Since the days of Moses strong political dissent has been a documented part of Jewish life. While appealing to the sensibilities of valued public discourse, internal Jewish dissent has acquired characteristics that are dangerous to the very existence of Israel and the Jewish people. Some, like Jonathan Tobin, advocate that "reasoned debate and tolerance will usually vanquish the critics on the merits and do not feed into the myth of their ‘martyrdom.'" Yet, he also acknowledges that those Jews who bash Israel when it is under such vehement attack "can materially aid the process of delegitimization of Zionism and Israel" (Jewish World Review Sept. 17, 2002).
The debate is not internal. Jewish academics use public forums and organizations, Rabbis go to the secular press outlets, and dissenting Israelis publish in the New York Times, go on campus tours, and develop web sites to influence their audience, mostly non Jews. The debate is not really about convincing Jews but to appeal to the non-Jewish audience to exert pressure so as to gain points in the campaign against Israel. Some do this as an outright anti-Israeli campaign, others use the guise of "caring" for Israel and for "Jewish values." Jewish bashers of Israel comprise a vocal camp which helps to undermine the Jewish state's very existence as well as the survival of their own people. They often use "we" as if they speak for the Jewish people even when they represent at best only a fringe - though vocal - group. And in fairly sophisticated language they unabashedly use false facts, distort moral grounds, and misrepresent Jewish values to support their misguided and misguiding agenda.
They are absolutely wrong in equating Palestinian terrorist atrocities with Israeli defensive action. Blowing up indiscriminately Israeli civilians in the hope of spending time with 72 virgins (or for ANY cause) is unconditionally unacceptable. Red Crescent officers have been caught red-handed (pun intended) transferring arms, explosives and terrorists so what kind of sympathy do such dissenters want expressed for them if they get caught? The UN's own report proves that no "massacre" took place in Jenin and several studies, including one by the Israel Counter-Terrorism Institute, have demonstrated that the high ratio of Israeli civilian victims of Palestinian terror was matched with the high ratio of Palestinian combatants - not civilians - killed by Israeli preventive action: From September, 2000, through the end of August, 2002, 619 people were killed in terror attacks, including 183 soldiers or security forces -- and 436 , about 70 percent – civilians. Moreover, 20 percent of the soldiers killed (41 to be exact), while in uniform, were murdered like civilians riding on buses, shopping in malls, or simply being present in crowded places. Yet, Jewish anti-Israel activists continue to claim that a "massacre" took place against Arabs or that the unintentional killing of innocent Palestinians equals the intentional homicides celebrated in the Arab streets.
Some seriously imply that it is a Jewish value of self-reflection to show concern about "overthrowing Saddam Hussein and calling it a regime change." Would they feel more comfortable if we devise a reflective "political-administrative adjustment?" or how about "political re-engineering?" While displaying care for the murderous Hussein they are troubled by Bush's referring to Sharon as a "man of peace." They accept public statements by the Palestinians and their supporters and reports by the media with far less criticism, even when they are purposefully erroneous, groundless, or outright lies. Claims are made that "three major Palestinian military groups announced a unilateral end to all actions against Israeli civilians" prior to the bombing of a Hamas top terrorist. These anti-Israel activists euphemistically label terror organizations as "military groups," ignoring credible accounts that have systematically documented this so-called "cease-fire" as a hoax (see Ehud Ya'ari "Another Local Legend", Jerusalem Report, September 9).
Jewish dissenters point out that Palestinians children are malnourished and that Palestinians have 65% unemployment. Most Jews and Israelis are indeed concerned about Palestinian children who suffer from malnutrition and we apparently care about them more then their families and their leaders do. But we also do not appreciate being blown up by them. Would Jewish dissenters prefer to see fewer curfews, despite their clear effectiveness, and exponentially more Israelis killed? How can they be concerned only about Palestinians they claim have been harmed by Israel but not about those Palestinians who were forced to leave Kuwait (for supporting Hussein) or denied citizenship in all Arab countries except Jordan, which still limits their entry? How can they claim that Israel is the "only country" urging Bush to "attack Iraq"? More countries could and should support this imperative action, and indeed following President Bush's Sept. 12 UN speech more are doing so.
