Closing Israel’s Political Circus

Today the State of Israel is squeezed between a public health emergency and political paralysis. All we’re missing is a security crisis. We’d better hope we don’t get one.

In the past few days the number of new Coronavirus cases seems to have decreased, due to the lockdown that was instituted before the holidays. But since the load on the healthcare system lags the new cases by a few weeks, it is now stretched to the breaking point. And we haven’t seen the full impact of the Sukkot holiday and especially Simchat Torah, which was yesterday. Now it is necessary to start returning children to school so that their parents can work; one hopes that this can be done without setting off another wave of the disease, as happened before.

We didn’t invite the Coronavirus into the country. It may be manmade, but not by Israelis. On the other hand, the political wounds are entirely self-inflicted. They are the fault of almost all the actors in Israel’s political circus.

Binyamin Netanyahu was one of the greatest of Israel’s Prime Ministers. In his tenure since 2009, Israel has managed to avoid major wars, and entered an era of unprecedented prosperity. Bibi weathered the era of Barack Obama, the most anti-Israel US president ever. Although he was unable to prevent Obama’s capitulation to the Iranian regime’s drive to obtain nuclear weapons, he has kept the pressure on against Iran’s nuclear program with a campaign of black operations and cyber warfare. He has also resisted Iran’s attempts to establish itself militarily in Syria and to transfer accurate missile technology to Hezbollah.

Arguably, President Trump’s decisions to recognize Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem and the Golan, his moving the American embassy to Jerusalem, and his numerous other pro-Israel initiatives, certainly owe something to Netanyahu’s influence. And the recent normalization agreements with several Arab nations, the results of years of diplomacy, may represent a breakthrough that presages the end of the Israeli-Arab conflict that has been simmering and sometimes boiling over since the founding of the state.

Netanyahu could have done more to prevent the rearmament of Hezbollah in Lebanon, for which we may yet pay the price. And there are social problems that he has not been able to solve, such as the high cost of living, especially housing and food. Many Israelis feel that he has neglected the security of the citizens of southern Israel, who have been exposed to rocket bombardments from Gaza since 2001. Still, it’s unclear that any of his opponents would have done better.

No, he didn’t “end The Occupation.” That is, he didn’t withdraw from Judea and Samaria and allow a Gaza-like terror state next door to Tel Aviv to come into being. And it is good that he resisted pressure to do this, because today Trump’s plan may provide a way to fulfil the goals of Yitzhak Rabin, to give autonomy to the Palestinian Arabs without surrendering strategically and spiritually important parts of the territories.

Today Netanyahu is under attack for alleged corruption and is being blamed for the government’s failure to overcome the Coronavirus. There are massive demonstrations in front of his homes, or – when a lockdown is in effect – around the country, calling upon him to “go,” to resign as PM. His corruption trial is underway, though according to law he cannot be forced to leave his position unless he is convicted of a serious charge.

At this point, a little historical background. In 1977, an electoral revolution kicked out the incompetent, paternalistic, dictatorial, and corrupt Labor regime that had ruled Israel since its founding. Israelis were angry about the failure of the government to respond to intelligence information about the imminent attack by Egypt and Syria in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. In addition, Israel’s Mizrachi citizens, who had been arriving en masse since about 1950, were tired of being almost totally excluded from the political power structure and the cultural life of the country.

There have been two Labor PMs elected since then. In 1992, Yitzhak Rabin signed the Oslo Accords and revived the moribund PLO, ushering in an era of increased incitement and terrorism. And in 2000, Ehud Barak’s failed attempt at a final status agreement led directly to the bloody Second Intifada, in which more than a thousand Israelis died in exploding buses, pubs, and pizza restaurants.

Since then, the Labor Party and the Left in general have entirely lost the confidence of the voters. But the left-leaning elite that dominated the country in the first 29 years of its existence, those politicians, academics, cultural and media personalities, and lawyers and judges who saw the country as their personal fiefdom are furious. How dare the right-wing Netanyahu and his Mizrachi supporters challenge their ownership of the country? Netanyahu personifies everything that they hate. Someone like Miri Regev, once called “a rude, vulgar, primitive person” and a “Trumpess” by elder leftist Uri Avnery, would never have an important job in one of their governments.

