On being pro-Israel

Somewhere in the discussion about what it means to be pro-Israel (in the context of J Street, the New Israel Fund [NIF], etc.) I heard the following:

Being pro-Israel doesn’t mean supporting Israel no matter what it does

I get it. I understand where they’re coming from.

Suppose my neighbor is arrested and charged with stealing a car. Would I support him? Would I bail him out of jail? Well, that would depend on my judgment of his character and his motives. Maybe I would and maybe I wouldn’t.  I’d try to be fair; after all, he has the same rights as anyone else. This is the attitude of the ‘progressive’ Jew toward Israel.

Now suppose someone is arrested and charged as above. Only this time it’s my son. Everything changes. Would I support him no matter what he does? Of course not, but I would try much harder to understand him. I would give him the benefit of the doubt. I would listen to his story. I would give his explanations at least as much credence as those of his accusers, maybe more. This is the attitude of the Zionist Jew.

Zionists among the Jewish people gave birth to the modern state of Israel, sacrificed for it and supported it in its childhood.  The Zionist feels differently about Israel than he does about, say, Japan. The best analogy is to say that he feels a family relationship.

The ‘progressive’ Jew that sees himself as a post-nationalist world citizen doesn’t feel that. He imagines that he’s gone beyond the narrow family of the Jewish people and joined the wider circle of humanity. For him, Israel is “just another country“.

“No,” the J Streeter says, “we really love Israel. But we believe in Tough Love.”

Sorry, I don’t buy that. Tough love is what you get to after years of trying regular love, what you do when you have no other choice, when your family member is so bad or destructive that you have to protect yourself. The slick, cool con men of J Street never had a love relationship with the Jewish state.  The person or group at NIF that could choose Adalah to receive more than $1 million could not have loved the Jewish state, if they had read Adalah’s position papers.

This really isn’t a question of Left and Right. Amos Oz is a leftist who loves Israel, and he’s not the only one. I disagree with the Zionist Left the way I disagree with family members. There’s a bottom line that unites us, a bottom line of belief in Jewish self-determination, which presupposes a belief that it makes sense to talk about a Jewish people that we both belong to.

When Michael Oren refused to meet with J Street because it took positions — on Iranian sanctions, on calling for an immediate cease-fire in Operation Cast Lead, on the Goldstone report — that were damaging to Israel’s interests, he was in effect saying that J Street had gone beyond the bottom line. And I think we can see that this could happen because their staff’s idea of their ‘people’ is only secondarily, if at all, the Jewish people.

James Traub wrote an article in the NY Times Magazine about J Street, which, while it contained some of the usual nonsense about the Mideast, was revealing about J Street. It included this:

The average age of the dozen or so staff members is about 30. [J Street Executive Director Jeremy] Ben-Ami speaks for, and to, this post-Holocaust generation. “They’re all intermarried [see update — ed.],” he says. “They’re all doing Buddhist seders.” They are, he adds, baffled by the notion of “Israel as the place you can always count on when they come to get you.”

I think they are probably also baffled by, or at least see themselves as having transcended, the idea of the Jewish people — although I wonder how they would respond if asked if there is a ‘Palestinian people’?

Update [24 Feb 0803 PST]: I’ve been informed that in an interview Ben-Ami clarified that he did not mean that his staff was all intermarried, but rather that the young generation of Jews was “different”.

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5 Responses to “On being pro-Israel”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    This is an excellent explanation of the difference between those who truly care for Israel, and the JStreet, NIF types. Moreover it is precisely those who truly care about Israel who are most offended at the pretenders. For the pretenders are not ‘neutral’ they are in fact in service of those who would undermine Israel. It is those who truly care for Israel who are outraged and angered at those who pretend to care and do Israel damage.

  2. levari says:

    Reading a history of the world with my son right now, deep in the Middle Ages–a full millennium in which any sort of joy or sorrow was responded to by killing masses of Jews. I see the anxiety in his sweet young face, and I respond, “Max, this is the way the world has always treated us. But now that we have Israel, they don’t dare mess with us anymore, because they know we have the best army in the world, and the bomb, and they know that we will–what?” And we shout together, “Kick their butt!” Our friends at Judas Street would do well to immerse themselves in Larry Gonick before spewing any more of their appeasement poison.

  3. Robman says:

    For me, this is not a very complicated issue.

    I have a name for the people at J-Street: “Judenrats”. This is a play on the German shortand for the Jewish committees set up in occupied Eastern Europe during the war (most readers here probably know this, but I’m mentioning this for the minority who might not…you never know). I like the way it comes off sounding kind of like “Jew rat”, and in fact is a literal reference to those who collaborated with the Nazis.

    And, like the actual members of the Judenrats, or the Jewish Police of the Warsaw Ghetto, etc., these folks at “Judas Street” (I liked that, “levari”, and I’ll continue to use that henceforth) are doing what they do for a variety of reasons. Some may really think they are acting in the best interests of their fellow Jews. Some may be cynically “cutting a deal” with the persecutors of the Jews to advance their own interests at the expense of the rest of us. No matter their motivations, they are all traitors as far as I am concerned, and if we had some mechanism for officiailly “excommunicating” them from the Jewish community, I’d be all for that (and tarring and feathering them, too….).

    As to the matter of Diaspora loyalty to Israel, I explain it this way to Gentile friends:

    In the city where I live, we have annual ethnic festivals of many kinds. We have Greek American, German American, Mexican American, and Polish American festivals every year. These are replete with flags, costumes, foods, etc., and the whole public is invited to attend….and they do!

    Now, imagine a “Jewish American” festival, with Israeli flags, etc. Ohhh, what a stink the Israel basher crowd would raise! Heck, it probably wouldn’t even be safe for the participants to put on such a public event. This, even though Israel is in fact one of America’s closest allies. Kind of sad, isn’t it?

