In recent weeks, our media has indulged its penchant for masochism, depicting every incident in the most self-deprecating manner. This is exemplified in a column by Bradley Burston on the current homepage of the English edition of Haaretz. Titled “I envy the people who hate Israel,” he relates to real and imaginary blunders committed by our political leaders, and concludes with the breathtaking comment that “my father did not flee the Soviet Union just so that his son could one day have the chance to live in a place just like it.”
I would submit that the publication of such wacky remarks in a purportedly serious Israeli paper highlights the need for soul searching by our bleeding-heart editors.
Burston’s principal example of malfeasance was “our apparent violation of the basic conventions of all civilized states in the Dubai murder.” It is unlikely that the true facts concerning the assassination of the vicious Hamas killer Mahmoud al-Mabhouh will ever be revealed. The information disclosed by the Dubai police smacks of disinformation. It sounds somewhat bizarre for the Mossad to risk 27 agents and then send some of them on to Iran.
Initially, Israeli media reports of the assassination were exuberant. However, when it transpired that foreign passports belonging to Israeli dual nationals had been used, the euphoria evaporated and commentators who had portrayed Mossad chief Meir Dagan as “superman” began calling for his head.
Ideally, intelligence agencies should be invisible. The use of forged passports from friendly countries is unacceptable, but has been common practice by all Western intelligence agencies. Indeed, one is entitled to ask why the Dubai authorities failed to notice false passports employed by Mabhouh. We might also ask whether there would have been such a brouhaha over passports had it been one of Osama bin Laden’s lieutenants who was killed.
Our media critics discounted the fact that our intelligence agencies may have succeeded in eliminating a murderer whose sole occupation was to bring death and destruction upon us. Furthermore, the goal was achieved with no civilian casualties and all participants returned safely. So let’s stop beating ourselves up and be thankful that we are rid of a cruel and evil fiend.
ANOTHER ISSUE covered in a distorted manner was the alleged mishandling of J Street and visiting US congressmen. After the incident with the Turkish ambassador, many of us viewed Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon as somewhat of a fallen star. But in this matter, he behaved impeccably, and it was those in the media who permitted themselves to be manipulated by J Street who should be condemned.
Five democratic congressmen visited Israel as part of a delegation organized by Churches for Middle East Peace – a group notorious for its anti-Israel agenda. J Street coordinated the visit, and the Foreign Ministry undertook to arrange meetings. However, it declined to invite representatives of J Street, an organization renowned for lobbying the Obama administration against the government. There was no boycott of the US congressmen, merely a decision by the Foreign Ministry to exclude J Street and Churches for Middle East Peace from those meetings.
I recollect numerous occasions when I accompanied high-level Australian and international legislators to Israel. Even though, unlike J Street, I felt obliged as a Diaspora leader to support the policies of the government, I was never offended when I was not invited to partake in direct meetings between the government and visiting lawmakers.
Yet, true to form, J Street saw this as an opportunity to bash the government, and held a press conference attended by the congressmen, falsely condemning the Foreign Ministry “for refusing to allow meetings with congressmen.” It is noteworthy that of the five congressmen depicted by J Street as “staunch friends of Israel,” Mary Joy Gilroy was the only one who voted in favor of a House resolution (overwhelmingly passed) condemning the Goldstone Report and reaffirming Israel’s right to self-defense. That says something about J Street’s definition of “pro-Israel.”
Despite media accusations that Ayalon indulged in McCarthyism and damaged the reputation of Israel, the Foreign Ministry behaved entirely appropriately, and was justified in condemning J Street for “putting self-aggrandizement ahead of the interests of the State of Israel.”
YET ANOTHER example of media self deprecation was its attack on the decision by the government to include the Cave of the Patriarchs, Rachel’s Tomb and the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City in a list of national heritage sites marked for restoration and preservation. The first condemnation, not surprisingly from the UN, was on the grounds that the sites are over the Green Line and have “historical and religious significance not only to Judaism but also to Islam and to Christianity.” This is absurd. It is only since these sites have been under Israeli jurisdiction that they have been accessible to all faiths. The interests of Christians and Muslims are surely not served if these locations are permitted to deteriorate.
Of course, the UN was merely preempting the predictable response of the Palestinians who, true to form, expressed outrage that Israel could even view the walls of Jerusalem as a national heritage site. Hamas called for a third intifada. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas threatened a religious war.
Unfortunately, the US administration, which should appreciate the symbolic connection of the Jewish people to these sites and was aware that the decision does not affect the political status quo of the areas in which the sites are located, chose to issue statements echoing the sentiments expressed by the UN.
This US response must be viewed against the backdrop of the negative Israeli media coverage of this issue, which has had a major influence in molding the perception of the international community.
However, rather than condemning the Palestinian threats and focusing on the irrevocable connection of the Jewish people to these sites, much of the media criticized the government. Such self-defeating attitudes, deliberately downplaying our moral and legal rights to avoid offending the Palestinians, merely embolden extremists. It is surely time to cease apologizing for our national heritage. If we are to be precluded from identifying Jerusalem, the Cave of the Patriarchs or Rachel’s Tomb (three of the most important symbols of Judaism) as sites of national heritage, we undermine the entire concept of Jewish nationhood.
While we condemn Europe for caving in to Islamic fundamentalists, we cannot afford to make the same mistake in Israel, where the stakes are so much higher.
It is regrettable that during these troubled times many of our journalists emphasize the negative, using every possible opportunity to demean and deride the positive aspects of our nation. It is surely time to urge them to at least begin displaying a modicum of respect for our achievements.
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post