There are two main reasons that many leftists who are viscerally supportive of
Israel have difficulty understanding and defending the Jewish state today.
First, the storyline about Israel is deeply distorted.
For instance, this
week, Freedom House released its annual report on press freedom around the
world. Israel’s ranking was reduced from “free” to “partly free.”
House gave three reasons for downgrading Israel’s status: the prosecution of
Haaretz reporter Uri Blau for holding stolen top-secret documents; Channel 10’s
difficulties getting its broadcast license renewed; and the success of the
Israel Hayom newspaper. As Jonathan Tobin at Commentary noted Wednesday, all of
these reasons are fraudulent.
Uri Blau received thousands of top secret
documents from Anat Kamm, who stole them from the office of OC Central Command
at the end of her military service. The documents were not mere intelligence
analyses. They were operational plans, unit information and other highly
Blau lied to investigators who asked him about the
documents. He fled to London for months rather than speak to investigators or
return the documents.
Yet because Israel prosecuted Blau for these acts –
which are felonies – Freedom House decided that Israel constrains press
Then there is Channel 10. Channel 10 is a poorly managed,
unsuccessful company that has gone broke. It owes NIS 110 million which it
cannot pay back, including NIS 60m. to the state.
Due to its nonpayment
of its debt to the state, the Knesset was set to vote down the renewal of its
broadcast license – again, in accordance with the law. To protect themselves
from market forces – Channel 10’s failed management and staff used their bully
pulpit to deflect attention away from their failure and incompetence. They
accused the Knesset of trying to silence free speech. Channel 10’s allies in the
media and the political Left joined their anti-government bandwagon. The Knesset
Channel 10’s license was renewed. And its debt to taxpayers
As for Israel Hayom, Freedom House alleged that the free
paper’s success in gaining market shares at the expense of other tabloids is
part of a nefarious plot by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his friend and
Israel Hayom owner Sheldon Adelson to establish a quasi-state-controlled media.
Israel Hayom is the first mass circulation Israeli newspaper not aligned with
the political Left.
Freedom House’s allegations against Adelson and
Netanyahu and its championing of bankrupt Channel 10 are based on two guiding
notions. First, non-leftist entities – the Knesset, Israel Hayom’s editorial
board – are inherently opposed to press freedom while the motives of leftist
institutions like Haaretz and Channel 10 are as pure as the driven
Second, they imply that media in Israel can only be free if not
subjected to market forces or the rule of law.
Clearly both of these
underlying assumptions are absurd. Yet they form the basis of Freedom House’s
damaging allegations against the government.
And that’s the thing of
Over the past generation, we have been inundated by disinformation
from an unlimited number of seemingly credible organizations whose aim is to
discredit any development related to Israel that does not advance the positions
of the Left. And due to the ubiquity of this disinformation, among wider and
wider circles today the belief has taken hold that there is something
fundamentally illegitimate about non-leftist Israelis and non-leftist supporters
Since most Israelis are not leftist, and since the most
outspoken supporters of Israel are not leftists, there is a widening belief –
particularly among liberals – that Israelis, Israeli institutions and Israel’s
supporters are illegitimate.
This brings us to the second reason that it
has become so difficult for Americans – and particularly liberal American Jews –
who viscerally support Israel, to defend or even understand the Jewish state
There is a Western tendency, most pronounced on the
anti-colonialist Left, to ignore the nature of the Islamic world generally and
the Palestinians in particular, and concentrate their attention on Israel
Case in point is Harvard Law Prof. Alan
Dershowitz is rightly considered one of Israel’s most
outspoken defenders in the US. But like his fellow leftist ideologues,
Dershowitz apparently does not think that it is important to focus on the nature
of things in the Islamic world. Rather than notice current realities, he places
his faith in his power to shape the future through his intellect and his
willingness to compromise.
In an interview with New York Jewish Week
following his participation at Sunday’s Jerusalem Post’s conference in New York,
Dershowitz said he was astonished by both my remarks on Iran and the audience’s
response to my remarks.
He told the paper, “She said, ‘Bombs away,’ and
they gave her a standing ovation.”
One of the things that distinguish the
Post’s readers from most other news consumers is that our readers have educated
themselves in the realities of Israel and the region and pay attention to those
As a consequence, they are less affected by anti-Israel
propaganda presented as human rights reports than the vast majority of news
consumers in the US.
When I addressed the conference, I said I would
limit my discussion of Iran to two words, “Bombs away.” I said that because like
the Post’s readers, I base my analysis of Iran’s nuclear weapons program on the
nature of the Iranian regime.
