First, a belated happy and healthy New Year to my Jewish readers. In past years, far too many congregants worshipping in the more pluralistic branches of Judaism were subjected to sermons on the High Holidays that emphasized criticism of Israel without enough context or appreciation for the security challenges of the Jewish state. Being tough on Israel and soft on the PA was too often the script. This brings us to the issue of the Palestinian Authority’s long-standing anti-Semitism, most egregiously evidenced in their textbooks. Many of these sermonizers subscribe to the J Street talking points regarding criticism of Israel and defense of the Palestinian Arabs.
In recent weeks “Members of the European Parliament…were unanimous in condemning incitement and anti-Semitic content found by a recent study of Palestinian Authority textbooks, in what one nonprofit called a “watershed moment” in the campaign to reform the curricula.”
Overwhelming evidence of Palestinian Authority anti-Semitism has been documented for many years by organizations such as Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) that has been ignored or minimized by groups like J Street. A few years ago, I brought the head of PMW to meet leaders of J Street in New York. Itamar Marcus shared evidence of PA support for anti-Semitism in schools. Promisingly, the J Street leaders said the information was new to them and disturbing. They said that despite it being uncomfortable to a J Street audience, they would recommend to their national leadership to bring Mr. Marcus to speak at the national J Street conference. Unfortunately, Itamar never received an invitation from J Street, despite contacting them again. Diversity of thought was not on the agenda.
The last time J Street strongly condemned the PA was over three years ago when PA President Abbas’ blatantly anti-Semitic speech couldn’t be ignored. It may be long in coming, but it is time for J Street to step up to the plate and strongly condemn the PA for decades of anti-Semitism in their textbooks, official media, and mosques. Since the PA has not prepared their young people to accept their Jewish neighbors to have their own nation, J Street should be faithful to its mandate for two states for two-peoples and call out the PA’s actions as an impediment to peace, equal to their demand to end settlements. If settlements and territory were the primary reason for this dispute, it would have ended many years ago after Israeli offers in 1949, 1967, 2000, 2001, and 2008 for two states for two peoples.
Suppose J Street ignores, rationalizes, or defends the PA, even after the usually unsympathetic EU has denounced PA indoctrinated anti-Semitism. In that case, they should consider changing their moniker from pro-Israel to pro-Palestine.
EU Budgetary Committee Chair Monika Hohlmeier — who hails from Munich, where Palestinian gunmen killed members of the Israeli Olympic team in 1972 — called the offending (Palestinian textbook) content unacceptable. “The Munich massacre is portrayed as a justified attack. We cannot accept that young people are taught that terrorist attacks are acceptable.”
The Director of the mainstream American Jewish Committee’s Brussels-based EU Office said it is “difficult to imagine a policy more at odds with EU values and the stated goals of working toward peace and the creation of a democratic Palestinian state than indoctrinating schoolchildren to hate. The European Commission must act decisively to help preserve both the possibility of a negotiated two-state solution and its own standing as an honest broker.”
Published in the August 19, 2021 issue of The Jerusalem Report.
Israel has a national security blind spot. It is called effective public relations or, in Hebrew, hasbara. Israel does it really badly. I say this as an American who listens to other Americans, American politicians and the American media. American politicians who support Israel have confided their utter frustration with the lack of Israel’s public relations savoir-faire. It makes advocating for the US-Israel relationship much harder, especially against a coordinated anti-Israel apparatus that speaks on message and has mastered social media.
Israel’s enemies know that they cannot defeat the Jewish state militarily, so they have turned to influence the public with a straightforward one-sided narrative that plays fast and loose with facts and context. Taking control of the narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is happening right now, and Israel’s enemies are winning. A recent poll by the Jewish Electorate Institute revealed that 38% of American Jews under 40 think Israel is an apartheid state, 33% think it is committing genocide against the Palestinian people and 20% think Israel doesn’t have a right to exist!
The first thing Israel needs to do is to acknowledge the problem and admit the image has been handled poorly. Then it needs to raise public relations importance to the level of a national security priority of the first order. Without a coordinated public relations strategy with the financial resources to make a difference, Israel’s ability to educate and influence the American public with its compelling case will continually be undermined. Winning this is essential not only for Israel. America needs a strong Israel as it pivots its efforts to the Far East to confront China.
But just reacting to propaganda attacks, being on the defensive is a guaranteed losing hand for Israeli hasbara. The mantra for Israeli public relations is to go on the offensive continually. Use personal narratives to illustrate Israel’s human tragedies because of Palestinian terrorism, inspired by blatant Jew-hatred thinly veiled behind anti-Zionism. An example of what it means to go on the offensive against the false charge of Israeli apartheid would be to publicize the Palestinian law that forbids selling land to Jews, a much more appropriate analogy to South African apartheid.
As a BESA public paper said, “The systemic failure of Israeli public diplomacy is a longstanding open secret. Because the country’s diplomatic bodies are dispersed among an assortment of ministerial and security frameworks, it is highly unlikely that the system as a whole will ever be strengthened and revitalized… a formula to establish a central and synchronized public diplomacy body has not yet been found. It appears that Israel has still not internalized the full value of either dynamic public diplomacy or sophisticated psychological warfare.”
Things may be changing. Israel’s new government brought not only a new prime minister and foreign minister but ended the 12-year reign of Benjamin Netanyahu, who downgraded the foreign service budget, and with it, a potent tool to improve its public diplomacy and get it’s narrative a fairer hearing. Bibi thought he did hasbara better than anyone, and perhaps he did. But relying on one person for effective PR, especially one so divisive in America, was a self-inflicted wound, especially with so many English-speaking orators who could have amplified his message. According to Gary Rosenblatt, the former editor and publisher of Jewish Week, Netanyahu was incomprehensibly rude to American Jewish journalists, antagonizing pro-Israel friends and writers. Bennett is fluent in English, the son of American immigrants, so he should not be shy about being out front in the PR wars.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid seems to get it, too. In a news conference at the Foreign Ministry on July 25, Lapid lamented that failed Israeli PR is partially to blame for the current peak in antisemitism and Israel-bashing. “The State of Israel is in trouble,” Lapid said, adding that “the time has come to tell Israel’s story differently.”
He said the Strategic Affairs Ministry had been folded into the Foreign Ministry in an effort to concentrate and improve Israel’s PR, and the ministry’s budget was being boosted significantly. “Restoring the status of the Foreign Ministry is a goal that both I and Prime Minister Bennett share.”
In Lapid’s words, “in the past years, Israel has abandoned its foreign service, abandoned the international arena, and then we woke up one morning to find that our international standing has been weakened. The management of the relationship with the Democratic Party in the United States was careless and dangerous. The Republicans are important to us; their friendship is important to us, but not only the friendship of the Republican Party. We find ourselves with a Democratic White House, Senate, and House, and they are angry. We need to change the way we work with them.”
This will be an uphill battle with the rise of the anti-Israel progressive wing. Hopefully, Lapid’s perception as a moderate may give the cowered mainstream pro-Israel Democrats like US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer some courage to speak up.
Will this government, like almost all before it, relegate the issue of Israel’s public relations at both times of war and peace to second or third-tier priorities? The damage done by Israel’s mixed messaging during the most recent Gaza war may have created a tipping point against Israel in America and Congress, with the anti-Israel pro-Palestinian voice moving to center stage.
