Category Archives: Zionism

Sorry professors, but BDS and double standards for Israel are anti-Semitism

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.”

Photo credit: Stand with US

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.

Before the next war: Israel and the US should articulate a policy on proportionality

How can a democratic nation fight and defeat asymmetric enemies in the 21st century?

Previously published in the Jerusalem Report.

by Dr. Eric R. Mandel

The recent International Criminal Court decision to investigate Israel for “war crimes” in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) highlights not only the hypocrisy of the international community’s anti-Israel bias but the difficulty of militarily responding to terrorists who play by no rules.

Can America and Israel ever receive a fair hearing in analyzing the complexity and legality of their military actions against asymmetric actors? Especially when international bodies like the UN Human Rights Council are dominated by some of the worst human rights abusers in the world. These anti-American and anti-Zionist organizations have become weaponized political instruments in a war of lawfare against the US and the Jewish nation.

Israel faces asymmetric threats from Hezbollah, Hamas, and Iranian-controlled militias in Syria and Iraq. America has at least a 40-year history of fighting non-state actors in the Middle East – from the Iranian-orchestrated bombing of the US Embassy in Beirut to one of the worst asymmetric actors, Islamic State.

Israel’s dilemma is that what the US did to ISIS, with civilians embedded within its terrorist network, would not be tolerated by a world with double standards for the Jewish state. Israel will continually be delegitimized
for its response to attacks from civilian areas, where its enemy cynically uses civilians as human shields.

Proportional responses are a matter of ongoing debate in this murky environment. Let’s be clear: “Proportionate” does not mean that if Hezbollah or Hamas sends 100 missiles indiscriminately into Israeli civilian communities, Israel should be expected to send 100 missiles into Palestinian or Lebanese communities. That is immoral and would never even be considered by any democracy, especially Israel or the US.

Articulating a policy on what constitutes a proportional response in asymmetric warfare is both in American and Israeli interests. This past February, the US struck Iranian-controlled weapons depots in Syria in retaliation for an attack on American soldiers at a US base near the Erbil international airport. One American soldier was injured, but 22 Iranian militiamen of the terrorist organizations Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada were killed, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Is that proportionate or disproportionate?

According to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, “The strikes were necessary to address the threat and proportionate to the prior attacks.”

What is not acknowledged by critics is that it is well within the bounds of international law to retaliate even if the number of casual ties turns out to be more than were incurred, especially if the enemy deliberately uses civilians’ lives for propaganda purposes.

When civilians are inadvertently killed in homes where missiles are stored or whose living room is used as an entrance for an attack tunnel, is it still legal to attack those homes as long as you try to minimize civilian casualties? How do you cope when your intelligence finds kindergartens or hospitals used by terrorist organizations to store weapons or mount operations against your civilians? Israel has called off many operations, walking the fine line between a nation’s obligation to protect its civilians and its moral responsibility to minimize danger to the enemy’s non-combatants.

What is a proportionate response? It behooves Israel, the US and all Western nations not to wait until after civilians are killed in confronting an enemy, but to clearly state what proportionality is, and in a very public way.

Proportionality is wholly misunderstood by democratic governments, the press and the public. It is not the number of causalities that determines proportionality but the necessity of the military action balanced against the potential civilian loss.

Source: Alma Research and Education Center

As Victor Davis Hanson said, “Every Hamas unguided rocket is launched in hopes of hitting an Israeli home and killing men, women, and children. Every guided Israeli air-launched missile is targeted at Hamas operatives, who deliberately work in the closest vicinity to women and children.”

According to Human Rights Watch, no fan of Israel, for a specific attack on a military objective to be lawful, it must discriminate between combatants and civilians. The expected loss of civilian life or property cannot be disproportionate to the attack’s anticipated military gain.

Does Israel take care to avoid civilian casualties, even when they are purposely placed in harm’s way?

