Leonard Zwelling

When George Will came to the Jewish Community Center on Braeswood during the annual Book Fair a few years ago, he started his talk by saying, “ I understand that a few of you here are Jewish.” It got a great laugh.

To readers of this blog, it will come as no surprise that this blog writer is Jewish. I am also a staunch proponent of Israel. The point for today is that the two are not the same as both Bret Stephens and Michelle Goldberg discuss in The New York Times of May 25.

I really do understand the Left’s criticism of the state of Israel and the way it treats the Arabs the Left chooses to call Palestinians. I don’t refer to them as Palestinians as readers know. As I have said many times and as was drummed into my head in Israel, there is no such country as Palestine yet and thus there are only potential Palestinians. Right now there are Arabs who live on the West Bank (a couple three million), Arabs who live in Gaza (a couple million more), and Arab citizens of Israel (about 20% of the population and thus also in the millions).

It has become fashionable on the Left to characterize Israel’s treatment of the Arabs as apartheid. Well, it’s not like the Israelis haven’t offered the Arabs their own country and it’s not like the Arabs haven’t rejected every offer and done so at the point of a gun or bomb or missile. The real problem is that the Arabs have had poor leadership and even the real leadership of the Arabs of the area is not recognized by the United States. That would be Hamas. Hamas rules Gaza and would rule the West Bank too if Mahmoud Abbas, the ancient leader of the Palestinian Authority would allow elections as he enters the 16th year of this four year term. So if democratic elections were held in the West Bank tomorrow, the entire non-Israeli Arab population would be represented by terrorist leadership the U.S. will not talk to just as Secretary of State Antony Blinken is not talking to Hamas during his trip to the region. Talking to Fatah is a waste of time.

As is usually the case after hostilities re-emerge in the Holy Land, Jews all over the world get threatened by the latent and blatant anti-Semitism that hasn’t gone away for three thousand years. This is happening in the United States now in New York and Los Angeles and Miami and undoubtedly in many smaller places as well. The usual anti-Semites are using the Israel-Arab hostilities as an excuse to brandish their tiki torches and clubs and the Left is gifting these bigots permission to flaunt anti-Semitism which only hardens the right pro-Zionist proponents leading to ever less likely peace in the Middle East or America.

So the question remains: can you be anti-Israel and not be anti-Semitic? The answer is pretty obvious. Of course you can, but it won’t look that way to others.

What’s going on in the Middle East now and for the past one hundred years only peripherally is about religion. For the most part it’s a clash between two peoples who believe they have inherited the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. They both, Arabs and Jews, believe history is on their side. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Both sides have as much an automatic claim to the land as did white settlers crossing the Rockies to displace American Indians everywhere in the continental United States. Both have been living there for centuries. To be brief, the former British Palestine is for the party that will take it.

Israel is a sovereign nation formed in 1948 by force and political wile. It has remained a sovereign state, although threatened mightily, through force, wile and will. It is a curious country claiming to be the Jewish State, but really being a home for the oft wandering Jewish people—a more ethnic one than religious one. It is dominated by non-religious, secular Jews with a large fraction of ultra-Orthodox wielding disproportionate power under Bibi Netanyahu. Many Israelis wished Netanyahu had not agreed to the recent ceasefire but rather really did permanent damage to Hamas from which it could not recover. This is not an answer.

What has changed over fifty years is that Israel has become an almost fully self-sustained nation not needing all that much military aid from the United States. It has gone from an insular nation to one with diplomatic relationships all over the Sunni Arab world and in Europe, Asia and Latin America.

Nonetheless, it’s hard to be against Israel and not be viewed as anti-Semitic. Israel is the Jewish State. The Left is flirting with becoming another force for anti-Semitism in this country and has, unwillingly I suppose, joined hands with the skinheads against the Jews. This is not good for anyone, but Israel has become a bit of a litmus test. You can try to thread that needle between being against Israel and not being anti-Semitic. You can try.

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