For the first time, too many pro-Israel Democrats remained on the sidelines, not openly defending Israel during Operation Guardian of the Walls. They allowed a moral equivalence narrative to take hold, doing a wholly inadequate job of defending Israel from the malicious charge of indiscriminate attacks on Palestinian civilians or explaining the importance Israel plays in advancing American national security interests. Democrats told me that Israel’s PR was abysmal, making them less willing to take the risk of supporting Israel. There was also the legitimate fear from the ascendant anti-Israel members of their party that if they defended Israel, they could endanger their re-election.
Israel’s governing coalition of just 61 MKs hangs by a thread and has so much on its plate. It is tasked with advancing the nation’s interests at home and abroad while not losing even a single vote of a member along the way. Their first priority is to pass a two-year budget so the nation can finally plan for the future and create some stability. Making the case to prioritize PR will be a hard sell.
The Palestinians and their supporters speak with one message of victim and victimizer, occupier and occupied, that resonates in an American nation that is increasingly ignorant of the history of the Middle East. Out of context heart-wrenching narratives followed by charges of apartheid and war crimes are given unrefuted coverage. Especially when they come from progressive Jewish organizations like J Street that seem more pro-Palestinian than their self-designation as pro-Israel, pro-peace. Photos of children killed in war are reflexively blamed on Israel, even when it’s from a misfired Hamas rocket shot from a Palestinian civilian area. Israeli spokespeople have done a poor job publicizing the cynical use of Arab children as human shields.
Israel’s best English-language spokesperson, Netanyahu, was too involved in managing the war and chose not to deputize articulate English-speakers to go on the air and write columns throughout the US. The playing field was left almost entirely in the court of the anti-Zionists. Yes, it is an uphill fight, but its management has been a failure for decades. The inability to get all branches of government on the same message is not just poor public relations but a national security nightmare that is ignored at the nation’s peril. America needs Israel to do a better job, as it is in its interest for Israel to be strong and not become a pariah in the US.
An indication of the dysfunctional Israeli PR was the recent closure of its Strategic Affairs Ministry, transferring its mission to the underfunded Foreign Ministry. Outgoing director-general Tzahi Gavriel’s job was to brand Israel positively and fight the growing BDS movement. He told Lahav Harkov of The Jerusalem Post, “If we go back to a situation where this important issue is scattered between different ministries, we’ll deteriorate. This is about Israel as a brand. PR and hasbara were not enough anymore. We needed technology, data, a civil society engine, and digital assets. We needed infrastructure and a coordinated plan.”
Since the beginning of the Second Intifada, American supporters of Israel have been banging their heads against the walls of the Knesset and Prime Minister’s Office, trying to alert the Israeli government that it is losing the battle for the court of public opinion. The victim/victimizer approach advanced by mainstream media sympathetic to the underdog Palestinian cause could have been better managed. But getting the Israeli government to realize this as a national security priority fell on deaf ears repeatedly.
Often I heard from Israeli officials that they know what they were doing. Other times I heard that it doesn’t make a difference, and we have given up trying to convince an international community or mainstream media of Israel’s case. Arrogance and surrender is not a strategy. Especially for a country forging new relations from the Far East, the Asian subcontinent, and the Arab world. Not adequately prioritizing its public relations with its most important friend, ally, and benefactor, the United States, is just a self-inflicted wound. Israel is losing the American public.
Israel’s ability to prosecute the inevitable next war in the north or south may be limited by poor public relations. Suppose the American public is not convinced of Israel’s case during a war. In that case, the president and Congress will be less willing to give Israel leeway to continue fighting, forcing a premature ceasefire before Israel accomplishes its military goals. That alone could bring the following war sooner rather than later.
Going forward, what should the new government do regarding public diplomacy? Let’s start with a well-funded initiative to prioritize public relations in the English-speaking world. Here is a perfect example. Instead of marching out an older male Israeli spokesman speaking English in harsh accented Hebrew, Israel puts its best foot forward with a young female person of color with perfect English. The pro-Palestinian world has been using young relatable English speakers for years. You would never know that these Palestinian apologists represent a misogynistic, homophobic, authoritarian regime that wants to end Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish nation. Their weapons are the words of the intersectional Left of America, using their own set of facts and narratives to elicit an emotional response. That is the winning hand in this PR war.
What is needed is an entirely new and well-financed Israeli-based English training media center. Its goal would be to train Israel’s diplomats, politicians, ministers, spokespeople of government ministries, military, police force, civil society leaders and key Israeli influencers in practical communication skills to boost Israel’s image. If created in partnership between government and private donors, like Birthright, it could forge a path toward public relations effectiveness.
The media center would include practical training for TV, print, radio and social media. This would cover everything from learning how to develop talking points, writing op-eds and learning how to avoid getting trapped by questions of an interviewer hostile to Israel. Learning to be effective in social media platforms used in English is an absolute must. A real media studio with a mock TV and radio studio would allow those trained to feel comfortable in front of the camera. And yes, every politician, diplomat and person qualified for the English-speaking world would need to consider him or herself a student, requiring humility to improve.
Published in The Jerusalem Report on July 12, 2021.
In 1975, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 3379, which “determine[d] that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” US ambassador to the UN Daniel Patrick Moynihan warned that “The United Nations is about to make antisemitism international law.” He said the United States “does not acknowledge, it will not abide by, it will never acquiesce in this infamous act… A great evil has been loosed upon the world.”
Yet the accusation of “Zionism is racism” is alive and well in America in 2021. The infamous 1975 UN Resolution that was rescinded in name only in the 1990s made its official return in 2001 at the Durban World Conference of Racism. As the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs stated, the conference “became a forum for racism. Human rights were used… as a weapon of political interests… A large group of states sought to… exclude references to the Holocaust, redefine or ignore antisemitism, and isolate the state of Israel from the global community as a racist practitioner of apartheid and crimes against humanity.”
Today its message animates much of American academia and the progressive world in all its antisemitic permutations. In the anti-Zionist Middle East, from Iran to Turkey to Hamas, with the notable new exceptions of nations who have signed the Abraham Accords, Zionism is Racism is a fact, just as the sky is blue. Just visit Jordan and Egypt, where the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are prominently displayed, despite both having formal peace treaties with Israel.
Calling someone a Zionist is an epithet for a Jew. In the Middle East, a Jew is ashorthand for Israeli. Israelis and supporters of Israel are Zionists. Zionism is Apartheid, and to be a Zionist means you are racist. Just visit any American college campus during the annual Jew-hating apartheid week in the spring semester. As American historian Gil Troy explained, “The Zionist settler in Palestine was transformed… into an analogue of white settlers in Africa… Palestinian propagandists were resurrecting parts of Nazi ideology… negating Jewish nationalism and peoplehood.” In other words, Zionism is racism – which means antisemitism.
Connecting Zionism to apartheid to racism was clearly articulated by Palestinian-American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib saying, Israel is “promoting racism and dehumanization” under an “apartheid system.”
Her fellow anti-Zionist Rep. Ilhan Omar not only calls Israel an “apartheid government” but accuses it of “terrorism” while ignoring the targeting of Jewish civilians by a US government-designated terrorist organization. The “Squad” leader, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, accused Israel not only of apartheid but of indiscriminately targeting Palestinian civilians. Even UNRWA’s Gaza director Matthias Schmale said the Israeli military struck targets with “sophistication” and “precision.” That was until Palestinians and their international supporters demanded that he retract the facts. The first casualty of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has always been the truth.
