Ronald Lauder’s Left Turn

I recently got an email from a liberal Jewish friend in America. He’s a Zionist, he’s interested in Jewish issues, and he’s not dumb. To my horror, he highly recommended the op-ed published in the NY Times on Sunday by Ronald Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress, billionaire heir to the Estée Lauder fortune, former US Ambassador to Austria, and the ultimate American Jewish macher.

Lauder suggests that the State of Israel is defective from a moral point of view. He suggests that Israel has changed for the worse in recent years, and blames Israel’s government for “[undermining] the covenant between Judaism and enlightenment,” so as to “crush the core of contemporary Jewish existence.”

The article – like a previous piece of his about the “two-state solution” published in March – is a sloppily constructed collection of talking points of the Israeli Left, the overall thrust of which is that Israel is turning into an undemocratic theocracy. The implication is that the “right-wing” government of Benjamin Netanyahu, which has become a tool of the ultra-Orthodox factions, must be replaced.

This thesis was promulgated back in 2016 in a piece by Ha’aretz editor Aluf Benn, which I examined here, and found to be the kvetching of a left-wing elite whose electoral strength evaporated after it almost destroyed the country, and which has been striving to come back ever since. Lauder makes similar arguments, but his examples are tuned to resonate with the liberal American public.

Lauder says that “we cannot allow the politics of a radical [ultra-Orthodox] minority to alienate millions of Jews worldwide.” If indeed that is what is going on, then one would expect that the majority of Israelis, who are also not ultra-Orthodox, would also be alienated from the government, and would not elect the Likud and Benjamin Netanyahu again and again. But as a matter of fact, despite the recent actions of the government, especially the passage of the Nation-State Law, support for it has never been higher.

Could it be that the view from Israel is different from the view from America? I think it is.

Take the first issue that Lauder cites, the failure of the government to keep its promise to the Reform and Conservative movements in connection with mixed-gender prayer at the Western Wall. This is something that only a tiny minority of Israeli Jews wants, and in a country on the verge of a two-front war with tens of thousands of missiles aimed at its population centers, one can understand why the PM chose to avoid the coalition crisis threatened by the ultra-Orthodox parties over this.

The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) in America blew its top over this “insult to diaspora Jewry.” But the URJ is closely associated with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party which has strongly opposed the Netanyahu government; the Obama Administration even tried to influence the 2015 election against it. URJ President Rick Jacobs, a former activist in the left-wing J Street and New Israel Fund organizations, seems to be looking to pick fights with it. Many Israelis feel that the outrage over this and similar issues is manufactured for political purposes.

Lauder says that Israel passed a “law that denies equal rights to same-sex couples.” What he is referring to is a change to the law governing the benefits paid by the national health system for surrogate mothers. Benefits previously available only to male-female couples were extended to single women, but not to gay men, due to religious opposition. Maybe when the US has a national health system of any kind, not to mention one that pays for surrogate mothers for anyone, he can complain.

He also mentions the idiotic arrest of a Conservative rabbi on the complaint of a religious court for violating an equally idiotic law forbidding anyone to perform a Jewish marriage without permission from the ultra-Orthodox Chief Rabbinate. He fails to mention that the rabbi was immediately released and the charges dropped by order of the Attorney General, and that the Prime Minister and even the Rabbinate criticized the arrest.

For lack of anything more substantive, Lauder even brings up convenience stores in some places being required to close on Shabbat, something that has been a political football since the first days of the state. There is and always will be tension between the ultra-Orthodox minority (about 10% of Jews) in Israel and the secular and traditional majority. But one can’t expect that the wishes of that 10% won’t have some effect on policies, whether Americans like it or not.

Lauder’s biggest problem is the passage of the Nation-State Law, which he claims “damages the sense of equality and belonging of Israel’s Druze, Christian and Muslim citizens.” I’ve written a number of posts about the law (here, here, and here, for example) and I would respond by saying that the “damage” is imaginary. In some cases – Israel’s Arab Knesset members – the passage of the law has exposed the fundamental anti-Zionism that underlies their opposition to it; a demonstration in Tel Aviv on Saturday night included Palestinian flags and chants of “with blood and fire we will redeem Palestine.”

