Of late, the western media has provided inordinate prominence to Jewish fringe organizations like J Street and its European clone, JCall, which define themselves as “liberal” and “pro-peace”, but concentrate on castigating the Israeli government and undermining mainstream Diaspora pro-Israel Jewish organizations.
These bodies are primarily controlled by anti-Israeli activists, but also include many well-meaning but confused liberal fellow travelers. They also attract uninformed Jews and members of the anti-Zionist chic influenced by constant negative media depictions of Israel.
Their core message is that the Jewish establishment is alienating the bulk of the Jewish street, by blindly supporting the policies of an extremist right wing Israeli government and indulging in “McCarthyite” tactics to excommunicate anyone who dares to criticize Israeli policies.
These unrepresentative bodies receive widespread favorable exposure by a media which relishes quoting Jews beating up on Israel. Whenever Jewish writers or academics condemn Israel or castigate their own community, they are portrayed as heroic voices of conscience resisting a harsh and bigoted Jewish leadership. One only has to compare the enormous media coverage provided to the European J Call petition criticizing Israel with a counter petition by Italian MP Fiamma Nirenstein which contained many more signatories and was effectively ignored.
This was also exemplified in the US by the extraordinary media coverage extended to former New Republic editor Peter Beinart who wrote a lengthy essay titled “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment” in the New York Review of Books, a periodical renowned for its longstanding hostility to successive Israeli governments. Beinart selectively chose extremist remarks from Israeli hawks, falsely alleged that Prime Minister Netanyahu repudiated the Oslo Accords, quoted the “renowned” Hebrew University professor Ze’ev Sternhell – a bitter post-Zionist – alleging that Israel has “fascist characteristics” and accusing the Israeli government and Jewish leadership of alienating the younger generation of liberal Jews.
There is an uncanny parallel between these “pro-peace” groups and the bogus peace councils sponsored by the Soviet Union during the Cold War, which also claimed to be the true custodians of peace and succeeded in duping many “fellow travelers” into becoming accessories in promoting the global objectives of the Evil Empire.
Today these pseudo “pro-peace” bodies seek to undermine the only liberal democratic state in the region and divert attention from the reprehensible behavior and denial of human rights practiced by Israel’s enemies.
In the battle of the war of ideas in which electronic media images of the suffering of the underdog blur moral considerations of right and wrong and disregard the source of conflicts, these groups distort the case for Israel and undermine the Zionist narrative.
They call on the global community to pressure the government of Israel to make further unilateral concessions. They insist that the core of the problem rests with the settlements, an issue which does divide Israelis. However, the suggestion that peace and goodwill would be achieved if Israel unilaterally withdrew from territories across the green line is absolute nonsense and detracts from the real obstacle to peace which is the absence of a genuine Palestinian peace partner and the ongoing Arab obsession with bringing an end to Jewish sovereignty.
The “pro peace” groups ignore the fact that Netanyahu has steered the government to a genuine centrist position and achieved a broad consensus that aside from the major settlement blocs, Israelis would compromise on territories in return for genuine peace and security. That sentiment prevails despite the awareness that until now territorial concessions have only yielded further terror and aggression.
The repeated wails by the “pro peace” groups that they encounter McCarthyism and are denied the opportunity to express themselves are specious and particularly hypocritical coming from those who unhesitatingly slander and seek to intimidate their critics. There has always been vigorous dissent amongst Jews on all political issues. But it was during the formative years of the state when the social-democratic Mapai ruled the roost, that a consensus prevailed that Diaspora Jews, who do not face the life and death consequences arising from decisions relating to Israel’s defense, were morally obliged to allow the people of Israel through their democratically elected government to determine such issues.
Today, that concept is regarded with contempt by the “pro peace” elements, who claim to have a better appreciation of what is in the best interests of Israel than Israelis themselves. Indeed, these self appointed formulators of Israel policy articulate views that are sometimes more extreme than those of Meretz, the most far Left political party in the Knesset, holding only 3 out of 120 Knesset seats.
Of late, it is increasingly alleged that the new generation of younger Jews is turning against Israel. This is highly misleading. Obviously the passion for Israel amongst Jews of this generation is less intense than those who witnessed the Shoa and the struggle to create a Jewish State. However, it was always only 25 to 30% who comprised the activist element within Jewish communities and were at the forefront of Zionist and pro-Israel activity. Assimilated or less involved Jews were understandably less involved and somewhat apathetic, only becoming galvanized during periods of acute crisis such as the Six-Day War.
With some modifications, this remains true today. Jewish youngsters actively involved in Jewish life remain overwhelmingly supportive of Israel. Those ignorant or indifferent to Judaism are more susceptible to the impact of hostile influences surrounding them, especially on the university campuses, and many recoil from involvement with Israel.
However, the dramatic response by the activist American Jewish community to the negative attitude displayed against Israel by the Obama administration was astonishing. Despite the fact that 78% of them supported him, at a grassroots level many committed Democratic Jewish supporters have displayed anger and frustration against the administration for having reneged on Obama’s electoral undertakings concerning Israel.
However, one should not underestimate the potential for damage that small numbers of determined Jewish anti-Israel activists can inflict. The message that they seek to impart is that Israel is controlled by extremist right-wing bigots and that it is incompatible for liberals to support such a regime. They compound this by directly or implicitly giving credence to canards accusing supporters of Israel of dual loyalties as well as allegations that Israel is endangering American lives. In fact, there are already disturbing signals that today the traditional bipartisan support towards Israel is eroding and that Democrats are far less committed to Israel than the Republicans.
Needless to say, this requires urgent attention. Both the government and the Jewish Agency should map out a strategy which takes account of the enormous damage these groups can inflict if they are not marginalized. One of the most effective means would be for the government to sponsor a global solidarity meeting with Jewish leaders, intellectuals and key activists to demonstrate that the vast majority of committed Jews remain fully dedicated to supporting the Jewish State. Israel must be able to rely on the ongoing support of world Jewry.
This column was originally published as a blog post in the Jerusalem Post