What Are T​hey Really Asking When It Comes to Israeli Survival?



Jewish participation in the anti-Israel movement was front and center last month when a small Jewish group demonstrated against the Israeli "occupation" outside the opening night gala of the Philadelphia Israeli Film Festival.

As the world watches the bizarre moral inversion taking place in Geneva — in which participants from the worst human-rights violators in the world vilify the liberal, democratic State of Israel at the international conference on racism called Durban II — the sad phenomenon of Jewish participation in the anti-Israel movement takes on greater concern.

While such groups tend to be small, within the progressive Philadelphia Jewish community exists a sizable number of people who continue to advance a view of Israel's conflict with the Palestinians that is at best monolithic and at worst fully demonizes the Jewish state.

Such views — which typically reduce democratic Israel to a cartoon villain and Palestinians to eternal victims without a hint of moral agency — find expression in a variety of ways. They include Jewish participation in anti-Israel protests by far-left extremists; representation on anti-Zionist blogs like Phillip Weiss' Mondoweiss.com; and in openly anti-Zionist groups like the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, as well as in such benign-sounding local grass-roots organizations like Philadelphia Jews for a Just Peace and Bubbies & Zaydes for Peace in the Middle East.

While these individuals and groups often differ in their degree of radicalism, they are united in a belief that Israeli control of Palestinian territory following the Six-Day War in 1967 was and is at the root of terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that, absent such occupation, peace would be achieved.

Yet such a view ignores the facts that contradict this claim — namely, Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Southern Lebanon in 2000 and from Gaza in 2005.

In both cases, such moves only emboldened radical Islamist movements — Hezbollah and Hamas, respectively — which quickly filled the geographical and political void. In fact, they used their new territory to launch missiles at Israeli towns, abduct Israeli soldiers, and murder Palestinian and Lebanese civilians who didn't support their aims.

These Jews who routinely denounce Israel are strangely silent on the role of such radical groups in fomenting hatred, igniting war and preventing a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict they supposedly seek.

The rhetoric used by such Jewish groups makes it clear that they're not content simply to make a rational case for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank as the basis for a peaceful two-state solution. Rather, they are intent on fully delegitimizing the Jewish state — by suggesting, for instance, that Israel is an apartheid regime, and often insinuating that it is an inherently racist one.

Instead of a point-by-point rebuttal of these outrageous charges, consider this:

· You condemn Israel for building a security barrier to protect its citizens from suicide bombers and for striking at buildings from which missiles are launched at its cities, but you never offer an alternative. Aren't you practicing your own form of racism by denying an entire society the right to defend itself?

· Do Palestinians in the West Bank suffer as a result of occupation? Yes, they do. But can you deny that Palestinians in Hamas-controlled Gaza, who have been used as human shields, and who have suffered torture and extra-judicial killings as punishment for their disloyalty to the Hamas regime suffer far worse? Israeli society isn't perfect, but by any yardstick — educational, economic, gay rights, women's rights, freedom of speech and assembly, legislative representation — Israel's minorities fare far better than any other country in the Middle East.

· If you're really committed to a better world, why do you insist on using such incendiary and hyperbolic rhetoric? Vilification and vitriol is a blind alley that takes us nowhere. Your radicalism undermines the forces for peace in Israel and in the Palestinian territories. Many well-meaning people are working toward an agreement that recognizes the rights of both parties.

Finally, what would you say if your illusions about peace were shattered by the grim reality of implacable enemies who seek nothing less than the complete annihilation of the world's only Jewish state? Is there anything that Israeli Jews can do (absent national suicide) that will convince you that they are worth defending — that standing up and unapologetically defending the rights of a tiny minority to live in peace is consistent with your most cherished, progressive ideals?

Adam Levick, a resident of Philadelphia, worked for the Anti-Defamation League's regional and national offices. He plans to make aliyah in May.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here