Cartoons, “criticism of Israel,” and Jew-hatred

The publication in the International Edition of the New York Times of a classically antisemitic cartoon ignited a firestorm of criticism (see also here) against the paper. The ADL, American Jewish Committee, Israeli Ambassador to the US, US Ambassador to Germany, Israeli Foreign Ministry, Mike Pence, and President Donald Trump joined in. Even Rabbi Rick Jacobs of the Union for Reform Judaism, whom I suspect rarely met an anti-Israel article in the Times that he didn’t like, criticized the Times on the URJ’s Facebook page (although at this writing, J Street has had no comment).

The cartoon is an example of a genre going back at as far as the Middle Ages, through the Dreyfus affair and Nazi period, and common today. Ask the Internet. Ugly, hook-nosed Jews look back at you, grinning as they drain blood from their victims, ravish blonde women, hoard gold coins, entrap the world in octopus tentacles or spider webs, enslave world leaders, exploit the poor, and – more recently – dress in Nazi uniforms and eat Palestinian children.

Today you will find them regularly in the media of Europe and the Muslim world, unremarked. The cartoonist, Antonio Moreira Antunes, produced the usual explanation: it was not antisemitic, just anti-Israel. It doesn’t fly: it was not only anti-Israel, it was anti-Jewish in ways reminiscent of Arab and Nazi propaganda. Trump wore a kipa, Netanyahu was portrayed by a dog, the dog had a Magen David attached to his collar, and the message – that world leaders are blindly led around (even hypnotized) by international Jewry – is a traditional antisemitic proposition.

I believe that as a European, Moreira genuinely did not see the problem. Jew-hatred is part of the daily intellectual diet in Europe, only a little less so than in Egypt. They are used to it. But in America people are still a bit shocked, although now that shooting Jews in synagogues seems to have become almost as common as shooting children in schools, the milder forms of antisemitism may become less upsetting.

Another cartoonist, the Brazilian Carlos Latuff has produced dozens, perhaps hundreds of viciously anti-Israel cartoons. While his cartoons carry unsubtle messages – the IDF are murderers, Israel is like the Nazis – he mostly avoids the dogs and big noses. Latuff too claims that he is only a political opponent of Israel, not a hater of Jews.

These cartoonists, and writers like NY Times columnist Michelle Goldberg, often argue that antisemitism and anti-Zionism – hatred of the Jewish people and hatred of the Jewish state – are fundamentally different, and while the former is unacceptable, the latter is perfectly legitimate political speech.

They are wrong. We don’t need to waste time looking for hooked noses, dogs, spiders, octopi, dollar signs and so on in order to draw a line between traditional antisemitism like the Moreira cartoon and the sanitized but still obsessive demonization and persecution of the Jewish state that Latuff and the New York Times regularly engage in, because they are two closely related forms of the same thing.

Today, the Jewish state is the home of more Jews than any other country, and almost as many as all the others put together. The Jewish population in Israel is growing while it declines in other places. It is the heart of Jewish culture, religious and secular. Today’s North American Diaspora is moribund. Many of the “Jews” that live there are Jews in name only, having abandoned the Jewish people for a progressive “one world” ideology, with or without a pseudo-Jewish religion based on “tikkun olam.” They can’t be accused of dual loyalty: they will consistently place their progressive politics above the good of the Jewish people whenever there is a conflict. The few hundred thousand Jews that still survive in Europe are irrelevant, and may find refuge in Israel, North America, or other places when conditions become worse, as they surely will.

The Jewish state today is the real, concrete expression of the Jewish people. Destroy the former, as its enemies have not ceased trying to do since 1948, and you destroy the latter. The protestations of Latuff, for example, that he is not anti-Jewish, only critical of “Israel as a political entity,” are as if someone insisted that he had nothing against Brooklynites, he only wanted to destroy Kings County, and kill or drive out its inhabitants.

The obsessive demonization of Israel, with its associated double standard by which only one state in the world – which happens to be the one belonging to the Jewish people – is singled out for obloquy and persecution, is not conceptually identical to antisemitism, in which the Jewish people itself is singled out and ill-treated. They differ because the targets of these two parallel, violent and irrational hatreds are different. One is a state and the other is a people. But almost everything else about these ideologies of hate is the same. And someone who professes one of them is usually in the grip of the other, whether or not he admits it.