Asa Kasher, the co-author of the first IDF Code of Ethics, said, “We can’t separate the terrorist from his neighbors. The terrorists have erased the difference between combatants and non-combatants. They operate from within residential areas. They attack civilians. The world doesn’t have a clue what proportionality is. Proportionality is not about numbers.”

According to international law, the question of proportionality is whether the military benefit justifies the collateral damage. As for B’Tselem, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty, all have double standards. For them, there is the poor, pitiful side and the strong side. Testimony that comes from the pitiful side is taken at face value. They think it is immoral to give priority to the defense of the citizens of your state over the protection of the lives of the neighbors of the terrorists.”

The number of casualties, civilian or combatant, is not a determinate for proportionality. War crimes and proportionality are for those who target civilians, are indiscriminate in their attacks, or cause disproportionate civilian loss. Israel does not target civilians, but you would not know that from reading European newspapers or reports from so-called human rights organizations in which body counts determine proportionality.

Jeffery Goldberg, writing in 2014, hit the nail on the head in describing terrorist actors. “Hamas is trying to get Israel to kill as many Palestinians as possible. Dead Palestinians represent a crucial propaganda victory for the nihilists of Hamas. It is perverse but true. It is also the best possible explanation for Hamas’s behavior because Hamas has no other plausible strategic goal here.” This is the strategy of Hamas, Iran, Hezbollah and ISIS.

As Middle East analyst, British Col. (ret) Richard Kemp said, “Of course innocent civilians are killed in every war; war is chaotic and confusing, and mistakes are frequent, but mistakes are not war crimes.”

The problem is that the international community judges a disproportionate response by a body count. A democracy like Israel will always lose because its asymmetric enemy uses its citizens as human shields, hoping to
demonize Israel and deter legitimate use of force.

A few years ago, I spoke to the international medical director for Syrian refugees living in Lebanon, who told me that in the 300 villages he had visited in southern Lebanon, there was not one where missiles were not placed in civilian homes. This man was no Zionist.

All of this came to the fore in February when the ICC ruled that it is under its jurisdiction to investigate Israel for war crimes for its past military activity in the Gaza Strip. Also, it wants to determine if settlements in Judea and Samaria also constitute war crimes against the Palestinians.

The ICC is also supposedly looking into the potential war crimes of Hamas. Yet, it seems morally perverse to equate Hamas, a designated terrorist entity that indiscriminately targets Israeli civilians while using human shields to induce Israeli retaliation, with a democratic nation that tries as much as any other military on earth to minimize enemy civilian causalities. I have witnessed this firsthand along the Gaza border.

The three-judge panel ruling in favor of investigating Israel in 2021 is a far cry from former chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who said in 2006 that the ICC’s Rome Statute “permits belligerents to carry out proportionate attacks against military objectives, even when it is known that some civilian deaths or injuries will occur.”

The goal of Hamas and Hezbollah is to induce Israel to kill their civilians for political and diplomatic gain. Knowing international arbiters act only as bean counters plays right into their hands.

Whether from the north or south, Israel’s next war will again feature the use of human shields. This time it will be on a massive scale, with the inevitable international condemnation. Lt.-Col. Sarit Zehavi’s ALMA think tank, with the best expertise on Israel’s northern border, has documented many precision-guided missile factories purposely placed in civilian neighborhoods, next to schools, gas companies, and recreational facilities. It takes a herculean effort to fight UN officials and progressive media outlets who don’t hide their bias against Israel, choosing civilian body counts as their weapon to delegitimize Israel, knowing full well that Israel goes to extraordinary lengths to minimize civilians’ causalities.

Since the term “disproportionate” has been politicized and misused, it is appropriate to ask if an overwhelming response can be legal and justified if it acts as a deterrent to further attacks against your civilian population? What if it is the only effective deterrent against an asymmetric enemy that doesn’t play by international conflict rules, strategizing that it will not be on the receiving end of more missiles than it sends?