This is not legitimate criticism of Israel. This is antisemitism, according to the IHRA definition, used by the US State Department and scores of nations. In America, you may have the right to be an antisemite, but let’s call it what it is. It is Jew hatred that incites violence, and equating Zionism with racism is unvarnished antisemitism.
The dramatic increase in antisemitic hate crimes in the wake of the last Gaza war has been met with a deafening silence by progressive academics and organizations in defending Jews against hate crimes. Academics’ propensity for a morally flawed cultural relativism that excuses the antisemitism of Israel’s enemies while advancing a perverted rationale that Zionism is a racistideology must be exposed for what it is and then rejected. It is the witch’s brew that has brainwashed two generations of naïve American college students who are now in positions of authority.
The litmus test to know if this is antisemitic oversensitivity or a double standard against Jews and Israel is to replace the Jewish victim with a person of color and the nation of Israel with the American use of force against ISIS and other asymmetric enemies that hide behind their civilian population. The answer is both frightening as well as illuminating. From CNN to the New York Times to NPR, there would be an outrage against similar attacks against minority groups that would be headline-grabbing for days on end. Yet, according to FBI statistics, Jewish hate crimes have continued to increase over the last 25 years (last reported for the year 2019), while those against African-Americans have decreased. Some victims are more favored than others. As for Israel, no nation has been more meticulous in avoiding civilian casualties. The amount of negative coverage Israel receives rightly or wrongly dramatically exceeds that of other democratic countries fighting terrorists.
The rise of antisemitism in the guise of politically correct anti-Zionism would not happen if a growing segment of progressives and the mainstream media did not believe Zionism is racism, akin to American white racist discrimination. The Israeli is a white Jewish supremacist. The Palestinian is an afflicted victim of color. Zionism is therefore racist. Yet, the majority of Israeli Jews fit the criteria of people of color. This is an inconvenient fact ignored by the progressive Left. It must be pointed out that there is hope. There is an outstanding progressive representative who is a strong defender of Jews and Israel, Richie Torres. He needs to be a model for others and be supported when the AOC gang eventually intimidates him.
Unfortunately, many Gen Z members and millennials have bought into a dogma that Israel is a pariah state, and to be a Zionist is to be a racist. Mainstream media have given fringe groups like Jewish Voice for Peace legitimization to propagate a hate-filled message about Israel under supposed Jewish values. Zionism is incompatible with decency in the church of “social justice wokeism.” Fellow progressive travelers may not realize they are abetting antisemitism because their leaders have reformulated antisemitism to align with the contemporary social justice movement.
Jewish progressives see Israel and Palestinians as they see the plight of African Americans. The parallel is inappropriate, but ideological movements never let this get in the way of manipulating people. The emotional temperature in the wake of the BLM movement first allowed them to claim that American police brutality is a consequence of Israeli training of American police. Even before the women’s march of January 2017, liberal Zionists were told that no matter how “woke” you are, if you support Israel, you are persona non grata. You, too, are an oppressor and racist, and you are not welcome.
Once the riots of the summer of 2020 began, more false claims were easier to make. The years of apartheid walls, screaming down pro-Israel speakers on college campuses without any consequence, the intimidation of pro-Israel professors, and the fear Jewish students have of speaking up for Israel without being intimidated have brought us to where we are today. A few years ago, I was invited by a student to speak at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. A short time later, she called to apologize, telling me that she had to disinvite me or she would lose at least half of her friends because my viewpoint would not be welcome. Welcome to cancel culture.
I watched the return of Zionism is racism when I visited Vassar College with a young liberal Israeli speaker. Students for Justice in Palestine disrupted his talk, and when he asked them just to sit down and have a candid discussion, they refused and continued their disruption. Afterward, the students from J Street on campus told me that they were stigmatized as Zionists because they believed Israel had a right to exist, even though they were highly critical of Israeli policies. They said they were considered the most right-wing group on campus. Today that is closer to the norm than an aberration on too many campuses. Two years ago, I was disinvited from giving a speech at a majority black university after the dean read my address praising MLK and his support of Zionism.
Even though the original UNGA Resolution on Zionism was rescinded, the world never stopped equating Zionism with racism. The best proof is the infamous Durban conference, which was a hate fest of Jews and Zionism. Let’s look at what the original resolution said. The determination that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination was based on:
• The unholy alliance between South African racism and Zionism
• The racist regime in occupied Palestine and the racist regimes in Zimbabwe and South Africa have a common imperialist origin… organically linked in their policy aimed at the repression of the dignity and integrity of the human being,”
• Most severely condemned Zionism as a threat to world peace and security and called upon all countries to oppose this racist and imperialist ideology.
• The principle that “international co-operation and peace require… the elimination of colonialism and neo-colonialism, foreign occupation, Zionism, Apartheid.”
Does anyone think this resolution would not garner a significant majority of votes in the UN today, or a substantial number of the progressive caucus and the rest of the anti-Israel gallery of activists? Their words and hate resonate with young idealistic progressives who know little of history. What makes this intolerance so galling is that progressives claim to be open-minded but, in reality, are the most illiberal members of Congress, disrespecting differing points of view.
This May, I spoke to a Democratic Senate office that told me the Human Rights Watch’s designation of Israel as an apartheid state had caused real damage with Democrats. I was told defending Israel in the wake of the Gaza war was too politically dangerous, especially with the rise of the progressives who would work to defeat moderates in the next election.
A letter signed by hundreds of faculty, students, and alumni at Princeton University said, “We stand by HRW… in calling Israel’s systemic discrimination and violence by its proper name: Apartheid. The brutal system that controls Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories is ideologically founded upon Jewish supremacy.”
SPME, a network of university scholars whose mission is to fight the falsehoods of pro-Palestinian advocates, pointed out the Daily Princetonian article was “filled with empirically false or grotesquely exaggerated assertions, a profound lack of empathy for Israelis and Jewish lives and safety… Israel is a colonial, illegal occupier of Arab land. (This) an occupation that includes land grabs, state-sponsored terror, militarism, and random and sadistic violence against an indigenous population.”
A driving force to legitimize the narrative that Zionism is Racism is to view the world through the prism of Intersectionality. All victimized people need to stand together because all our causes are intertwined. Black Lives Matter, Palestinian Lives Matter. Even liberal Jews are suspect because, in this Orwellian nightmare, American Jews are white, privileged, and racist even if they don’t know it.
What could slow it down, but is unlikely to happen, would be a vociferous counterattack by pro-Israel liberal Democrats. Instead, we are getting the usual bromides about Israel having a right to defend itself, but silence in supporting and defending Zionism and Israel’s vital role in supporting US interests in that part of the world.
What makes this a tipping point is the silence of pro-Israel Democrats in Congress and the mainstreaming of new anti-Zionists such as Peter Beinart, who is still described as a liberal Zionist. How can you be a Zionist if you want a binational state to end a Jewish state because it offends your progressive sensibilities?
An excellent place to begin is to continue to lobby every organization, university, and nation to understand why adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism is essential to combat antisemitism. If you cannot define it, you cannot fight it. If you challenge the Jewish people’s right to a national homeland and Israel’s right to exist, you are in effect practicing antisemitism. The Zionism is Racism crowd is fighting this definition tooth and nail, in the name of free speech. If you wanted to gauge American society, ask yourself, how many members of Congress would vote against using this definition for antisemitism?