Unable to win elections, the elites of the Left decided to get Netanyahu out by other means. An interminable police investigation was begun three years before he was finally indicted. Almost every day, the anti-Bibi media, especially the most popular TV stations, broadcast leaks from the police and prosecutors, and the latest theories about his supposed crimes. Several Netanyahu associates were persuaded, sometimes by threats, to become states’ witnesses against him.

Now, Bibi is not entirely clean. He – and especially his wife – accepted expensive gifts from foreign billionaire “friends.” There were several complicated political deals that some see as politics as usual and others see as bribery. He was indicted in November 2019 and his trial, which will probably go on for years, began in May.

The most recent election, in March, resulted in a stalemate, almost certainly as a result of the legal campaign against Netanyahu. The combination of his concern to avoid removal from power and even imprisonment, and the personal ambitions of, and the grudges held by, various politicians, gave rise to a bloated, unwieldy, and astronomically expensive coalition government, with 36 ministers and eight deputy ministers. Although it was touted as an “emergency” government to deal with the epidemic, it has proven to be grossly incompetent.

Whether Bibi is actually guilty of anything or not, there is a great deal of injustice here, starting with the fishing expeditions by police and prosecutors, including the leaking to the media – during election periods – and up to improper conduct of the authorities in handling the witnesses. The demonstrations, which began early in the summer, grew in size and frequency, only limited when a strict lockdown was in effect. The demonstrators claim that they are the purest expression of democracy, but in a country of nine million, there is something wrong with the idea that a few thousand, even twenty thousand, demonstrators should have the ability to change the government. And why should the PM be subjected to almost continuous harassment at his official residence and his private home? Does democracy imply a right to conduct a war of attrition against the man’s peace and privacy?

Not everyone participating in the demonstrations represents the hard-core anti-Netanyahu Left. Many are frustrated with the failure of the government to find a way to deal with the epidemic while at the same time not wrecking the economy. The government has tended to act according to political rather than scientific considerations in placing restrictions on the population; many government officials themselves have been caught breaking the rules; and efforts to compensate those whose livelihoods have been destroyed by the epidemic have been inadequate. The people have lost confidence in the authorities. All this has been blamed on Bibi.

In any case, the combination of the pressures of the trial and the demonstrations seem to have sapped his ability to deal with issues beyond his personal survival. Both the government and the PM himself have been “neutralized.”

Another election would cost half a billion shekels that could be used to compensate victims of the epidemic and shore up the healthcare system. The period of the campaign plus the coalition negotiations after the election are periods of paralysis, and the virus is not prepared to wait. On the other hand, what we have now is also a form of paralysis. The country needs a lean and efficient government that can act and that can reestablish the people’s trust.

There is only one democratic way to obtain that, and that is by another election, one in which Binyamin Netanyahu does not run. And I think that in that case, his indictments should be canceled. He has been treated unfairly, and it can’t be undone; but he can be allowed to retire honorably.

It is also imperative that this not happen again. A law should be passed that a PM cannot be indicted until he leaves office, as well as a law mandating term limits for the PM. There is already a law limiting the number of ministers in a government, but it can be overridden easily. It should be made more difficult.  The State Prosecutor’s office should be separated from that of the Legal Advisor to the Government; and the latter position should actually be that of an advisor who works for the government, not an agent of the legal establishment with a veto power over government actions.

There are various other ways in which our system can be improved, but they can wait for a more propitious time. Right now we need to bite the bullet, put a real government in place and move forward with our lives.

Posted in Israeli Politics, Israeli Society | 2 Comments

Social Media and the Cognitive War Against Israel

Time to take a break from giving and receiving abuse on Twitter and do some work.

Last night we watched the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma.” It’s about the big tech companies and how their systems manipulate us into giving them what they want, which is our time and attention.