Can a case be made for a disproportionate response? Yes, it is called the Powell Doctrine and, in the long run, can decrease casualties by deterring the enemy. According to the late Charles Krauthammer’s interpretation of the
doctrine: “The key to success in a military conflict is the use of overwhelming force. For decades the US had followed a policy of proportionality: restraint because of fear of escalation. If you respond proportionately, you allow the enemy to set the parameters… you grant him the initiative.”

In 2006’s Second Lebanon War, Israel’s alleged use of disproportionate force deterred Hezbollah for nearly 16 years. Yet just two year later, the international community ganged up on Israel after Operation Cast Lead in 2008, alleging excessive force constituting war crimes that culminated in the infamous but now discredited and retracted Goldstone Report. The current ICC investigation against Israel for war crimes in 2014 is a continuation of the diplomatic war to discredit Israel and undermine its right to exist like every other nation in the world.

So what can US President Joe Biden’s administration do? It is in America’s interest to protect Israel and itself, so it shouldn’t wait until missiles fly in the next inevitable war. Being proactive before the next war, articulating an American policy on proportionality, would protect both your ally and yourself.

Sooner or later, the US will also be on the docket of the ICC for war crimes. In any war, bad things happen, and yes, war crimes occur. The difference is that for America and Israel, they are far and few between, are legitimately investigated, and punishment is meted out when warranted. Just ask the soldiers in Israeli or American military prisons.

The international community’s goal is to redefine proportionality and tar Israel and America by isolated incidents for political gain. Don’t be misled. Both nations follow the rule of law that is guided by their democratic values.

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.”

Sorry, but Bernie Sanders is No Zionist

Now that the Democratic Party nomination is completely up in the air, one must contemplate the real possibility that socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, who may have the most delegates going into this summer’s convention, could be the Democratic nominee and profoundly influence the Democratic Party’s platform. When I walked the halls of the Senate before 2016, Bernie was considered at most a marginal figure by both Democrats and Republicans. Today, he is close to being the standard-bearer of the party.

In response, some mainstream pro-Israel Democrats have formed the Democratic Majority for Israel to support the US-Israel alliance. They are concerned because Sanders wants to make military aid to Israel contingent on Israel acquiescing to Palestinian demands, while diverting aid from Israel to Gaza. They worry because weakening Israel hurts American national security interests. As liberals, they are concerned that Bernie remains silent while some of the people he supports, and who support him, traffic in antisemitic and anti-Zionist proposals and falsehoods.

To insulate Bernie from detractors who charge his associates dabble in anti-Israel rhetoric and use antisemites as advisers and surrogates to speak on his behalf, his PR people have been busily spinning his image and Jewish ancestry.

So let’s look at his record, associates and endorsements.

Let’s start with his unapologetic endorsement of British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. In 2019, 85% of British Jewry thought Corbyn was clearly antisemitic and spoke in support of terrorists.

Today the bar is awfully low to be considered pro-Israel or a Zionist.

An op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by Ted Rall spoke about Sanders’s “pro-Israel sentiments” that may be too much to bear for his anti-Israel progressive supporters because he supports Israel’s right to exist. According to a 2019 Gallup poll, only 3% of liberals support Israel over the Palestinians. Rall claims “by the most stringent progressive standards, Sanders has been a steadfast supporter of the Jewish state.”

Yet,  Sanders’s campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, and foreign policy adviser, Matt Duss, were accused of antisemitism while working for the progressive think-tank Center for American Progress, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee.

His fervent supporters like Rep. Ilhan Omar, whom he allows to speak on his behalf, have long ago crossed the line into antisemitism with their views of the Jewish state. Omar’s antisemitism reaches beyond Israel into old time antisemitic tropes on Jewish power and money. Bernie is silent because nobody in his base would want him to call out a woman of color.

