December 11, 2019

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 (www.newisraelfund.org) 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 www.standwithus.com . 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, standwithus.com, 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 standwithus.com. 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 standwithus.com 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.