About 25 years ago I was stuck in the airport in Reno, Nevada, where there were slot machines available for waiting passengers to entertain themselves. I recall watching a woman play one, rhythmically swaying back and forth to the musical accompaniment from the machine as she pulled the lever over, and over, and over. I could see from her glazed eyes that she was in a trance, one with the machine. I wondered if she would succeed to pull herself away in time when her flight was announced, or if indeed she would even hear the announcement. Later, I recognized the same look in the eyes of someone scrolling through Facebook or Twitter on their phone.

These systems, which although they have been developed by humans, work autonomously and learn from experience how to control the behavior of their subjects. Their developers only care about getting us to sit still and eat the ads we are “served” (I love that locution), but of course it has destructive side effects. The creation of ideological bubbles, the dispersion of fake news, and the encouragement of extremism are some of them, but there are other, deeper changes that are not obvious, like the contraction of the subject’s attention span, the forced withdrawal from normal social activities, the decline in risk-taking, and the abysmal waste of time.

The abuses of political correctness, cancel culture, and the wide popularity of absurd, self-contradictory theories and ideologies are all epiphenomena of the ubiquity of social media. They would not be possible without the ability to disseminate emotion-loaded stimuli widely and instantaneously to groups of like-minded people, people who are often in the receptive trance-like state engendered by the medium.

How, for example, did the Israeli-Palestinian conflict come to take over the mind-space of the Western world? Almost none of my Twitter abuse comes from actual Arabs or Palestinians. Most of the folks accusing me of supporting “land theft,” apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and genocide of Palestinians live in the US or Europe, places which have their own problems. And yet they care so much about the Palestinians!

The Palestinization of the Western mind is a long story. It started with the KGB, who wanted to find a lever to get support for its Arab clients in the Middle East. It continued via the massive inputs of Arab oil money into Western educational institutions and “human rights” groups. It got a big boost from 2001’s Durban Conference on Racism, where the popular theme of anti-racism was successfully applied to Israel – a remarkable feat of reality inversion, since the Arab rejectionism that underlies the conflict is at bottom a particular rejection of Jewish sovereignty, and a desire to ethnically cleanse the region of Jews.

But the advent of the Internet multiplied – exponentiated – everything. It first became available in universities in the 1980s with email and Usenet newsgroups (like mailing lists) facilitating the democratization of the distribution of information. The first rudimentary social networks like Compuserve and America Online arrived in the 1990s. The dam burst with the creation of Facebook and others in the early 2000s.

The universities have always been repositories of misoziony, extreme and irrational Israel-hatred. This is because of the general leftward tilt of university faculties, who were fertile soil for the Soviet anti-Israel propaganda that began in the late 1960s and continued through the dissolution of the USSR. There was also the effect of the aforementioned Arab oil money donated to create departments of Mideast studies that were little more than indoctrination units. Students and faculty, early adopters of new technology, used it to organize and propagandize for all of their causes, including the increasingly popular Palestinian one.

Some important characteristics of social media that particularly affect cognitive warfare in this conflict are the immediacy of transmission of information, its bias toward emotional content, its tendency to create opinion bubbles, its encouragement of extremism, and the effect of numerical superiority of one side or another in a dispute. Let’s see how this works.

One of the propaganda techniques used against Israel is the “spaghetti test,” in which false accusations are rapidly thrown against the public in the hope that they will stick. By the time the information to refute them has been collected, the damage has been done and new accusations have been launched. The ability of social media to plant an idea in numerous receptive minds instantaneously with no filtering (such as is at least supposed to occur in traditional media) greatly increases the effectiveness of this.

It is well known that emotional content makes a story memorable, as well as serving as a motivation for action in a way that factual information cannot. Social media tends to be biased toward the transmission of emotionally affecting content, since that is what drives a person to share or retweet an item. Emotionally moving items (“IDF soldiers shoot Palestinian children for fun”) tend to dominate the timelines of its targets, arriving faster and more frequently than factual, but boring, corrections (“nobody was shot”).

