Israel can’t Afford to Lose Jews Like Me

by DAVID H. SCHANZER for ISLAMiCommentary

David Schanzer

David Schanzer

Writing in the New York Times . . . , columnist Shmuel Rosner labeled non-Israeli liberal Jews that are becoming more estranged from modern day Israel, as “fair weather fans” that Israel both can and should ignore. He is dead wrong on both counts.

I am far from the most liberal Jew in America, but I am in the camp of Jews that Rosner is criticizing – Jews who have traditionally supported Israel but in recent years are feeling less and less comfortable doing so due to Israeli policy. The reason I am deeply concerned about Israeli policy is because – 1) I love Israel, and 2) I believe that current Israeli policy is jeopardizing what Rosner properly calls “the greatest Jewish enterprise of the last two millenniums.”

Rosner tries to pawn off these legitimate concerns as motivated by Jewish guilt, claiming that American Jewish liberals are distancing themselves from Israel to “clear their conscience.” As we say here in America – that dog won’t hunt. Israelis may feel better if they can blame the views of some American Jews on personal shame. If that were true, we really would be fair weather fans. Rosner doesn’t seem to be willing to take on the much harder task of acknowledging that liberal American Jews share his objective of securing the Jewish state for posterity, and then dealing with our policy arguments on the merits.

Rosner might be surprised to know that at least this liberal Jew did not object to the incursion into Gaza. The tunnels had to be destroyed. The launchers of rockets had to be punished. No state can submit to this kind of security threat on its back doorstep. I am even willing to defend actions that result in unintentional civilian casualties. There is no good, moral answer to how to deal with terrorists who use potentially lethal force against you and then try to immunize themselves from reprisals by surrounding themselves with civilians. I do, however, wish the IDF had been more discriminating. I can’t defend killing children on the beach and I believe Israel should have avoided bombardment of UN safe harbors. But no war has ever been fought without mistakes or transgressions. I believe that the IDF is attempting to comply with the law of war, but these efforts have fallen short too often.

The bigger issue than IDF conduct, for me, is Israel’s lack of strategic vision. We hear consistently from Israeli politicians and commentators that Hamas must be crushed, annihilated, defeated. I wish that were possible too. But the reality is that while Hamas’ infrastructure can be degraded by Israel’s military might, the organization cannot be militarily defeated (at least without a horrific, unacceptable bloodletting). The only way to truly destroy Hamas is to reach a settlement with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas regarding occupation of the West Bank, show the Palestinians in Gaza that they can live a normal, better life through reconciliation, and ultimately drain the political support Hamas currently enjoys. Unfortunately, the settler movement and the condition of Israeli politics have rendered the likelihood of a peace deal more and more remote. And, as has been convincingly demonstrated by so-called liberal American Jews like Peter Beinart and Jeremy ben Ami (leader of J Street), without a peace deal, Israel cannot continue to be a Jewish, democratic state. This is the true cause of my disillusionment.

It is worth noting that what Rosner deems to be the “liberal” Jewish position – that is ending Israel’s 47-year occupation through a two-state solution – has been the consistent policy of the United States over successive Democratic and Republican administrations. But the ground has shifted in modern Israel so much that policy supported by George W. Bush and Barack Obama is now considered liberal. I do wonder: What is the “conservative” Jewish position? Is it permanent occupation? Ethnic cleansing of Muslims from Israel, the West Bank and Gaza? Or a one-state solution with unequal rights of citizenship for non-Jews? To merely ask the question is to answer it – there is no viable alternative to the two-state solution.

Rosner is surely correct that Israelis can survive even if they “lose the support of some liberal Jews.” But this dismissive attitude is reflective of the myopia that afflicts modern Israel. We live in a globalized world. No country, even one with the depth of human capital of Israel, can be successful if it is a pariah state. If Israel is losing the support of Jews like me – who pulled weeds out of kibbutz cotton fields for weeks in 1978 when I was fifteen – where will it find the economic and political support to thrive and prosper in a world that, by and large, is anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist, anti-occupation, and anti-Israel ? Losing support from some American Jews is not just about lost donations, lost tourism dollars, or lost advocacy for pro-Israel causes in the U.S. Congress (although all of these hurt Israel badly). It is a danger sign. The lights are flashing red. Apparently, Rosner has his eyes closed. Unfortunately, many Israelis do as well.

My final sin, in Rosner’s view, is that in my criticism of Israeli policy and actions, I am not treating my fellow Jews as family by providing “unconditional love.” But I do love Israel unconditionally, just as I do my children. And that hardly means I allow my children to do whatever they please or that I never criticize them. My obligation as a loving parent is to try and shape and mold my children so they make good, thoughtful, moral decisions that help them live joyous, successful lives. My love for Israel is unconditional in that as long as it exists, I will continue to advocate for its security, freedom and prosperity. My plea to Israel, out of love, is to change course before it is too late.

