The Israel and American flags side-by-side.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
I know we Israelis are supposed to endure whatever we suffer in guilty silence. Apparently, we deserve the violence in our streets and against our kids because of “the occupation,” which justifies any Palestinian crime, no matter how tangential, evil, counterproductive, or aimed at destroying us rather than at solving our problems. I know that after years of Israelis negating the exile (shlilat hagolah), we now have shlilat zion, negating Zion, with many American Jewish liberals bashing Israel while resenting the slightest Zionist critique offered the supposedly perfect, thriving, untouchable, American Jewish community.
And yes, I know that Benjamin Netanyahu stumbled when blaming the Palestinian hero, the pro-Hitler Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, for Hitler’s Final Solution, and shouldn’t have appointed the undiplomatic Ran Baratz to head public diplomacy. But wandering Jerusalem with a can of pepper spray in my left pocket, an extra pair of eyes in the back of my head and numerous new holes in my heart, for all the innocents killed, wounded and traumatized, I wonder: were Netanyahu’s missteps really the last month’s biggest outrages? This isn’t aimed at you if you tweeted or emailed about Bibi’s boo-boos while also objecting to Mahmoud Abbas’s inflammatory lies, to the murdering of Israelis, to stabbing a 13-year-old Jerusalemite in the neck forcing him to fight for his life instead of preparing for his bar mitzvah, to Gideon Levy’s absurd claim in Haaretz that “even Gandhi” would turn violent if he were a Palestinian, or to any of the misleading headlines obscuring Palestinian violence yet blaming Israel.
This isn’t aimed at you if you bothered checking in with an Israeli friend.
This isn’t aimed at you if you backed some initiative to support Israelis (including adopting a victimized family, or ordering takeout from a now-empty Jerusalem restaurant to send to overworked security personnel).
And this isn’t aimed at you if you wrote an open letter to US President Barack Obama saying that while you support him enthusiastically you abhor his morally equivalent “both sides are guilty” approach toward Israel when the Palestinians are so clearly guilty this time. But, with all the perverse, totalitarian, murderous, politically correct craziness aimed at Israel this month, if it was Netanyahu’s actions that got your goat – or finally moved you to react – this letter’s for you.
I have no problem criticizing Netanyahu. I want Israel driving the peace train, applying the same creativity Israelis demonstrate in start-ups to diplomacy. And I can respect your concern for innocent Palestinians (although not their warmongering leaders, their incendiary imams, their bloodthirsty terrorists). But I resent the outrage gap, the disconnect between the fury Netanyahu’s minor bobbles trigger versus the silence or even support greeting major Palestinian crimes. I abhor the Blame-Israel-Firsters and Excuse Palestinian Terrorist Forever-ers. I cannot stomach the self-loathing epitomized by two supposed “lifelong Zionists” who choose this difficult time to champion boycotting Israel in The Washington Post, stupidly blaming “the recent wave of attacks” on Israel’s “losing the minimum of mutual tolerance that is necessary for any democratic society” without mentioning Palestinians’ anti-Semitic, antipeace culture that sings “Stab the Zionist and say God is great.” (We still sing “Oseh Shalom,” “He who makes peace,” and “Shir lashalom,” the peace song).
I AM shocked that not one pro-Israel Democrat I know of has publicly denounced Obama for being so prickly in dealing with Israel, especially now. I know of no pro-Israel Democrat who publicly condemned Secretary of State John Kerry for blaming this round of violence on (nonexistent) settlement expansion. I know of no pro-Israel Democrat who has publicly admitted being fed up with Obama’s tendency to reward enemies like Iran while dissing friends, especially Israel. Where are the open letters to Obama from loyal Democrats? Where are the threats of freezing Democratic donations until policy toward Israel becomes more enthusiastic, less miserly? I get it. We Israelis annoy you. We embarrass you with our traumas, our fears, our enemies, our power, our guns, our messiness. It’s easy from 6,000 miles away to buy the Palestinian narrative that they are powerless, ignoring their perpetual refusal to compromise and our repeated attempts to compromise. It’s easy only to hear Israeli extremists and assume they are why we keep territory rather than remembering what happened during the Oslo Peace Process when our attempts to establish a Palestinian state ended with over 1,000 Israelis murdered by Palestinian terrorists, mostly because Yasser Arafat wasn’t Nelson Mandela and because Hamas derailed Oslo with suicide bombings.
And it’s easy to see this mess through the three popular American Jewish prisms for viewing oppression – the American South, South Africa, or Nazi Germany. But we’re not Bull Connors or Jan Smuts or Adolph Hitler. The situation is closer to America’s urban ghettoes and the African-American underclass.
Simplistic, one-word explanations or blame games don’t do justice to the multiple causes that make this problem so intractable.
I don’t need anyone to agree with me or Netanyahu or anyone else. But I wish we could acknowledge the situation’s complexity, and be humbler, kinder, more flexible. And, yes, I wish for more support, more solidarity. I would love to hear liberals, Jewish and non-Jewish, echo Israeli Leftists who say, “I am anti-occupation, but also clearly, passionately, anti-terrorism. And, at this moment, with Israeli blood flowing, I stand tall and proud and passionately for Israel, as a Jewish state and as an embattled democracy fighting totalitarianism – especially after Paris.”
And I would love to hear liberals connect the dots, admitting that the world’s tolerance for Palestinian terrorism was the gateway crime that helped encourage Islamist terrorism.
Don’t worry, we can return to arguing about settlements when the violence subsides. And demonstrating loyalty during this bloodletting will improve your credibility in debating how to avoid the next one.The writer is the author of The Age of Clinton: America in the 1990s, just published by Thomas Dunne Books of St. Martin’s Press. He is professor of history at McGill University and a Visiting Scholar this fall at the Brookings Institution. Follow on Twitter @GilTroy www.giltroy.com.
Watch Lesley Stahl and Gil Troy on C-Span launching Age of Clinton.