The opinion bubbles prominent on social media, in which a person tends to collect “friends” and followers with similar political opinions means that propaganda will be repeated and amplified by the echo chambers formed by the bubbles. As it bounces around in an eagerly accepting environment, it creates anger and indignation, as well as accumulating greater authority (everyone is talking about the murder of Muhammad al-Dura, so the story must be true).

A participant in a social media opinion bubble is a player in a social game in which points are won by being first with the most shocking information. The “alphas” in the group are the ones whose opinions are the most exciting, which usually means that their positions are the most extreme. This forces the window of discourse in the direction of extremism, which is why it seems so shocking when it escapes from the bubble. The group “Canary Mission” often exposes social media posts in which students and academics express themselves against Jews or Israel in a way which is acceptable within their group but appears (and is) appallingly vicious to an outsider.

Jews and Israelis are a small minority compared to their enemies, and defenders of Israel are an equally small minority on social networks. The numerical advantage on one side makes it possible to “pile on” to a person and overwhelm them with verbal abuse. It seems that the Palestinians and their supporters are using social media much more effectively than those on the Israeli side. I am not sure if this is simply a consequence of their numerical advantage, or something else.

Technology of this kind has made everyday life much more convenient. Can you imagine life without Google? As the documentary points out, social media has reunited families and made it possible to become acquainted with people that one would otherwise never know. It can provide a lifeline for shut-ins, especially in this time of pandemic.

But – as its effects in facilitating cognitive warfare in our own sphere show – it has changed the world in ways we are just beginning to understand, and have made no effort to control. It has increased political polarization in general, fostered extremism, and seriously damaged traditional journalism.

No, I don’t want to be without Google (I think). But I wouldn’t cry if Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. disappeared.

Posted in Information war, Media | 2 Comments

Unfinished Business

Who remembers Jonathan Pollard?

He spied on the US for Israel. Despite insinuations to the contrary, he did not cause the exposure and murder of American agents in Russia (spy Aldrich Ames, now serving a life sentence, cast suspicion on Pollard to protect himself). Most of his espionage was aimed at information about Israel’s enemies that the US didn’t share. When he was about to be arrested, he fled to the Israeli embassy, which handed him over to the FBI.

Pollard was offered and accepted a plea bargain in light of his cooperation. But the court, after receiving a still-secret memo from then Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, sentenced him to life imprisonment, despite the fact that the median sentence for espionage on behalf of an ally has been 2-4 years. There was no trial, and due to errors by his lawyers, no appeal. No US citizen besides Pollard has ever received a life sentence for this crime.

Pollard served 30 years in federal prisons, seven of them in solitary confinement. He was consistently refused parole until 2015, when it was finally granted. But the conditions of his parole, which prevent him from leaving the country and make it very difficult for him to work (any computer that he uses is subject to government monitoring) are onerous. He is in poor health – who wouldn’t be after 30 years in prison? – and is being supported by some generous American Jews, led by Rabbi Pesach Lerner, former executive director of the National Council of Young Israel, an Orthodox movement comprised of about 175 synagogues.

In 1995, Israel made Pollard a citizen in recognition of the fact that he had indeed performed a service for her. He has certainly paid for his crime several times over, considering the extreme severity of his sentence in comparison with what he actually did. Now aged 66, it would only be just to allow him to come to Israel as he greatly desires.

On numerous occasions, the release of Pollard was used as a bargaining chip to get Israel to make concessions to the PLO as part of the ever-failing “peace process.” But in each case, at the last moment something always scuttled the arrangement, and Pollard stayed in prison. Several presidents promised to help him, but did not. Even Donald Trump, who moved the US embassy to Jerusalem, recognized Israel’s sovereignty in the Golan, exited the JCPOA, and broke the Palestinian veto over Israel-Arab peace agreements, has not acted. Supposedly PM Netanyahu was going to arrange his aliyah before the last election, but as always it didn’t happen.

In the early years, efforts to get Pollard freed were scuttled by Caspar Weinberger, who died in 2009 after saying that the case was “a very minor matter that was made very important.” Later, it was thought that elements of the intelligence community opposed his release. There was speculation that he “knew something,” perhaps about the Iran-Contra operation, that important people didn’t want to come out, although with the passage of time this becomes less and less likely.