    Yep, German Americans, Korean Americans, Greek Americans, Irish Americans, etc., etc., are allowed to openly celebrate their ethnic heritage and feel warm and fuzzy about their roots, and nobody questions their loyalty as Americans…and no one should. But let a Jew promote Israel, and he or she is automaticlly viewed by many as a potential spy or traitor. And it is the fear of this, I submit, this abject cowardice, that produces the likes of the staff of Judas Street.

    The matter comes down to this: It is certainly OK to criticize Israel, so long as the criticism is informed by a moral standard that applies to all other countries. If there is a unique standard being applied, then it is obviously anti-Semitism. And this is not only my definition, this is part of the EU’s (!) working definition of anti-Semitism.

    As a Jewish American who has lived here all my life, who has served in her army and obeyed her laws, all I ask of my fellow citizens – Jewish or not – is to simply judge Israel by the standards that would be applied to any other country facing similar circumstances. This theme informs most of the dozens of letters to the editor I have sent to national and local newspapers of the years, e.g., why is it an “accident” when NATO forces kill civilians in Afghanistan, but it is a “war crime” when Israel does?

    We can gauge the level of anti-Semitism in play in the public sphere at any given time by the discrepency between how Israel is treated and how other Western countries are treated in the world media. We can see by this latest imbroglio concerning Mossad’s offing of a terrorist scumbag in Dubai that this gulf is very, very wide indeed. What, is Israel the ONLY spy agency in the world who uses false passports? Hasn’t anybody ever seen “The Bourne Identity”?? And the Dubai authorities are just sooooo upset of Israel’s violation of their “national sovereignty”….maybe Israel has something to say about the fact that Dubai HARBORS TERRORISTS??!!

    This “tough love” crap is indeed a sham, the empty fig leaf of a coward who is bent on kissing the butts of barbarians and the cowardly psuedo-intellectuals who do their bidding in the hallowed halls of academia, in the newsrooms, and in the halls of government (e.g., Barack Obama).

    The next three years can’t go by fast enough….this is like trying to run in waist-deep mud….

    Final thought: We will know we have won this war, when communities like mine and yours can have “Jewish-American festivals” in the same context as Polish-American or Irish American festivals, as a matter of course. Also, if the Summer Olympics can be held in Tel Aviv. Imagine that!

  4. Grandma says:

    You made me wonder, what would happen if we ever elected a Jewish-American president? Now that would be “the bomb”, wouldn’t it?

  5. Robman says:


    I just can’t see that happening for a very long time. Today, I would characterize the United States as being more anti-Semitic than at any time in my lifetime, perhaps more than at any time since WW2. (To give you an idea of ‘my lifetime’, I graduated high school in 1980.)

    Recently, I read in an obscure but reliable source that a Jewish FBI agent was fired for having a meeting with AIPAC officials. Nothing secret, all above-board, no different than you or I stopping into their offices just out of general interest. He is sueing for discrimination; I hope he wins, but I am not optimistic. Meanwhile, we have a major in our army, with a secret clearance, with “Soldier of Allah” on his personal business card, communicating with a known terrorist-supporting imam, and this guy is allowed to go on his merry way until he guns down thirteen of our finest in cold blood. And if that weren’t enough, in the immediate aftermath, the Chief of Staff of the Army says that he hopes we can avoid what to him would be the “greatest casualty” of this tragedy: “diversity”. Ugh.

    I remember back in 2004 when Wes Clark ran for president on the Democratic ticket. At that time, Time Magazine did an article on him, and some reader subsequently wrote in wondering with great concern whether Clark would be “even-handed” enough with respect to the Middle East, since he had a Jewish father. Horrors…I wonder if a Korean-American ran for president, if anybody would worry that they might not be “even-handed” enough concerning the conflict between North and South Korea.

    Recently, it was a great subject for debate within the pages of the NYT, the fact that they had reassigned one of their primary Middle East reporters – I think her name was Edith Bronner – because they thought she couldn’t be “objective” enough as her son began service in the IDF. Imagine if a U.S. reporter on the war in Afghanistan had to be reassigned for potential lack of objectivity if their son was serving in the army over there.

    The way the media has treated this Dubai incident is really instructive. Today, there is not ONE major national-level or international-level media venue that is friendly to Israel. She gets uniformly bad press from EVERYONE. The good press she got about Haiti was the exception that proved the rule. I’m sure if someone could have found a way to put a bad spin on that, they would have.

    Even FOX stinks nowadays. The Wall Street Journal sounds almost indistinguishable from Al Jazeera nowadays concerning Israel. They took the same idiot Arabist stance on the Dubai affair as everyone else, the only exception being one day recently when they printed a group of letters to the editor that reflected the point of view in my original post above. Of course, all had Jewish-sounding names, and one was from Israel (gotta let the Hebes have their say…but dontcha know, they’ve all got their ‘biased’ agenda, and what they say must be taken with a grain of salt…blah blah blah). I myself wrote the WSJ TWICE on this matter; they wouldn’t print me, probably because I don’t have a Jewish sounding name.

    I have to give credit where credit is due: the petrodollar prostitution bash Israel propaganda media machine is an incredible accomplishment by the bad guys. They really do seem to have a near TOTAL lock on the media. About the only major national media figure left who has the guts to speak out in favor of Israel anymore is Glenn Beck.

    As things stand today, the only way a Jewish American could be taken seriously as a presidential candidate is if he or she ran under “Bruno Kreisky rules”; i.e., like the 1970s Jewish chancellor of Austria, they’d have to publicly distance themselves from Israel to the point where they’d practically have to be anti-Israel.

    No, I don’t see an openly pro-Israel Jew running for president here for a long, long time. Maybe in thirty years, Grandma.