The Nation-State Law rises again

Five years since its initial introduction by MK Avi Dichter, the Nation State Bill is being hotly debated in the Knesset once again.

Israel’s Declaration of Independence announced the creation of “A Jewish state in Eretz-Israel,” and added,

The State of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

These principles are generally referred to by saying that Israel is a Jewish and democratic state. The democratic part is further explicated by several Basic Laws including those that describe the details of Israel’s political democracy, and which guarantee individual rights, liberty, and dignity.

(That isn’t to say that the state always lives up to these commitments. For example, two recent serious lapses have been the treatment of the young suspects in the Duma arson/murder case, who were subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques,” and the persistent leakage of transcripts from the police investigations of PM Netanyahu and Sara Netanyahu, both of which appear to violate the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty).

Basic Laws serve the function of a constitution in Israel, and because they serve as touchstones for court decisions (especially the Supreme Court), have great influence. The Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty is especially frequently cited by the Supreme Court.

The concept of the state’s Jewishness, however, is not elucidated any further by existing Basic Laws. Many Israelis (I among them) feel that there is an imbalance in the Basic Laws, such that the Jewish nature of the state is often in practice subordinated to its democratic nature. This feeling could be expressed by saying that there is more to a Jewish state than just a Jewish majority. Or, to put it another way, a Jewish majority is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a Jewish state. This is addressed by the attempt to pass a new Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People.

The reason the bill is so controversial – despite the present version being highly watered down – is that there are competing visions of what the State of Israel should be. One view, which is preferred by Arab citizens and the Jewish Left, is that it should be a liberal democracy, period. Many Arabs would also like to see ethnically-neutral national symbols. Some would even prefer a binational state, with the Arab minority given a veto power over laws passed by the Knesset, a Law of Return for Arabs, and more (the Haifa Declaration of a committee of Israeli Arab academics is an extreme example).

As long as there is a Jewish majority, that isn’t likely to happen. But there is also a view that the Jewishness of the state is simply a function of its Jewish majority, and the only special benefit provided to Jews is the Law of Return. The Jewish character of the state, by this view, comes from the fact that Jews are in the majority and will naturally determine the symbols, holidays, language, and culture of the state.

Finally there is the position, reflected by those that favor the passage of a nation-state law, that Israel should explicitly define herself as a Jewish state. Having basic principles anchored in law could be practically important. For example, the current version of the nation-state bill in the Knesset includes the statement that “The State will act to ingather the exiles of Israel and to promote Jewish settlement in its territory and it shall allocate resources for these purposes.” In a case involving a conflict between claims of individual property rights and a settlement in Judea/Samaria, the courts would have to give weight to the need to promote Jewish settlement, and perhaps find a solution short of demolition.

Or, for example, consider that someone might petition the Supreme Court to improve access to the Temple Mount for Jews on the basis that “The holy sites shall be protected against desecration and all other damage and against anything that would interfere with freedom of access of religious groups to places holy to them or to their sensibilities regarding said holy sites,” one of the clauses in the law.

There is also the more abstract value of making explicit Israel’s primary function as a vehicle for Jewish self-determination, as well as the responsibilities of the state to the Jewish people as a homeland and a refuge. It might seem obvious to some Israelis, but not to others and certainly not to the rest of the world.

Parts of the bill are very controversial, like one that gives the right to a “community” (without defining that, except to say that ethnic and religious categories are included) to establish a “separate community settlement” where members of a different “community” would not be accepted. Yesterday’s Knesset debate about this was highly acrimonious, with several members being removed for bad behavior. President Rivlin, in a rare foray into politics, wrote a letter strongly opposing this clause, and my guess is that it will be significantly changed or removed from the final law.

In the next week or so, the bill will have its final two readings in the Knesset, and proponents say that they have the votes to pass it even in its present form (which I doubt, given the storm produced by the President’s letter).

Some who object to the law ask “Who needs it? We know who we are. It will damage the state among the peoples of the world.”