The law does not affect in any way the individual civil, political or human rights of minority group members in Israel. Nobody’s right to vote, to employment, to housing, or to eat at a lunch counter or ride on a bus is affected by this law. It does clearly reserve the collective right of national self-determination in the state to the Jewish people, which is a fundamental principle of Zionism. Those who object to Israel’s Law of Return for Jews, or who think the descendants of Arab refugees from 1948 have a right of “return” to Israel – and these of course do not include Lauder – do have a real argument with the Nation-State Law. But they already have a problem with the continued existence of a Jewish state.

Lauder notes the guarantees of individual rights to all inhabitants in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, “irrespective of religion, race or sex,” and “a guarantee of freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture,” implying that somehow the law damages these. It does not. Read it yourself.

He adds that the law may hurt Israel’s moral standing in the world. “Abroad, Israel may find itself associated with a broken values system and questionable friends. As a result, future leaders of the West may become hostile or indifferent to the Jewish state.” Unfortunately, most Western European regimes are already hostile to Israel, because they correctly understand that Zionism is a form of nationalism, and they have decided that nationalism is taboo in today’s world (in some cases, along with borders). Israel’s “questionable friends,” like Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, are those who still believe in the legitimacy of nationalism, nation-states, and borders – concepts that are proving their survival value daily in today’s Europe.

Finally, Lauder fears that Israel’s “new policies” will alienate millennial youth, who are mostly not Orthodox, and who are opposed to discrimination of all kinds. I think it should be clear that Israel does not have “new policies” that discriminate – the opposite is true; Israel has, over the years, sharply reduced all forms of discrimination against women, Arabs, LGBT people, and others. And the Zionism expressed by the Nation-State Law is nothing new, insofar as it goes back to the 1890s and Theodor Herzl.

Lauder sees that American Jewish youth are moving away from the traditional liberal Jewish institutions, but he is wrong in placing the blame on Israel. The rampant assimilation that may end what we know as the liberal American Jewish community within two generations has nothing to do with Israel and everything to do with the moral and spiritual bankruptcy of that community, which young people are quick to notice.

The identification of Jewish ethics with progressive politics, imbued as it is with “intersectionality” and pathological “white” guilt, has made those brought up in that tradition easy prey for anti-Israel propaganda, based on the inversion of history and the false identification of the Jews as the invaders and colonialists of the Middle East. No wonder their support for Israel is waning!

Israel is a very small country which has been in a continuous fight for its life since its founding. We need to find our friends where we can. Ronald Lauder and the liberal Jewish establishment in the US, along with their associates in the Israeli Left, in essence want us to give up our Zionist principles so that we will better fit their universalist worldview. But if we surrender Zionism, we surrender everything. If that is the condition for their friendship and support, then we must respectfully decline.

Posted in American Jews, Israeli Politics, Zionism | 3 Comments

Will Israel remain a Jewish and Zionist state?

The Jewish state is truly under siege. Not from the Hamasniks of Gaza, who – despite their posturing – are no more than an annoyance (although a rather vicious one that our government is not dealing with properly), but from a coalition of the Israeli Left, Arab citizens and other non-Jewish minorities, European and American-funded NGOs, and liberal American Jewish organizations. Did I leave anyone out?

The conflict is over the Nation-State Law that recently passed the Knesset, which has the temerity to affirm one of the most fundamental principles of Zionism, that “The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”

Don’t be misled by those who say they have a problem with the supposed denigration of the Arabic language, the commitment to encourage Jewish settlement, the promise to act to preserve Jewish heritage in the Diaspora, or anything else. Their problem is with Zionism itself.

Some will say that the trouble is not with anything in the law, but what is not in it – anything about equal rights for citizens belonging to different religious, ethnic, or other groupings. That objection misses an important point, the logical distinction between the individual rights of citizens – which are not affected in any way by any reasonable interpretation of this law – and the collective rights of the Jewish people, which the law places above the collective rights of any other nation that lives among us. One possibility is that those who say this simply don’t get it. But another is that they are trying to disguise the true nature of their opposition.