Israel's detractors have elevated "dissent" to a moral value and made careers of dissent for its own sake, often only to promote themselves. Is there any truth to which they will not object? Grieving equally for Palestinian and Israeli suffering is a twisted moral hypocrisy and has little to do with Jewish values. Jews believe that the "the poor of your city come first" (before the poor of other cities - but those should also be taken care of). When Jewish dissenters suggest otherwise, they either do not know Jewish law and tradition, or are actively choosing to hold their people in contempt and purposefully putting their lives at risk.
No one can reasonably expect a few Israeli and American Jewish peace activists to make a difference. Israel gave up the Sinai for peace with Egypt. Barak was ready to give up the West Bank and Gaza (including dismantling of settlements) for peace. And what have we gotten in return? A cold peace with Egypt that continually vilifies Israel and the Jews on one hand, and thousands and thousands of Palestinian Arab atrocities specifically targeting Jewish civilians on the other. For Jewish scholars to help campaign for divestiture of investments in Israel is serious enough to have merited a sharp rebuke from Harvard "s president Lawrence Summers last week expressing concern about the rising dangers of modern-day anti-Semitism.
Jewish critics often imply that some Jewish organizations do not speak "for us;" they may not speak for them but they speak for the majority of American Jews (see Michelle Goldberg's "Why American Jewish groups support war with Iraq," Salon Magazine, September 14). There are times in which consensus is important and it is sad that during these critical times such self-styled critics take pride in being outside of it. However, to make a mistake is their right, just as it is the right of others to note it.
Some Jews invoke "justice" and abusively imply that withdrawing support from NPR is not "just." Yet these same individuals never once critically challenge well-documented evidence (see CAMERA) of consistent anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian bias by NPR. They are happy to join the Arab propaganda that Israel uses American equipment illegally to "oppress" Arabs. Weapons and Caterpillar bulldozers may be US-made but they are not "American-owned". They belong to Israel. They Invoke the Fourth Geneva Convention against Israel alone conveniently ignoring the proscription in the same international statute -- acknowledged by the December 5, 2001 Swiss Conference of High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention -- against violence by the population: "However, the fact that settlements have been established in violation of the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention does not mean that civilians residing in those settlements can be the object of attack. They are protected by humanitarian law as civilians as long as they do not take an active part in fighting." Are Israel's Jewish critics so pre-occupied (pun intended) with the "occupation" that human life means less to them when it is Jewish?
Whom will these critics blame when Sharon will be gone? He has been Prime Minister for a little more than a year. But the Arabs' refusal to accept Israel goes back nearly 100 years. For that long, too, most Israelis have been accepting of aspirations of Arab self-rule and many Jews work diligently to materialize these.
Yes, there are many poor Palestinians. But to claim that Israel has reduced them to this circumstance defies historical facts. Worse, to state that most Palestinians are "sickened by the ongoing violence against civilians" (Alice Rothchild, "For American Jews, mixed allegiances," The Boston Globe, 9/14/2002) is ludicrous. In fact, more than 80% of Palestinian Arabs have been found in poll after poll (with Arab universities doing the polling) to support suicide bombings. Thousands of them dance in the streets when Americans and Israelis are atrociously murdered and victimized by their Palestinians and their Arab brethren. Hamas, which has declared the elimination of Israel as its political goal, is portrayed by Arab propaganda and by some anti-Israeli Jews as a "charitable organization." Hitler promised the German people to better their economic and social lot (the term Nazism comes from "National Socialist German Worker's Party"). How impressed can one be with those who provide charitable social services for his people while mercilessly murdering others because they are "sub-human" or "infidels?"
To those deeply concerned about "Working for justice, human rights, and coexistence," these are indeed noble causes. But what do they mean? "Coexistence" requires two parties - by definition; two parties that do not wish to eliminate one another. As long as Arabs want to undo Israel, Jews who really care about Israel and the Jewish people could do the most good by attempting to convince the Arabs and their apologists - for whom they seem to care more than for their own - to uphold the same values. One need not be Jewish to believe in the sanctity of life.
Whatever Jewish dissenters do, if they wish to further sensibility - and perhaps justice - they should not offend our intelligence with false "facts", faulty "morality," and hypocritical "justice."Robert Friedmann is professor of criminal justice at Georgia State University in Atlanta.