Israel is a special kind of state, in fact the only one of its kind. It is not only an ethnic nation-state, it is probably the only one established by the return of a nation to its homeland after a prolonged exile, and one whose first principles include the necessity of being a refuge for a persecuted people.

It is presently weathering an intensely hostile political climate in a world where ethnic nationalism is considered evil, both in the abstract and in particular for the Jewish people.

Rather than hide who we are, we should broadcast it. It might not make the world like us any more, but at least they will better understand what we are fighting for.

Posted in Israeli Politics, The Jewish people, Zionism | 5 Comments

Restraint, the strategy of defeat

There is no avoiding war; it can only be postponed to the advantage of others. – Niccolo Machiavelli

It’s been reported that indirect negotiations are underway with Hamas for the release of two Israelis and the bodies of two soldiers that they are holding. Germany and Egypt are said to be involved in the negotiations. Needless to add, part of the price for their release will be the freeing of murderers associated with Hamas who are now in Israeli jails.

Some say that one reason the IDF is not taking stronger action (read: any action at all) against the terrorists that are launching incendiary devices that have burned thousands of acres in southern Israel is the sensitivity of these negotiations. Another reason is that officials are worried about tension of the northern borders and would prefer to avoid a two-front war. And the IDF also wants to finish the enormously expensive anti-tunnel barrier they are building along the frontier.

I understand the arguments for this policy. But it is wrong in every way.

Deterrence is created by conditioning the enemy to expect a painful response to aggressive behavior. If we train them to expect a minimal or no response, then they escalate their aggression, and it becomes the status quo. Today it has become normal that Hamas is burning our land. It has become normal for them to hold on to any Israeli, dead or alive, that they can get their hands on.

We have things backwards. We are the stronger power, and thus Hamas should be the ones begging for negotiations. Instead of using our power to force them to release hostages and stop setting fires, we deliberately restrain ourselves and thus allow them to control our behavior.

We are not deterring them. They are deterring us.

I can imagine the anguish of the families involved, both those of the soldiers whose bodies are in the hands of the ghouls of Hamas, and those whose apparently mentally disturbed family members wandered across the border. But Israel is full of families who will never stop feeling the pain of their loss, including some, like the families of Ron Arad, Zechariah Baumel, Tzvi Feldman, Yehuda Katz, and Guy Hever, who will never even have the (small) comfort of knowing where their sons are buried or even the certainty that they are dead.

I wonder how many prisoners Hamas wants in return for our four. The Gilad Shalit affair set a precedent of roughly 1000 to 1. I wonder what else they are demanding.

In the north, the situation in Lebanon is a direct result of our restraint. Hezbollah built up its strike force over a period of 12 years, from 2006. What were we doing during those 12 years? Did we notice what was happening? Of course we did. But we allowed the buildup to become normal. Even our “right-wing” Prime Minister from 2009, Benjamin Netanyahu, who has both military experience and an understanding of history superior to most of his contemporaries, didn’t appear to worry about it – until, it seems, one day he woke up and realized that in the event of war Hezbollah could fire thousands of rockets and longer range missiles every day at almost every point in Israel (to his credit, Netanyahu seems determined not to allow the same situation to take hold in Syria).

There are external forces that always work to prevent us from taking action. The UN, the EU, and the US prefer restraint to action. During the Obama years, enormous pressure was put on us to prevent Israel from striking Iran’s atomic bomb project, until Obama got his nuclear deal to lock us down. So now, if we have to use force in any event, Iran’s facilities are more hardened and better dispersed and defended.

There is another lockdown on the horizon. Details about the so-called “deal of the century” of the Trump Administration are beginning to surface. It seems that it will involve Israel accepting a hudna (a temporary truce) with Hamas, while international aid is used to rehabilitate Gaza, including building port facilities in Cyprus. There are many problems, starting with the fact that Hamas will not be required to disarm. Once the deal is in place, there will be no more “mowing the grass,” as our periodic conflicts in Gaza have been called, and a massive buildup like Hezbollah’s in Lebanon will become a possibility. Perhaps pressure from the US to not upset the nascent deal is already one of the factors preventing us from responding to Hamas’ provocations.

