May 22, 2011
Strategies to Help Identify anti-Israel 'Jewish' Groups
By Allon Friedman and Elliot Bartky
Since 1948 the public image of a Jewish community fully united in support of Israel masked the significant religious and political differences dividing American Jews. Now the mask has been stripped off, forcing us to face the unpleasant truth that the welfare of the Jewish state of Israel no longer unites the American Jewish community as it once did. A small but vocal Jewish contingent that does not consider the security and welfare of Israel to be its primary consideration, the emergence of self-proclaimed "Jewish" organizations that side with those seeking to compel Israel to accede to policies that endanger its security, and threats by Jewish individuals and groups to withhold financial support or even divest from the Israeli economy demonstrate that we can no longer take for granted unified support for Israel's security and welfare. Worse, the very community organizations that were originally established to safeguard Israel and the Jewish people have increasingly welcomed such voices into their fold.
It is profoundly troubling to see mainstream Jewish organizations contribute to the undermining of Israel's security by acting under the irrational assumption that every group claiming to be Jewish and/or pro-Israel must be taken at its word and given an equal opportunity to participate in the community discourse. We think this misguided and dangerous approach is akin to a patient with a seriously impaired immune system who carelessly ignores the simplest of precautionary measures like the washing of hands. It also brings to mind George Orwell's observation that "sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious." In that vein, we would like to offer those community leaders needing guidance a few basic tips on how to successfully identify groups that, regardless of their intentions, undermine the security of the Jewish state.
- 1. Actions Have Consequences. Many organizations claim that, among other things, they exist to help preserve or strengthen Israel's virtuousness and morality. Along related lines, they also often argue that Israel must choose between being a democracy and a Jewish state. We say it is no accident that the only democracy in the Middle East is a Jewish state. Is it a perfect democracy or wholly just? Of course not. Yet we need not apologize for Israel's imperfections. No nation is perfect, so why must the Jewish state be the only one called to perfection? Such demands serve only to turn it into a pariah state. While it may indeed be difficult to gauge the true intentions of any particular group, it is in fact a superfluous exercise, since what is ultimately important is the outcome of its policies. When the New Israel Fund or J Street or a host of similar groups publicly endorse the Goldstone Report, condemn Israel's so-called "blockade" of Gaza or promote anti-Israel divestment campaigns, they contribute to an atmosphere that fulfills Natan Sharansky's 3D test of anti-Semitism -- delegitimization, demonization, and double standards. That's all that really matters. Claiming they are out to strengthen the Jewish State when their actions have the demonstrably opposite effect is perfidy, plain and simple. Groups that act in this manner have effectively ceded their place at the table, despite morally obtuse entreaties to the contrary.
- 2. "If I Am Not For Myself, Who Will Be For Me?" Israel advocacy requires an appreciation of how the Jewish people, against all conceivable odds, miraculously overcame unique and monumental challenges to reestablish a nation in their historical homeland. It also requires one to confront the fact that Israel faces singular existential threats that, if anything, have grown over recent years. These particularist concepts are recognized and internalized by authentic lovers of Zion. In contrast, the core mission and policies of groups whose goals are universalist in nature are all too often opposed to the interests of the Jewish nation. We are not interested in questioning the intentions of those who say they support Israel while simultaneously supporting policies opposed to Israel's interests. In fact, it is all too easy to understand how those caught up in utopian ideals of peace and universal brotherhood find it difficult to support a Jewish state established for the security and welfare of one particular people. That universalism often engenders emotional indifference (or worse) towards Israel is painfully obvious to any of its genuine supporters, especially in times of crisis, regardless of their political or religious persuasion. Take Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the recently retired head of the US Reform movement, as an example. Though a self-described "dove" whose views on many topics differ sharply from his more religiously or politically conservative counterparts, he nonetheless severely condemned J Street's stance on Israel's 2008 defensive incursion into Gaza as morally deficient and utterly lacking in empathy for Israel's terrible predicament. Unfortunately, the universalist point of view increasingly holds sway in Jewish communal organizations, resulting in an impaired ability to generate the type of empathy for Israel's struggles and challenges that is needed during this difficult period.
- 3. "Peace" Out. Some groups are wily enough to understand how strongly language influences thought, so they frequently take Orwellian liberties with the English language to mask their true intentions. A tipoff to such groups is when they condemn Israel by appropriating for themselves concepts that are universally revered, such as freedom, justice, dignity, equality, and human rights. Especially common is the use of "peace," which after being stripped of its meaning, has been adopted by the Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace movement, Americans for Peace Now, Jewish Voice for Peace, American Jews for a Just Peace, Orthodox Jews for Peace, ad infinitum.
- 4. Follow the Money! If actions speak louder than words, then among the loudest of actions is how a man spends his money. Similarly, an important step to understanding a group's ideology is to follow its money trail. Though J Street, for example, attempts to portray itself as a stalwart ally of Israel, it is funded in large part through such overtly anti-Israel sources as American and Muslim allies of Saudi Arabia, George Soros, pro-Iranian lobbyists, a leader of the Arab-American community, and a bevy of U.S. government Arabists. Is it conceivable that J Street duped these donors into believing it was something it really wasn't? We wouldn't bet a dollar on that one.
We call on Jewish leaders across our nation to steadfastly reject the legitimacy of organizations whose voice and actions undermine the security of Israel. If they fail in this critical mission, it is simply unavoidable that concerned citizens will take matters into their own hands and establish alternative organizations to help protect Israel, similar to what we have done in Indiana. Our view is that all differences aside, there is plenty of room for true supporters of Israel to come together and work for Israel's security and future.