Israel and US Liberal Jews

The real reasons for the rift: Incredibly, according to Israel’s “liberal” detractors,  the only remedy for Israel’s “democracy deficit” is to establish yet another Muslim-majority tyranny.

Israel’s accomplishments have been remarkable.  Israel has created a thriving economy, and has been a refuge for hundreds of thousands of the displaced and the needy. Israel has generated a rich and diverse cultural life and its scientific and educational achievements have been exemplary.  In spite of these achievements, however, Israel in my view has gone astray…sadly, after a life and career devoted to Jewish community and Israel, I conclude that in every important way Israel has failed to realize its promise for me. A noble experiment, but a failure.

– Rabbi David M. Gordis, Reflections on Israel 2016, Tikkun, February 22, 2016

Like the United States of America, the modern state of Israel is a country born from the aspiration for freedom, and standing out among the nations as a beacon of democracy and humanity. Israel is…an exceptional country that shares our most essential values. It is the only country in the Middle East where freedom of speech and freedom of religion are found. Therefore, support for Israel is an expression of our Americanism

–  Republican Party’s 2016 Platform

‘Name a single country in the history of the world faced with internal and external threats comparable to those faced by Israel that has ever had a better record in human rights; a better record with compliance of the rule of law; a better record of concern for civilians?’ I have been asking that question now for 20 years probably to a million people around the world, and I’ve never gotten a single person even to stand up and name a country, because you can’t do it.

– Alan Dershowitz, a longstanding supporter of Democratic Party, Jerusalem, June 9, 2015

In recent years there have been frequent reports of a growing rift between liberal Jewry in the US and Israel, and of the increasing difficulty liberal American Jews—particularly the younger generation—have in identifying with the Jewish state.

Neither inevitable nor irreversible

This is of course an entirely absurd state of affairs.

After all, if logic, common sense and truth had any significant role to play in determining the “liberal” discourse on Israel or “liberal” attitudes toward it, Israel would be enthusiastically embraced by all who purport to cherish liberal values, such as civil liberties, socio-cultural diversity and religious tolerance.  Indeed, Israel would be held up as source of pride, celebrated as a shining example of how such values can be sustained in the most inclement of circumstances, which in many other places might well have been considered justification for considerably more authoritarian governance (see Dershowitz’s quote above).

Various profound explanations have been proposed to account for the emerging disconnect between the “liberal” Jews in the US and Israel, ranging from philosophical differences to divergent societal shifts in both countries. But while there might be some measure of validity to these claims, to my mind, they largely miss the point and the dominant reason for the rift is far more mundane.

Accordingly, this alleged “animus” is neither inherently inevitable, as several pundits appear to have to resigned themselves to, nor is it inherently irreversible—other than by some far-reaching transformation of Israeli society.

Narcissistic hypocrisy vs indolent incompetence 

At the root of the “liberal” Jews disaffection with the Jewish nation-state lies a dual fault—the one of “liberal” Jewry, the other of the Jewish nation state itself.

On the one hand, liberal Jewry in the US has been gravely afflicted by a narcissistic hypocrisy, which sets unattainable standards for the Jewish state to avoid being the target of its disapproval. On the other hand, Israel, as the nation-state of the Jews, has been deplorably derelict in presenting its case to the world in general and to US Jewry in particular. This has left them gravely misinformed, allowing disapproval of its policy and disinformation as to its nature to go unchallenged—and hence to flourish.

Indeed, much of the disappointment expressed by liberal Jewry is rooted in a misperception of what Israel once was, and what it has become today.

In order to illustrate this, the moronic—and often self-contradictory—lament by David Gordis (not to be confused with his nephew Daniel Gordis) as to Israel’s alleged moral degradation, is perhaps a good place to start (see introductory excerpt).

After summarily dismissing Israel’s “remarkable  accomplishments” in creating  “a thriving economy”, providing  “refuge for hundreds of thousands of the displaced and the needy” and generating “a rich and diverse cultural life and…scientific and educational achievements [that] have been exemplary”, Gordis perversely declares Israel a failed experiment—despite its staggering successes.