The Iranian regime is a totalitarian
regime. It has an uninterrupted record of torturing and massacring its citizens.
It has threatened to annihilate Israel. It is the largest state sponsor of
terrorism in the world.
Economic sanctions are only viable against
regimes that care about serving their citizenry. A regime that represses its
citizens is not going to be moved from its strategic course by international
sanctions that embitter the lives of its citizens. Since the Iranian regime does
not care about its citizens, it cannot be diverted from its plans to acquire
nuclear weapons through economic sanctions, no matter how harsh.
reaching an agreement with the Iranian regime that would induce it to end its
nuclear weapons program, this aspiration is similarly based on a denial of the
nature of the regime. The first act of the regime was to reject the foundations
of the international system. The Iranian takeover of the US Embassy in 1979 was
not merely an act of war against America. It was a declaration of war against
the international legal system. Since then, nothing the Iranian regime has done,
including emerging as the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world, has
brought it closer to accepting the norms of behavior expected from a member of
the family of nations. As a consequence, the notion that this regime would honor
any nuclear agreement it may sign with the US or any other international party
Since traditional forms of statecraft that do not involve
the use of force are not viable options for statecraft involving Iran, the only
viable option for preventing Iran – particularly at this late stage – from
becoming a nuclear power is force. If Israel is serious when it says that a
nuclear-armed Iran is an existential threat to the Jewish state then Israel must
attack Iran’s nuclear installations.
Because the Post’s readers are
informed about the nature of the Iranian regime, they appreciated the message I
telegraphed in saying “Bombs away.” But Dershowitz was astonished.
Week asked Dershowitz about the Jerusalem Post conference because during a panel
discussion he and I participated in about the Palestinian conflict with Israel,
he angrily attacked the audience for laughing at his plan for renewing
negotiations between Israel and the PLO and I angrily rebuked him for doing
Dershowitz told the audience that he had presented a plan to
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas that involved Israel abrogating
Jewish property rights in select areas of Judea and Samaria through a so-called
settlement freeze. In exchange, the Palestinians would agree to suspend their
efforts to delegitimize and criminalize Israel at the UN and the International
In other words, Dershowitz put forth a plan – which he
said Abbas responded positively to – that would require Israel to take a step
not required by the agreements it already negotiated with the PLO.
exchange, the Palestinians would temporarily suspend actions they are taking in
material breach of the agreements they signed with Israel.
this “bargain,” Dershowitz revealed that his conception of the Palestinians is
based on willful blindness to their nature that equals his apparent blindness to
the nature of the Iranian regime.
Last Saturday, Abbas gave a speech in
which he said that Israel’s commitment to the peace process will be measured by
its willingness to release Palestinian terrorists from its jails. Last month,
Abbas sent his representative to visit the families of jailed Palestinian mass
murderers to express his solidarity with them and his admiration for their sons’
As Aaron Lerner from IMRA pointed out earlier this week, by
insisting that all Palestinian terrorists be freed from Israeli prisons, Abbas
is saying that there is nothing criminal or wrong about murdering or attempting
to murder Israelis. This position alone discredits him as a peace
Abbas’s steadfast refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist,
and his unceasing political warfare against Israel – in breach of signed
agreements between Israel and the PLO – are just further proof that he is not a
credible partner for peace.
Then there is the nature of the Palestinian
people themselves. Unlike the Iranians, who desperately wish to overthrow their
regime, according the results of a new Pew survey of the Arab world,
Palestinians want more tyranny.
To the extent they oppose their regime,
they do so because it is too open. Among other things, 87 percent of
Palestinians say a wife must always obey her husband; 89% want to be ruled by
Islamic law, and 62% support the death penalty for leaving Islam.
Palestinians support terrorism against civilians than do citizens in any other
Muslim society polled.
Post readers are apparently as familiar with the
nature of Palestinians society as they are with the nature of the Iranian
regime. And this is why they laughed at Dershowitz’s plan for restarting
Angered at the audience’s response, Dershowitz lashed out
against it. He said the thousand people in the hall were irrelevant, that no one
listens to them, and that it is good that no one listens to
Dershowitz is rightly respected by Zionists across the political
spectrum for his willingness to defend Israel against its detractors. And this
makes his contemptuous treatment of an audience of its supporters at the
conference more tragic than infuriating.
It is the tragedy of our times
that basically decent liberals like Dershowitz dismiss as marginal those who
base their assessments of Israel and the Middle East on reality, rather than on
policy paradigms that are the stuff of negotiations textbooks at
It is the tragedy of our times because the people he holds in
greatest contempt are the people who have been right about Israel, and about
Iran and the Palestinians, time after time after