Stand With Us

“Tell the truth, don’t you think we need to create a wall between Israel and the Palestinians?”

“Be honest, don’t you think the United States should send in peacekeeping troops?”

I’ll tell the truth. I’m uncomfortable with American Jews, rising from spiritual slumber to suggest Israeli policy. Especially while their college-age children are in earshot. Especially when there is so much they could do besides yak.

In the last week, since the inception of the Passover suicide bombings, I have heard otherwise sophisticated Jews offer one outrageous scenario after another: outlandish military “solutions” include rushing to send in peacekeeping forces; the potential arrival of suicide bombers here in Los Angeles or New York; or suspected anti-Semitism among normally loving non-Jewish friends. Paranoia and paralysis are replacing thinking.

I understand why. It’s easier to have bellicose political opinions than to take action that will help Israel during this difficult time.

But the truth is, we in America have work to do besides such fancies. Support for Israel is the job of the Jewish community here. We have to make the case to the rest of the American community, and to do it in ways that link America’s own anti-terrorist battle with the defense of Israel’s democracy as clearly as possible.

My personal favorite action is support of the New Israel Fund (I’m on the board). Visit its Web site ( and see the wide range of civil- and human-rights programs the Fund helps, including SHATIL, which promotes Jewish-Arab equality and coexistence, and the Israel-U.S. Civil Liberties Law Program. War or no war, New Israel Fund helps Israeli Jews and Palestinians live together. These programs need your support, for they are the hope of the Israeli future.

I found myself this week on the Web site . The Web site falls in the category of propaganda, meaning one-sided presentation of facts, but it does it well. And in the absence of coherent political ideas, propaganda has a job to do.

Based in Los Angeles,, one of the co-sponsors of last Tuesday’s rally in front of the Federal Building on Wilshire Boulevard, is the closest thing I’ve found to a refresher course in Israeli policy regarding the Palestinian state.

Dissecting the Palestinian case, it argues that Arafat’s real interest is an end to the Jewish state. It’s convincing.

I spoke with one of the founders of She asked for anonymity, given what she said was the potential for physical threat in this dangerous moment.

“The Palestinian leadership has poisoned its people about terrorism,” said the woman we’ll call Ruth. “They’re suffering.”

Ruth said is building a registry of those who want e-mail updates about what is happening in Israel. The site has an action page, telling people how to protest media treatment of Israel. Last month, the organization took aim at TV personality Geraldo Rivera:

“He calls himself a Zionist. He weaves his reports with the thread of caring and loyalty…. He assumes the right to consistently bash Israel through the Arab spin,” the Web site claimed, urging calls and petitions to Fox network.

“Israel stands alone,” said Ruth, who was active in the plight of Soviet Jewry and the 1967 Israeli war. “We want to build a coalition bigger than just the Jewish community. The world is pretty quiet.”

What else can be done? Read Tom Friedman and William Safire in The New York Times. Also check out the Jerusalem Report and Jerusalem Post (both fine examples of an Israeli free press). Stay away from TV news until you understand the politics of Egypt and Jordan, Morocco and Saudi Arabia. Ignore “Hardball” until you can name all the past secretaries of state.

Peacekeeping Conundrum

Speculation about a possible observer force in Gaza and the West Bank reached a fever pitch this week, thanks to proposals by the G-8 and the European Union, and a confused response from a U.S. administration that is foundering in the whirlpool of Mideast politics.

First, officials here indicated that they supported the call for an international force, but then amended that: only if both sides agreed, they said.

Later, leaks in Washington and Israel suggested both countries were really just talking about expanding the current CIA role in monitoring the tattered cease-fire.

Jewish leaders were anxiously trying to determine whether U.S. policy was really shifting, but one thing was plain: the Bush administration, rebuffed and frustrated in its peacemaking efforts, is casting about desperately for something on which to hang U.S. policy in the region.

And some kind of expanded outside presence will continue to look attractive to many here, despite the fact that it could produce a plethora of unintended and damaging consequences.

Ironically, the countries whose demands for international observers are most insistent are the ones that have created conditions that make the idea a nonstarter for Israel.

The European nations that have been loudest in their demand for some kind of peacekeeping force have also been at the forefront of blaming Israel for each new outbreak of violence and ignoring Yasser Arafat’s role.

Just before his swearing in as U.S. ambassador to Israel last week, Daniel C. Kurtzer was called into the White House for an urgent conversation with President Bush. One thing on the president’s mind, reportedly: his surprise at the strong bias against Israel among the European nations.

There’s also the United Nations, which should be a natural source of international observers. On Monday, Secretary General Kofi Annan endorsed the G-8 demand.

But an endless series of one-sided resolutions on the Middle East reveal a tilt that explains the powerful Israeli aversion to U.N. observers. Shocking revelations that U.N. peace monitors along the Lebanese border concealed videotape that could provide clues to the Oct. 7 kidnapping of three IDF soldiers added to long-standing mistrust.

Just in case anybody missed the point, the international body is outdoing itself these days with an upcoming international conference on racism that has turned into a forum for unrestrained Israel bashing.

Then there’s the possibility of American observers.

This week, under growing international pressure because of continuing clashes and a grisly Jewish terror attack against Palestinian civilians, some members of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government hinted that U.S. observers might be acceptable, possibly in an expansion of the current CIA role.

But that, too, has huge dangers.

These observers wouldn’t be supervising a peace agreement already inked; even if they weren’t an actual "peacekeeping" force, created to separate the two sides, they would necessarily be placed along the front lines of a conflict with few rules and many targets.

And they would be thrown into an environment in which anti-Americanism among the Palestinians is rampant.

A tragic incident could send this country fleeing from active Mideast diplomacy.

Such a force would also put the U.S. government in the awkward position of tacitly equating Palestinian terror attacks and Israeli military responses. There would be strong pressure for fairness and evenhandedness, but it is the nature of the battle that observers would be less likely to see acts of terror than to see the organized military response.

That, too, would add strains along the U.S.-Israel axis.

Congress is likely to recoil at any expanded U.S. presence on the Israeli-Palestinian front lines; Jewish groups that oppose negotiations with the Palestinians will get a receptive hearing when they highlight the dangers of such a plan.

Israel has a number of reasons for rejecting the idea of monitors, aside from the obvious bias of most of the probable monitoring groups.

Sending monitors to the region would be rewarding Arafat for starting the current terror campaign, Israel believes; in the long run, caving in to his demand would just encourage new violence. And having monitors in key places would limit the ability of the IDF to mount operations to pre-empt terror attacks and stage reprisals.

At best, the idea is a bandage, not a cure for generations of conflict. But when the alternative is massive hemorrhage, a bandage can look pretty attractive.

In the eyes of much of the world, last week’s vigilante attack by Jewish extremists only reinforced Palestine’s demand that its citizens need protection.

But the real reason the proposal is gathering momentum is that officials in Washington are at their wits’ end about how to stop the violence and keep it from harming other U.S. interests.

There no longer is even faint hope here that a genuine peace process can resume; the only goal is damage control, especially as anti-Americanism builds among Arab and Persian Gulf allies.

Desperation, not the hope of real progress toward peace, is the engine driving the push for monitors. As the violence continues to spiral, that’s a logic that will be difficult to counter — even if the idea is rife with pitfalls.