It’s difficult to understand this phenomenon without noting its historical origins. Until 1973, Israel was more or less treated like a normal 3rd world state, buffeted by the struggle between the West and the Soviet Union, with the US as its patron, and the Arab states as local enemies. But in the late 1960s, the Soviets developed a narrative for the Arabs, more sophisticated than the ethnic and religious prejudice and damaged Arab honor that had previously served them – and did not work in the West. The Palestinians were presented as an oppressed indigenous people with a national liberation movement, the PLO.

Nothing really changed immediately, except for the extreme Left, which welcomed the PLO into its pantheon of liberation movements. But after the 1973 war, the Arabs activated their oil weapon, tripling oil prices. Markets crashed, fuel prices shot up, shortages of gasoline, heating oil, and diesel fuel became common. The Arabs made sure the entire world understood that it was Israel’s fault.

In 1975, the UN punished Israel by declaring Zionism a form of racism, and the PLO carried out several high-profile acts of international terrorism to emphasize the point made by the oil embargo – that Israel was the problem. Governments and other institutions around the world understood. The combination of these practical actions with the “appealing” Soviet-developed Palestinian narrative, facilitated the mutation of traditional European antisemitism into obsessive anti-Zionism. It has only grown stronger since.

In 2001, the Durban conference on racism was turned into an anti-Israel hatefest, focusing on the alleged Israeli denial of human rights to Palestinians; the outlandish idea of “Israeli apartheid” was introduced, and it proved to have legs. In a manner similar to the events of the 1970s, it was immediately followed by the 9/11 attack, with kinetic terrorism driving home the ideological point.

Recently, the traditional “extreme right-wing” style of highly violent Jew-hatred has become more visible in the US. It is aided by internet communications, and fueled by a general breakdown in social structures. It is more violent and frightening (at least in the US) than the anti-Zionist movements; but the latter are far more dangerous to the Jewish people in the long run.

Back to the cartoon: personally, I’m tired of listening to excuses. I don’t accept the NY Times’ apology. Let them apologize for years of continuous negative focus on Israel as well as the stupid cartoon. Or not apologize; they could just admit that they would prefer that there were no Jewish state. It’s always best to know who one’s real enemies are.

Posted in Jew Hatred, Media | 2 Comments

No, it’s not about “race”

Americans need to take a vacation from using the word “racist,” at least in connection with Israel, because they don’t have the slightest idea of what they are talking about, and it’s insulting as hell. Especially from presidential hopefuls:

That [US-Israel] relationship, if it is to be successful, must transcend partisanship in the United States, and it must be able to transcend a prime minister who is racist, as he warns about Arabs coming to the polls, who wants to defy any prospect for peace as he threatens to annex the West Bank, and who has sided with a far-right, racist party in order to maintain his hold on power. – Beto O’Rourke

I just believe that the United States should deal with the Middle East on a level playing field basis. In other words, the goal must be to try to bring people together and not just support one country, which is now run by a right-wing – dare I say – racist government. – Bernie Sanders

I know that Americans are obsessed with race. It’s understandable, given the historical facts that half of the country had a slavery-based economy until 1865, that vicious legally-sanctioned discrimination against the descendants of those slaves persisted until the 1960s, and that racial hatreds – on the part of both whites and blacks – are still prevalent in American society.

This is an American problem. It is not Israel’s problem, although Israel’s problem is based in history, too. It is the history of violent Arab/Muslim rejection of Jewish sovereignty anywhere in the region, which is championed today by the Palestinian Arab leadership represented by the PLO and Hamas.

Israel’s problem is not race-related. Jews and Arabs are closer genetically than Jews – even Ashkenazi Jews – and Europeans. It is not color-related. Jews and Arabs both come in all colors. It is not even an ethnic conflict, since Jews and Arabs can and do get along – despite many cultural differences – in Israel, in environments where the influence of the PLO and Hamas is weak.

Our conflict is a violent political conflict. But unlike similar conflicts all over the world, ours is not allowed to end. The Jewish people has spiritual, historical, legal, aboriginal, and moral rights to what we call the Land of Israel, and we’ve defended those rights through several wars. But for two main reasons, the conflict cannot be ended.