The State of Israel is the state of the Jewish people, all of the Jewish people, even those that do not live in Israel. The Left believes this is illogical, because Diaspora Jews, whose state it is, can’t vote, while Israeli non-Jews, whose state it is not, can. But there are good practical reasons for limiting the franchise to those who are immediately affected by the decisions of the government, who pay the taxes and serve in the military (or at least have the option to do so). The sense in which the state belongs to all Jews is spelled out in this law, in terms of its specific obligations to them. The Nation-State Law anchors one of the most important of these obligations, declaring that the state will “strive to ensure the safety of the members of the Jewish people in trouble or in captivity due to the fact of their Jewishness or their citizenship.”

At the same time, Israel was founded as a democratic state, in which there must be equality of individual rights for all citizens, such as the most fundamental of all rights in a democracy, the right to vote. Israel’s basic laws do not explicitly call for “complete equality” among citizens, whatever that is, but the “Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty” has been held by Israel’s Supreme Court to imply that all citizens have equal civil and political rights. In my opinion, if it is felt that an explicit statement of this is needed, it should be added to this law, which deals with the rights of individual citizens, and not the Nation-State Law, which deals with the collective rights of the Jewish people as a people.

The Jewish state is unique even among nation-states because of its protective relationship to the Diaspora, a relationship which came about as a reaction to the millennia of persecution experienced by the Jewish people. The early Zionists correctly diagnosed the condition of the Jew in the Diaspora as precarious – a diagnosis confirmed by the Holocaust – and prescribed as a cure the creation of a sovereign Jewish state which would look after the Jewish people, both inside and outside of it. The sharpest manifestation of this is the Law of Return, which grants instant citizenship to anyone with a Jewish grandparent who requests it.

The decision to create a truly democratic state was not dictated by Zionism. Indeed Herzl himself preferred “a democratic monarchy” or an “aristocratic republic.” The founders of the state made the decision to declare a democracy in view of the traditions of the prophets of Israel and their own socialist principles.

The fact is that to today’s Israeli Left, the Zionist part of Israel’s heritage is embarrassing and they would prefer to dispense with it, leaving only the democratic part. Just as individual Jews tried to escape antisemitic persecution by assimilating to the larger non-Jewish society, the Left would prefer to assimilate the Jewish state to the larger body of non-Jewish nations, by making it no more than one more liberal democracy, a state of its citizens rather than a Jewish state.

Most of the Arabs go farther, demanding for themselves, as Palestinian Arabs, the right of national self-determination that the new law reserves to the Jewish people. What does this mean? There are only two senses in which this right could be realized: Israel could become a binational nation-state, in which Jews and “Palestinians” would each have special rights to determine the nature of the state, its demography and its symbols; or – their ultimate objective – it could become a Palestinian nation-state.

It’s important to understand that these demands are separate from the call for a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria. That state would be 100% Palestinian from the start, with a Jewish population of zero, like so many other Arab states. The rights the Arab citizens are demanding are in the state of Israel, the part west of Green Line. A binational Israel would most likely need a new flag and national anthem; but most importantly, it could do away with a Law of Return for Jews – or it could simply add one for Arabs. Soon, possibly after a bloody civil war, there would only be one state between the river and the sea, Palestine.

Those of the Left who still see themselves as Zionists believe that the state of its citizens that they would create would maintain its Jewish majority. But why should it, once its justification for selective immigration is removed? What reason could be given to allow a Jew from Los Angeles to become a citizen at the airport while not permitting the Arab from Gaza, who even claims to have lived in Israel before 1948, to return? It might take a little longer, but it would follow the same path as the binational state.

The Nation-State Law denies both the leftist and the Arab visions. No wonder they are angry!

Last night they expressed their anger in a large demonstration against the new law in Tel Aviv. Some of the Arabs – against the advice of the group that organized the demonstration – waved Palestinian flags and sang (video here) “with blood and spirit we will redeem Palestine,” perhaps (I devoutly wish) to the discomfort of the Jews that came to support them.

As PM Netanyahu said, what better argument for the Nation-State Law could there be than this?