It is not far-fetched to think about Rep. Rashida Tlaib as the US ambassador to Israel, Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez as UN ambassador or Omar, with her two-years’ experience on the House Foreign Relations Committee, being nominated to be secretary of state or another position of influence in foreign policy. This is not a “team of rivals” with Bernie being the Zionist. It is a monolithic group of anti-Israel activists in a Sanders administration. And yes, he could win.

Furthering the myth of Zionist Bernie, Muhammad Shehada, writing in The Forward asked, “Why do Palestinians love Bernie Sanders? He reconciles our narrative with the Zionist one… Sanders is a proud Zionist. His courageous and principled acknowledgment of our trauma, and Israel’s responsibility for it, has made him exceptionally popular in Gaza; some Gazans call him ‘the most popular Jew after Moses.’ However, understanding the Palestinian narrative, even if based on some dubious facts, will be necessary if Israel and the Palestinians ever reach some understanding.”

SO IS THE new definition in 2020 of a Zionist someone who believes Israel has a right to exist? This is not necessarily as a Jewish state, but some state of Israel that would be fully “democratic,” with an unlimited right of return of the descendants of Palestinian refugees, making the Jewish population of Israel completely vulnerable to demographic destruction.

Living on a Communist kibbutz 60 years ago, being born to Jewish parents or having a Jewish last name does not make you pro-Israel. Being Jewish doesn’t give you greater legitimacy to be a critic of Israel.

Bernie unapologetically uses Omar, an antisemite and Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions supporter, as an official spokesman, along with Linda Sarsour and Tlaib. Palestinian-American Tlaib compared the antisemitic BDS movement to the quintessential American event, the Boston Tea Party.

Bernie, there is an accepted definition of when anti-Israel rhetoric crosses over to antisemitism called the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism, which is used by our State Department and 30 other nations. Omar, Sarsour, and Tlaib meet the test. Will you direct your State Department to not consider a double standard against Israel as antisemitism or will you appoint to senior positions those who claim “the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor?”

Let’s be clear, the definition of what makes someone pro-Israel is not confined to those who support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as progressive anti-Israel advocates claim. Only a plurality of Israelis support his Likud party. Anyone supporting Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, while not characterizing it as apartheid, racist or fascist is certainly within the pro-Israel tent.

But “Jewish” groups that gravitate to Bernie, like IfNotNow and Jewish Voice for Peace, do fall far outside the tent as illiberal anti-Zionists who use their Jewish genes to claim a higher standing to defame Israel.

There is a world of difference between liberal Zionists, like the Democratic Majority for Israel, and progressive anti-Zionists. It is the choice between people like Democratic House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer and progressive darling Ilhan Omar.

So the question must be asked, can anyone who cares about the survival of the Jewish state and the US-Israel relationship, trust Sanders to change his spots and vote for him?

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 advisers, as well White House advisers. He is the senior editor for security at ‘The Jerusalem Report;’ a columnist for ‘The Jerusalem Post;’ a contributor to The Hill, i24TV, JTA, The Defense Post, JNS, ‘The Forward’ and has appeared in RealClearWorld.

Progressive Jewish Americans and the Legitimacy of Zionism

{Previously published by the JNS}

Will they ever feel comfortable with a powerful and self-confident Israel? Can they see beyond Israel’s occupation of the disputed territories as defining the legitimacy of the state?

In a column titled, “I Was Protested at Bard College for Being a Jew,” Batya Ungar-Sargan, a liberal Zionist and the Opinion Editor of The Forward, a paper that is decidedly to the left, was targeted by progressive anti-Zionists because the panel was comprised of three Jews, including the esteemed Ruth Wisse of Harvard University.

She said the university had no plans to stop “what was fixing to become an ugly disruption of Jews trying to discuss anti-Semitism.” What shocked her more was the support of the academics and intellectuals in the audience who “applauded” the blatantly anti-Semitic disruption. “These vaunted intellectuals, flown in from across the country … were commending a display of racism against Jews.”