Zionism was never racism, and forcefully defending and implementing the IHRA definition is a good place to begin.
As a follow-up to my article on the growth of anti-Semitism in Europe, I wanted to share with you this EU study that was purposely kept from the public, exposing anti-Semitism within Palestinian textbooks. According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the EU continues to invest millions in funding the Palestinian Authority’s educational system without demanding that it stop “indoctrinating its children to hate and kill.”
“The report includes dozens of examples of encouragement of violence and demonization of Israel and Jews. The report says the textbooks present “ambivalent – sometimes hostile – attitudes towards Jews and the characteristics they attribute to the Jewish people… Frequent use of negative attributions in relation to the Jewish people… suggest a conscious perpetuation of anti-Jewish prejudice, especially when embedded in the current political context.”
At the time, the head of EU foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini, was a harsh critic of Israel. This is just one of a voluminous number of reports documenting Palestinian incitement and anti-Semitism within their school system. A small sample of links is included.
As an IMPACT-Se study of the K-12 curriculum earlier in the year stated, “Textbooks remain openly antisemitic and continue to encourage violence, jihad, and martyrdom while peace is still not taught as preferable or even possible.”
In Europe, the number of Jews continues to decline, but the disease of antisemitism continues to rise. According to a European Union poll, the vast majority (85%) of European Jews see antisemitism as a major problem in their lives.
Welcome to the world of 21st-century European antisemitism and its most popular contemporary form, Israel-bashing. This begs the question, why are Europeans still obsessed with Jews and the Jew among nations while working overtime to support their enemies?
A 2018 CNN survey found only 54% of Europeans said “Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state.” Get that? Nearly half of Europeans think the one Jewish state has no right to exist. This does not bode well for future Israeli-European relations. From an Israeli economic perspective, this matters greatly because Europe is its number one trading partner. How the European Union acts politically against Israel, whether it chooses to increase its support of the BDS movement, can profoundly affect Israel’s economic and military security in the years to come.
According to Michael Sieveking, deputy director of AJC Transatlantic Institute, “Making matters even worse a dangerous fallacy is on the rise that denies that anti-Zionism is antisemitism at all. Anti-Zionism hides behind a veneer of respectability. At its rotten core is the notion that it’s acceptable to deny the Jewish people the freedom to exercise its right to self-determination. There is no shortage of European politicians mourning dead Jews. But where are some of those leaders when living Jews are being victimized for real or imaged actions of Israel?”
Using a politicized definition of human rights as a weapon against Israel allows Europeans to claim the moral high ground. But their morality appears bankrupt as they developed an entrenched double standard against Israel as compared to their muted response to obviously more egregious human rights problems around the world. For example, lobbying for unrestricted trade with one of the world’s most odious malefactors, Iran, shows that the European human rights emperor has no clothes.
They see no hypocrisy supporting a gas pipeline from Russia that will enrich a nation that not only is a human rights nightmare but one that occupies other sovereign nations’ territory, i.e. Crimea, Ukraine, Georgia. China, the world’s number one human rights abuser, has upwards of a million of its Uighur people in “re-education” camps, threatens the democracy of Taiwan, and throws democracy activists in jail in Hong Kong, but still has virtually unrestricted trade with Europe. Yet, the Europeans invest a disproportionate amount of time discussing and strategizing on ways to boycott Israeli goods. Adding fuel to the antisemitic fire, most European nations at best only abstain from UN resolutions against Israel.
Israel and Europe have a complex relationship. The EU is Israel’s number one trading partner, yet the EU seems to be on its way to accepting some form of boycotting Israel for its occupation of the disputed territories in the West Bank.
With the line between antisemitism and anti-Zionism disappearing by the day, Europe is not only hostile to Israel, but Jews themselves.
To understand European antisemitism, you just need to look at the tragedy of Sarah Halimi. “Why France Refuses to Prosecute an Antisemitic Murderer” is the title of an article written by former New York Times columnist Bari Weiss, a journalist run out of town because she reports on antisemitism coming from the Right, Left and Islam, and doesn’t follow the woke orthodoxy on Israel. Like much of Western Europe, her former employer minimizes antisemitism unless it emanates from the far-right.
The story of Halimi, the victim of one of the most vicious hate crimes in recent memory, was underreported by the press because the victim was a Jew killed by a Muslim man. While torturing her, he called her a shaitan (Satan). Then he threw her out of her third-story apartment window while shouting “Allahu akbar” (God is great in Arabic). What is even more frightening was the response of French prosecutors. The alleged killer was not charged because he had smoked marijuana, which is a convenient excuse not to antagonize their antisemitic Muslim citizens. Just ask yourself, if the victim was a Christian or a Muslim, and the killer was Jewish, would the prosecutor have acted similarly? Weiss wrote, “We are suffering from a widespread social health epidemic, and it is rooted in the cheapening of Jewish blood.”
Nothing drives home Europe’s ambivalent feelings regarding Israel than its attempts to economically support the antisemitic theocratic Islamic Republic of Iran, a nation whose authoritarian Islamist leaders repeatedly call for eliminating the Zionist state, while trafficking in demonization of the Jews. Europeans even tried to create a financial system (INSTEX) to bypass American sanctions and enrich the terror state. Western European enthusiasm for a nuclear agreement that guarantees to put nuclear weapons in the hands of Israel’s nemesis while paying lip service to their human rights behavior, Jew-hatred, and maniacally hateful rhetoric makes one wonder what motivates such persistent animosity.
According to European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, reviving Iran’s nuclear deal (JCPOA) is “the most urgent and important” diplomatic priority for the Biden administration in order to improve US-European relations. Borrell completely rejects any efforts to expand the agreement to address matters outside its current scope, i.e. human rights or terrorism. “For us, the Europeans, the Iran nuclear deal, it’s a triumph of diplomacy, and we are very proud of it.”
Despite European self-righteous proselytizing to Israel to improve its human rights record, the EU chooses to defend a regime dripping with Jew-hatred. The EU showed its true colors when it did not stand with the Iranian people, who risked their lives to express their outrage at their government for its abuse and torture of its people. This human rights disaster does not rise to Borrell’s sanctimonious standard as an “urgent” European priority.
Perhaps there is some self-preservation involved. In 2018, The Washington Examiner asked why European policymakers are so determined to “prop up the (Iranian) government. Europeans may feel the pressure of Iran’s threats… the head of the country’s atomic agency warned of ominous consequences if Iran doesn’t see its promised economic benefits. Ominous in this context would seem to mean: Give us sanctions relief, or we will build a nuclear bomb.”
Iranian-backed terrorism on European soil is not unheard of; just look at the Iranian-Hezbollah bombing in Burgas in 2012 targeting Jewish tourists. European anti-Zionism, i.e., antisemitism, expresses itself in many ways. Why has Europe given over 100 million dollars to 35 NGOs supporting the International Criminal Court’s witchhunt to delegitimize Israel? In 2015, the European Commission decided to create a double standard against Israel by labeling all Israeli goods produced over the Armistice Line (1967 Line) to help consumers boycott Israel. It’s a move reminiscent of the Nazi era. Still, anti-Zionist Europeans see it more analogous to the boycott of South Africa, opposing that country’s apartheid. No other nation’s goods in disputed territories from Kashmir to Northern Cyprus warrant such a boycott by Europe.