Restraint as a policy is seductive. Nobody wants war, and there is always the risk that responding to aggression will bring about escalation, which will lead to all-out war. Calculations are made: we can become better at putting out fires, and we can afford to let some land burn, we can develop more effective ways to intercept firebombs. Better than dealing with a massive rocket attack on our towns, we think. Restraint, in the short term, is cheaper and more comfortable than maintaining deterrence.

But in addition to the obvious problems, like the military buildup of Hezbollah and Hamas or the progress of Iranian nuclear and missile programs, there are the psychological effects, both on us and our enemies. Every new rocket launcher and every burned field, every unbalanced prisoner exchange, encourages our enemies to believe that with perseverance they will achieve victory. From our point of view, every successful act of terrorism reduces our confidence that our leadership is capable of protecting us.

The policy of restraint does not send a message of strength, but rather of weakness. It buys a degree of peace and comfort in the short term for the price of insecurity and possibly war in the long term. It weakens deterrence and provides openings for “lockdowns” which can make it impossible to respond when provocations become intolerable. It invites conflict rather than deterring it. It is often an excuse for politicians to “kick the can down the road” rather than dealing with aggression.

Restraint is portrayed as the wiser, more mature policy than confrontation. It has a better reputation than its sister, appeasement, but in the end the result is the same: more violence, not less.

Posted in War | 7 Comments

What is it about us?

Today I read a very interesting piece by Times of Israel editor David Horovitz, an interview with David Brog, who runs Sheldon Adelson’s Macabee Task Force. The objective is to fight delegitimization of Israel and BDS on college campuses; but rather than applying a predetermined formula, the group cooperates with local pro-Israel students and community members to determine what works, in a very practical way. It was fascinating to me, as someone who spent years trying to counteract anti-Israel incitement in my own small community – and to a great extent, failed to do so.

One paragraph that stuck in my mind was this:

…when it comes to demonizing Israel on campus, there is no comparable effort focused on any other country. No remotely comparable effort. There’s intensive, relentless bashing of Israel… and of no other nation on earth. Not Syria, where President Bashar Assad has massacred hundreds of thousands of his own people. Not North Korea, which runs re-education and concentration camps. Not Venezuela, Cambodia or Afghanistan, which head the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index. Not China or Russia, singled out in the latest US State Department report on human rights practices. Not Yemen, Turkey or Saudi Arabia, prominently criticized in Amnesty International’s latest human rights audit. Just Israel. Israel. And Israel.

What is true on American campuses is true for Western society as a whole. As Brog notes, here and there one finds demonstrations or campaigns for one cause or another, but anti-Israel agitation and propaganda is everywhere, despite the fact that the relative number of people hurt or killed in our little conflict is minuscule. Bashar al-Assad has killed half a million Syrians and turned his country into a bloody shambles, and yet he gets less media coverage than Israel killing a few dozen Palestinians trying to penetrate our border and murder our citizens.

This almost cries out for a conspiracy theory. Who is behind it? Who pays the bills and gives the orders? The answer is “quite a lot of people,” and while some of them are secretive, it is not exactly a conspiracy. Financing comes from governments of disparate nations like Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia (despite our new-found common cause), Germany, Norway and Sweden; from the EU and the UN; from Oxfam, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Ford Foundation, and the multiple charitable enterprises associated with George Soros; from the Danish National Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Mennonite Central Committee, the American Friends Service Committee, and the Presbyterian Church USA; and from the pockets of millions of liberal Americans, mostly Jewish, who give to the New Israel Fund or J Street.

