BY RON JAGER—
If we accept the thesis that most American Jews are predominantly liberal and vote Democratic, and that most Liberals are concerned with human rights and social justice, a simple question is begged to be asked: Can American Jewish Liberals who detest war and violence, who believe that fighting is not ‘the Jewish way;’ who willingly believe that Jews have their own and higher standards of behavior support Israel today? Can American Jewish Liberalism “co-exist” with an Israel that refuses to enforce Democratic principles and values on behalf of Jew-hating enemies sworn to its destruction?
For many in the Liberal camp, all Jews should adhere to that 60’s slogan “make love not war, see driver for details.” After all, if I adhere to Liberal values, how I can possibly support Israel as she is increasingly projected, spoken about, and portrayed, as a country that is becoming right-wing, increasingly religious, increasingly foreign to the very liberal values that I have sworn by and believe in. Can an American liberal Jew identify with an Israel that is constantly vacillating in a dialectic relationship between Democratic principles and her Jewish Character? Can I an American Jewish liberal identify with a nation that reveres The Temple Mount, the Tomb of Joseph (Kever Yosef), the Tomb of Rachel (Kever Rachel Imanu), and the Machpela Cave. For many in the Liberal camp, the very notion of Jewish sovereignty based on religious and historical claims misrepresents the essence of what Israel should be. War and violence, creating an army and projecting Jewish strength is not the Jewish way, so they believe.
The Liberal perception of Palestinian terrorism and support for the Palestinian Arabs is very much at the heart of why Liberal Jews find themselves becoming more detached and alienated from Israel. In acknowledging Palestinian terrorism as a response to a specific cause, in Israel’s case, it’s “the occupation,” which has become a brand-name for legitimizing the killing Jews and demonizing Israel, they the Liberal Jews choose to ignore the hypocrisy of Liberal values implicitly condoning of indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians. The danger of associating terrorism to grievances and causes is that it rationalizes murder and justifies those who perpetrate it. Arab Palestinian terrorists, who plan and train for meticulously murderous attacks on Jews, don’t seek political compromises; their goal is jihad, total elimination of Jews, and the State of Israel. They don’t even think about a “peace process” or human rights, or even accepting Israel’s right to exist, committed to the total annihilation of their enemies. They see themselves as “martyrs,” glorified by their communities and by the Palestinian Authority. Most major Arab Palestinian towns have pictures of “martyrs,” that are terrorists who have committed acts of murder against Jews, hung high on light poles throughout major streets and boulevards for all to see as role models. Liberals will forever remain blind to this Palestinian elevation of glorifying death as a central belief in the Arab mindset and culture.
Liberals also always seem to belittle the success of Israel’s vibrant democracy, diminishing the significance of Israel being the single Democratic nation in all of the Middle East. This amazing success has become even more challenging because of two major competing factors: the first, Israel must constantly steer the course and navigate the inherent tension between Israel’s democratic structure and her Jewish character and the reality of being surrounded by Jew hating enemies sworn to eliminate Israel calling to “wipe her off the map” and “throw all the Jews in the sea”. Why is it that Liberals take everything for granted concerning Israel’s democracy yet explain away these phrases by Israel’s enemies as nothing more than expressions of free speech?
Israel’s need to constantly navigate the tension between its democratic ideal and its Jewish character while being surrounded by Jew-hating enemies sworn to its destruction has made Israel’s democratic journey that more turbulent. So if we want to gauge how democratic Israel really is, I would suggest that Liberals ask themselves to what extent Israel enables the unrestricted expression of liberal ideas and liberal freedoms. Here are some actual examples: Israeli academicians call for the boycott of Israel, Israeli Arab NGO’s actively campaign to deligitimize the continuing existence of Israel as a Jewish state, Israeli leftists actively participate in anti-Israeli activities like violent opposition to the security barrier created to prevent the free passage of Arab terrorists into the center of Israel, to receive funding from foreign governments hostile to Israel, and lets not forget the organized badgering, photographing, and heckling of Israeli soldiers at military checkpoints. Israel allows anti-Israel groups to visit the family of the barbaric murderers of the Fogel family from the community of Itamar and to publicly condemn the Israeli investigation. Liberals would be wise to wake up to this complicated reality of Israel’s vibrant democratic society before they donate a dime to organizations that falsely claim to combating Israel’s democratic institutions.
Today’s Israel can justifyingly claim to be a vibrant democracy, with progressive social values, industriousness, with ingenuity, with sensitivity and respect for human rights in the midst of a protracted, existential struggle is the true narrative of Israel. Liberal Jews can easily identify and defend this kind of Israel, all they have to say is “yes we can”.
The writer, a 25-year veteran of the I.D.F., served as a field mental health officer and Commander of the Central Psychiatric Military Clinic for Reserve Soldiers at Tel-Hashomer. Since retiring from active duty, he provides consultancy services to NGO’s implementing Psycho trauma and Psychoeducation programs to communities in the North and South of Israel and is a strategic advisor to the Director of the Shomron Liaison Office.