October 28, 2009
Every day, more like every hour of every day, I get e-mails, letters and phone calls crying out that Israel faces dire threat, if not certain doom.
Some point the finger at President Barack Obama, accusing him of bum-rushing Israel into a faulty peace process. Others point to the spread of Iranian- and Saudi-backed anti-Israel propaganda working its way through burgeoning Arab populations and re-emerging in the rhetoric of the left and academia.
These doomsayers are never short on proof — the latest is the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict report, otherwise known as the Goldstone report, a biased, Hamas-friendly document that Israel’s supporters fear will make the country an international pariah and hamstring the Israel Defense Forces.
To all these latter day Jewish Shakers, who seem to have made a religion out of quaking at Israel’s imminent demise, I offer one small piece of fact-based advice: chillax.
That’s right: chill out and relax.
The problem these Shakers have is that no matter how much they fear people hate Israel, Americans still love it.
A just-released Anti-Defamation League (ADL) poll found these inconvenient truths:
• 67 percent of Americans, the highest figure in recent years, see Israel as a country to be counted on as a strong, loyal U.S. ally.
• By a 3-1 ratio, the American people express more sympathy with Israel than with the Palestinians.
• 64 percent of Americans continue to believe that Israel is serious about reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
• 63 percent of Americans now see Iran as an immediate or short-term security threat to the Middle East, up from 50 percent in 2007.
• 83 percent believe that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, up from 71 percent in 2007.
What is going here? Don’t these people read the press releases of pro-Israel groups? Don’t they know Israel stands alone? Aren’t they aware the Goldstone report has poisoned the world against poor Israel?
The Shaker mentality sometimes takes hold of people who are clearly well-informed and quite rational — smarter by far than me, in fact.
In a recent column, my friend Rabbi Daniel Gordis rhetorically rent his garments, mourning the growing distance between American Jews and Israel.
“A gaping chasm threatens the American-Israeli relationship, and we’re basically doing nothing,” he wrote.
“Try to list the serious Jewish educational enterprises addressing this challenge…. Can you name even one? Neither can I.”
Um… The Wall Street Journal can. In an article this week, it named the Birthright Israel program as remarkably successful at building and retaining Jewish identity. A new study demonstrated that the multi-million dollar Taglit-Birthright Israel program, which has sent 225,000 Jewish youth to Israel on 10-day free trips, has not only brought a generation closer to Israel, but has increased Jewish identity and lessened intermarriage.
Somehow, many in the pro-Israel community, as well as the Israeli government, have managed to see the J Street conclave in Washington, D.C., as another harbinger of doom. Some 1,500 Zionists gathered in support of the two-state solution this week and Israel refused to send its ambassador to greet them?
How did we get to this point where we see the glass as shattered rather than half-full, where we have to say to one another, “I have good news…. Are you sitting down?”
The ADL poll shows that in America, Israel’s most important ally, there is no cause for panic. Around the world, the picture is often less sympathetic, but it’s fair to say Hamas and Iran are far greater pariahs. Fifteen years of peace with Jordan — which Israel marked this week — is a bit more substantial than some loony boycott at the Toronto film festival.
You know who seems to get this, at least this week? Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In rejecting calls by the Goldstone commission to launch an independent investigation into Israel’s conduct during the Gaza war, he is essentially saying Israel has nothing to be ashamed of, and the country will gladly defend its actions, both before during and after the war, in the court of public opinion.
Israel has its flaws, but the oversight the Israeli courts exercise over the nation’s military — while also not perfect — is rare even among democracies. Netanyahu is making the right call that once the facts are out there, fair-minded people will see the Goldstone report for what it is: biased and unhelpful to the Israelis, the Palestinians and the cause of justice.
Good for Netanyahu. Now chillax.