Welcome to a world where far-left progressives find commonality with far-right fascists.

Unlike liberal Zionists of the 20th century, many 21st-century progressives attending our leading universities learned that Israel’s founding was the original sin of the Middle East, the ethnic-cleansing of the indigenous Arab minority by the interloping Jewish Zionist.

As New York Times columnist and author of How to Fight Anti-Semitism Bari Weiss wrote, “Where once only Israel’s government was demonized, now it is the Jewish movement for self-determination itself” that is delegitimized.

Israel, a nation whose existence is dedicated to a particular people, is an anathema to the universalism of the progressive intellectual, whose dream is a globalized world of universal values, and a distorted understanding of human rights and social justice.

Why Israel is singled out to be the only country whose very existence offends progressives—who seem to ignore other religiously or ethnically dominated states whose actions are far more egregious than Israel’s imperfect democracy—raises troubling questions.

Is it even possible that the next generation of American Jewish progressives can find commonality or respect for their Israeli Jewish brethren, or are Israelis marked like Cain, permanently branded as illegitimate occupiers who deserve to perish in the dustpan of history?

This all came into focus in reading two new books, Weiss’s and Daniel Gordis’s We Are Divided. The latter speaks of the different paths American and Israeli Jews have taken that led to their different perspectives of what it means to be a Jew in the 21st century.

Most Israelis—whether secular, traditional or national religious—are unapologetically proud to be Jewish, in large part based on their understanding of 3,000 years’ continuous narrative of a people who decided to take charge of their lives and re-enter history by living in a nation among nations in their ancestral homeland.

There is profound discomfort among American progressive Jews regarding their Jewish cousins and the choice they have made that Judaism can be fully expressed as a combination of civilizational aspirations, a multi-ethnic tradition, a religion, and yes, a legitimate national movement called Zionism.

Many American progressive groups see Judaism as Palestinian Arabs define it: as a religion without legitimate national rights. American progressive readers of The New York Times are comfortable with stories of powerless and persecuted Jews, especially from the Holocaust, but if Jews successfully defend themselves and prosper, then they are found to be guilty of colonialism, war crimes and a failure to honor the demands of diversity.

Will the next generation of American Jews follow many of today’s progressives and deny that Israel has any right to exist, or could they come to find this denial specious and become liberal Zionists?

Respect for Zionism is becoming weaker among progressive and even liberal Diaspora Jews. There is no doubt that some of this can be blamed on Israel for continuing to allow Israel’s ultra-Orthodox to delegitimize non-Orthodox branches of the religion.

Not acknowledging that until 30 years ago, when the ultra-Orthodox took over control of the rabbinate, Israeli Orthodox Judaism was more tolerant, especially when one thinks of Rav Abraham Isaac Kook, Israel’s first chief rabbi who saw Judaism and Zionism of non-observant Jews as complementary and necessary for Jewish survival.

There are some challenging questions that need to be addressed and discussed within American synagogues, organizations, and yes, progressive forums, if Diaspora Judaism wants to survive.Can progressive Jews see Israel as legitimate in its own right as both democratic and Jewish, and not compare it to American democracy, which is a different democratic experiment? Can they see the importance of a nation-state of the Jews as essential for the survival of Diaspora Judaism in America? Can they ever feel comfortable with a powerful and self-confident Israel? Can they see beyond Israel’s occupation of the disputed territories as defining the legitimacy of the state?

If a progressive American Jew cannot acknowledge that Zionism is a valid way of expressing one’s Judaism, then are progressive Jews any different from ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionists who think Israel has no right to exist until the coming of the Messiah?

