We have grown accustomed to the ravings of the Jew haters of Zion – the loony left who identify with Hamas and Hizbullah rather than their own people, the post-Zionists who seek to undo the Jewish character of Israel and the bleeding heart liberals who make excuses for the criminality of our neighbors and condemn us for defending ourselves.
But what is more frustrating is an emerging new trend, involving even well-meaning friends of Israel, primarily liberals, who demand that as Jews and “partners” of Israel, they are entitled to partake in determining Israeli security and defense related policies.
The most notorious of these is J Street in the US which shamelessly lobbies its government to pressure Israel to adopt policies contrary to those determined by our democratically elected government.
Despite living thousands of miles away and not subject to the consequences of the policies they promote, they have the gall to insist that they are more sensitive to the security needs of the Jewish state than we Israelis. Being “genuinely pro-peace,” they purport to be acting in our best interests by exercising “tough love” and urging their president to bludgeon us to toe their line. Their hubris and arrogance is mind-boggling.
Nor are they deterred by the fact that Israelis today are overwhelmingly supportive of the policies adopted by their government. Even Kadima, the principal opposition party, is aware that if it held the reins of government, it would pursue a similar course. In fact, the policies promoted by the “pro-peace” elements reflect the views of only the Israeli fringe exemplified by Meretz which gained only three of 120 seats in the Knesset.
What makes the situation even more bizarre is that some American Jews who oppose J Street policies suggest that incorporating such pro-peace groups into the “tent” benefits Israel. It is incomprehensible how the cause of Israel is strengthened by providing legitimacy to Jews who pressure foreign governments to force it to take steps contrary to the policies determined by its elected leaders. The logic behind such babble is elusive to say the least.
The same applies to J Call, the European extension of J Street which is less radical because Europeans rarely lobby their governments. Nevertheless its supporters uninhibitedly condemn Israel, ignoring the fact that that their words are grist for the mill of the anti-Semites and those engaged in vicious campaigns to demonize and delegitimize us.
NOW A new element has joined the fray. In the UK, Mick Davis, chairman of Anglo Jewry’s largest fund-raiser, the United Israel Appeal, wrote an oped published with a blazing front page headline in the Jewish Chronicle, insisting that the Diaspora, as a partner, has a legitimate right to engage in the Israel policy-making process.
This is simply outrageous chutzpah.
We all agree that Diaspora Jews have been and remain the most important partner of the Jewish state. No one challenges their right to provide input toward Israeli decisions which impact on the future of the Jewish people. But that principal was always accompanied by a caveat that campaigning against government policies affecting security was absolutely off limits for non-Israelis.
Let us be clear. We are one people.But Diaspora Jews and Israelis are not equal partners.
Whereas during the formative founding years of the state, the financial contribution of global Jewry was crucial, today Israel has evolved into a powerful economic entity and Diaspora support represents a minimal percentage of GNP. In many respects the principal benefit of Diaspora funding is that it represents a key element in maintaining Jewish identity by providing constructive involvement with the Jewish state.
However if Jewish philanthropists believe that contributing toward worthy causes in Israel makes them eligible to become involved in security related decision-making, they should retain their money.
There is no question that ultimately only Israelis can determine security-related policy. It is we, our children and our grandchildren who will be placing our lives on the line, not Jews in New York, London, Melbourne or Rio.
HOW ON earth did we arrive at the current ridiculous situation? Prior to Oslo, successive governments followed the lead of the founding fathers and maintained close ties with Diaspora leaders. Jewish activists would never have contemplated agitating against security and defense related issues determined by the government.
This convention was initially disregarded when a number of American Jews, including some associated with AIPAC and encouraged by Israeli rightwingers, began campaigning against the Oslo Accords in the US. Israel was then deeply divided. When prime minister Yitzhak Rabin became aware of this, he became enraged and threatened American Jewish groups challenging the policies of his government that he would confront them in their own communities. The outcome was that all mainstream Jewish organizations, including AIPAC, reaffirmed that policies affecting Israel could only be determined by the democratically elected government. Had Rabin encountered a J Street, he would have become hopping mad and insisted that such a body be ejected from mainstream Jewish life.
Unfortunately, during the latter term of Rabin’s tenure, his government became so convinced about the “inevitability “of an Arab-Israeli peace that it called on Jews in the Diaspora to cease public advocacy. Instead it concentrated on persuading Israelis and Jews that Yasser Arafat’s increasingly belligerent outbursts were harmless and that the Arabs were committed to peace. As a consequence the linkage weakened between Israeli ambassadors and Jewish communities and most Diaspora leaders found themselves free to adopt whatever policies appealed to them.
This was further complicated by the inclination of successive prime ministers who, rather than reinforcing the commitment to Israel of the Diaspora leaders, focused their attention on wealthy Jews who provided funding for their private political and personal agendas.
Now we are reaping the disastrous dividends of this neglect.
What is desperately needed is for the government to restore its relationship with Diaspora Jewish communities.
Contrary what has being published in recent weeks, Diaspora Jews, including the younger generation who no longer live under the shadow of the Holocaust or memories of the struggle to create a Jewish state, remain overwhelmingly pro-Israel. Surveys show that the dropouts, the new liberals who are alienated from Israel, primarily originate from assimilated and intermarried families and those overwhelmed by the hostile culture and media surrounding them especially on the campus.
Instead of becoming obsessed with an urge to tell us how to run our affairs, Jewish activists should ensure that the new generation of Jews in high school and on the campus are imbued with an understanding of our history and heritage and above all exposed to the Israel narrative which will strengthen their morale and enable them to withstand the external onslaughts. That should be their primary objective, rather than groveling to left liberals who magnify every minor fault in our society while closing their eyes to the horrors that could engulf us if the barbarians at our gates succeed.
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post