One obvious reason for his treatment is that it constitutes a lesson to America’s Jews. Although “dual loyalty” is considered an “antisemitic trope,” it’s much more complicated than that. Many American Jews, particularly Reform Jews, are adamant about being Americans first and foremost. Although they may (or may not) have some affection for Israel, it is ultimately “another foreign country” for them. Some of the most vehement denunciations of Jonathan Pollard that I’ve heard come from such Jews. They are furious, because they believe that Pollard’s actions besmirch all American Jews as possible “traitors” (note that espionage and treason are different things, and that even the worst accusations against Pollard do not make him a traitor). “He should be executed,” one Jewish friend said to me.

But Jews who see themselves as members of a people and who feel loyalty to their people – and therefore to its homeland – might find themselves facing a conflict of obligations, especially if, as Pollard claimed, the US was withholding information about Israel’s enemies that might be critical to her survival.

Before you say, like my friend, that it is never right for an American Jew to violate US law to help Israel, remember the period before and during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, when many Jews (and non-Jews like Frank Sinatra) violated an embargo to smuggle arms and ammunition to Israel. Were they “traitors?” As I said before, it can be complicated. One of the psychic benefits of aliyah is that it eliminates any feeling of conflicted loyalty.

I think that US officials might have wanted to ensure that any Jew in a position to choose the interest of Israel over that of the US would expect the most severe consequences for doing so. Pollard’s sentence was a clear message.

Another reason is the paternalistic and borderline antisemitic attitude that Israel, as a less-than-sovereign client state, “has no right” to spy on the US. It is essential for Israel’s survival to spy on any and every state that can have an influence on its security; and I might add that the US considers Israel a “key target” for its own spying, something I find strange.

Some say that Pollard ought not to be treated as a Jewish hero. It’s not clear if his motives were entirely ideological, as he says, or if to some extent he did it for money. Some say that he behaved childishly and endangered Israeli interests. I wouldn’t call him a hero, though his actions on our behalf had definite value to the state and came at a high personal price.

There is a commandment to redeem captives (pidyon shvuyim). It has been applied to paying ransom for Jews held captive by bandits or princes who wish to extort money from Jews; it was one of the reasons for rescuing Soviet Jews that were not allowed to emigrate. There are limitations on how much can be paid (lest bandits or terrorists be encouraged to kidnap more Jews). Most authorities say it does not apply to criminals that are legitimately and fairly imprisoned, unless their lives are in danger. But the disproportionate sentence received by Pollard, the fact that his plea bargain was reneged and he did not receive a trial, and the possible antisemitic motivations for his treatment, argue for its applicability.

You can donate to Rabbi Lerner’s fund for Pollard’s support in the US if you wish. But at the end of the day, he is a Jew who, while he is not in federal prison anymore, is still a captive, and wants to join his people in their mutual homeland. The US should let him go, and Israel should welcome him.

Posted in American Jews, Jew Hatred | 7 Comments

Trump, Biden, Bibi, and Iran

I got up a few minutes before 0400 this morning to watch the American presidential debate. Things have changed a great deal since the previous campaign, because I can’t recall anything even close in verbal viciousness from the candidates themselves. Biden called Trump a clown, a racist, and a liar, and told him to shut up. Trump, for his part, continually interrupted Biden and talked over him, somewhat like political discussions on Israeli TV.

More immediately relevant for Israel is what PM Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly (text and video) in a ten-minute pre-recorded speech yesterday. There was a dramatic disclosure of the location of a Hezbollah missile depot or factory (in pictures and with GPS coordinates) in the middle of a civilian neighborhood in Beirut, next door to a gas company’s tanks. A similar installation in southern Lebanon exploded just last week, following the massive Beirut explosion, which was caused by explosives-grade ammonium nitrate kept at the port by Hezbollah. Bibi suggested that the folks who live around there might try to pressure Hezbollah to dismantle it before it, too, blows up. Unfortunately, nobody in Lebanon can stand up to Hezbollah.