One reason is that the Western world is not happy with the idea of a sovereign Jewish state. It doesn’t like the idea of an ethnic nation-state in general, and it doesn’t like the idea of a Jewish one in particular. It has internalized the KGB-developed narrative of a Palestinian people whose “human rights” are denied by the very existence of a Jewish state. So the West keeps pushing various “solutions,” and the Arabs keep rejecting the ones that allow the Jewish state to continue to exist.

Wars cause population shifts. Three million Germans were expelled from Czechoslovakia after WWII. They do not have a “right of return,” and the world understands. Some 800,000 Jews were forced to leave Arab countries after 1948. Most went to Israel. Nobody dreamed that they might have a “right of return” to Baghdad or Algiers. Nobody established a special UN agency to take care of them and their descendants until this claimed “right” could be exercised. But the West coddled the Arab refugees from the 1948 war and the UN encouraged them in their fantasy of return.

The meddling of the West is problematic, but the second reason is more serious. The Jews are stupid. Yes, you heard that right. The much-vaunted Jewish mind, which has produced so many Nobel Prizes, has not been able to figure out that when someone is trying to kill you, the most moral thing to do is to fight back.

I know, it’s in the Talmud: “When someone is coming to kill you, rise up and kill him first.” (Sanhedrin 72a). But we don’t do that. The Arabs ethnically cleansed every last Jew from the areas they occupied in 1948, but we didn’t do the same (contrary to Arab propaganda, very few of the Arabs who fled Israel at that time were driven out by force). The Jordanians violated the cease-fire agreement and refused to allow Jews or Christians to visit their holy sites in Jerusalem and Hevron. They turned synagogues into stables and tore up Jewish gravestones to build urinals. The Jews, on the other hand, ultimately granted the Arabs in Israel full citizenship, so they could elect Knesset members who support terrorism against Jews.

In 1967 they came to kill us again, and this time we conquered Jerusalem, and all of Judea and Samaria and Gaza. But we still didn’t kick them out, and we even gave them control of the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest place. And what a surprise – we are not allowed to pray there, and they have ripped out tons of earth from underneath the mount, destroying Jewish history, maybe even artifacts of the first Temple! And we knew about it and didn’t stop them.

The Jews are stupid because they think they should be “better” than their enemies, according to some Western/Christian standard that even the hypocritical West doesn’t live up to. The ones who wrote the Talmud were right after all.

There is no shortage of hatred here in our region, but it is not racism. And it is mostly Jew-hatred on the Arab side. There are some Jews that hate Arabs, usually because of a bad experience, such as losing a mother or a child to terrorism, but the government, media, and cultural establishment have sent a message of peace and tolerance since the beginning of the state and especially since the Oslo period of the 1990s. The PLO and Hamas have done precisely the opposite, from the time of the father of Palestinian nationalism, Haj Amin el-Husseini, who incited pogroms in the 1920s and then spent WWII in Berlin, where he encouraged Hitler to kill as many Jews as possible, raised an SS division from Bosnian Muslims, and broadcast anti-Jewish propaganda to the Middle East in Arabic.

Husseini’s disciple Yasser Arafat initially set up the Palestinian Authority educational system, geared to teach irredentism and Jew-hatred; he initiated the policy of venerating and paying terrorists who murder Jews. His successor Mahmoud Abbas continued and expanded it. Now there is a whole generation of potential murderers among the Palestinian Arabs, who see Jews not as people, but only as objects of hate, the filthy offspring of apes and pigs. Today, a Palestinian teenager who is chastised by his parents might take a knife and slaughter a Jew in the street to redeem himself.

The Jew-hatred that burns so hot among the Palestinian Arabs, nurtured over the years by the Palestinian leadership and tolerated and even subsidized by the West, is the single most important factor that prevents a peaceful end to the conflict here.

But that doesn’t fit Bernie and Beto’s worldview. They worry about the human rights of the Palestinian Arabs, but don’t notice that the right to life of the Jews in Israel is threatened by an array of dozens of countries, including some that are armed to the teeth with rockets aimed at Israel. They think that Israel has not offered enough to the Palestinians, despite the fact that she offered far more than she could afford several times, and the offers were rejected – because no offer that allows the continued existence of a Jewish state will be acceptable to them.

The Jews have behaved stupidly, but the growth of the very right-wing politics in Israel that Beto and Bernie decry shows that they are finally smartening up.

American Democratic politicians should do the same.

