SILWAN, an Arab neighborhood close to Jerusalem’s Old City, one of many places the author claims Arab residents are being displaced from.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The announcement last week that former Portuguese prime minister Antonio Guterres was slated to succeed Ban Ki-moon as secretary-general of the UN was met by sighs of relief in Jerusalem.
Guterres is a “friend of Israel,” went the general assessment.
Former prime minister Ehud Barak told Army Radio that he was sure Guterres would be “fair.”
“His views are closer to those of [Israeli writer] Amos Oz than [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu. His stances reflect those of the world. The world’s view of Israel is that it hopes to see a different Israel. If the government would act differently, it could change how Israel is seen,” said Barak, who visited Guterres in Portugal while both were prime ministers of their respective countries.
Which leads to the question, what exactly constitutes a “friend of Israel”? What are the criteria that define who can be called a friend of the country? It could mean someone who defends Israel against unjust claims of apartheid and BDS campaigns aimed at delegitimizing any efforts to welcome the country into the community of nations. That would sure qualify as a friend of Israel, and that seems to be how Barak assessed Guterres’s approach.
However, it seems that more often than not, the term “friend of Israel” has been co-opted by those in the nationalist camp to refer to public figures whose views qualify them as fellow card-carrying Greater Land of Israel advocates.
These “friends” are firm believers in Israel’s narrative as the only valid path to justice in the conflict with the Palestinians, and are firm detractors of anyone who might claim that the Israel’s elected leaders are perhaps not so sincere or interested in promoting a solution that would result in a Palestinian state.
“Friends” of Israel bankroll projects to move Jews into predominantly Arab areas of Jerusalem and they bankroll newspapers that never say a bad word about the government.
Are these Israel advocates, who pull longs strings from abroad, really doing us a favor by forwarding the agenda of a minority in Israel that aims to eliminate any chance of reconciliation with our neighbors? Contrast them with public figures who understand the complexities of the region and of Israel’s security challenges, legitimate fears and complex, robust society encompassing varied, valid viewpoints.
Sure, it can be galling to hear a President Obama or a Ban Ki-moon chide Israel like a stern parent who knows better than us what is good for the country. And what’s with those State Department condemnations of Israel’s settlement expansion that use the same language reserved for Syrian civil war mass killings? But the root of that divisive language and criticism is the underlying tenet that Israel is only hurting itself and its standing in the world by continuing this myopic policy of continuing settlement building without seeking a permanent solution.
A true friend is someone who is willing to tell you something for your own good that you may not want to hear. Unlike the Israelright- or-wrong ideologues, that’s the kind of “friend of Israel” that’s worth hanging on to.