David H. Schanzer is an Associate Professor of the Practice for Public Policy at the Duke Sanford School of Public Policy and the Director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security. He is also a regular contributor to ISLAMiCommentary.

Mirrored from IslamiCommentary
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Sam Seder: “What is Israel’s Gaza Endgame? (w/ Daniel Levy)”

19 Responses

  1. It is truly regrettable that views like Mr. Schanzer’s can be regarded as ‘liberal’ at all. A liberal would support the Palestinian right of resistance to occupation, the immediate end to the unlawful and immoral blockade of Gaza, and would renounce once and for all the crude dehumanizing propaganda that has become part and parcel of Jewish discourse on the Palestinian issue.

  2. my only problem with what this guy is saying is where he feels compelled to support the recent invasion minus the killing of playing or sleeping children. you cant say i “did not object to the incursion into Gaza” except for the killing and war part because the incursion is in fact killing and war. either you support it or you don’t.

  3. I am afraid, sir, that that ship has already sailed. Might I point out that my children – and I expect yours – do not commit this kind of murder. This piece reminds one of the US senators who have never condemned torture, but feel “uncomfortable” about the manner the US conducts and manages it. Is there evidence Israel wants and can achieve an equitable “peace deal”? Slim to none.

  4. I have one question for the author.

    Would you accept in the United States a distinction between ‘citizenship’ and ‘nationality’, such as Israel has? Would you accept that citizens of the USA be divided into a ‘WASP nation’, a ‘Black nation’, a ‘Jewish nation’, a ‘Cherokee nation’ and so on, and different laws would apply to each nation? Not necessarily very different laws, mostly only a little different. For example, military service would be open all citizens, but compulsory for some ‘nations’. (The ‘compulsory’ nation would, of course, be compensated with preferential treatment in jobs, housing etc.) People would not get to self-identify their nationality, it would be decided on the basis of ancestry, by some group of experts. Unelected experts.

    Would you accept this?

    • This is exactly right. The dog that will not hunt is ethnic supremacy. It is the assumption that Israel can continue as one that escapes both Rosner and Schanzer. The fact that faces Israeli Jews is one that has been accepted and embraced by American Jews – people must live together. It is inevitable.

  5. The myth of Israeli human resources.

    Lets make some approximations . . . Out of the 7 million humans in Israel, lets assume there are 5 million usable brains (removing the very old, the very young, any oppressed humans, etc.). Like all humans, the Israeli humans mostly fall into the very narrow range of “average” on the intelligence scale because research shows that the range of human intelligence is actually very narrow with the numbers on the low and high sides being almost negligible.

    Now.lets look at China with its population of 1.4 BILLION. Again, since some of the brains are not usable, lets round to 1 billion for the number of usable brains. As with Israel, the Chinese brains will mostly fall into the narrow range of average brains.

    Doing some simple math shows that for every Israeli brain there are 200 Chinese brains of equal capacity. Then when you throw in the Indian, European and US brains, it becomes very obvious, Israel really has no real human resources at all. Anything Israelis can think up, others can also think up and probably make for a lot less cost.

    The HARD REALITY that virtually all Israelis refuse to face is Israel is completely dependent on the rest of the world for their food, energy and markets. They like to think they are so intelligent and so self-sufficient that they can simply ignore the rest of the world, but the REALITY is vastly different.

    If the Israeli actually had half the brains they think they have, they would realize that the Mid East is a vastly under-developed economic zone that, if they were not such bad neighbors, could be very good for them. The global REALITY is China, Japan and Korea are going to dominate in Asia and can out think and out produce for vastly lower costs than Israel. The European zone is going to be closed to Israel more each day, as will the US. Just as with Asia, Africa and Latin America want to focus on home industries (they are sooo over colonial powers).

    This leave only one untapped economic zone – the Middle east, where all the other economic zones are going to try to keep in their influence. Because the US has protected Israel, the US has a huge disadvantage, as does Europe due to past colonial problems. This means Asia will probably dominate the ME because Israel has shunned it.

    As Asia becomes entrenched in the ME economically, the US loses power, and Europeans shun Israel, Israel is going to have a very bad economic future.

    And remember that 5 million usable Israeli brains? Guess where they will be using those brains as Israel loses economic power? Since Jewish people can live in most of the world just fine, all those valuable brains are going to go where they can live in peace and comfort.

    As the author notes, no one in Israel is thinking beyond the end of their nose. No one seems to understand the very bad corner they have painted themselves into and no one in Israel seems to want to hear the ugly truth about their future.

    If Israel continues on its current path (very likely), they are going to become increasingly isolated and poorer. Since they seem oblivious to the severe damage they are doing to themselves by their very bad behavior, they will probably try to blame the other 6.99 billion people on earth for being “antisemitic.”.