Lebanon is a tragedy. It’s suffering from a rapidly growing outbreak of Coronavirus, although it is still behind Israel in serious cases and deaths. Its economy was already in flames before the explosion that destroyed its largest port, most of its grain reserves, and a third of its capital. Like Covid-19, Hezbollah is a parasitic organism that, in this case, is killing its host.

This parasite, however is controlled and nourished from Iran, as Bibi noted in his speech. It is the perfect remote weapon. By embedding its weapons in the midst of the population, the Iranian regime protects them from the IDF – and unlike Hamas, which also uses human shields, it doesn’t even have to endanger its own population to do so!

The other important thing that Bibi said was that in our estimation – and Israel’s intelligence in this area is quite good – Iran is expected to have enough enriched uranium in “a few” months to build not one, but two, nuclear bombs. Iran has been working on the rest of the technology for bombs for years, as well as missiles capable of delivering them. This is a real threat that must not be minimized, and – I must remind those who so strongly criticize Netanyahu – he has focused on this danger. We will not be taken by surprise by Iran.

The US under the Trump Administration has proven to be a valuable ally against Iran. By ending the JCPOA and re-imposing American sanctions, Trump has increased the pressure on Iran and made it harder for the regime to fund Hezbollah. Trump’s support helped enable the normalization agreements with the UAE and Bahrain, and perhaps others yet to come. Trump approved the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s “Quds Force.” Soleimani controlled Iranian operations around the world, and especially in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, as well as being active in suppressing internal dissent. His loss was very painful to the regime.

When I watched the debate this morning, with its insults and posturing, I wondered if the Iranian leaders were watching as well. I am sure they were. And I am sure that they are rooting for Biden, who has promised to re-enter the JCPOA, reduce sanctions, and engage in further negotiations with Iran (which made fools of Obama’s negotiating team). Worse, Biden will likely pick up some of the same advisors that guided the Obama Administration. Wendy Sherman and Jake Sullivan may be back talking to the Iranians. And of course Biden supports the failed two-state solution with the Palestinians, which guarantees that there will be no progress and continued terrorism on that front.

But maybe the Iranians are making a mistake. On the one hand, a Trump victory will probably see a continuation of the policy of “maximum pressure” on Iran. In the long term, it may succeed in weakening the regime enough that it can be persuaded to back down on its nuclear weapons project. Israel will continue monitoring Iranian activities and working with its new Arab allies to increase diplomatic pressure on Iran.

On the other hand, if Biden wins it may become clear to Israeli planners that there is a very short window of opportunity to pursue a military solution to the problem of Iranian nukes. Once Biden comes in, any Israeli actions would be off the table, just like in the days of the Obama Administration.

So either Trump wins, or the Iranians should expect a very warm November or December.

Posted in American politics, Iran, Middle East politics, War | 2 Comments

What American Jews Can Learn from AOC

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez may not be the sharpest thorn in the bush, but she has taught an important lesson for American Jews. Whether they learned it is doubtful.

The congresswoman, who once admitted that she was “not an expert on the geopolitics” of the region (translation: knows absolutely nothing about it), was invited by Americans for Peace Now (APN) to an event commemorating Yitzhak Rabin on the 25th anniversary of his assassination. But after an anti-Israel reporter tweeted to her that Rabin had brutally suppressed the First Intifada and that the Oslo Accords that Rabin signed “gave Israel cover to build more settlements,” she responded that she would rethink the invitation. And shortly thereafter, her office announced that she would not participate.

APN is a sister-group of the European-funded Israeli NGO Peace Now. Its focus is on “ending the occupation” and implementing a two-state solution. Its president, former J Street functionary Hadar Susskind, is too smart to explicitly oppose the recent normalization agreements between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain, but he makes it clear that he believes “Israel’s existential problem [is] its conflict with the Palestinians and the occupation that does so much damage,” and adds that “Normalization with the Arab world is welcome, but not as a tool to normalize the occupation and the conflict with the Palestinians.” Not explicitly misozionist like Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) or IfNotNow, APN nevertheless calls for policies that if implemented would imperil the security of the state.