Posted in American politics, Jew Hatred, US-Israel Relations | 2 Comments

The Good Prince and the Iran deal

It’s become a truism that the hatred and harassment of individual Jews and Jewish communities that once was prevalent in the lands of the diaspora before the rebirth of a Jewish state has since morphed into loathing and persecution of that state.

There are other parallels. Jewish communities in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East had a precarious existence, depending on the good will of the local prince or emir. If the ruler liked the Jews – or, probably more correctly – found them more useful than despicable, they could live their lives relatively undisturbed. If, on the other hand – well, you know the story.

Today the position of the Jewish state is also dependent on powerful people and entities far beyond Israel’s control. In particular, the State of Israel is strongly affected by the policies and actions of the US. In America, foreign policy, and especially practical actions and reactions to events in the international arena, are primarily in the hands of the president and his appointees. These days, the President of the United States is the “prince” whose attitude most affects whether Israel thrives or withers.

Israel could have tried harder to reduce her dependence on the US and her susceptibility to pressure from the American government. She should have. I would like to believe that the desirability of this is becoming evident to Israeli officials, but the pull of “free” military hardware is hard to ignore. And there is some truth in the idea that Israelis simply admire the US and value a close relationship with her.

In recent times, Khamenei has been playing Haman to the American president’s Ahasuerus. The Iranian playbook calls for Israel to be battered by simultaneous attacks from Hezbollah’s and Hamas’ rocket forces, and invaded by proxies from both the North and South. The regime is working on increasing the number, payloads, defensibility, and accuracy of the rockets in the hands of her proxies as well as in Iran herself. At the same time she is developing new proxies by establishing Iraqi Shiite militias in Syria, modeled on the Lebanese Hezbollah. All this is intended to be shielded under a nuclear umbrella, whose development is proceeding.

Taken by itself, it seems that war between Israel and Iran is guaranteed. But there is one other possibility – the only alternative that I can imagine, given the objectives of the Iranian regime. And that is that the regime can be toppled by internal opposition encouraged by economic pressure from the US.

It’s a longshot, because a regime that is demonstrably willing to shoot down anti-government protesters in the street, that is buttressed by paramilitary militias, and that terrorizes and murders opposition figures, is hard to overthrow. The regime is quite prepared to control the allocation of resources in such a way that the general population suffers bitterly as long it remains in power, so economic pressure needs to be tough and protracted.

The alternative is a very destructive war for both Israel and Iran. If it comes to this, then I would hope that Israel will strike preemptively and hard. But that’s another discussion.

So now we can see the immediate effect of the attitude by the American president, the good or bad “prince” that holds the destiny of the Jewish community – in this case the State of Israel – in his hands. Barack Obama, following a nakedly anti-Israel script originally laid down in the 2006 Iraq Study Report (written in part by his close advisor Ben Rhodes), facilitated the Iranian plan. His administration negotiated a deal with the Iranians that removed economic sanctions, shielded the Iranian nuclear project, and even provided pallets of cash which went to support Iranian terrorist initiatives in Lebanon and Syria. At the same time, he punished Israeli PM Netanyahu whenever possible, kept up the pressure on Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians that would weaken Israel’s ability to defend herself, and – along with officials like Secretary of State Kerry – directly contributed to the public demonization of the Jewish state.

President Trump, on the other hand, has been the Good Prince. He recognized Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem, reduced subsidies to the Palestinians, and – it seems – will not try to force the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state as a dagger next to Israel’s heart. Most important, he has taken the US out of the Iran deal and re-imposed sanctions – the only possible road to a peaceful end to Iranian aggression.

I know I am not exaggerating when I say that President Trump is a controversial figure in the US. But he is not controversial in Israel, where almost everyone agrees that he has been the most pro-Israel president – in terms of actual actions, not just words – since Truman. And most Israelis would be happy to see him re-elected in 2020.

But that’s up to American voters to decide. And unfortunately, perhaps in part because Trump has been so pro-Israel, many of his opponents have moved in the opposite direction. Six of the most likely candidates to oppose Trump have said that if elected they would restore US participation in the nuclear deal – that is, they would remove the sanctions re-imposed by President Trump. The Democratic National Committee also passed a resolution calling for the US to return to the deal. The phony “pro-Israel” organization J Street has been lobbying candidates to speak out in favor of the deal and even more ominously, Obama’s shadowy National Security Action group, co-chaired by the ever-present Ben Rhodes, is pushing to restore the Obama Administration’s dangerous Iran policy.