So is all this explained by the Europeans’ two millennia-long history of antisemitism that now expresses itself as the more politically correct hatred of the Jewish nation? Or is it the modern European bureaucrat who is part of the self-anointed enlightened, progressive left who sees Israel as an aberration in modernity, a nationalist colonial project that belongs to a different era?
A more contemporary answer to understand the resurrection of Europe’s long history of Jew-hatred while painting itself as a moral force for good began with the 1974 Arab Oil Embargo after the Arab-Israeli Yom Kippur War. It was a significant turning point in moving Europeans from begrudging support of Israel that assuaged their guilt for the holocaust to resurrecting antisemitism but in a politically correct incarnation.
This was best evidenced by French President de Gaulle’s antisemitic response after the Israelis defeated the Arabs in the Six-Day War, calling Jews “an elitist… and domineering people.” De Gaulle, like Israel’s Arab enemies, used the word Jew interchangeably with Israeli. Immediately, French foreign policy turned decidedly pro-Arab and anti-Israel, allowing France to pull other European nations against Israel after the Arab oil embargo. French president Jacques Chirac in 2001 blamed Israel for the failure of Camp David, not Arafat, who started the Second Intifada and rejected a Palestinian state. Even today, French animosity to Israel is expressed by its president, Emmanuel Macron, who, unlike other EU leaders, has not criticized the inappropriateness of the International Criminal Court’s prosecution of Israel for war crimes against Hamas.
Supporting the Palestinian cause to appease the Arab oil states had the added benefit of demonizing that “shitty little nation,” as one French diplomat undiplomatically said publicly years later, without the stigma of hating the individual Jews or their religion. Placating Europe’s growing unassimilated Muslim populations is also a significant factor in aligning against the Jewish State. An ADL survey of second and third-grade Muslims in Europe in the 21st century found that 50% could be classified as anti-Semites. These are children, and this is growing worse with time. Yet, Arabs in the Gulf states are warming to Jews and Israel as evidenced by the Abraham Accords, while Turkish, Tunisian, Algerian, Pakistani, and Syrians living in Europe remain persistently hostile to Jews and Israel.
Being able to label Israel as an occupying state allowed Europe to transition to become a cheerleader of the anti-Israel movement, ubiquitous among European elites and on European university campuses. Europeans have perfected their rationale that their harsh criticism of Israel is never antisemitism. Palestinian rejectionism and antisemitism are either ignored or turned into, at best, a moral equivalence.
But Europe is not homogeneous. Eastern Europe is more sympathetic to Israel but has an even more tainted antisemitic history. Their leaders are less liberal than western Europeans but admire Israel’s nationalism. Is it possible for Israel to strengthen relations with Western Europe, with whom it shares more values, but are also its loudest critics? How does it foster a relationship with Eastern Europe that diplomatically supports them while some of their populist leaders dabble in antisemitic tropes and policies? Granted, it is not either-or, and foreign policy is about interests, not usually values, but it would be nice to have some friends who share your values and also support Zionism, the national liberation movement of the Jews.
Israel will quietly continue to hedge its bets and quietly economically pivot from Europe to the Far East and the Asian sub-continent over the next generation or two. If boycotts grow and are enforced, for Israel’s economic survival this will become a necessity. Strengthening relationships in China, India, Korea, Taiwan, and other nations, where there is no legacy of antisemitism, decreases the impact of growing European boycotts. Within a few generations, Europe will likely be overwhelmed by its Muslim population, and its move away from Israel and support of the BDS movement will only accelerate.
Yet, there is some hope. According to Algemeiner, at a recent conference on Protection Against Racial Discrimination and Related Intolerance, the European Commission allocated 2 billion dollars that included a strategy that, “will provide a comprehensive framework to prevent and combat antisemitism…. Holocaust remembrance and fostering Jewish life in Europe.”
But unless they deal with their growing Muslim population’s Jewish hatred, which doesn’t distinguish between Jewish citizens of Europe and Israel, any progress fighting antisemitism will be marginal at best. Concurrently they must address their political class whose default position is harsh criticism of Israel, or the Jews of Europe will continue to emigrate and fulfill Hitler’s dream of a Europe without Jews.
I read the New York Times lead story this weekend, “Life Under Occupation: The Misery at the Heart of the Conflict,” as a justification for this Gaza war and militant violence. Personal stories to pull at your heartstrings are the strategy of pro-Palestinian organizations and the Times.
“Mr. Abu Alia seethed as he described seeing his son outside in the dark, ‘afraid, crying because of the soldiers, and I can do nothing to protect him. It makes you want to take revenge…. But we have nothing to defend ourselves with. Stone-throwing must suffice. We can’t take an M-16 and go kill every settler. All we have are those stones. A bullet can kill you instantly. A little stone won’t do much. But at least I’m sending a message.’”
A few years ago, I debated a J Street representative at the Columbia Graduate School of International Affairs. After my presentation, which presented the conflict in all of its complexities, the J Street representative said, I cannot argue with any of Dr. Mandel’s facts, but let me tell you about… He then went on to tell a litany of personal stories of suffering.
I believe I lost that debate because I did not pull at the audience’s heartstrings, purposely manipulating people’s emotions so they could avoid the more challenging task of evaluating the merits of each debater’s arguments.
I should have spoken about the equally compelling tragic stories of Israeli children and residents of Israel’s South who live continually with traumatic stress. One psychologist in Sderot told me 80% of the residents suffer not from PTSD but rather from continual traumatic stress.
As in the case of my J Street debater, what was left out of the Times news article was any context. There is a word for one-sided news articles. It is called advocacy journalism, meant to convince the reader of the writer’s opinion. Personal narratives are there to make you sympathize with one side or the other. What was most egregious in the article and in that debate was the complete lack of context.
Israel left 100% of Gaza 16 years ago, and Gaza could be flourishing today like Dubai, in Palestinian-controlled territory. Instead, Hamas has committed innumerable war crimes, sending thousands of rockets into Israeli civilian areas while using Gaza residents’ children as human shields.
The only reason Israel controls the Gaza borders is that if it did not, there would be an unrelenting resupply of Iranian missiles and weapons, killing and maiming thousands of Jewish civilians. Excuse Israel for doing the No. 1 thing a nation should do – protect its civilians so they are not living with fear every hour of every day.
The author seemed to have amnesia, leaving out that the occupation of the disputed territory could have ended numerous times over the last 72 years if the Palestinians had accepted a Palestinian state living next to a Jewish state. They refused that in 1937, 1947, 1967, 2000, 2001, and 2008. That is because Palestinian Arab leadership prioritizes destroying a Jewish state more than it wants a Palestinian state. Something you won’t read in a J Street press release. An ADL survey showed that the Palestinian people has the highest ranking for antisemitism in the whole world, at 93%. This was not a poll of anti-Israel bias but blatant stereotypical Jew-hatred.
The pretext for this war, according to the article, was the decades-long court case involving a few families in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. The article chose not to mention that Jews have owned the homes since the 19th century, and the tenants have been offered to remain in their homes if they pay rent.
Palestinian supporters have chosen select facts to advance their charge of ethnic cleansing and Judaization of Jerusalem. On a political level, it would have been better for Israel to have ignored this dispute, allowing the Arab residents to stay and having Israel compensate the owners. But Israel is a democracy with the rule of law and courts for real estate disputes.
