Undermining Israeli democracy from afar
Recently, we have seen the launch of two important leftist Jewish political initiatives. In the USA there is J Street, and now in Europe there is J Call. Already I have heard calls for the launching of an Australian version. These organizations have very slick marketing, using the latest in online campaign techniques; and J Street seems to also have the ear of the Whitehouse. They brand themselves as “pro Israel, pro peace.” But to what extent are they really “pro Israel?” And are they even “pro peace” or are they more “pro appeasement”?
At their core, these organizations are about Jewish citizens of Diaspora states lobbying their governments to pressure Israel into making decisions that Israeli democracy has not yet been willing to make. I believe many of the Jews who join these organizations are acting more out of concern for their own leftist credentials amongst their non-Jewish leftist peers, than they are out of concern for the welfare of the State of Israel.
While I look forward to receiving counter-arguments in the comments section, I urge all readers to first read the following F.A.Q. I have created.
Isn’t everyone entitled to voice their opinioneven if they don’t live in Israel?
Yes, they are. Kibbitzing from the sidelines is fine. However, this is quite different to lobbying other governments to pressure Israel into making decisions that are not supported by the majority of Israeli people.
What is a Jew who disagrees with Israeli policy to do?
The most obvious answer is to make Aliyah and directly participate in Israeli democracy. Once you or your children are serving in the army, I’m sure Israelis will be more open to listening your ideas on how to achieve peace and security. “Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier” wrote Samuel Johnson with much truth. However, in Israel, this quote is understandably even more apt to the third person than the first, especially when those third persons are wanting to make major decisons concerning national security.
If moving to Israel isn’t for you, you could nevertheless still directly support other organizations that do participate in Israeli democracy, such as Israeli political parties and Israeli NGOs
How is donating to Israeli Political parties or Israeli NGOs different to supporting J Street and J Call?
When you donate money to Israeli organizations, you are enabling them to better participate in their own democracy. This is very different to lobbying other governments to undermine the will of the Israeli electorate. Thus leftist Jews who do not wish to undermine Israeli democracy should consider donating money to political parties such as Meretz, or NGOs such as B’Tselem, rather than supporting J Street or J Call.
Aren’t J Street just doing what AIPAC (or in Australia, AIJAC) does, but with opposing politics?
No, they’re not. Regardless of whether or not you appreciate AIPAC or AIJAC’s politics – and I have my reservations – their process clearly does not undermine Israeli democracy. Yes, they are Diasporite Jews lobbying their own governments concerning Israel, but they lobby those governments to put less foreign pressure on the Israeli government, not more. For example, although these groups might support the settler movement and Israeli militarism, they do not lobby their governments to pressure Israel to build more settlements, or to carry out grander military operations in the Levant. Rather they support Israeli government policy regardless of which party heads the Israeli government of the day.
Furthermore, one does not need to agree with all of AIPAC’s politics to recognise that they are an important counterweight to the many nefarious forces that lobby the American government to be more hostile to Israel.
Don’t we need a counterweight to AIPAC/AIJAC?
There already exist several. For example, in the USA, the State Department is very hostile to Israel, and they constantly attempt to pressure the Whitehouse to take a more anti-Israel line. One of the major reasons for this is that the State Department is lobbied heavily by the numerous Arab governments. The same model plays out in almost all other western democracies. In addition (and in overlap) to the Arab governments, there is considerable lobbying from some of the major oil companies that are operating in the Arab world.
Furthermore, and this is especially the case in Europe, there are huge numbers of citizens who just have pure hatred for Israel and the Jews. Many of these citizens have roots in Islamic countries, but many of them are just old fashioned Anglo-Euro anti-Semites. With all of these forces, do we really need more organizations lobbying western governments to be tougher on Israel?
What is so wrong with undermining Israeli democracy, so long as it is done through another democracy?
If you attempt to deny the Israeli people the fundamental right to determine policy for themselves, then you have no right to call yourself “pro Israel.” Furthermore, the idea that foreign governments can be better trusted than the Israeli government to assure the welfare of the Jewish people goes against the grain of history. This is true for Australians, Americans, and especially Europeans. As the Jerusalem Post editorialised:
“One cannot escape the sad irony inherent in the initiative: Here they are, the remnant of European Jewry, expressing their lacking faith in the political reason of their own brethren – the Jewish leaders of Israel – while choosing to placing their own destinies in the hands of Germany, France, Austria and other countries that failed miserably to protect their Jewish citizens during the Holocaust.”