This may be effective as anti-Trump or anti-Israel policy, but it is not in the American interest. The Iranian regime has threatened over and over to attack American assets or even to conduct terrorist attacks in the US herself. “Death to America” is not just a slogan, and the US is not referred to as “The Great Satan” out of desire for friendship. The policy of rapprochement pursued by the Obama Administration was pocketed and exploited by the regime, which did not waver from its objectives of total control of the Middle East and its resources, the establishment of a Shiite caliphate, and – its ultimate goal – replacing the US as the dominant world superpower.

If the Iran deal becomes an issue in the 2020 election, it will be bad for Israel, which does not want to be seen as “taking sides” in an American election. But Trump will likely cite Israel’s security as part of his reason for re-imposing sanctions, while his opponents will accuse “the Israel lobby” of undue influence on US policy. Anything that Israel does or says relating to Iran will be interpreted as improper intervention in the election.

And just like the unfortunate Jews in the Pale of Settlement and the Jewish neighborhoods of Alexandria or Baghdad, the Jewish state will find herself yet again unwillingly involved in and battered by the conflicts of princes.

Posted in American politics, Iran, US-Israel Relations | 2 Comments

IRAC’s bridge too far

The American Reform Movement, which believes that it has the right to dictate how Israel should deal with its most critical security matters, also wants to remake Israeli society in an American image. And not by imitating the best features of American culture, but rather by choosing some of the worst: the hyper-progressive politically correct part.

The Reform Movement funds an Israeli political action organization called IRAC, the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC). IRAC works closely with the Israeli Left to provoke and embarrass right-wing governments as political support for the Left, but part is also intended to inject the particularly American progressive world view into Israeli political consciousness.

They have not been especially successful, at least not yet. They tried to hitch a ride on the issue of Haredi harassment of women on buses, calling a woman who refused to change her seat when confronted by a male passenger the “Israeli Rosa Parks.” But of course in Israel there is no law calling for segregated seating on buses; and the courts, the police, most politicians, and the massive majority of Israelis supported the woman. She kept her seat and was not arrested like the American Rosa Parks.

They hijacked the original struggle of the Israeli religious feminists known as the Women of the Wall to allow women to pray out loud in the women’s section of the Western Wall with Torah scrolls and talitot (prayer shawls normally worn by men), and with the backing of the Israeli Reform and Conservative movements, demanded that a section of the wall be set aside for mixed-gender prayer. This has had serious political ramifications and provoked considerable violence from their Haredi opponents.

Although that issue has been effective in creating dislike for Israel and PM Netanyahu in America, it has gained IRAC little support among the Israeli public. Religious people are virtually all opposed to mixed-gender prayer, secular Israelis – despite how annoyed they are with the Haredi religious establishment that interferes with their lives in important areas like marriage – couldn’t care less about how people pray at the Wall, and the Israelis who do care are a tiny fraction of the public.

So IRAC has a new project: searching out instances of “racism” in Israeli society and pursuing legal and political remedies. In particular, they have created a “Racism Crisis Center” where people can call and complain about allegedly racist treatment.

Some of what they do is reasonable opposition to discrimination, such as calling attention to police harassment of Ethiopian Jews. But some is purely political, like their insistence that the Nation-State Law is “blatantly racist legislation.” Their overall goal is to create a “shift in the public mindset” in which “racism,” in the broadest possible sense, is moved to the forefront of Israeli consciousness, as it is among progressive Americans.

Most of their issues concern the treatment of the Arab minority in Israel. I maintain that the introduction of the concept of “racism,” with all its baggage of European colonialism, slavery, and the treatment of blacks in America or apartheid South Africa, only serves to obscure the nature of the real national conflict between the Jewish people and the Palestinian Arabs. Worse, it imports a radical left-wing interpretation of the conflict, in which Israel is a colonial power oppressing Palestinian “people of color,” when the root of the conflict lies in the Arab/Muslim rejection of Jewish sovereignty anywhere in the region.