That’s just a small sample, which doesn’t begin to cover all of the sources of funding for anti-Israel causes. Did you participate in one of the US-wide CROP Hunger Walks sponsored by Church World Service? Then you, too, became part of the worldwide demonization-of-Israel project. Many other charitable organizations support the Palestinian Cause (the end of the Jewish state) in one way or another. Are you a college student in the US or the parent of one? Then the student activities fee that you or your child pays supports Students for Justice in Palestine, which has almost 200 active chapters in American universities.

It made news when Black Lives Matter (now called The Movement for Black Lives) published its platform which accuses Israel of “genocide” against the Palestinians and calls it an “apartheid state.” But virtually every progressive or left-wing group – including the left wing of the US Democratic Party and the British Labor Party – shares its point of view. The leaders of South Africa’s ruling ANC party called Israel a “blight on humanity,” compared it to Nazi Germany, and recalled its ambassador over the Gaza crisis. The Swedish Foreign Minister recently promised Palestinians at a PLO-sponsored event that Sweden would “fight with you and for you.”

And these are countries and organizations associated with the West. It isn’t necessary for me to add what officials and media in Iran, Turkey, and Arab countries (including those that have signed peace treaties with Israel) have to say about us every day.

Perhaps we are too close to it to recognize the historical uniqueness of the massive tsunami of anti-Israel sentiment that has washed over the world since it began, possibly aided by the Soviet KGB, in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I certainly can’t think of anything comparable.

It becomes even more difficult to understand both the extent and viciousness of worldwide Israel-hate when one looks at the dimensions of the Israel-Arab conflict. Casualties in all the major and minor wars and terrorism from the 19th century to today amount to about 115,000 on both sides, about the number of Syrians killed by Bashar al-Assad in one year. The “mistreatment” of Palestinians by Israel, which is said to be so heinous, still leaves the Palestinian Arabs – at least, those in areas under Israeli control – among the healthiest and most prosperous Arabs in the Middle East. The Arab population between the river and the sea has tripled since 1970 (so much for “genocide”).

The Palestinians themselves are not so lovable. Their main contributions to modern society seem to be the popularization of airline hijacking, suicide bombing, and vehicular attacks. They glorify terrorism – Yasser Arafat once addressed the UN wearing a pistol. The father of Palestinian nationalism, Haj Amin al-Husseini, was a Nazi sympathizer who broadcast propaganda from Berlin and raised a Muslim division for the SS. Israel, on the other hand, has been responsible for countless innovations in medical and agricultural technology, and sends delegations of medical personnel and aid to disaster sites around the world, including its Syrian border.

And yet, it continues. Irrational and vicious, it even grows. Palestinian terrorism is excused as a legitimate response to “occupation,” while Israeli medical aid is dismissed as an attempt to distract from its oppression of Palestinians. Palestinian violence against gays is explained as an unfortunate cultural artifact, while Israeli tolerance is called “pinkwashing.”

Maybe there is a reader who can explain it to me. Explain how Israel is so villainous that the good that Israelis do can be dismissed. Explain why it is so important that its conflict overshadows all the other disputes in our contentious world. Explain why they support “solutions” that imply the replacement of Israel by a Palestinian Arab state.

I can come up with only one explanation: Israel is the Jewish state, and the imperative to despise the Jewish people is so deeply ingrained in Christian and Muslim traditions, that the embodiment of Jewish sovereignty, the State of Israel, has become the Devil for them.

Posted in Jew Hatred | 5 Comments

A few words about Gideon Levy

I’m a political writer. I put words together into arguments, structures that I hope will be persuasive, or at least encouraging to people who already share my point of view. I often wonder if my skills could be put to work for the other side, like Gideon Levy of Ha’aretz, about whom I’ve written that he gets up every morning and asks “how can I hurt the state of Israel?”

Oh, he claims that this isn’t what he does. He claims that he is objectively documenting the abuse and oppression of the Palestinians, which he attributes to our moral depravity.