Unfortunately, the law – although justified and necessary – isn’t enough. As President Reuven Rivlin noted in 2015, there are four major “tribes” in Israel: the secular Jews, the National Religious, the Haredim, and the Arabs. Only the first two groups are Zionist. In recent years, the proportions of the National Religious bloc and the Arabs have gone up a few percent, the Haredim have increased by a much greater percentage, and the secular group has dropped precipitously. Judging by enrollment in the parallel school systems associated with these “tribes,” Israel is not far from a non-Zionist majority.

Zionism will get no help from abroad, where most Jews don’t understand that the survival of the Jewish people depends on a Zionist state of Israel; and most non-Jews think Zionism is close to Satanism.

Can we unite Jewish Israelis under the banner of Zionism? Can we somehow convey to our Arab citizens that their welfare depends on the continued existence of a Jewish and democratic state, and that if they destroy it – well, they can just look at the Palestinian Authority or Gaza to see what they would get.

We’d better. Otherwise, the days of a Jewish, Zionist state are numbered, law or no law.

Posted in Israeli Arabs, Israeli Politics, Israeli Society, Post-Zionism, The Jewish people, Zionism | 3 Comments

Two foolish youths and a Jewish Palestinian

Young people are naïve. They pop out of their mothers’ wombs as little fresh-faced tabulae rasae with a huge amount of energy. By the time they approach draft age, Israeli culture treats them as adults. They look like adults, and they are given adult responsibilities; but because they have until then lived in a bubble of people that care about them, some of them have not learned about the reality outside it. They are unable to internalize that there are people out there who do not care about them, indeed who would rip their throats out to steal their bicycles. Or for nothing at all except their Jewish identity.

The bubbles that protected the young Luhar Altman and Hillel Garmi, who feature in this Ha’aretz story by Jewish Palestinian Amira Hass, must have been warm and soft beyond compare, because the degree of naïveté that they still display at age 19 is mind-boggling. Luhar and Hillel have decided that they would prefer not to serve in the IDF. Instead of taking the usual paths to avoid service that are available to a young Israeli – what to say to an army psychologist to mark you as undesirable is common knowledge – these two have chosen to refuse to serve on political grounds and will go to prison, to the great admiration of Jewish Palestinian Hass.

They are doing this to inspire other young Israelis to also avoid service. This is their way of fighting “the regime’s immorality.” I can’t imagine what they think the success of their campaign would look like, although we don’t have to look very far to see examples of how the folks that the IDF defends us against treat the people under their control.

So far they have merely shown that they are part of the anti-Zionist Left. But what is remarkable is the utter counterfactual idiocy of their reasons, the degree of blindness to reality they display. I wish they had said simply that they hated the Jewish state and wanted it replaced with an Arab state, the way Jewish Palestinian Hass does. At least then their position would make sense. But no. Let me quote Hass quoting them:

[Garmi’s] declaration opens: “This year, during the wave of unarmed demonstrations which took place near the Gaza Strip fence, I read what Ahmed Abu Artema, who organized the demonstrations, wrote, and I was impressed to discover people who take on the situation between the sea and the Jordan without using a gun. Like them, I too believe in civil disobedience – a tactic aimed at using unarmed force to underscore the regime’s immorality.”

Like them? I mean, seriously, Hillel Garmi, do you think that the riots and attempted incursions at the fence are about nonviolence and civil disobedience? Suppose the IDF left their posts at the fence and went to the beach in Tel Aviv. What do you think would happen? You do know that when Hamas operatives are not “using a gun” they are using a knife, or a car, as a weapon? You do know that they want to kill you, personally, because you are a Jew and the Quran tells them to?

Altman, in her declaration, spoke of the fear that Israelis grow up on, which she knows very well. As a child, she was unable to fall asleep because of “the terrorist under the bed.” The army gives Israelis a feeling of security, she wrote.

“We embrace and celebrate military service as part of our personal and social identity, and rely on the army like a drug addict who longs for another hit so he’ll finally feel sane,” she wrote. “As a society, we don’t know anything else; all our lives, we’ve relied on the army. This is a normal situation for us. It’s absurd, isn’t it? In my view, a reality in which we familiarize our children with war before peace is crazy.”