But today IRAC has crossed a bridge too far. The Racism Crisis Center has discovered a “crisis” in the instructions issued by the Jerusalem municipality to the city’s kindergartens. Here is a quote from an article in Ha’aretz:

The instructions, published by the emergency and security department of the Jerusalem municipality and distributed to the city’s kindergartens and pre-schools, order that “outsiders many not enter kindergarten premises,” adding that “as a rule, entrance is not permitted to minority groups.”

According to the instructions, if minority groups want to enter the school, “the local security officer must be notified.” In Israel, the Hebrew term “minority groups” usually refers to Arabs and other non-Jews.

In its appeal, the Racism Crisis Center, operated by the Israel Religious Action Center – the advocacy arm of the Reform movement in Israel – said that the municipality instructions to comprehensively prohibit outsiders and non-Jewish minorities from entering kindergartens harm their right to human dignity and equality, and therefore is wrong, illegal and forbidden.

“Outsiders” means people that are not either parents or other caregivers whose names are given to the kindergarten by parents, and for obvious reasons they are usually not allowed in. Here in Rehovot, when my wife picks up a grandchild from his kindergarten, she is required to identify herself and the list is checked, even when the child jumps into her arms. But there are exceptions, like contractors, repairmen, and so forth.

And in those cases – the Jerusalem municipality, and mine, and every other one in Israel, practices ethnic profiling. Yes, just like at the airport, and the shopping mall, and everywhere else. Because it works, and it works because while all Arabs are not terrorists, almost all the terrorists that would kill our children are Arabs.

IRAC thinks that’s wrong:

The appeal adds that “protecting the security of kindergarten children and personnel is of the utmost importance. However, the security considerations, as important and worthy as they may be, don’t justify the gross discrimination against non-Jews.”

Are they out of their minds? Of course protecting our children justifies ethnic profiling! And I think 99% of Israeli Jews (and probably a lot of Arabs too) would agree with me. IRAC and its director, the extreme leftist Anat Hoffman, apparently do not.

I don’t welcome the “shift in the public mindset” to an American-progressive style of aggressive stupidity that they are trying to bring about. I would like to think that the down-to-earth, pragmatic Israeli national character won’t accept political correctness. But then, Americans were once known for their common sense as well.

Posted in American Jews, Israeli Politics, Israeli Society | 1 Comment

Why US Jewish leaders have a problem with Netanyahu

Earlier this week, I wrote about the foolish and arrogant letter sent by the American Reform and Conservative movements and some of their associated organizations to President Trump, demanding that in the light of newly re-elected Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu’s intention to extend Israeli sovereignty to Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, he should act to preserve the holy “two-state solution” (2SS).

As Jonathan S. Tobin argued, Israelis democratically elected Netanyahu’s Likud party. And if you consider the breakdown between parties that favor the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state in Judea/Samaria vs. opponents of it, the election can be seen as referendum on the 2SS – a referendum that those opposed to the 2SS won by a true landslide. So the decision of American Jewish organizations to oppose the will of the great majority of Israeli citizens can be seen as contradicting the democratic right of Israeli citizens to decide their own fate, or, in Tobin’s words, “trashing the verdict of Israeli democracy.” The fact that the letter was addressed to Trump, rather than Netanyahu, shows even more strongly that they reject Israel’s pretension to self-government. The US, they think, guided by the “wisdom” of the leaders of its liberal Jewish community should force Israel to do its will. They are uncomfortable with a sovereign Jewish state, and would prefer a banana republic, with themselves calling the shots.

I find myself speculating about the political and psychological motivations for this letter. And although the writers imply that they are moved by concern for Israel’s well-being, I suspect several other impulses that are both more likely and less admirable.

The movements have satellite movements in Israel, and would like to see them recognized by the Israeli government as legitimate forms of Judaism, and receive subsidies from the Ministry of Religious Affairs, like Orthodox synagogues. They would like their rabbis to be able to perform marriages and conversions in Israel, and they would like a measure of control over religious sites. They would like a section of the Kotel to be made available for mixed-gender prayer.

As long as the Chief Rabbinate is in control of these things, and as long as it in turn is dominated by the Haredim (the so-called “ultra-Orthodox” Jews) that represent some 12% of the Jewish population of Israel, these wants will never be satisfied, no matter how many Supreme Court decisions there are in their favor. Netanyahu has been forced – as his center-left opposition also probably would have been – to include Haredi parties in his coalition, and for this reason the demands of the liberal movements remain unmet. Netanyahu has made the political calculation that Haredi support for his government is more important than the approval of Diaspora Jews that can’t vote; and they are bitter about this.

