by Lee Bender
Professor Alan Dershowitz is undoubtedly correct when he argues: if you are in favor of women’s rights, gay rights, minority rights, civil rights, a robust free press, independent judiciary, high quality education and health care, then there is only one place in the Middle East (and frankly very few others) that shares these “progressive values” and that is Israel.
They are certainly not in the Palestinian Authority-governed areas, nor in any of the 21 Arab and 56 Muslim-dominated countries.
The latest Gallup Poll released March 13, 2018 (and recent Pew Poll also) has some generally good news: U.S. sympathies for Israel are at 64%, matching a long-term high, with 74% of Americans viewing Israel favorably vs. 21% for the Palestinian Authority. Other findings:
• 83% of Republicans, 72% of independents and 64% of Democrats view Israel favorably.
• Beyond party and consistent with Gallup’s previous findings by age, Israel also receives higher favorable ratings from adults 55 and older (80% favorable) than from those 35 to 54 (72%) or 18 to 34 (65%). Conversely, the Palestinian Authority receives somewhat better ratings from adults 18 to 34 (31% favorable) than from those 35 to 54 (15%) or 55 and older (18%).
Now, the bad news: there is a blind spot in the progressive movement when it comes to characterizing Israel, and the sad part is that too many Jews, especially among the younger generations are not only susceptible to the pull of “intersectionality” – they are active participants in the movements (i.e. Jewish Voices for Peace, Black Lives Matter). Younger adults who identify as “progressive” are in the minority of Americans who do not view Israel favorably, nor relate to its society as an open, free democracy with shared Judeo-Christian roots. Instead, Israel is viewed as the aggressive, looming Goliath over the poor, defenseless Palestinian Arabs; post-colonialists who have stolen the Arabs’ land and heritage; and with minimal to no rights to their ancient homeland. Their common cause is with the pernicious BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) Movement that has as its ultimate goal to destroy Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish People and replace it with yet another Arab state, “Palestine.”
I have spoken with several Democrats, liberal and progressive Jews and rabbis about this phenomenon. Here is a summary of what I have heard;
– Some Jews are feeling alienated from Israel: they intensely dislike Prime Minister Netanyahu; they feel there is lack of egalitarianism regarding religious (i.e, non-Orthodox) practice in Israel; there is unfair treatment of minorities in Israel; they are against Israeli “settlements” and are critical of Israel’s very presence in the “territories,” including Jerusalem, the Old City, Temple Mount and Mount of Olives Cemetery.
– Tikkum Olam (the often-misinterpreted concept of a Jew’s duty to repair the world) compels support for the Palestinian Arabs, the perceived underdogs and victims, who are “oppressed” by Israel.
– Purity of thought and actions: all victims are idolized, praiseworthy and deserve to be supported- and here that compels uncritical support for the Palestinian Arabs
Bari Weiss, a writer for the New York Times (“When Progressives Embrace Hate” 8-1-17) pushed back some with regard to the relationship of feminists in the progressive movement:
I am sure that Linda Sarsour, and perhaps the other leaders of the Women’s March, will block me for writing this. Maybe I’ll be accused of siding with the alt-right or tarred as Islamophobic. But what I stand against is embracing terrorists, disdaining independent feminist voices, hating on democracies and celebrating dictatorships. If that puts me beyond the pale of the progressive feminist movement in America right now, so be it.
This applies to Israel as well. We need to convince progressives that Israel’s values are theirs:
– that Israel’s case is based on its bona fides: a world leader in innovation, technology and discovery that shares with the world amazing technologies in agriculture, water, medicine, computers, security; is a first-world responder to humanitarian crises around the world; provides free medical care to thousands of Arab war refugees and civilians from Syria and around the region.
– that Jews (population 14 million world-wide, 6.8 million in Israel) and their tiny state of Israel is the true “David” vs. the Goliath of the Arab and Muslim worlds (21 Arab countries, 400 million in population, with land mass 625 times that of Israel).
– that illiberal Arab and Palestinian regimes and groups openly call for genocide of the Jewish People and destruction of their state; pay terrorists to murder Jews; indoctrinate and incite hate in their charters, mosques, schools, camps and media against peace. Instead, in the name of fairness, they must hold the Palestinian Arab leaders accountable for rejecting peace and a state of their own, side-by-side with Israel, offered six times since 1937.
– disgusting Jew haters as such as Louis Farrakhan must be denounced forcefully and not excused.
As one prominent rabbi who wishes to be unnamed put it:
Look, we all don’t need to agree with everything Israel does. But we must not let those differences of opinion over internal issues diminish our love for and support of Israel. Israel, it is clear, has their own agenda. Life there is similar to, but not exactly the same as, life in America. Israel is not America. But, even though you disagree, you can be a loving and passionate supporter.
Indeed. Jews must be united and agree that Israel’s safety, security and right to self-determination is preeminent, regardless of who the democratically elected leaders are in Israel and the U.S. As Jews, we cannot afford otherwise. If leftism/progressivism becomes the new religion of these Jews, we will suffer immeasurably. Can we bring them back into the fold?
Lee Bender is the co-author of the book, “Pressing Israel: Media Bias Exposed From A-Z” (Pavilion Press 2012), co-developer of the website and app, www.factsonisrael.com, and
co-president of the Zionist Organization of America- Philadelphia.