Weiss writes that anti-Semitism of the left is more insidious and potentially more existentially dangerous than Jew-hatred from the right. “Leftist anti-Semitism like communism pretends to be something that it’s not that has been smuggled into the mainstream to manipulate us, in the name of human rights and universal rights of man.” As an example, she tells us to look across the pond at British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to see where progressivism may be headed in America.When Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speak at J Street’s national convention, will they be 100 percent clear that Israel’s right to exist is not up for discussion? Will they tell the audience, as they have said before, that they will remain unequivocally pro-Israel until this conflict becomes a negotiation about boundary lines, rather than a debate whether Israel has a right to exist? The survival of the liberal Jewish Diaspora, whether acknowledged or not, is dependent on Israel’s survival. Let the discussion begin.

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.”

Israeli Optimism Survives Despite Living in a Region with No Immediate Solutions

(Previously published in The Jerusalem Post)
We should hope for Israel’s success and try not to be tempted to impose solutions where none exist.
This February marked the 10-year anniversary of the annual educational seminar to Israel and the Middle East that I organize with my friend Yitzhak Sokoloff. Every year, we bring people from across the political spectrum who are truly interested in Israel’s future, and want a first-person view of the complex and fascinating world in which Israel lives.

The seminars have focused on Israel’s security and strategic paradigms, with topics including the future status of Jerusalem, defensible borders in the age of missiles, the ethics of the IDF, Syrian refugees, the growing Islamist threat, the existential threat of Iran, the Arab Winter, the Turkish move toward Islamism, Iraq, Israeli religious diversity, Israel’s socioeconomic problems and the fragility of the Jordanian monarchy.

Israel lives in a tough neighborhood, and the seminars are serious, as we analyze Israel’s daunting challenges.

After studying these topics, you would expect Israelis to be pessimistic about their future. But this year’s seminar was different. Whether we interviewed national security advisors, leading academics, generals, soldiers in the field, journalists, ordinary citizens or government leaders, the pervasive sentiment was optimism. There is a disconnect between the perpetual naysayers in America and what the people of Israel expressed to us. It seems that many Americans seem to want to support only an Israel that is a reflection of their America, which sits safely between Canada and Mexico, with two great oceans on either side. They happily parade though the US the disgruntled and angry small minority of Israelis who want to delegitimize their own country, e.g., Breaking the Silence, and then claim that this is representative of the average Israeli soldier. Are you listening, New Israel Fund and J Street? Overall, the people we spoke with, from the Golan to the Gaza border, said, “Yes, we have problems, big problems, but we’re going to be fine, because your imposed solutions are more of a danger than waiting for a more opportune time to act.” It wasn’t that they ignored a single significant domestic or security problem, but, in the end, there was an unspoken confidence that one way or another, the naysayers won’t also be prophetic.

Israelis know what American detractors of Israel don’t – in this part of the world, imposing solutions and predicting the future are what should be feared.

We saw an overall optimism for Israel’s future despite clear-headed assessment of the current dangers and problems. Beyond that, there was a vitality of life in Israel that is truly inspiring. Of course, everyone had a litany of complaints, from the unnecessary upcoming March election to the price of cottage cheese, but it did not dampen their Zionist enthusiasm.

In trying to understand this paradox between living in a nation with more than its share of problems, and an overall fatalistic optimism for the future, I came to realize the answer might lie in the fact that Israelis live lives of meaning. This assessment has objective support. When scientists survey Israelis’ level of happiness compared to other people in the world, they score particularly high in overall happiness. According to The Times of Israel: “The World Happiness Report… An annual survey ranked Israel the 11th-happiest country in the world, ahead of the United States, and far ahead of its neighbors in the region.” The Daily Beast in April 2013 had a headline that read: “Why are the Israelis so Damn Happy?” How can one explain this? If it is not living more fully, meaningfully and intensively, how can one explain why they are so happy? Despite all the predictions, Israelis by and large aren’t heading for the exits. When a war strikes, the army is oversubscribed with reserve soldiers trying to return from the four corners of the earth to help their “band of brothers” defend their homeland. Yes, there is concern about “brain drain” – bright Israelis going abroad – and taxes are eaten up disproportionately by the country’s defense budget. Nevertheless, Israelis of all stripes are innovating politically, religiously, academically and economically, to remain a light unto the nations in the repressive Middle East.