Totally detached from fact & reason

Gordis then goes on to elaborate on his abstruse indictment of Israel today:Jewish life and thought have successfully navigated between three pairs of values that are in tension with one another. First, the Jewish experience has balanced the rational with the affective, the assertion with the question…Second, it has embraced both particularism with universalism, probing Jewish interiorities but looking out to the larger world, recognizing the common humanity of all people. Third, it has shaped positions which looked to the past for sources and inspiration but at the same time projected a vision for a world transformed in the future into something better than its current reality.”

Then in a wild diatribe, totally divorced from any semblance of reality, he blares:

“Present day Israel has discarded the rational, the universal and the visionary. These values have been subordinated to a cruel and oppressive occupation, an emphatic materialism, severe inequalities rivaling the worst in the western world and distorted by a fanatic, obscurantist and fundamentalist religion which encourages the worst behaviors rather than the best”.

In reality, “present day Israel” is—demonstrably—far closer to the model of Gordis’s ideal than it ever was, certainly far more than it was back in the days for which he allegedly yearns.

Wrong on every count

Today Israeli society is driven far less by ideological zeal; it far less ideologically monolithic, far less under the sway of a doctrinaire socialistic hegemony, for which Gordis waxes nostalgic.  How does that make it less rational?

Israel has been in the forefront in extending aid to “the other” whenever disaster has struck: In Nepal, in Haiti and even in providing life-saving medical treatment to the victims of the Syrian civil war–to name but a few of present day Israel’s humanitarian initiatives. How is that indicative of “the worst behaviors rather than the best”?

Israeli innovation and inventiveness in medicine, agriculture, water conservation is saving/improving the lives of multitudes across the globe? How is that indicative of Israel discarding the “universal?”

And Israel’s cutting edge activities in the field of space research and exploration have put it in the world’s top five countries in this sphere of human endeavor. So has Israel really discarded the visionary?

This is merely a small sampling of how intellectually dishonest the derogatory drivel of Israel’s “liberal” detractors has become.

This narcissistic hypocrisy was aptly exposed in a perceptive piece in a Washington Post blog by David Bernstein, professor of Law at George Mason University. He wrote:  “Israeli Arabs have never been more integrated into Israeli society, or made more rapid economic and social progress, than…under Netanyahu… surrounded by hostile enemies, absorbing about four times its original population in refugees, very few of whom came from countries with a longstanding liberal or democratic traditions, expecting a progressive utopia to emerge was ridiculous. Creating a reasonably liberal, multiethnic, democratic state with religious freedom in a region where there aren’t any others should be more than enough to satisfy all but the most starry-eyed idealists.”

Indeed, it should.

Beneath the disingenuous gobbledygook

Of course, denigrating Israel because it fails to meet some unattainable criteria of human behavior, conjured up by disenchanted “liberal” Jews, serves no useful purpose other than to expose their self-centered insincerity—especially when they refrain from applying the same stringent standards to any other country, including their own.

For, once one strips away all the disingenuous gobbledygook, one comes to the core reason for “liberal” chagrin with Israel. This has nothing to do with how diverse or tolerant Israeli society has become, or the level of humanitarian relief it may extend to others, or how Israeli enterprise contributes to the betterment of mankind at large.  It has to do with one – and only one—politically partisan issue—Israel’s interaction with the Palestinian-Arabs across the pre-1967 Green Line (a.k.a. the “Occupation”).  The only remedial measure that “liberals” advance to deal with the “undemocratic blight” is to implement a “two-state-solution”.

Incredibly therefore, according to Israel’s “liberal” detractors,  the only panacea for Israel’s “democracy deficit” is to facilitate the establishment of yet another Muslim-majority tyranny, whose hallmarks will be homophobic persecution of homosexuals, misogynistic discrimination against women and girls, intolerance of religious diversity, and repression of political dissent.

But this is not only wildly irrational in terms of its internal logic, it is equally imprudent in terms of its operational implications. After all, every time Israel has transferred territory to Arab control, it has sooner or later, become a platform to launch deadly attacks against it. Yet with unswerving doctrinaire zeal “liberals” cling to the perilous prescription of touting tyranny and bringing hundreds of kindergartens within the range of rockets and mortars along Israel’s eastern flank.

