Friday, January 13, 2012

What Does It Mean To Be Pro-Israel Today?

What Does It Mean To Be Pro Israel Today? is the question asked in a Moment Magazine symposium.

The answer?

Depends on whom you ask:

  • David K. Shipler, former New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief,
  • Judea Pearl, president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation
  • Hillel Halkin, translator, political commentator and author of the bestseller Letters to an American-Jewish Friend: A Zionist’s Polemic
  • Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun Magazine
  • Caroline Glick, deputy managing editor of the Jerusalem Post
  • George Bisharat, former legal consultant to the Palestinian Authority
  • Peter Beinart, senior political writer at The Daily Beast
  • Benny Morris, professor of history at the Ben-Gurion University
  • Glenn Frankel, former Jerusalem bureau chief for The Washington Post
  • Morton Klein, president of The Zionist Organization of America
  • Dan Sieradski, co-organizer of Occupy Judaism
  • Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street
  • John J. Mearsheimer, co-author of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy
  • Kenneth Bialkin, partner at Skadden Arps, and chairman and president of the American-Israel Friendship League
  • Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Religious Action Center and chair of Women of the Wall
  • Ronen Shoval, chairman and founder of the Im Tirtzu movement
  • Aziz Abu Sarah, columnist with Al Quds newspaper and +972
  • Martin Peretz, editor-in-chief emeritus of The New Republic
  • Eric Alterman, columnist at The Nation
  • Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, founder and president of The Israel Project
  • Marc Tracy, a staff writer for Tablet
  • Cecilie Surasky, deputy director of Jewish Voices for Peace and editor of the blog Muzzlewatch
  • Robert Rifkind, member of The Council on Foreign Relations
  • Amos Oz, novelist and journalist
While the responses are short, some of the answers are straight to the point, others--like Mearsheimer's--are just a regurgitation of well-known views.

The response that I've seen mentioned most often is that of Hillel Halkin:
Being pro-Israel does not mean you have to support any particular Israeli government or its policies. You can oppose all of the policies of the Netanyahu government and still be pro-Israel. But I would list a number of things that you must also be.

First, you must understand why Israel is important. Israel is unique in human history, whatever its faults may be. And if you’re Jewish, you must understand that, no matter where you’re living, Israel is your country. You can be critical of its policies, but you must understand that they are the policies of a government chosen democratically by your own people. Second, being pro-Israel means having an empathic understanding of Israel’s problems. This means not blindly superimposing liberal American standards of what’s right and wrong without asking whether they fit the Israeli situation. Third, you have to understand that the threat to Israel’s existence is real. Hundreds of millions of people, most of them Arabs and Muslims, would gladly see Israel destroyed. Whatever mistakes Israel makes, has made, and will make, it’s always facing the danger of annihilation. Fourth, you cannot be pro-Israel today without understanding that Israel has become the focus of a worldwide revival of anti-Semitic agitation, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been viciously exploited for anti-Semitic purposes. When you criticize Israel, you have to be careful not to do it in terms that may be usurped by forces that hate not only Israel, but all Jews—which includes you, Israel’s Jewish critic. American Jews have to ask themselves whether it’s helpful in any given situation to join the majority of world opinion against Israel. Suppose your criticisms lead to harmfully isolating Israel even further. You can’t be pro-Israel unless you seriously reflect on what taking responsibility for running such a risk means.
Read the whole thing.

That's what Halkin thinks.
What do you think?

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