National security journalist and war correspondent Eli Lake spoke at Germantown Jewish Centre and discussed the strained relationship between Israel and America, one- or two-state solutions and the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.
On a day that felt more like summertime than the cusp of winter, national security journalist and war correspondent Eli Lake turned up the temperature in Germantown Jewish Centre by taking on several hot-button topics related to Israel.
The Dec. 13 event drew 75 people to hear Lake discuss the strained relationship between Israel and America, one- or two-state solutions and the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.
Lake, 43, is a Bloomberg View columnist who writes about politics and foreign affairs. He was previously the senior national security correspondent for the Daily Beast. Lake also covered national security and intelligence for the Washington Times, the New York Sun and UPI, and was a contributing editor at The New Republic. He has traveled to war zones in Sudan, Iraq and Gaza. Lake is one of the few journalists to report from all three members of President George W. Bush’s axis of evil: Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
Lake, who attended Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy in Bryn Mawr, said his love for Israel and journalism grew when he visited the Jewish homeland during his junior year of high school.
“I think it will help when Obama is out of office,” Lake told the Jewish Exponent when asked about the state of Israel-U.S. relations. “The two leaders, Obama and Netanyahu, personally loathe each other. I think he [Obama] spends too much time thinking about Israel — I would like him to stop thinking about Israel.”
Lake isn’t just concerned about the relationship between the countries’ leaders; he also keeps a close eye on the fiscal relationship between Israel and the United States. Each year, America gives $3.1 billion to subsidize Israel’s defense budget — a number he considers to be an extraordinary amount of support for what is supposed to be an independent nation.
“I think it will be helpful for America to expect and want to normalize the relationship with Israel,” Lake said. “Over time, cut aid to Israel and hold politicians responsible to help Israel diplomatically.”
He also touched on the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which he described to the audience as “Boring, Stupid and Destructive.” He attributed its continued growth to its members’ desire to destroy Israel and the impact of social media, he explained.
“I just feel like this is something that is always going to exist,” he said. “I think the people in the BDS movement are not interested in making things better for the Palestinians.”
He discussed the state of Israel and the continuing debate over a one- or two-state solution; including his belief that Europeans and Americans have much more of a sense of urgency about a resolution than does Israel.
“Israel doesn’t believe it’s possible to have a one-state solution anytime soon,” he said. “I think there is something special about Jews and the Jewish traditions. I would argue that the founders of Israel wanted Israel to be a safe haven for Jews.
“I think European governments are more one-sided than American leaders in blaming Israel for the collapse of the two-state peace process,” he added. “I think the one-state movement is gaining ground in America and Europe among the left and in the universities.”
He said during the past two months, Palestinians have used social media to brainwash young adults to ram cars into Jews and stab people. However, he explained, while people are getting killed, it is not as bad as the past because there are no suicide bombers.
“I’m not trying to minimize it. It’s horrifying,” he said.
Rabbi Steve Stroiman, a retired Jewish studies teacher from Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, taught Lake in high school and knew then his passion for Israel and writing would take him far. He has followed his work over the years and remained close with him.
“He’s super-bright, super knowledgeable — and he owes everything to me,” the rabbi said in jest. “I think Eli tried to present from his own bias as that of a very devoted Zionist American Jew. He tries to be balanced and not see everything in black and white terms. I think that’s a sign of a really good journalist.”
Ellie Hollo, a freshman at Cheltenham High School and a member of GJC, attended the program because of her interest in politics.
“I thought it was interesting,” Hollo said. “I didn’t realize that the U.S. supplied so much of Israel’s defense budget and I didn’t think that would compromise the state’s ability to be independent.”
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