Progressive American Jews who claim to be pro-Zionist and pro-Israel yet concentrate their writing and public activities on condemning Israel are spreading an idea which is gaining legitimacy and picking up steam.
Over the weekend, an example of this trend appeared in an op-ed featured in the Sunday edition of the Washington Post. It was written by two academics from elite institutions: Steven Levitsky, a professor of government at Harvard University, and Glen Weyl, an assistant professor of law and economics at the University of Chicago.
The title of their op-ed says it all:
We Are Lifelong Zionists. Here’s Why We’ve Chosen to Boycott Israel.
They follow a usual trope. The Jewish writer first proclaims that he has always supported Israel and has the best interests of Israel at heart. Yet the professors’ prescription is a complete boycott of Israel — including all of its products and the withdrawal of all U.S. aid and diplomatic support — and support of boycotts and divestitures from the Israeli economy.
Their motivation, they tell us, is their “love for Israel and a desire to save it”:
Like other progressive Jews, our support for Israel has been founded on two convictions: first, that a state was necessary to protect our people from future disaster; and second, that any Jewish state would be democratic, embracing the values of universal human rights that many took as a lesson of the Holocaust.
They are disappointed. One problem is that they don’t love Israel as it exists today; they love the socialist Israel of yesteryear when Histadrut ran the economy, the Kibbutz was flourishing, and the Labor Party ran the country. But now Israel has betrayed them by moving to privatization and away from collectivism — and by becoming remarkably prosperous.
But Israel’s really egregious crime is that it has allowed itself to exist by taking “undemocratic” measures — i.e., occupying the West Bank and Gaza and denying “basic rights” to all the Palestinian people.
Their conclusion: American “progressive” Jews — their own definition of the only moral and decent American Jews — can no longer support a state that denies a people their legitimate rights. This follows with their comparison of Israel with apartheid-era South Africa, which in turn has made Israel into a pariah state.
That is why, they believe, “violence like the recent wave of attacks in Jerusalem and the West Bank” takes place and has become normal.
Their effort to save Israel from itself might lead them down the path taken by the footsteps of the late historian Tony Judt, who wrote columns in The London Review of Books about his disenchantment with Israel, and who advocated a bi-national state instead of a two-state solution — a “solution” that would do away with the Jewish state altogether.
The professors argue that with the Iron Dome system, Israel no longer faces any external existential threats, so the Israelis can afford to give the Palestinians what they want.
Somehow, they fail to mention Iran. To them, only one thing threatens Israel: “the occupation.”
As one leftist friend of mine always argues, “Bibi’s leadership and the settlements are the only existential threat to Israel.” This wishful thinking is reminiscent of the American left’s claim that if only the United States stopped its evil imperialist actions to gain complete hegemony everywhere on the globe, the world would be peaceful.
Missing from their analysis is the Palestinian side of the equation. Palestinian leadership rejected serious Israeli offers for a two-state solution many times, the latest being the magnanimous offer of Ehud Olmert to Mahmoud Abbas in 2008. When Ariel Sharon was prime minister, Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza. The result was that Hamas took it over, and has used it as a base to attack Israel ever since.
Then there is the Palestinian culture of anti-Semitism, its continual dehumanization of Jews, and the celebration of those who attack Israel and Israelis by the Palestinian Authority.
Without a negotiated settlement, a reasonable person could understand why Israel would be reluctant to give up the West Bank. The authors do not even consider what would happen if Hamas and jihadists could use the West Bank as a staging point for rocket attacks on Tel Aviv. Apparently, this did not occur to them.
With the latest Palestinian efforts to kill Jews either with knives or by ramming automobiles into Israeli citizens, you would think Jews who are concerned with the fate of their brethren in the Jewish State would condemn these barbaric acts, and express solidarity with Israel as its police and security forces do what little they can to minimize them.
It’s the old story, as Matthew M. Hausman puts it in an op-ed for Israel International News. They excuse “their attachment to a political ideology that excuses Jew-hatred and radical Islam with trite homilies about the evils of colonialism.” They regard Israel “as a colonial creation,” and ignore the actions taken by Islamists in their centuries-long jihad against Western civilization.
The progressives, like our two academics, end up supporting policies threatening Jewish survival, echoing constantly the false Palestinian narrative that the evils began with the Nakbah, Israel’s very creation.
I leave a comment on this to David Horovitz, editor of The Times of Israel. He takes up the errant belief that because Israel is strong, it is up to Israel to give the Palestinians independence and not stymie them:
But step back a little — to a perspective that includes Hamas, the rise of Islamic extremism in the Middle East, the threat posed directly by an emboldened Iran and via its terrorist proxies, the anti-Semitism and hostility to Israel rampant across this region — and it should be obvious that a miscalculation by “strong” Israel would quickly render it untenably weak and vulnerable. We might get better international media coverage, but we also might face destruction; Israelis aren’t about to vote for that.
The two professors put the blame for failure of peace between Palestinians and Israelis on Israel alone. Could it be that, in fact, the Palestinians continually prove they do not want a peace partner? The truth is, as Edward Alexander writes in his most important book, Jews Against Themselves, their case “omits history altogether, distorts evidence, and omits context.”
We can only expect more of the mainstream media to come up with similar articles in the days to come. It will hardly surprise anyone that a similar case will soon be made in the op-ed pages of the New York Times and other mainstream newspapers, whose editors do not want to be upstaged by the Washington Post. There are plenty of leftist anti-Israel Jews from whom they can pick to write it.