I am sure some people will think this is a new attempt to polish Zionism’s image and minimize its problems.

But you only have to go back and read my recent articles, where I usually write about the existential threat of Iran to Israel’s existence, the currently unresolvable Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Israel’s dysfunctional political system, to know this type of article is unusual for even me. Even my own mother tells me that my articles depress her! I am fully aware of Israel’s problems and how many Israelis struggle to make ends meet.

Despite this, wherever I had a meeting or an encounter with an Israeli on this visit, I saw optimism. Israelis live in a world where there are no immediate solutions.

They know what American administrations refuse to acknowledge – that the two-state solution is currently illusory, with an irreconcilable and corrupt Palestinian Authority, and a brainwashed Palestinian populace that has been trained for generations to hate Jews and the existence of the Jewish state. Israelis respond by stating the obvious – there is no solution at the present time, not because of the Israeli leadership, but because Palestinian promises at this time are as valuable as an agreement with North Korea.

Americans live in a world of immediate gratification, where there must be an immediate solution to every problem, and this administration thinks it knows the solutions. In the Middle East, today’s imposed solutions will vanish with tomorrow’s new realities. Israelis know that their world will more likely survive if they choose the sane course of ignoring the pressure from the Obama administration, which says this is your last chance for peace with the most moderate Palestinian leader you will ever have to negotiate with. Natan Sharansky and David Keyes writing in The Washington Post highlighted how wrong our analysis can be: “On Jan. 25, 2011, just two weeks before the fall of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave her assessment ‘that the Egyptian government is stable.’ That March, Clinton’s successor, John F. Kerry, praised ‘good-faith’ measures taken by Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and predicted that his regime would change for the better ‘as it embraces a legitimate relationship with the United States and the West.’” But even if this weren’t true, are Israelis willing to bet their future on an octogenarian Palestinian leader whose signed agreements will be ignored by the next corrupt PA leader? As a leading general and thinker of Israel told me this week, Israelis are living with great hope. They are developing their minds and are a leading innovative light to improve the world through high-tech, computers, medical advancements, agriculture, energy, culture, and business to name a few.

Claiming to know Israel’s or the Middle East’s future is a fool’s errand. Aaron David Miller once told me that on the one hand American must get over its hubris that it can impose solutions in the Middle East, on the other, American abandonment of the region is even a more dangerous choice.

Recently, I spoke to a State Department analyst in Israel who told me that we all know what the parameters of a resolution between Israel and the Palestinians will be. But the only thing that really is certain is that applying our antiquated analysis to the ever-changing world of the Middle East will be a prescription for disaster for both America and its vital ally, Israel. Are you listening, Mr. Kerry? Israel’s future is unknown. There are no prophets in the world. Secretary of State Kerry and the Labor Party’s candidate for defense minister Amos Yadlin in the past recommended that Israel give up the Golan Heights. Can you imagine Iran, Hezbollah or IS in the Golan today? With the vitality and ethos of the Israeli people, if I were a betting man, I would bet that Israel will be in a better place in 10 years’ time. As an American, I know that Israel’s future is tied to my own. American leadership in the Middle East needs more pragmatism, and less hubris and naiveté. We need to trust the Israeli people to know what is in their own best interests. If the Israeli people choose Labor leader Isaac Herzog, then we should support him, as it will be Israelis who decide their own fate and put their own children in harm’s way. If Netanyahu is re-elected, the same holds true.

We should hope for Israel’s success and try not to be tempted to impose solutions where none exist.

Am Israel Chai.

The author is the director of MEPIN (Middle East Political and Information Network), a Middle East research analysis read by members of Congress, their foreign policy advisors, members of the Knesset, journalists and organizational leaders.