Down to the last Israeli

It would thus seem that much of US Jewry is so blinded by its obsessive attachment to the failed formula of two-states-for-two- people that they are prepared to defend it—paradoxically under the banner of liberal political philosophy – down to the last Israeli. Indeed, in its mindless subscription to the two-state notion as the touchstone of Israeli democracy, “liberal” Jewry  disregards Israel’s many merits and highlights its inevitable defects—thus greatly contributing to its international de-legitimization across the globe. After all, who better for the Judeophobes to cite than the Jews themselves?

But beyond disregard for Israel’s virtues, US liberal Jews seem to be blind to the nature of its adversaries. Despite ample evidence, they refuse to acknowledge that Arab (including Palestinian Arab) animosity is not rooted in anything the Israel does—or does not do; but in what Israel is: Jewish. Concessions will not satiate Arab appetites, only whet them.

But if US “liberal” Jews frown upon the coercive measures that Israel is compelled to use against the Palestinian-Arabs, were they to apply the same criteria to their own country, they would have good reason to feel even more disenchanted.  For when faced with threats far less severe than those faced by Israel, the US has responded far more vigorously and less discriminately than Israel, whether in the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan and even Yemen, with “collateral” civilian casualties dwarfing anything Israel has been accused of.

Yet strangely, few if any, embittered Jewish liberals have distanced themselves from the USA because they have been disappointed by American brutality and its failure to live up to their immaculate standards of state behavior.

Expose and inform

Given the facts on the ground, Israel should in fact be the proverbial “apple of the eye” of US liberal Jewry, an object of pride it is eager to be identified with—especially in light of the harrowing circumstances under which it is forced to exist.

Sadly, Israel has done inexcusably little to harness the facts to rebuff the attacks on its democratic credentials and has allowed imperative coercive actions to ensure the security of its civilians against an implacable foe, to be portrayed as racist brutality.

Thus, Israel is losing the support of the US diaspora by default. By spending a pittance on public diplomacy, it is by its own incompetence and impotence fostering the narratives of its adversaries.

The Spring 2016 edition of the Columbia University journal, “Current”, ran an interesting piece entitled “Reclaiming Alienated Liberals: Israel’s Imperative for Diaspora Jews” by Benjamin Davidoff, self-professed pro-Israel advocate.  There are many things I disagree with in the article -such as the need for a Palestinian state and the call for Israel to empower J-Street, but on one matter Davidoff was spot on.  He conveyed the feeling that pro-Israel advocates had been abandoned by Israel. He aptly notes: “Israel has an obligation to aid in pro-Israel advocacy on university campuses. Israel has largely ignored those fighting for Israel on campus and has failed to offer any true support for diaspora Jews… this issue directly affects the viability of the Israeli state in the future and should be of primary concern for Israel.”

On this he is quite right – and Israeli officialdom will ignore this obligation at the nation’s peril.

Headlines June 21: Terrorist Ambush on Highway, US & Israel Cyber Security Agreement, Turkey & Israel Deal

Three Wounded, 12 Vehicles Damaged in Terrorist Ambush on Rt. 443. Security forces were alerted and arrived on the scene in time to kill one of the terrorists and wound two, one critically.
[The Jewish Press]


Turkey and Israel will this weekend announce a deal on normalizing ties, ending a six-year diplomatic crisis sparked by a deadly Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in which 10 Turkish nationals died
[Arutz Sheva]


The Foreign Ministry on Monday evening rejected the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council’s decision to adopt the French peace initiative.
[Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs]


A group of Muslim activists in Jerusalem, backed by the Palestinian Authority, have launched a new campaign to deter Muslims from selling property to Jews in the Israeli capital.
[Arutz Sheva]


The US and Israel will sign a new agreement to automate their sharing of cyber data. The new agreement will qualitatively take the speed of sharing to an entirely different level.
[The Jerusalem Post]

Do We Spray the Ants or Eradicate the Nest?

(The views in this article are those of the author)

In light of the horrific attack in Tel Aviv where 4 Israeli civilians were murdered by Arab terrorists dressed in suits, we find ourselves in yet another quagmire. The issue is how to respond.

