Some chilling words, even from Israel’s friends.
There was a time when Jews trusted “the world’s” good sense. Former Israel Chief Rabbi Meir Lau, a child in the Holocaust, remembered Jews — and the Germans, too — wondering, on the eve of the Final Solution, “What will the world say,” and finding out — not much at all.
Now “the world,” or nearly every government and media outlet on the planet, has not only condemned Israel for the flotilla incident but has been depicting Israel as verging on an outlaw nation requiring international supervision, the UN version of a court-mandated ankle bracelet.
Here’s what we’re hearing in “the world.” From the decks of the flotilla, reported the Daily News (June 6) but hardly anywhere else, the Israeli navy was taunted, “Shut up, go back to Auschwitz,” a sentiment not that far off from what was said by (the now resigned) journalist Helen Thomas, that Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and “go back to Germany, or Poland.”
Israelis couldn’t but hear the echoes of that era when, in the words of Chaim Weizmann, “the world” was divided between places Jews could not live and places where Jews could not enter. The difference is that Israel can now defend itself, or could it?
If Lau and Weizmann once appealed to the world’s heart, now, writes Yossi Klein Halevi in The Wall Street Journal (June 4), it is “Israel’s jihadist enemies” who are successfully “appealing to the world’s conscience,” with Israel “forced to choose between self-defense and acceptance by the nations.”
Says Halevi, “Israel and the rest of the world seem to be speaking dissonant moral languages,” with Israel responding to outrage with outrage of its own: “Has the world lost its mind?”
According to The Economist (June 5), “The disconnect between the way Israel sees itself... and the way they are viewed by the world outside has never, it seems, been so wide.”
The one corner of “the world” where Israel is usually loved is among American conservatives, but even there we may be seeing cracks.
Ross Douthat, on The New York Times op-ed page, delivers a conclusion (June 7) whose pessimism is extraordinary, even “anti-Israel” one could say: “If the Jewish state can’t extricate itself from the West Bank, it may be forced to choose between the quasi-apartheid of a permanent occupation, and the dissolution that would likely follow from giving Palestinians a significant voice in Israel’s politics.”
Douthat, a moderate conservative, quotes Walter Russell Mead, who says Israel may “have to pay virtually the full price for peace... without getting full peace.” Nobody, adds Douthat, “should blame Israel for shying from this possibility. Yet it may be the only way to guarantee their survival as a nation.”
This is what the conversation has come to, even on the right. No one speaks of Israel’s eventual victory. Victory is redefined as survival, with survival redefined as requiring a surrender of Likud’s dreams and defiance. Prime Minister Netanyahu is suddenly less the heir of Jabotinsky than the incarnation of an exhausted Robert E. Lee, out of military options, looking for a soft place to fall, though without Lincoln’s spirit on the other side of the peace table.
Instead, as Halevi warns, on the other side of Jerusalem may soon be Hamas, and on the other side of Hamas — Iran.
As recently as a few weeks ago, Elie Wiesel was getting considerable criticism from the left for being too right wing with his public support for a united Jerusalem. But even Wiesel, in a Daily News op-ed (June 7) supporting Israel’s actions regarding the flotilla, indicates that he had to ponder long and hard before coming to that conclusion. That’s not a good sign, like a husband being asked, “Do you love me?” and he needs to think it over.
Yes, says Wiesel, Israel protecting “her citizens remains a legitimate priority,” but “serious questions need to be answered. Is a blockade the only solution to the problem? Were other alternatives examined? Who knew what, and when? Were the Israeli commandos informed of the ship’s prepared resistance? If not, why not? On what level were the decisions made? How will they impact peace negotiations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas?”
With Wiesel as with Douthat, we’re seeing questions from Israel’s defenders that were once only asked by “anti-Israel” critics.
The papers owned by Rupert Murdoch have always been staunchly supportive of Israel. And yet, the top story in The Wall Street Journal (June 3), “Israel’s Isolation Deepens” (subtitled, “Netanyahu Decries ‘Offensive of Hypocrisy’”) soon detours into a smackdown: “Israel’s bungled attempt to stop the aid flotilla” only illustrates “how an increasingly forceful strategy by Palestinians and their supporters to turn to boycotts, international isolation, and relatively non-violent protests is confronting Israel with a challenge it appears ill-prepared to counter.”
Well, boycotts and isolation are as old as the state itself, and “relatively non-violent protests” is like being relatively pregnant, either you’re non-violent or you’re not, and the last decade was not. That jam-packed Journal sentence, though, is indicative of a trend, even in sympathetic papers, in which Israel is seen as bungling and ill-prepared, while Palestinians are the model of a modern major general, masters of public relations, with an “increasingly forceful strategy,” morality is not the issue, nothing mattering like success.
And yet, Ira Stoll, formerly the managing editor of The New York Sun (where former editor Seth Lipsky is still writing online editorials), and now blogging at “futureofcapitalism.com,” noticed the “the vehemence and uniformity” of support for Israel coming from conservative radio and TV commentators, such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck. One could easily add Mark Levin on WABC, as well as Dennis Prager, Dennis Miller, Michael Medved and Bill Bennett on 970 AM, all syndicated and heard by tens of millions across the country.
When people speak of Israel and media, they often think of the Times, not talk radio, so influential in the U.S. The gap in perception is similar to the widespread awareness in Jewish New York that there were protests at Brandeis University against Israel’s Ambassador Michael Oren, but almost no knowledge of the fact, as reported by the JTA news wire (May 21), that the ambassador received invitations and support from 51 student presidents at universities such as Virginia Tech and Vanderbilt, schools not on the Jewish radar but more important than Brandeis when gauging the depth of American support for Israel.
The Anti-Defamation League surveyed the most widely read American editorials (June 1-4) regarding the flotilla incident and found that 9 of 18 editorials were supportive of Israel.
Despite our critique of that Wall Street Journal news story, the ADL found the Journal’s editorials to be “fully supportive,” as were editorials at The New York Post (also Murdoch-owned), the New York Daily News, the Chicago Tribune, and the Arizona Republic, which criticized the “hysterical Israel-baiting.”
Charles Krauthammer, in the Washington Post (June 4), said that if you analyze all the critiques of Israel’s varied responses to terrorism in recent years, the conclusion is that Israel is left without “any legitimate form of self-defense” even as the anti-Zionists (Iran) are preparing a “more final solution.”
Signup for our weekly email newsletter here.
The Jewish Week feels comments create a valuable conversation and wants to feature your thoughts on our website. To make everyone feel welcome, we won't publish comments that are profane, irrelevant, promotional or make personal attacks.