The “Liberal Zionist” Assault on Birthright Betrays the Irrationality of Progressive Jewish Hostility toward Israel

Jan. 10 2019

Recently, the organization If Not Now, whose stated goal is to end U.S. Jewry’s “support for the occupation,” has made the Birthright program—which gives young American Jews free trips to Israel—a target of its invective. They have now been joined by the somewhat more moderate voice of the journalist Peter Beinart, who argued in a column this week that Birthright is morally suspect unless it starts bringing participants to meet Palestinians living in the West Bank. Daniel Gordis, a friend and regular sparring partner of Beinart, dissects his argument, and what lies behind it:

Which Palestinians does Peter think Birthright participants ought to meet? Palestinians in the West Bank are no more monolithic than Israelis or American Jews. Does he want them to hear from Palestinians who will tell them that they’d much rather live under Israeli occupation than under the corrupt Palestinian Authority (there are, indeed, such people), or Palestinians who will tell them that ending the occupation is but the first step on their drive to ending the state of Israel? Or does he want them to hear from Palestinians who insist on ending the occupation but have no desire to destroy Israel? What percentage of Palestinians are those people? How does Peter know? On what basis of what would Beinart have Birthright choose? Those who represent the majority? Or those who mirror Beinart’s progressive yet “Zionist” values? . . .

How are we to explain the intellectual sloppiness? Perhaps it’s because American Jewish progressives, with If Not Now at their helm, have decided to destroy Birthright, and Beinart would rather join the crowd than try to lead them back to a responsible position. Or perhaps (as he notes) it’s because he finds Sheldon Adelson so distasteful that he wants any program that Adelson funds taken down? [I]s that reason enough to destroy a program that has brought hundreds of thousands of young American Jews to have a meaningful engagement with Israel? Instead of destroying Birthright, why don’t Beinart, If Not Now, and others raise the tens of millions of dollars it would cost to run an alternative program? . . . The reason has to do with the particular form of Zionism characteristic of much of the American Jewish left.

At the heart of this brand of Zionism, writes Gordis, is the conceit that it is the duty of American Jews to save Israel from itself:

If 82 percent of Israelis now define themselves as center-to-right-wing, [as a recent study suggests], how can American liberal Jews save Israel without subverting the will of Israel’s majority? At the same time, though, how can American Jews both boast about Israel’s robust democracy and also decide to override it in the name of their American, suburban, progressive ethos? . . . Is Israel’s democracy not sacred? Or is it simply less sacred than the moral comfort of American Jewish progressives? . . .

[As for the] young American Jewish progressives [of If Not Now]: do they believe that they are more moral than the Israeli left? . . . Or, more likely, is it that they care about their progressive credentials much more than they care about Israel?

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: American Jewry, Anti-Zionism, Birthright, Israel & Zionism, Liberal Zionism

The Riots on the Gaza Border are Carefully Coordinated Attacks on Israel, and Should Be Treated as Such

Jan. 16 2019

On Friday, the weekly riots at the Gaza security fence resumed in full force: 13,000 people participated, and a Palestinian woman was apparently killed by Israeli gunfire. The UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) had established a commission of inquiry in May, not long after these riots began, “to investigate all alleged violations and abuses of international humanitarian law and international human-rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, . . . particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, in the context of the military assaults on the large-scale civilian protests that began on March 20, 2018.” In a report to the commission, Richard Kemp, a retired senior British officer, concludes, after investigating the situation at the Gaza border, that there is no evidence whatsoever of Israeli wrongdoing, and that the commission is operating under faulty assumptions:

The terms of [the commission’s] mandate are self-evidently biased against the state of Israel and the IDF. The context cited—“the military assaults on the large-scale civilian protests”—make clear that the UNHRC either failed to understand what was happening on the ground or deliberately misrepresented the reality. In addition, the commission’s mandate terms the Gaza Strip “Occupied Palestinian Territories,” which it is not. . . .

[T]he so-called “civilian protests” in reality were, and continue to be, a deliberate military operation, orchestrated and controlled by Hamas, [a] terrorist group that has been waging an armed conflict against Israel for many years. Their intention was and remains to kill and wound IDF soldiers, to break through the border fence, to murder and maim innocent civilians, to destroy property, and to compel the IDF to take defensive action resulting in the death of Gaza civilians for exploitation in the international arena. [Israel’s] “military assaults” were not what was implied by this prejudicial mandate. They were in fact lawful, proportionate, and restrained defensive actions. . . .

Suggestions that these demonstrations are [protests] against Israeli policy toward the Gaza Strip are demonstrably false and easily refuted by cursory viewing of Hamas and other public statements made at the time of the events. . . . Further, it is clear that Hamas intended this violence to continue its long-standing strategy of creating and intensifying international outrage, vilification, isolation, and criminalization of the state of Israel and its officials. . . .

[T]he starkest indication that these events were entirely under Hamas control is the simple fact that, when it suited Hamas’s political interests, the [demonstrations] occurred and were of a violent nature, and when such actions did not serve Hamas’s interests, the border was quiet. As the most recent example of this, in November 2018, Qatar began to make large cash payments to Hamas in Gaza. The most recent payment of $15 million was handed over in December 2018. These payments are reportedly part of an agreement with Hamas to diminish violence along the Gaza border. [After] the first payment, the border violence [was] reduced [and the] demonstrations [became] far more restrained.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, IDF, Israel & Zionism, Laws of war, UNHRC