He and his admirers, including his publisher Amos Schocken, see him as courageous, a hero fighting against an evil machine on behalf of its powerless victims. They believe that he is a force for good. They believe that his enterprise is to make ordinary Israelis (and foreigners who read Ha’aretz’s English edition on the web) understand what is being done in their name, and that once this happens they will take the appropriate steps to end “the occupation,” the Palestinians will be freed from their oppression, and there will be peace and justice in the land.

Levy is a wonderful rationalizer. He has an answer for everything. He only wants justice for everyone in “Palestine,” not just Jews. He even believes in Zionism, meaning “the Jewish people having the right to live in Palestine side by side with the Palestinians, doing anything possible to compensate the Palestinians for the terrible tragedy that they went through in 1948.” Levy’s Palestinians never have choices to make that could change their situation, they never initiate anything, they only respond. He fails to detect any moral failings on their part; if they display cruelty or viciousness, it is in reaction to the abuse they receive from us. Nothing is their fault.

He even wrote a column in 2013 explicitly calling for a violent Arab uprising to overthrow the state, which would then become “an Israel that isn’t an occupier, that is just and egalitarian … a different and infinitely better place to live.”

But I wonder about the last part. I suspect Levy understands quite well what Palestinians think ending “the occupation” is, and that if they get their – and his – wish, the 70-year experiment with Jewish sovereignty will be over. He cannot fail to understand this.

He calls himself “an Israeli patriot,” and says that he “wants to be proud of [his] country,” but his bitterness and revulsion for the Jewish people spills out of his writing. He says they are stupid, selfish, and cruel, over and over.

He is lying about his motivation. Levy does not write what he writes because he cares about the Jewish state and wants to make it better. He writes out of hate. He is unable to hide the truth that he wants to see the Jewish state destroyed, because he hates the Jewish people.

Technically, I could do what Gideon Levy does and even get paid for it. There is a market, a big one, for Jewish writers that are prepared to join the crusade against the Jewish state. The Jewish crusaders are the ones that write with the most venom. They are the ones that hate the most, as much or more than Arabs and Muslims. And they are the ones that are published in the mainstream media or are interviewed on television.

But temperamentally, I could never do it, for any amount of money. I get up and look out the window at the same country that Gideon Levy sees, and I wonder how I have been lucky enough to live in this place, the homeland of the Jewish people. I see my people with all their faults, and unlike Levy, I feel close to them.

Levy would tell me that the problem is that I am “brainwashed” so I don’t see Palestinians as human beings. But I do – I see them as human beings who, as a result of a complicated political and psychological process, falsely believe that this is their homeland and nobody else’s. I see them as human beings who want to kill me, and although (believe it or not) I can empathize with their unhappiness and put myself in their place, I also am certain that I have the right to defend myself, with deadly force if necessary. While I appreciate that they have their “narrative,” I have mine, and I believe that mine is true and theirs is false. While I would like them to be happy, I do not prioritize their happiness over that of my own people.

Just because they are human, I am not required to submit to them and give them whatever they want, especially when what they want is my life and property.

This is really pretty simple. Of course I realize that the State of Israel isn’t perfect, and not just because of its poor postal service. But I do not believe that we are morally depraved or incapable of empathy. The opposite is true: we are often obsessed with moral questions to the point of being incapable of acting, and we sometimes neglect our own people because of an excess of empathy for others.

Who is the brainwashed one here?

Kenneth Levin, a psychiatrist and historian, described a psychological state which he called the “Oslo Syndrome” (in a book by that name, which I reviewed here) that can explain the irrational inversion of loyalty that characterizes Jews like Levy. Levin argues that the pressure of continuing persecution in historical times, and terrorism and war today, produces a sense of loss of agency. No matter what we, as Jews, do, the Hitlers or Arafats of the day continue to hate and try to kill us. How to respond? The normal human response is anger and aggression, but in many Jews, products of centuries of diasporic powerlessness, this reaction is blocked. Frustrated by the futility of trying to change the behavior of the antisemites, they respond by trying to change themselves. Having internalized the antisemitic attitudes of their tormentors, they try to become different, to make themselves over into creatures that will not be hated.