A “feeling of security?” How about actual security? You live in Katzir, in northern Israel. There are 130,000 rockets aimed at you, Luhar Altman, and your family and friends. No wonder you had a hard time sleeping, and no wonder you found yourself addicted to the army. Take away the army, and you and your family are dead! That’s one hell of a withdrawal symptom. I’m so sorry you find the current reality to be “crazy,” but it would be much crazier without the IDF to defend you.

Hass continues,

Despite the differences between them (he writes “Palestinians,” while she writes “the other”; he speaks of the value of equality, which is being destroyed, and of the occupation, while she fears the cycle of violence that has persisted for 70 years), they decided to refuse to serve on the same day, and to hold a festive refusal event together at the induction center, along with their supporters and their families.

A “festive refusal event!” You two are so cute, living on Mars and in Israel at the same time. I hope you enjoy the festivities. Afterwards you’ll have a few months in prison, not a picnic (it’s not a party prison like Ahed Tamimi’s), but not a Midnight Express kind of experience either. When you get out, the army that you hate will continue to protect you, so you can go to university and be rewarded as artists, lawyers, or media personalities. Believe me, it will look good on your résumé.

Just a word about the Jewish Palestinian, Amira Hass. The daughter of Holocaust survivors, she has chosen to throw in her lot with the enemies of the Jewish people. She is a latter-day Tokyo Rose, broadcasting anti-Israel propaganda from Ramallah. But unlike Tokyo Rose, she is paid well, and the Jewish state and people that she betrays daily will do nothing to her.

Everything in this story is surreal. Imagine: Hillel Garmi believes that Hamas is nonviolent, and Luhar Altman thinks that Israel should not have an army. And a Jewish Palestinian wishes for “many more like them.”

Worse, all agree that spitting in the face of the young Israelis who give several years of their lives to military service to defend the state that they live in, is an event worthy of celebration.

Posted in Israeli Society, Zionism | 5 Comments

But what about the Druze?

I didn’t intend to write about the Nation-State Law again. I thought that I had explained my position that the law is an expression of what it means to be a Jewish state, and is essential to protect our Zionist heritage, which is being assaulted by the post-Zionist Israeli Left, by anti-nationalist (and anti-Jewish!) Europe, by politically “progressive” American Jewish groups, and – needless to add – by our Arab representatives in the Knesset.

I argued, as have numerous others (see here and here, for example), that there is an important distinction between individual civil and political rights, which are guaranteed to all Israeli citizens, and the national rights of the Jewish people. Those who think that ethnic nationalism and nation-states are outdated atavisms that should be removed from the world obviously don’t recognize the latter (although it’s interesting that their complaints seem to invariably target only Israel and not any of the dozens of other nation-states).

But anyway, I thought I was done. And then there was the demonstration in Tel Aviv yesterday, led by representatives of Israel’s Druze community, in which they made it clear that they believe that the law makes them “second-class citizens.” While I can argue all day that in fact the law does not damage their rights as citizens in any way, I can’t deny their feelings. It is clear that they mean this from their hearts.

If there could be such a thing as a model minority in an ethnic state, the Druze are it. They bear far more than a proportional burden of the defense of the state, they don’t embrace separatism, and they don’t ask for special treatment. If the Jewish state can’t get along with its Druze citizens, it can’t get along with any minority. And that would be disastrous indeed.

So what happened?

It started with long-standing, legitimate grievances about things like the availability of building permits in Druze towns, the allocation of funds for infrastructure and schools, and so on. Yes, their right to equal treatment was guaranteed by law, but somehow they didn’t get what they thought they were entitled to. They got promises that problems would be corrected, but it didn’t happen. Other groups – Haredim, the disabled, and LGBT activists – blocked main roads to press their cases, but the Druze confined their demonstrations to the areas near where they lived. Other groups used very strong language toward the government or went on strike, but the Druze were polite and kept doing their jobs in the army and the police, at the bleeding edge of the conflict with Arab terrorism.

Now the law was passed, and along came the Israeli Left and the representatives of the European-payrolled NGOs, and various politicians who saw an opportunity to embarrass the hated Netanyahu government, and they said to the Druze: “Look, you are second-class citizens. They have been screwing you all along because they don’t give your people the honor or respect they deserve, and now they are making a law to justify it.” Can you blame the Druze for agreeing? I can’t. If the state truly respected them, it wouldn’t ignore their grievances.