Perhaps it is time for Israel to realize that the world and a growing part of the Democratic Party will never see Israel as anything but an occupier. Maybe the unrelenting double standard against Israel should be seen as an opportunity for Israel to choose its security borders and not wait for the Palestinians. Heck, nobody thought the Abraham Accords would ever happen. This certainly would upset many people. But considering decades of Palestinian rejection of their own state because they would have to sign an end-of-conflict resolution, accept a demilitarized Palestinian state and end the demand for a right of return, maybe the time has come for Israel to set a new path.
Advocacy journalism can inspire Israel to take the initiative and control its own destiny, as it lives in a woke world where its right to exist is fair game, and violence against Jews is excused as a natural reaction to occupation.
So here are some proposals to get people’s blood pressure to boil.
1. Israel unilaterally defines its borders based on security considerations
2. No further Jewish building in the areas designated for a future Palestinian-controlled territory.
3. Jewish growth is confined to the settlement blocs or settlements essential for security considerations.
4. Continued Israeli security control of the designated future Palestinian territory until the Palestinians can unreservedly sign an end-of-conflict agreement and recognize a Jewish state next to an Arab one. That could take generations, if not longer.
5. Consider drawing the lines of a future Palestinian state that would incorporate areas within pre-1967 Israel with an Arab population. If Arab citizens of Israel want to keep their Israeli citizenship, they may need to move to Israel or remain Israeli citizens living under the Palestinian Authority.
6. Redefining Jerusalem’s artificially created borders to designate overwhelmingly Arab Muslim areas of Jerusalem for a future Palestinian entity, thereby demographically moving hundreds of thousands of Arabs from the census of Israel, if and when Palestinians decide to live in peace with a Jewish state. All Jewish holy sites and neighborhoods remain under Israeli control.
7. Tangible consequences when Hamas sends rockets into Israeli civilian areas.
Mind you, this is all to stimulate debate. None of this would satisfy the international community, the Times, the Biden administration, or for that matter many Israelis, like my fellow columnist Caroline Glick. But it is food for thought.
The Times writers believe Israel is an apartheid state and want Israel to become a binational state – in other words, the demographic destruction of a postcolonial aberration of Jewish racism.
So is it the time for Israelis to consider taking their future into their own hands, offering an olive branch to future Palestinians, that a Palestinian state could be theirs for the asking?
The status quo may be the safest choice for Israel to avoid sanctions from the Biden administration, the EU and the UN. However, now is the time for Israelis to have a serious internal debate about the future, to move forward without waiting for the Palestinian leopard to change its spots.
This war was more about sabotaging the emerging Israeli-Gulf relationship and preventing an Islamist Israeli-Arab party from joining an Israeli government, than it was about a few homes in Sheikh Jarrah. But admitting that would undermine the thesis of advocacy journalists.
Two media events struck me this weekend. The first was the lack of mainstream media reporting that Palestinian Authority President Abbas’ Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade claimed responsibility for shooting rockets from Gaza into Israeli civilian population areas this Saturday. Isn’t this the government that President Biden just restored funding to?
The second story involves NPR and their reporting of the recent riots in Jerusalem. The story reported that right-wing Israelis were marching in Jerusalem, screaming death to Arabs, while attacking Palestinians leaving Damascus gate after Ramadan prayers.
What was not reported was that this was in reaction to videos circulating on social media of those same Arabs attacking religious Jews in Jerusalem on previous nights. Of course, there is no justification for attacking anyone, and certainly not for screaming death to Arabs, but the situation was complex. This was classic reporting of facts out of context to advance an anti-Israel political viewpoint. It was an opinion disguised as news.
Just to be clear, the only person interviewed by NPR in the report was a so-called Israeli activist who parroted the anti-Israel narrative. Unfortunately, nuance and balance are not on the agenda if they get in the way of progressive activism.
Where are their voices for freedom of speech when their pro-Israel students and their speakers are screamed down in the name of racism, apartheid and colonialism?
The growing acceptance of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism by scores of nations, including the European Union, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres and our own country, have made critics of Israel apoplectic. This is because the IHRA asserts that many forms of anti-Zionism rise to the threshold of anti-Semitism. This has driven both anti-Zionists and harsh critics of Israel to find ways to undermine the legitimacy of IHRA. The most recent attempt is to create new definitions of anti-Semitism that minimize or eliminate any association between anti-Semitism and delegitimizing Israel’s existence.
Recently, a group of 200 university professors has taken up the mantle against the IHRA with their Jerusalem Declaration of Anti-Semitism (JDA). It states that opposing Zionism or Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state doesn’t necessarily constitute anti-Semitism. It defines anti-Semitism as discrimination, prejudice or violence against individual Jews or Jewish institutions, but eliminates any association between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. It is as if they are living in a time warp, damning old-time anti-Semitism while ignoring the most recent and virulent strain of anti-Semitism emanating mainly from the hard left. That virus has mutated from the politically incorrect prejudice against the Jewish religion into the new anti-Semitism, hatred of the Jewish nation. As one of the signatories said, “The Israeli government and its supporters have a keen interest in blurring the distinction between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism to paint any substantive, harsh criticism of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians as anti-Semitic.”
According to the JDA definition of anti-Semitism, “hatred of Israel” is not anti-Semitism. Boycotting, demonizing and sanctioning Israel is not anti-Semitism. Mind you, this is not just BDS of products from the West Bank, but boycotting all of Israel because it does not have a right to exist, as their Palestinian supporters allege. Sorry professors, this is anti-Semitism in its most blatant form. One doesn’t even need the IHRA definition to know it.
Harsh critics of Israel are alarmed that the IHRA definition is gaining more legitimacy, adding more national governments, colleges, organizations, and local and state governments to the list of supporters. And they worry for a good reason. IHRA explicitly targets all forms of anti-Semitism—from old-time right-wing hatred of Jews to today’s progressive anti-Semitism. Right-wing anti-Semitism gets all the notoriety because it is often manifested as local violence against Jewish people or their property. Left-wing anti-Semitism is ubiquitous on college campuses among academics and pro-Palestinian students, and of more significant consequence, advocating policies that threaten an entire country’s safety. And being Jewish does not mean that someone who supports reprehensible anti-Jewish policies gets a pass.
Signers of the JDA twist themselves in knots claiming that anti-Israel actions don’t have much to do with anti-Semitism. Yet many of them are invested in Palestinian “rights” and disregard Palestinian society’s pervasive advocacy of hatred and violence, from their mosques to media to schools and government, which is blatantly anti-Semitic. When these professors next go to Ramallah, they should notice that the word “Jew” and “Israeli” are interchangeable. Palestinian calls for two states—one binational and the other Arab—are just fine with them, knowing that this would mean Israel’s demographic destruction.
Many of these professors who rightly claim love for the freedom of speech are mute about today’s campus environment, where pro-Israel students are demonized, intimidated and restrained from their First Amendment rights by Palestinian supporters. Protecting students who disagree with your perspective used to be a pillar of academic freedom, but too many professors are activists first, not academics. Silence makes one complicit in stigmatizing Zionist students and pro-Israel professors. This is the very definition of illiberalism. Where are their voices for freedom of speech when their pro-Israel students and their speakers are screamed down in the name of racism, apartheid and colonialism? Is that not anti-Semitism?
