Be wary of ‘tough love’ on Israel

These dyed-in-the-wool liberal critics of Israel’s policies are actively working to rally American Jewish opinion against Israel by stepping up their condemnations of the prime minister.

Israel and US flags (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Israel and US flags
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
I am watching with increasing concern the abandonment of the Zionist dream by so many American Jews as a result of the recent elections in Israel, as if that community can ever feel safe absent the existence of Israel.
Frankly, I never thought that I would live to see the day when the likes of Peter Beinart and Jeremy Ben-Ami, among others, would urge American Jews to act against Israel and/or to actively lobby the US government to “reset” its traditional support for its only democratic and reliable ally in the Middle East. This is the same US government that, under the current administration, has been guilty of a failed foreign policy which has turned America into a non-trusted partner about whom the Arab world’s leaders makes jokes.
These dyed-in-the-wool liberal critics of Israel’s policies are actively working to rally American Jewish opinion against Israel by stepping up their condemnations of the prime minister and calling on the US to ratchet up the pressure on Israel.
For example, at the annual J Street conference in Washington, in a speech to 3,000 attendees, Jeremy Ben-Ami, the group’s executive director, accused Netanyahu of harming the US-Israel relationship through “partisan gamesmanship” and called on the Obama administration to put forth the parameters for a resolution to the conflict at the UN Security Council.
In addition he urged his members to lobby schools across America to change their maps of Israel to clearly identify the “Green Line” and to support BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) activities aimed at punishing Israel economically.
Earlier last week, in an op-ed in Haaretz, another harsh Netanyahu critic, Peter Beinart, called for the Obama administration to “punish” Israel on several fronts – including by backing Palestinian “bids” at the United Nations and denying visas to and freezing the assets of Israeli settler leaders. He specifically named Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett as one of those who should be so treated.
Beinart also urged American Jews to ensure that Netanyahu and members of his Cabinet are met with protesters at Jewish events and urged American Jews to support the BDS movement.
But these self-described Zionists who, in Beinart’s words, suggest “tough love” for Israel, are living in a dream world that can come crashing down on them at any moment.
They have forgotten the lessons of history that apply to people living as a minority in a society (yes, Jews are, indeed, a minority in the US). And that applies to everywhere Jews live except, of course, Israel. There simply is no long-term guarantee of safety when living as a minority.
As we have seen often this past year in Europe, anti-Israel sentiment easily ramps up to anti-Jewish behavior, with our enemies making no distinction between the two. It is simply obscene for outspoken members of the American Jewish community to use their public platforms to encourage activities which are hurtful to the State of Israel. Eventually, the enemies of the Jewish people in America, and there are many to be sure, will use the fact that Jews are advocating punishing tactics against Israel as justification for all kinds of anti-Israel and, by association, anti-Jewish activities.
After all, if the Jews are saying boycott Israeli products why should the rest of us (i.e. the non-Jews) be more Jewish than the Jews? Sadly, in the rush to criticize Israel after the elections, and to support the venomously narcissistic behavior of the current occupant of the White House, these self-proclaimed liberals have forgotten that 83 percent of Israel’s eligible voters did not vote for the Likud and Benjamin Netanyahu. Are our brethren in the US so committed to punishing us that the 5/6 of the population who did not vote Likud should be penalized financially? More importantly, if these objectors have their way, and financial ruin descends upon Israel, do they have a fund to save this 83%? If I, as a business person here with a significant number of American clients, lose my business, will my welfare checks come from the likes of Beinart and Ben- Ami? Well, we know the answer to that question.
Sadly, those in the American Jewish community who are counseling “tough love” do not understand international diplomacy or how the mind of the current US president functions.
As Bret Stephens wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal: “Here is my advice to the Israeli government, along with every other country being treated disdainfully by this crass administration: Repay contempt with contempt. Mr. Obama plays to classic bully type. He is abusive and surly only toward those he feels are either too weak, or too polite, to hit back. The Saudis figured that out in 2013, after Mr. Obama failed to honor his promises on Syria; they turned down a seat on the Security Council, spoke openly about acquiring nuclear weapons from Pakistan and tanked the price of oil, mainly as a weapon against Iran. Now Mr. Obama is nothing if not solicitous of the Saudi highnesses.”
That’s what is means to be a free people in our land.
My American Jewish friends: be careful. Most of you in today’s liberal establishment there never lived at a time when there was no Israel. Most of you do not remember when people did not walk around in America wearing visible signs of their Jewishness.
Most of you do not remember the vicious anti-Semitism of personalities like Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh, while conveniently forgetting the latter-day anti-Semites like Mel Gibson and Oliver Stone.
And lest you think these are isolated individuals, according to a recent study by the Anti-Defamation League, “only” nine percent of Americans hold anti-Semitic attitudes.
This sounds good, but it translates to 21,000,000 people. It means that there are far more anti-Semites than Jews in America. This may be one reason why the Federal Bureau of Investigation regularly reports that anti-Jewish hate crimes exceed hate crimes against any other religious group. On some university campuses, Jewish students (who often make up the vanguard of those liberal elements recommending boycotting Israel) have recently been spit at and called “dirty Jews” and worse. The problem is greater for those students who are known to support Israel on campuses where anti-Israel activism runs high.
My mother, of blessed memory, when I was growing up in the half-Jewish, half-Irish Catholic neighborhood of High Bridge in the Bronx, told me often: “Don’t get them angry.” I can still hear the words cascading out of her mouth. She knew well the risks associated with living as a minority in any society, and how best to avoid trouble.
My grandfather, who punctured his left eardrum in order not to serve in the notoriously anti-Semitic Russian army of the czar, and who came to America in the early 20th century to raise his children there and experience the American dream of the time, would be aghast at the rantings of people like Beinart and Ben-Amir, who use their significant communication abilities to trash Israel and the Jewish people.
But my guess is that these same people who are so eager to point accusing fingers at others will be, when anti-Semitism raises its ugly head in America, as it most surely will, the first ones in line to buy tickets to Israel. And this country which they so gleefully trash will be here to welcome them home as they gratefully deplane and kiss the ground on which we walk.
The author is a 31-year resident of Jerusalem, former national president of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel and president of Atid EDI Ltd., a Jerusalem-based economic development consulting firm.