  6. Um. Maybe a college-dropout and housewife like me is going to oversimplify things, but … I think the idea of a Jewish democracy is strange. They can either be a Jewish state or a democracy, but how can they be both when religious nationalism is not compatible with a free democratic society? And isn’t this why J Street is losing influence while Jewish Voices for Peace is gaining both membership and funding?

  7. I need some help here. It is my understanding that most of the people considered Palestinian were born in or to people born in Palestine and would be considered linguistically and perhaps culturally Semites. If this correct? So supporting Palestinians cannot be considered “anti-Semitic. At the same time most Israelis were born or born to people from Western and Central Europe, Russia, and the United States, i.e., people who heritage is not, or only marginally, Semitic. So if I am unhappy with them or the settler state they have created how does that make me anti-Semitic? They are not Semites but Russians or Poles or Americans. Does criticizing Israel for killing Palestinians therefore make me anti-American?

    Many Americans have been supportive of a romanticized notion of a settler population carving out homes under difficult circumstances, a somewhat rosy view of our own past. But what we are seeing in Gaza and the West Bank are those aspects of our own history largely repressed or sanitized, the destruction of the original population so our ancestors could take land and resources for their own. The tunnels and rockets are the raids on homesteads and wagon trains, tragic for those killed but ineffective against the lethal juggernaut destroying villages, spreading smallpox, and killing the buffalo. It should not surprise Professor Schanzer that some observers have little affection for the promoters of the juggernaut.

    • Antisemitism was basically coined as a scientific-sounding way to describe “Jew hatred”. It’s pretty much been used that way ever since the word was made up.

      Of course, it was coined in a context where people using the word had little knowledge, experience or awareness of the Middle East.

      Worth noting is the millennium long connection between Jew hating and Arab hating in Europe. For instance, every crusade against the Arabs was accompanied by local purges directed against Jewish communities.

  8. I’m an American Liberal BUUUT an Israeli Conservative…I back the Israeli’s to the hilt!!!
    I would like Schanzer come up with a GOOD alternative on how to return the fire of the hamass missiles without putting civilians in danger…and then MAYBE I could agree with him! It’s easy to say Don’t fire on Gaza but how do you keep them from firing on you???

    • Schanzer actually said how to do it: you let Palestinians have a decent life, by striking a deal with those on the West Bank that have recognized Israel in the Oslo Accords and committed themselves to a peaceful solution. Unfortunately, the nature of Israel has changed so drastically from the time that it was mostly survivors and refugees from the Holocaust that this option is politically impossible. Israeli politics are being driven by immigrants from the Soviet Union who are acting just like the Russians in the Ukraine. They think they don´t need a deal with Palestinians because they are so superior that they have nothing to fear from them. Shanzer on the other hand, loves Israel and but sees the handwriting on the wall.

    • What is your end-game? Does the constant escalation of Israeli violence solve anything?

      As for minimizing the missiles coming from Gaza, that is easy:

      - Stop the Gaza blockade. Open a Gaza port and rebuild the Gaza airport.

      - Remove all the settlers form the West Bank.

      - Set definite borders for Israel so settlers know they will not be Israelis unless they live inside the Israel borders.

      - Treat non-Israelis the same as Israelis

      - Sign the 11 year old Arab Peace Plan.

      The bottom line is Israel can EITHER . .

      - give up lots of land, water, cash (for compensation) and apologies for invading the ME, or

      - It can continue to try to contain the anger by brutal force and FAIL.

      Based on 10,000 years of human history, there is zero chance Israel can “win” in the end, all it can do is minimize its losses. So your choices are: follow the current path to the destruction of Israel (the Arabs will succeed eventually) or WAKE UP and realize that if Israel is to survive, it must understand it is the result of many bad decisions and try to fix that as much as possible.

      The Arabs have very valid reasons for disliking Israel and Israel gives them more reasons each and every day.

    • And you hardly have to reconcile the whole problem is one gulp to stop the rockets, from which everything else could theoretically flow. A nice cease-fire/virtual peace had been holding for many months, despite the blockade and a number of relatively small Israeli offenses.

      But then, Israel got spooked because Hamas appeared to be hooking-up with WB Palestinians to press an effective diplomatic offensive. The kidnapping of those 3 Israeli kids, not even done by Hamas, was the excuse Israel needed to set things back to the way it actually prefers them.

      They just demonstrated what they will do if a entity appears to be emerging that can presume to speak for all the Palestinian people. Having to face a party that could make offers they would be obliged to consider and then be judged on, was more than Israel’s leadership could stomach. The fundamental mistake being made here is to think that Israel, as represented by its duly elected government, actually wants any sort of peace that would be just to the Palestinians.

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