One of the most difficult things in life is to draw the line between friend and foe. Take the Palestinian terror groups.
Last week in Mecca, the Fatah terror group, which mixes the murder of Israelis with negotiations with Israelis, officially joined forces with the Hamas terror group, which murders Israelis while refusing to negotiate with us.
Although the agreement makes it clear that both are at war with Israel, on Sunday the Olmert government decided to reserve judgment on the terror unity deal. And Monday morning Vice Premier Shimon Peres warned that saying bad things about the Mecca deal would only weaken Fatah terror boss Mahmoud Abbas, whom we should strengthen because he likes to negotiate while killing.
Given how hard it is for Israel to identify its Arab foes, it is little wonder that identifying Jewish foes is a near-Herculean task.
Last month the American Jewish Committee took an important first step in this direction by publishing a paper by Prof. Alvin Rosenfeld from the University of Indiana entitled, "'Progressive' Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism." Explaining the difference between criticism of Israel and demonization of the Jewish state, Rosenfeld wrote, "To call Israel a Nazi state… as is commonly done today, or to accuse it of fostering South African-style apartheid or engaging in ethnic cleansing or wholesale genocide goes well beyond legitimate criticism."
Rosenfeld noted that these descriptors of Israel, which aim to single out Israel "as a political entity unworthy of secure and sovereign existence" are today "part of a standard discourse among 'progressive' American Jews, who seem to take for granted that the historical record shows Israel to be an aggressor state guilty of sins comparable to Hendrik Verwoerd's South Africa and Hitler's Germany."
HAVING described the phenomenon, Rosenfeld proceeded to identify prominent American Jews, including New York University Prof. Tony Judt, playwright Tony Kushner, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, Noam Chomsky, and Adrienne Rich as leading Jewish lights in the leftist assault on the Jewish people's right to self-determination in our homeland.
Rosenfeld's paper evoked strong reactions in the American Jewish community. A New York Times write-up of the controversy entitled, "Essay Linking Liberal Jews and Anti-Semitism Sparks a Furor," described how the same "progressive" Jews and their supporters are up in arms over being painted as anti-Semites. Judt opined that the point of the article was to silence them.
This of course, is pure nonsense. All the Jews in America couldn't silence Judt and his colleagues even if they wished to. As anti-Israel Jews, they will never lack prestigious forums from which to propagate their hatred for Israel.
Far from seeking to silence these hostile Jewish voices, Rosenfeld's essay simply serves to draw lines between friend and foe where such lines are important. The views of Kushner, Judt and Cohen are no less anti-Jewish than similar statements by non-Jews.
Rosenfeld's efforts, while important, are insufficient. The likes of Judt and Kushner use their professed Jewishness as a tool to advance the cause of Israel's denunciation. Others hide behind protestations of Zionism to undermine Israel's right to defend itself against enemies actively working toward its destruction.
CASE IN point is the Union of Progressive Zionists. The UPZ is the US campus representative of the Labor and Meretz parties as well as of Hashomer Hatzair and Habonim Dror. In its mission statement, the UPZ claims to be "a network of student activists organizing on campuses across North America for social justice and peace in Israel/Palestine. The UPZ was created to provide guidance, education and resources to students who seek to impart a progressive voice into the campus debate on Israel."
Mission statement in hand, the UPZ joined the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC) – a pro-Israel umbrella group established to build support for Israel and fight the rise in anti-Israel incitement on college campuses. Yet, while operating under the ICC umbrella, UPZ is actually promoting hostility toward Israel and so advancing the cause of those who maintain that Israel has no right to exist.
In recent months, under the aegis of the ICC, the UPZ has hosted members of the radical leftist Israeli organization "Breaking the Silence" on a number of college campuses. "Breaking the Silence" was established by former IDF soldiers for the declared purpose of "exposing" the "irreversible corruption" of Israeli society by the IDF's counterterror operations in Judea and Samaria.