One signer of the JDA claimed the IHRA had reached a “point where Palestinian students feel threatened on campus.” This is Orwellian. A primary reason for the need for the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism was the threats and intimidation to Jewish students on campus by Palestinians and their supporters. A 2015 Brandeis University poll of North American colleges’ Jewish students found “nearly three-quarters of the respondents reported having been exposed … during the past year to a least one anti-Semitic statement.” There is little evidence of any concerted intimidation against Palestinian students. Still, they and their progressive supporters are often the perpetrators of anti-Semitism against Jewish students who are pro-Israel.
True academic integrity should demand that many of these professors define themselves as pro-Palestinian or anti-Zionist and not hide behind the pro-peace, pro-Israel moniker. Who are some of the signatories? City University of New York professor and New York Times writer Peter Beinart wrote an article in July 2020 titled “I No Longer Believe in a Jewish State.” In response, the ADL’s deputy director said “such calls are themselves anti-Semitic, or at the very least, as in the case of Mr. Beinart, play into the hands of the anti-Semites.”
Another endorser of the JDA definition is the anti-Zionist Richard Falk. Former President Barack Obama’s representative to the Human Rights Council, Eileen Donahoe, called his comments on Israel “deeply offensive,” condemning them in the “strongest terms.” She charged that Falk had a “one-sided and politicized view of Israel’s situation and the Palestinian Territories.” No wonder he signed a definition of anti-Semitism that minimized equating anti-Zionism with Jew-hatred.
So kudos to those professors who fight against right-wing anti-Semitism; we should all join them. But shame on them for claiming that it’s not anti-Semitism to back the BDS movement, to deny the Jewish people a right to self-determination, to allow Israel to be judged by a double standard and to intimidate Jewish students on campus because they are pro-Israel.
A pro-Israel friend of mine told me that he wished AIPAC would publish an unbiased list comparing the policy differences between former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. President Donald Trump in regard to Israel. It was refreshing to hear in our current political climate someone who wanted to objectively analyze past actions and future policy positions of the candidates, as well as looking at their current foreign-policy advisers and associates.
In the minefield of American politics, trying to look at the facts in context and draw conclusions is almost impossible, as ad hominem attacks rule the day—unfortunately, many of them justified.
Trump haters see a president who is a narcissistic and racial divider, lacking intellectual depth and with a willful aversion to the truth. To others, Biden represents a person who has lost his cognitive abilities and is completely under the sway of the anti-Israel progressive wing of his party. Those progressives want to tear down America and create a Socialist republic that redistributes wealth; they call for reparations; and promote a victimhood mentality that allows Palestinians to remain as perpetual victims, while viewing Israel as a colonialist enterprise that should be sent to the scrapheap of racist regimes.
Now that I have your attention and have raised your blood pressure, let’s try, without contempt or bile, to compare what Trump and Biden have said and done concerning Israel and American Jews. The list is not exhaustive, but it should stimulate your intellectual curiosity and motivate you to Google for more answers. Bottom of Form
Critics of Trump claim that he is the icon of white supremacists who hate Jews, dog-whistling anti-Semitic tropes that only they can hear. Biden will often cite Trump’s divisive words in at a rally in Charlottesville, Va., that exhibited anti-Jewish vitriol as the best example. Some claim that those words were taken out of context.
Supporters of Trump will claim that he is the most pro-Israel President in history, sanctioning the Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights, moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, cutting off funds to UNWRA for perpetuating a false narrative that descendants of Palestinian refugees are entitled to go into Israel, penalizing the Palestinian Authority for incentivizing terrorism, and acknowledging that Israel has international legal rights over the 1967 line, allowing it to extend sovereignty into the West Bank.
For clarity, Israel truly annexed the Golan Heights because it had a previous legitimate stakeholder, Syria, whereas Israel cannot technically annex anything in the West Bank because the last legal entity, the Ottoman Empire, does not exist anymore. Article 80 of the U.N. Charter memorializes Israel’s rights in the West Bank, so the proper term would be extending sovereignty, rather than annexation. The wisdom of exercising those rights is subject to a legitimate debate between Trump and Biden supporters.
Critics of Trump claim that his one-sided actions against the Palestinians have made a two states for two people’s resolution of the conflict almost impossible. An icon of J Street and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, Peter Beinart, went so far as to write a New York Times opinion piece titled “I No Longer Believe in a Jewish State.” Critics claim that Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” Mideast plan grants Israel land in the West Bank, and would turn Israel into an apartheid and undemocratic state undeserving of American support. There is a new Democrat House letter demanding the end of funding for Israel in response to its “annexation.”
Trump supporters claim that Biden, despite Iranian transgressions of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, intends to rejoin that fatally flawed agreement, which endangers both U.S. and Israeli national security interests. Made under the Obama administration, it willfully ignored Iran’s increased human-rights abuses against its citizens, its missile development and its support of global terrorism (particularly against the Jewish state), while enriching the Islamic Republic with billions in sanctions relief.
Biden supporters claim that the JCPOA was a good, if imperfect, agreement that ended the ability of Iran to ever have a nuclear weapon. Critics claim that the deal is actually a pathway to an Iranian nuclear weapon, legitimizing their possession to a terrorist regime that has called time and again for the annihilation of America and Israel, as they have to wait only a few years for the deal’s nuclear prohibitions to expire.
Biden supporters acclaim the Obama passage of UNSC Resolution 2334, which stated that Israel would be in flagrant violation of international law if it keeps possession of any land over the 67 Line, as advancing peace and a two-state solution because it forces Israel to negotiate based on the 1967 line, which is the Palestinian position. Critics claim this hurts Israel’s security by undermining UNSC Resolution 242, which recognized Israel’s 1967 defensive line as unacceptably vulnerable to its neighbors who have repeatedly launched wars against them, acknowledging that Israel can never go back to that indefensible position.
Biden supporters claim that he and President Barack Obama were very pro-Israel, as evidenced by the largest financial-aid package ever given to Israel, the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) worth more than $30 billion during the course of 10 years. They also say that Biden was supportive of additional aid to help Israel with its anti-missile system. Critics say that the amount of the MOU was actually reduced as punishment for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu going to Congress against Obama’s wishes to fight against the Iran deal—the Obama administration’s prized foreign-policy legacy. Advocates of military aid to Israel point out that almost all the money given to Israel for defense spending goes to American contractors, thereby helping the U.S. economy, and that this is a two-way street, as Israeli soldiers are arguably doing our work for us, being our only reliable ally in a region of fickle dictatorships.
Trump supporters say that if you want to look at where Biden is going on Israel, you only have to look at the head of his foreign-policy transition team, Avril Haines. She signed a J Street letter critical of Israel advocating for a more “balanced” position in the Democratic Convention Platform, treating Israel and Palestinians equally, and would not be “silent on the rights of Palestinians, on Israeli actions that undermine those rights and the prospects for a two-state solution.”
Biden supporters say that if you want to know who Joe is, just look at his statements at AIPAC conventions over the last 30 years, and the pro-Israel letters and legislation that he has signed onto. In 2016, he said, “Israel will always exist strong and capable as the ultimate guarantor of security for Jewish people around the world. That is the abiding moral obligation we have.” Biden supporters claim that Trump crossed the line when he claimed that Jews who vote Democratic are disloyal. Biden responded, “Mr. President, these comments are insulting and inexcusable … . It may not be beneath you, but it is beneath the office you hold.”