In this part of the world, nothing is more important than honor and respect. So it wasn’t enough for Bibi to promise that all of their practical concerns would finally be taken care of. Now it is a matter of honor, and that is a more complicated problem than building permits.

It’s ironic that the Left, which doesn’t understand or care about Jewish honor and self-respect, was able to understand that this was the way to drive a wedge between the state and the Druze. The same people that think that the way to stop Hamas from burning down our country is to remove restrictions on imports to Gaza or build them a port, who agree to exchange murderers for hostages at a ratio of 1000:1, who don’t get it that self-respect is important to Jews too, do understand that the Druze want to be respected.

Regardless, the anti-Zionist coalition played it smart, and we let it go by. We allowed them to define the narrative in terms of a racist majority systematically oppressing minorities. We gave them the ammunition to use against us with the Druze.

What can we do now?

I don’t have a good answer. I see the law as absolutely necessary to protect the Jewish state against the post-Zionist elite and the European-funded NGOs that have been using our legal system, and especially the left-leaning Supreme Court, as a weapon to replace Zionism with a form of social democracy as the basis of our state – and in the process replace the Jewish state with a “state of its citizens” that would soon become another Arab state.

But I also see the reaction of the Druze to the law as a major failure of our leadership. Had they addressed the real concerns of the Druze when they should have, maybe the appeal from the enemies of Zionism wouldn’t have found fertile ground. And obviously the first thing that has to happen now is that discrimination of any kind against Druze communities and individuals has to end. Immediately. I’m sure there are countless bureaucratic reasons why change takes time, but time is up for this particular change. There has to be visible action on the ground, not more promises.

The injury to the honor of the Druze people also has to be addressed. But at the same time, it is not possible to weaken the basic principles of the Nation-State Law. The distinction between individual rights and national rights is the key to making this possible, as well as making sure that in all practical matters, there is equality of treatment of Jews and minorities. Perhaps one thing that could be done would be to add a clause about equality of all citizens to the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, which has already been interpreted by the Supreme Court to imply it.

I think we can get this fixed, but it will take some time.

Finally, it would behoove us as residents of the Middle East to once and for all internalize that fact, in particular the importance here of such concepts as honor, respect, and narrative. It would help us to better understand both our friends and our enemies – and to avoid errors like this in the future.

Posted in Israeli Politics, Israeli Society, Post-Zionism, The Jewish people, Zionism | 1 Comment

Our cognitive enemies

The missiles are falling all over Israel, their multi-ton payloads blasting the Jewish state, built at such great cost in human effort and blood over the past 70 years, to bits.

I am not talking about physical missiles. They are infrequent today, as we experience a slow period in the long, traditional war that our regional enemies have been waging against the Jews of the land of Israel since the days of the British Mandate. No, I am referring to blows being struck in the cognitive war that has been going on since the 1960s. In this arena, there is no intermission. The cognitive war is raging today at white heat.

In cogwar world the enemies are not precisely the same as in the kinetic war. Here we are also fighting Arabs and Iranians, but our most serious enemies are Western European governments, forces based in the USA, like the New Israel Fund and the Union for Reform Judaism, and post-Zionist intellectuals here in Israel.

One of the central battles is over the Nation-State Law just passed by the Knesset. If you haven’t read it, you must, in order to understand the paradox of how a law with almost no practical effect can create so much fury in its opponents. What happened is that the law blew open the uneasy truce between those who aspire to fulfil the vision of Herzl to create a democratic and free state that will nevertheless be a state of and for the Jewish people, and those who want Israel to be nothing more than a modern, democratic state that happens to have (at least for a while) a Jewish majority.

This is a legitimate conversation that can and should be had. For myself, I believe that it is possible for Israel to be, in a significant and fundamental sense, the nation-state of the Jewish people, while still providing equal rights for members of minority groups. This new law, which explicates the meaning of “the nation-state of the Jewish people” is part of the answer that the majority of Israel’s Jews have given to the question.