The Israeli left, its cooperative media, and organizations like APN have pushed the narrative that Rabin was a peacemaker who favored a sovereign Palestinian state and a withdrawal from most of the areas liberated in 1967. They tell us that he courageously signed the Oslo agreements in 1993-4, and would have seen the process through to a successful completion if his life had not been cut short by a right-wing extremist in 1995. This is far from the truth.

Yitzhak Rabin was a dedicated Zionist who devoted his life to public service, and while he was closely associated with the socialist founders of the state, he was anything but a “peacenik.” Arguably he went into the Oslo process with great misgivings, after Shimon Peres and the other “architects of Oslo” presented him with a fait accompli. He did not favor a sovereign Palestinian state, only “something less,” and he wanted to hold on to key strategic territory in the Jordan Valley and the high ground of Judea and Samaria. He wanted a unified Jerusalem under Jewish control. Nevertheless, I think that if the Palestinians had held up their end of the bargain, he would have been prepared to compromise with them. But as everyone knows, they returned terrorism for every concession.

Rabin was succeeded as PM by a real peacenik, Shimon Peres. But Israeli voters replaced him with Binyamin Netanyahu in 1996, because sharply escalating terrorism quickly convinced them that concessions to the Palestinians were not the way to obtain security. In 1999, Netanyahu gave way to Ehud Barak, whose attempts to implement a two-state-solution were met with the bloody Second Intifada. That seems to have been enough for most Israelis, but Peace Now and its American counterpart continue to complain that if only Israel would give in to Palestinian demands, peace would be at hand.

Rabin’s image among liberal American Jews has been that of the heroic peacemaker. But recently a more extreme current of misozionist sentiment has pushed traditional Jewish liberalism aside, with groups that support BDS and one state, like JVP, IfNotNow, and even Students for Justice in Palestine, capturing the attention of younger Jews in place of J Street and APN. Their explicitly anti-Israel positions are shared by intersectional groups like BLM.

The online journalist who sent the tweet that caused Ocasio-Cortez to drop out of the Rabin event, Alex B. Kane, represents this stream. He was at one point an editor at Mondoweiss, a site that is a sewer of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish writing. Kane is now a contributing writer to Jewish Currents (edited by Peter Beinart), the new flagship publication of the misozionist movement among American Jews.

Ocasio-Cortez simply made a mistake when she agreed to appear at the APN Rabin affair. Her Jewish supporters are clearly in the progressive, intersectionalist camp with Kane and Beinart, IfNotNow and JVP, and not with the liberals of APN or J Street (the geriatric boomers of AIPAC are not even in the running). When her mistake was pointed out to her, she jumped to where she – a leader of the progressive Left – knew that she belonged.

I have often criticized the “liberal” groups on the grounds that their proposed two-state solution is not compatible with Israel’s security. But many of their supporters do believe in a Jewish state and disagree with me about the intentions of the Palestinian leadership, the possible effectiveness of technical safeguards, the demographic threat from the Arab population, and so on. I think they are wrong, but not all of them are anti-Israel. On the other hand, most of the progressive groups and individuals are not even trying to hide their desire to see the Jewish state replaced by an Arab state.

I said before that AOC taught a lesson that American Jews should learn, and it’s this:

The progressive Left is not on your side, even if you are a died-in-the-wool two-stater, even if you dislike our Prime Minister, or even if you hate “settlements.” These people do not want to end the conflict; they would not be satisfied if Netanyahu quit, and a two-state division along the Green Line wouldn’t be enough for them. They want to see the PLO/Hamas win and the Jews lose.

This would be terrible for the 7 million Jews of Israel, who would face death or dispersal if the objectives of these people were achieved. But even if you can’t get excited by that, do you want a world where you, personally, as a Jew, have no place to go?

A few years ago the idea that American Jews might need a place of refuge was ludicrous. Is it still so unlikely?

Posted in 'Peace' Process, American Jews, American society, Israeli or Jewish History, Media, Wokeness | Comments Off on What American Jews Can Learn from AOC