Trump supporters claim that the charge that he is anti-Semitic is ludicrous, as his grandchildren and daughter are Orthodox Jews. His executive action protecting Jewish students on college campuses from harassment and intimidation for expressing their pro-Israeli advocacy is now protected under the Civil Rights Act and applauded by pro-Israel supporters, but condemned as a violation of free speech by progressives who support Biden. According to AMCHA—an organization that battles campus anti-Semitism—the Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition equating anti-Zionism as a form of anti-Semitism has seen a 300 percent increase in challenging that definition, something that has been incorporated into the Trump strategy to fight anti-Semitism.
In America today, getting anyone to appreciate or respect different policies and opinions is a lost cause. The visceral reaction to Trump is palpable, and his rhetoric does him no favors. For others, Biden is no different from the progressive anti-Israel “Squad” in Congress, and his articulation problems do him no favors. Biden’s much-anticipated choice of a vice-presidential candidate will be venerated on the left and excoriated on the right.
American Jews vote overwhelmingly Democrat, and for many, Trump’s divisive actions have made this an easy choice. For a minority of American Jews, Biden may be a good man, but has lost his way on Israel and would be a dangerous choice for its long-term security. His stated policy to rejoin the Iran deal poses a serious threat to Israel, and his views on the Palestinians and international law are naive at best, and dangerous at worst.
America will survive Trump or Biden. But for the minority of American Jews who have Israel as one of their top-five policy issues in voting for a president, would Biden or Trump be a better choice to enhance U.S.-Israeli relations? Or would one of them actually endanger Israel by his policy decisions?
Dr. Eric R. Mandel is the director of MEPIN, the Middle East Political Information Network. He regularly briefs members of the U.S. Senate, House and their foreign-policy advisers. He is a columnist for “The Jerusalem Post” and a contributor to i24TV, “The Hill,” JTA and “The Forward.”
Another misused word
directed at Israel is the charge of apartheid. Anyone opening up a real
dictionary would see that the true meaning of the word has nothing to do with
anything in Israel.
A year ago I didn’t know that “it’s all about
the Benjamins” was an antisemitic slur. I could never have predicted that a
self-identified group of “Justice Democrats” who would call themselves “the
Squad,” would become a virtual seminar in antisemitic rhetoric, and the voice
of an intolerant intersectional movement that disparages anyone who crosses
them as a racist, Islamophobic or a bigot.
The appropriation and distortion of words like concentration camps, apartheid,
Nazi and martyr is bad enough coming from the Squad, but over the last year,
the words have been weaponized and have become part of mainstream discourse,
exemplified by the antisemite UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, some mainstream
media outlets, Palestinian leadership and on college campuses where it
flourishes in academia and in “social justice” movements.
Words are mightier than the sword, and in the
history of Jew hatred, they have led to Inquisitions, Crusades, pogroms,
discrimination, delegitimization, expulsions and the Holocaust.
This has been a big year for the misappropriation of the word martyr, whose
meaning was twisted by PA President Mahmoud Abbas after the US Congress
withdrew American taxpayer funds under the Taylor Force Law for those we call
terrorists in a “Pay to Slay” scheme, but are called glorious martyrs by the
Palestinian Authority. This month, Abbas said “We reject [the] designation of
our martyrs as terrorists… they are ‘the most sacred thing we have.’” In what
sick universe are suicide bombers, kidnappers and killers of children martyrs?
One member of the Squad opened their Orwellian vocabulary to misappropriate the
word massacre to describe Israeli soldiers killing terrorists who were
targeting Israeli civilians along the Gaza border, as a “massacre of
Another misused word directed at Israel is the charge of apartheid. Anyone
opening up a real dictionary would see that the true meaning of the word has
nothing to do with anything in Israel, but since the term is so heinous, it has
been appropriated as a tool to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist.
This year has been a big year for the term “dual loyalty.” Minnesota Justice
Democrat Ilhan Omar charged Jewish legislators with dual loyalty, by “hav[ing]
allegiance… to a foreign country [Israel].”
Democratic chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee Nita Lowey, who
will be challenged by a Justice Democrat next year, confronted Omar’s
antisemitic smear, reminding her “throughout history, Jews have been accused of
dual loyalty, leading to discrimination and violence.”
US President Donald Trump also inappropriately used words evoking dual loyalty
this summer, when he charged Jews who vote Democrat as being disloyal to
Israel. As a supporter of Israel, he should have been more sensitive to those
dangerous words with a history of too many antisemitic associations.
However, the most egregious abuse of words this summer was by the Squad’s
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Justice Democrat from New York, who shamelessly
appropriated the words “never again” and “concentration camps” to advance her
agenda against American immigration policy.
“The United States is running concentration camps on our southern border and
that is exactly what they are,” said AOC.
When AOC uses the words “concentration camps” to describe border detention
facilities, you have to be tone deaf or a Holocaust denying revisionist
historian not to understand that to almost every person in the United States
since the end of World War Two, the words “concentration camp” are identified
with the Holocaust and genocidal death camps. Her goal was not to have a legitimate
policy debate, but to demonize opponents with incendiary language.
Whatever one thinks about the conditions of detention facilities for illegal
aliens and their children, it is a travesty to liken them to the Nazi
concentration camps where people were used as slave labor, starved, beaten,
raped, dehumanized and degraded – both Jews and other persecuted minorities –
led like sheep to slaughter in an organized mass extermination. She and those
who defend her use of the term concentration camps in this context insult the
memory of those who were rounded up, deliberately treated as vermin and
massacred in the Holocaust.
SOMETIMES, THE most dangerous words are the ones that are left out, distorting
the context of a story. CAMERA reported that The New York Times and The
Washington Post choose to inaccurately describe the organization that sponsored
Omar and Tlaib’s trip to the disputed territories. The organization Miftah has
a long history of antisemitic associations, but a Times editorial referred to it
as “a Palestinian organization… that promotes ‘global awareness and knowledge
of Palestinian realities.’” The Washington Post said Miftah is “headed by
Palestinian lawmaker and longtime peace negotiator Hanan Ashrawi.”
So how could anybody take issue with a nonprofit run by a peacemaker,
sponsoring a fact-finding trip to the Middle East?
New York Times columnist Bari Weiss wrote other words that the
Times editorial board and The Washington Post refused to
include, that Miftah is “an organization that has proudly praised female
suicide bombers, and pushed the medieval blood libel,” which is alive and well
in Ms. Tlaib’s Palestinian Arab society.
Even the term antisemitism is selectively used. For the Squad and its ilk,
antisemitism is the realm of the Right. No one can deny that Jew hatred from
the Right has a long history, and its contemporary white supremacist followers
have committed despicable hate filled violence to this day.
However, the words that are left out, a form of political revisionism, is that
on today’s college campus, antisemitism comes primarily from the Left. In
Europe, according to a recent survey by the European Union’s Agency for
Fundamental Rights, Muslim and left-wing antisemitism was more prevalent
especially against young European Jews.
With three months before the 2020 presidential year, we already have had more
than our share of trivializing the Holocaust, weaponized words and
mainstreaming of antisemitism through a media that is so fearful of not being
politically correct that it seems to have lost its moral compass.
Let’s hold our presidential candidates, politicians, clergy, media and even our
friends accountable for what they say and write.
The writer is the director of MEPIN, the Middle East Political Information
Network. He regularly briefs members of the Senate, House and their foreign
policy advisors. He is a columnist for The Jerusalem Post, and a contributor to
i24TV, The Hill, JTA and The Forward.