The opposition to the Nation-State Law is couched in the most inflammatory language possible, including epithets like “racist” and “apartheid.” This is nonsense and is part of a larger campaign to paint the Likud government as made up of right-wing extremists. According to PM Netanyahu and others, the New Israel Fund (NIF) is actively encouraging members of Israel’s minority groups to oppose the law.

Many other issues are brought up for the same purpose and in the same exaggerated way. For example, the controversies about the recognition of non-Orthodox forms of Judaism in Israel have no relevance for any but a tiny fraction of Israelis; yet the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) in America has established a lobbying and activism arm in Israel which seems to exist mainly to provoke crises that can be used to vilify the government. It also is doing its best to introduce an American-style obsession with race and racism into Israeli discourse.

Attempts by the government to deport illegal African migrants also received the same treatment, by the same players. Again the accusation of racism was deployed, despite the very real damage that this population continues to do to the residents of South Tel Aviv, and despite the fact that Israel went to great lengths to bring black African Jews to Israel. Again, various NGOs, the NIF, and the URJ vehemently attacked the government for its policy.

Another more recent issue to explode in this way is the the law that regulates how the health funds can pay for surrogate mothers in Israel. Although the PM promised that this benefit would be extended to include gay male couples, he gave in to pressure from religious elements in the coalition and opposed it. There was a massive demonstration and even a nationwide strike in protest. The PM was denounced as illiberal, anti-democratic, and homophobic, but at worst he was pragmatically keeping his coalition intact.

Everything negative that happens in Israel is blown up and appears in the New York Times, CNN, and other liberal/progressive media as an example of Israeli depravity. The stupid arrest of a rabbi for violating a stupid law forbidding anyone from performing a Jewish marriage without approval from the Rabbinate was a top news item (Israel’s Attorney General immediately ordered the rabbi’s release, and even ultra-observant Haredi rabbis criticized the arrest).

The pattern is always the same. In each case, a coalition of the Israeli and foreign left-leaning media, foreign-funded Israeli NGOs, outside players like the URJ, J Street, and the NIF, attack Israel, her government, and the Prime Minister. Even Trump’s move of the American Embassy to Jerusalem was criticized by these groups. Going back further, many of them supported Obama’s Iran deal, which in hindsight has been exposed to be as bad as opponents said it was.

This is a coordinated assault whose objective is to convince those who think of themselves as liberal and pro-democracy that Israel is a backward, undemocratic, racist theocracy.

You say this is just rough-and-tumble Israeli politics as usual?

I disagree. Traditionally, opposition politicians criticized the government and the Prime Minister (and when speaking for foreign consumption, they rarely even did that). Sometimes they threw water on other members (video here), but they did not attack the country itself. They did not conspire with foreign elements to disseminate anti-Israel propaganda.

The media, especially Ha’aretz, are even worse than the politicians. Reading the Ha’aretz English edition – very popular among foreign government officials – one could as well be reading Al Jazeera’s website (in fact, Ha’aretz writers are far more contemptuous of Israel and Israelis than Al Jazeera’s).

The Knesset passed a law two years ago that Israeli NGOs that receive more than half of their financing from foreign governments have to report it. The law was passed against strong opposition in a form far weaker than what was originally proposed. It was in reaction to the more and more outrageous actions of several dozen Israeli NGOs that function as subversive, anti-state agents (for example, Breaking the Silence, which travels the world spreading lies about the IDF). Their money comes mostly from European governments and charities, but also from the US, particularly the Rockefeller Brothers fund and the NIF. There is also money coming into this shadowy enterprise from charities linked to George Soros, whose anti-Zionism is well-known.

Together, the foreign-funded NGOs, the NIF and URJ, the anti-Zionist media in Israel and overseas, and much of Israel’s academic and cultural elite join the anti-Zionist Arab members of the Knesset in waging cognitive warfare against the state.

Time and again polls show that the majority of Jewish Israelis support the supposedly “hard line” government, which is actually very centrist and not at all extreme. But, ironically, that doesn’t seem to matter to these champions of “democracy!”

To re-engineer an old antisemitic phrase, as a Zionist, some of my worst enemies are Jews.

Posted in Information war, Israeli Politics, Post-Zionism | 2 Comments