Prime Minister Netanyahu says “we will attack those who attacked us.” Exactly what does that mean Mr. Prime Minister? Is Israel going to launch a targeted strike on Hamas operatives in Gaza or Judea/Samaria?

What will that accomplish? Indeed, it may take out some Arab terrorists, but what will it accomplish in the end? Will it prevent future attacks from taking place? Will it deter leadership from promoting jihad against Israeli Jews? Will it foster a better environment for peace?

Killing Arab terrorists is the equivalent of spraying a trail of ants with pesticide. It only eliminates the ones you see. In order to stop more of them from coming, one must go all the way to the nest and root it out completely.

Other suggestions include halting the influx of Arabs for Ramadan. I find no problem with refusing to allow thousands more Muslims into Israel, which can only increase the chances of more violence.

Still others are suggesting clamping down on goods being shipped into Gaza. This has been an ongoing seesaw issue for years. Every time Israel relents and expands the array of allowable goods, Hamas ends up stealing much of it and using it to manufacture weapons, terror tunnels, or underground bunkers so their leadership remains protected during outbreaks of war with Israel.

What sense does it make to allow shipments of materials that everyone knows will be used for military purposes? Yet world pressure continuously and relentlessly mounts on Israel to “lift the siege of Gaza.”

Pressure also continues against Israel to end the “occupation,” and relax the checkpoints coming in from Judea/Samaria.

Do those who promote said suggestions actually believe such acquiescence would result in peaceful coexistence between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs? If they do, they are either more naïve then Neville Chamberlain, or they have little or no concern for the safety of Jewish lives. The other possibility is they are just plain anti-Semitic.

In actuality, counter attacks by Israel will not address the problem. Clamping down on Gaza will not address the problem. Even if nothing other than basic items, such as food, water and medicine is allowed in. Tightening checkpoints, temporarily revoking permits or razing homes of terrorists in Judea/Samaria won’t remedy the situation. These are all symptomatic remedies, which do nothing to address the core issues.

Turning the tide should be seen as a comprehensive plan that involves a combined effort across many fronts.

One place to start is the classroom. Arab Palestinian children do not receive an “education,” as normal school children do in most countries. They are taught to hate Jews, and to die as martyrs. Take a look at this recent clip below. This is a typical example of how children are “educated” in UNRWA run schools in Judea/Samaria and Gaza.

What kind of adults do you think these children become having been “educated” like this? UNRWA receives over $1 billion annually. The largest donors are the US – $400 million, followed by the EU, Saudi Arabia and the UK. Together they provide over 50% of UNRWA’s funding.

This is where a change must take place. The donor countries should demand their funds be used for proper education, rather than allowing these ‘schools’ to be nothing more than terror training facilities. Further, independent monitoring should take place on an ongoing basis to ensure appropriate education is being administered.  If the schools refuse to provide normal education and continue their terror training, the funding for them should be cut off, period.

Another systemic issue is religious ‘education.’ Religion plays a huge role in the upbringing and character building of people from all cultures and countries. When it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict Arabs again are being ‘educated’ to hate and kill, rather than coexist with Israel. Take a look at this clip.

The imam is supposed to be a man of God. He is supposed to provide teachings which reflect how we are to treat our fellow man in a way which God honors. What kind of god would bless the words that come out of that imam’s mouth? Yet this another huge component in weaving together the fabric of Arab Palestinian society.

Once again, I believe independent monitors should be at every mosque, and when such messages are delivered said leader should be warned that this type of hate mongering will not be tolerated. If he refuses to comply he should face criminal charges.

Will these suggestions be easy? No. Will they immediately change the atmosphere in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Unlikely. However, something must be done, because we know what has been done until now has not produced fruit. What have we to lose?

I have only addressed two particular segments of society with this essay. There are more that need addressing to be sure. However, these two are of huge significance and influence.  If the fundamental institutions of their society are ignored and allowed to maintain the status quo, this is tantamount to declaring the future will continue to be one of symptomatic  remedies.

We can either keep spraying the ant trail and allow it to keep coming back, or we can pursue it to the nest and eradicate it. We have a choice.