Despite misleading poll results, very few Israelis – according to Shmuel Rosner, less than one-half of one percent – are affiliated with the Israeli versions of the liberal movements. But the egos of the American leaders are bound up with their success (or lack thereof) in attracting Israelis to them. They need to believe that there are strong reasons to attend a non-Orthodox synagogue other than a lack of Jewish education. So they are trying very hard to get their movements into the Israeli mainstream to prove this, and they see Netanyahu as an obstacle.

In addition, the Israeli Left has good connections with the liberal movements in the Diaspora. They speak English and are well-represented in the media. Directly, and through media outlets like the Ha’aretz English website, they present their point of view to the Diaspora much more effectively than Netanyahu’s supporters, many of whom are working-class people who speak only Hebrew.

Finally, there is the fact that most of the members of the liberal American Jewish denominations and virtually all of their leadership are sympathetic to the progressive wing of the Democratic party. This political constellation, especially beginning with the election of Barack Obama in 2008, has become increasingly anti-Israel. Although Obama made his pro-Arab sympathies evident from the very beginning, even by 2012 some 70% of Jewish voters voted to re-elect him. In his second term, he did not disappoint, ramming the Iran deal through Congress in a process which included viciously attacking PM Netanyahu. His administration played on traditional anti-Jewish themes when it suggested that Jewish opponents of the deal were more loyal to Israel than to the US, and wanted the US to engage in war with Iran for the benefit of Israel. His final gift to Israel was US abstention on (and some say, promotion of) an anti-Israel Security Council resolution.

Nevertheless, Liberal American Jews and their religious movements have continued to embrace the progressive ideology represented by Obama, and have for the most part joined the fierce Democratic opposition to the Republican president, Donald Trump.

And this has placed them at cross-purposes with Israel, because Trump has proven himself to be the most pro-Israel American president since Harry S. Truman. Trump recognized Jerusalem as capital of Israel, reversing an obnoxious policy that held since 1948 that no part of Jerusalem – not even the ground under Israel’s Knesset – belonged to Israel. He became the first president to enforce the will of Congress to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem, after three previous presidents – Clinton, Bush, and Obama – found excuses not to do so. He removed the US from the disastrous Iran deal and re-imposed sanctions (compare this to Obama’s paying off the Iranians with pallets of cash). He cut US funding for the UNRWA Palestinian “refugee” scam, and began to enforce the Taylor Force Act, which deducts payments made to terrorists from the aid given to the Palestinian Authority. He recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. And – although this is not yet confirmed – it is beginning to look as though his “deal of the century” will not include a sovereign Palestinian state in Judea/Samaria.

Trump broke through Israel’s pariah status as the only nation in the world that can’t choose its own capital. He cracked the myth of the “Palestinian refugees” that must be nurtured and helped to grow like no other refugee population, and that can never be resettled anywhere but in Israel. He may yet put the final nail into the coffin of the Oslo process. These are accomplishments that a successor will find hard to reverse.

Can Netanyahu be excused for claiming that some of this is due to his “close personal relationship” with the American president? Apparently not for these “leaders,” for whom Trump is the Devil incarnate.

Trump’s actions toward Israel have all been in both US and Israel’s interests. In some cases, such as Jerusalem, they have righted long-term wrongs that should have been corrected long ago. If any other President had done these things, he would have been applauded and embraced by American Jews that cared about Israel. But this president is Donald Trump – and these American Jews have forgotten why there needs to be a Jewish state and what their connection to it is.

And so we have American Jewish leaders attacking an Israeli Prime Minister that has been democratically elected, arrogantly implying that they know what’s better for Israel than Israelis that vote, pay taxes, and send their children to the army. They have chosen to attack him on an issue – whether or not there should be a sovereign Palestinian state in Judea/Samaria – that many Israelis consider existential; and they have done so for the narrow interests of the tiny Israeli branches of their movements and because of their political bias against the American president.

My guess is that Netanyahu doesn’t care. And fortunately for Israel, Trump – who knows that these “leaders” are without a single exception his bitter political enemies – is unlikely to take their advice.

Posted in American Jews, Israeli Politics | 3 Comments