Armed with photographs which purposely present a distorted image of IDF operations, soldiers and Israeli civilians in Judea and Samaria, the group works to demonize and criminalize the IDF and so undermine Israel's right to defend itself against the Palestinian jihad. That is, it seeks to advance an aim which is diametrically opposed to the goals of the ICC.
Ilan Benjamin, an Israeli chemistry professor at University of California at Santa Cruz, attended the UPZ-sponsored "Breaking the Silence" event on his campus. In a letter to the ICC Benjamin wrote, "the presentation was neither fair nor balanced, but was rather unabashedly anti-Israel." He continued, "There was almost no mention of why the Israeli army is inside Arab towns. [The program's speaker] dismissed the notion that security checkpoints prevent a large percentage of the suicide bombers… [S]tudents who attended the event did not get a crucial point of information necessary for a critical understanding of the conflict, namely, that Israel is in a state of war with a terrorist organization imbedded in civilian neighborhoods."
THE CONTRADICTION between the UPZ and "Breaking the Silence's" protestations of Zionism and the aim of their programming is so blatant that even the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles weighed in on the issue. In a report to the Foreign Ministry published in Yediot Aharonot, Ehud Danoch, the consul-general warned: "The willingness of Jewish communities to host these organizations and even sponsor them is unfortunate. This is a phenomenon that must not be ignored."
But the ICC has decided to ignore the phenomenon. Last month, the Zionist Organization of America, which is also an ICC member, requested that the ICC's Steering Committee expel the UPZ on the grounds that through its sponsorship of "Breaking the Silence" it contravened the ICC's explicit mission of defending Israel.
The Steering Committee, which includes representatives of the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, AIPAC, Aish HaTorah, the Jewish National Fund, Hillel, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and the Shusterman Foundation, voted unanimously to reject ZOA's request. (Aish HaTorah later renounced its vote and joined ZOA in calling for UPZ's eviction from the Coalition.) In their decision, the member organizations argued that there is no "cause under the ICC's membership criteria to remove UPZ from the Coalition."
Although unjustifiable, the ICC's refusal to expel the UPZ is understandable. Obviously, it is hard to get beyond labels. The UPZ's self-definition as a Zionist group makes it even harder to attack than self-professed Jews who declare their anti-Zionism. This is the case despite the fact that the damage the actions of both groups cause to Israel's position in the world is more or less the same.
There is also UPZ's "progressiveness" to consider. Given that for four generations, American Jew
s tied their fortunes almost solely to the Left, expelling leftist groups from Jewish umbrella groups involves openly recognizing the painful fact that today the Left makes little place for the pro-Israel community in its ranks.
As Rosenfeld put it, "Because… the ideological package that informs progressive politics today links anti-Zionism to anti-capitalism, anti-imperialism, anti-globalization, anti-racism, etc., one is expected as a matter of course to be against Zionism." Or as he quotes political scientist Andrei Markovits, "If one is not at least a serious doubter of the legitimacy of the State of Israel… one runs the risk of being excluded from the entity called 'the left.'"
THE LEFT'S abandonment of Israel is compounded by the fact that the Palestinian jihad, which is rooted in a Palestinian rejection of the notion of coexisting with Israel, has rendered irrelevant the "progressive Zionist" goal of forcing Israel to withdraw its forces and citizens from Judea and Samaria in order to establish a Palestinian state in the areas, as well as in Gaza and eastern Jerusalem. Instead of accepting this paradigm-shattering truth, "progressive Zionists" have chosen the path of radicalization.
Rather than calling on the Arabs to abandon jihad and accept Israel, they have turned to criminalizing Israel for defending itself from the jihadist forces bent on the wholesale slaughter of its citizens.
Like Israel, if American Jews are to have any chance of properly defending themselves, they must first openly identify the trends. As political loyalties and alliances shift, a small people like the Jews must be willing to distinguish friend from foe. This is true whether the friend or foe in question is an Arab or a Jew; a self-proclaimed progressive or a self-proclaimed conservative.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.