So the Levys of the world become warriors against Zionism, saying in effect, look at me, I am on your side, don’t hurt me. Levy himself proudly claims that he never experiences hostility from the Palestinians he meets on his forays into the territories, proof that he is succeeding.

Unfortunately the strategy – either for individuals like Levy, or collectively as in the Oslo Accords – doesn’t work in the long run, because the real cause of Jew-hatred isn’t found in the Jew, or in Israeli society. There is nothing that Levy could do to make him anything more than a useful tool for the Palestinian leadership, whose goal is not to improve relations with the Jews, but to expel or kill them.

Gideon Levy is an unhappy man, something which again is obvious from his writing. “I would never leave [Israel],” he says. But maybe he realizes that he’s gone too far, and it’s not possible any more to continue pretending that he is a loyal, although critical, Israeli.

Maybe he’s facing the cognitive dissonance that is part and parcel of treason.

Posted in Israeli Society, Jew Hatred, Media, Post-Zionism | 2 Comments

What drives anti-Israel politics?

Erdoğan and his party obtained a solid victory in the election this week, guaranteeing that relations between Turkey and Israel will get even worse. This is because the Turkish president has a history of anti-Israel rhetoric and actions whenever he wants to stir up his Islamist base or promote himself in the wider Islamic world. It’s not all talk, either, as he provides support for Hamas and is behind anti-Israel subversion in eastern Jerusalem.

Israel had good relations with Turkey before the advent of Erdoğan, just as it did with the other major non-Arab power in the region, Iran, before the 1979 Islamic revolution. But the Islamist ideology does not leave room for a Jewish sovereign state in the region, so neither of the new regimes can treat this “abomination,” in their terms, with anything but hostility. And hating Jews and Israel still plays well in the Muslim Middle East.

Today Israel has better relations with some of its traditional Arab enemies, including actual peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, as well as a lessening of tension with some others, like Saudi Arabia. But even the long-standing peace with Egypt, despite the active security cooperation between Israel and the al-Sisi regime, does not come close to the promises made in the peace treaty, which calls for “cultural exchanges in all fields” and for both sides to “abstain from hostile propaganda.” Egyptians who visit Israel are harassed by security forces, Egyptian artists and academics boycott Israel, and the Egyptian media are full of government-sponsored libels and conspiracy theories about Israel and Jews.

The 1994 “peace” with Jordan is even less “peaceful,” including several violent incidents over the years, including the horrific 1997 murder of seven Israeli schoolgirls by a Jordanian soldier, who is unrepentant to this day. Cultural exchange and Jordanian tourism also do not exist. One of the family members of the murdered girls said that “peace with Jordan is between us [Israelis] and the royal family — not the people or the parliament.”

Saudi Arabia has softened its formerly tough rejectionist policy against Israel in many ways in the past 10 years or so; it has allowed one airline to overfly its airspace on its way to Israel (but not an Israeli airline); it has participated in secret discussions with Israel, Jordan, and the US concerning Iran; and would probably quietly cooperate in an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear project. There have even been a few voices in Saudi media criticizing antisemitism. But as yet there is no reason to see the slight thaw in relations as anything but a very narrow expression of Saudi geopolitical interests.

The Palestinian Arabs are another story. Thanks to several generations of hate education since Oslo, relations with the Palestinians, both in Gaza and Judea/Samaria, have only gotten worse. The recent “knife and car intifada” and the incendiary kite attacks illustrate the degree to which the Palestinian in the street has internalized the hate propaganda that flows unabated from Hamas and the PLO. A young Palestinian man can get up in the morning, go out on the street, and look a Jewish girl in the eye before stabbing her in the heart. Palestinians hate Zionism, they hate Israel, and many of them deeply hate Jews.

But Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and some other Mideastern nations not already irrevocably under Iranian domination can work with us on practical matters, up to and including military cooperation. So why can’t they put aside the antisemitism? I think the answer is the idea, fundamental to Islam, that Jews must be subservient to Muslims. A moderate Muslim may tolerate Jews and treat them well, but Jews ruling over Muslims (or defeating them in war) – well, that’s going too far. So when they see Israel with its powerful army, dominating Arabs, it infuriates them, and reenergizes the traditional “apes and pigs” form of Muslim antisemitism.

What about Europe: why have the advanced nations of Western Europe, supposedly the most socially advanced countries in the world, been so hostile to the Jewish state? Why do they support our Palestinian enemies in so many ways – money, propaganda, lawfare, funding anti-Israel NGOs, UN resolutions, enabling boycotts by requiring labeling of our products? Why do they try to maintain the laughable distinction between antisemitism, which they claim to abhor, and “criticism of Israel” that invariably includes demonization, delegitimization, and double standards? What forces them to take this position?

Is it just fear of terrorism or fear of retaliation by Mideastern oil producers? Is it the desire by officials to gain domestic political advantage with their increasing Muslim populations? All these are true to some extent, but they are not adequate to explain the spitefulness of the public expressions of anti-Israel sentiment that we see in demonstrations or hear from public officials. There is something deeply personal in their dislike of the Jewish state.

There are multiple explanations for Europe’s animus toward Israel. It is an ethnic nation-state, and they hate nationalism. They are embarrassed that many Europeans were complicit with Hitler, and the Jewish state makes it hard to forget. They are still feeling the vestiges of two thousand years of Christian antisemitism. Finally, my favorite: if Israel, the state of the Jews, is as evil as the Reich, then Europeans needn’t feel so guilty about having stood by (or helped) while the Jews were murdered.

Turning to the United States, the political divide is deeper and more painful than it has ever been in my lifetime. Much of the Democratic Party has chosen to carry the Palestinian flag as part of its core ideology, and its potential candidates are competing over who will be more anti-Israel. The present administration is quite pro-Israel, but if and when the other side takes over, I expect that American policy toward Israel will be even more negative than that of the Obama Administration.

Bernie Sanders, one of the contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, has taken some of the most extreme anti-Israel positions of any major candidate, more or less adopting the Hamas narrative of the “March of Return,” demonizing Israel for shooting “unarmed protestors,” and even treating the “right of return” for the descendants of Arab refugees to Israel – a call for the end of the Jewish state – as a legitimate demand.

In the US there is no large Muslim population (yet) and no dependence on Middle Eastern oil. Palestinian terrorists have killed Americans, and no country has worked harder to be a good American ally than Israel. And yet, the American Left focuses on Israel as its greatest enemy, going to ridiculous lengths to try to connect Israel with every issue for which they can find resonance. Did an American policeman shoot an unarmed black man? American police officers have attended training programs in Israel, so Israel is responsible!

This is an interesting example. My son teaches use of firearms to Israeli security personnel. Naturally, great emphasis is placed on distinguishing between armed terrorists or criminals and innocent civilians. What could be more important? One assumes that if an American police officer trained here, he would receive the same training. But according to the Left, the American comes here to learn to be racist, to shoot blacks first, and ask questions later. The accusation is monstrous, but it is commonly made. And believed.

In all of these cases, in the Middle East, in Europe, and in the US as well, antisemitism – or extreme anti-Israelism (essentially the same thing) – is a primary, entrenched motivator for anti-Israel politics (even when the politician in question, like Bernie Sanders, is Jewish).

A consequence of this is that appeals to rational self-interest on the part of our enemies will never bring peace, because they are not rationally motivated. We can relax and just concentrate on being strong enough, militarily, diplomatically, cybernetically, and economically to beat back their attacks. Forever.

Posted in Europe and Israel, Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Jew Hatred, Middle East politics, US-Israel Relations | 2 Comments