human rights and automatically defend African Americans, Hispanics, gays and other minorities are either dumbstruck by the behavior of the Jewish minority, or reflexively condemn Jews for the policies of the Israeli government, regardless of whether its actions are necessary.
Israel remains a small nation in an area full of enemies, including a growing radical Islamic menace coming from Gaza, Lebanon, Iran and now Syria and Iraq.
As Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is fond of saying, Israel lives in the Middle East not the Middle West.
Still, even in this tough neighborhood, Israelis remain committed to morality and justice. Mistakes are investigated, criminals punished and extraordinary measures taken to safeguard human life – Arab and Israeli, Jew and non-Jew.
For all its faults, Israel remains a robust democracy that provides its citizens with the same rights that Americans take for granted, and that are denied to the other peoples of the Middle East. The same persecuted people, by the way, that liberals routinely ignore.
The motto of lovers of Israel is not “Israel: right or wrong,” it is, “Israel: striving for right even when it is wrong.”
The writer is the author/editor of 23 books including After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine and Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews.
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