Friends, Bloggers, Columnists, a moment please…

If you write a permanent column in the Electronic Intifada, please ignore. If you are campaigning for the destruction of the Jewish State, you are not a friend. I have no chance of persuading you and your readers – hatred is the voice of the intellectually handicapped.  If you believe that the messiah will make a rapid appearance as soon as all of occupied territory is settled, you are not part of this conversation so please continue – whatever I say here will in any event be scorned and clearly you are taking orders from a higher authority. If you write for Haaretz condemning the occupation, go back to work. This is of no interest to you.

No, I am talking to all those who believe that it’s their duty always to defend Israel and see themselves as part of the Israeli hasbarah effort.  Those with a vision of Israel as a light unto the nations and who seek an ethically sound democratic state with equal rights for all its citizens and who hold a moral compass for its army.

While the government of Israel may err, while human rights violations may occur, while Israeli policy may work against the long term sustainability of our existence, you will always be there to defend, protect and advocate for Israel unconditionally. I would like to extend hearty congratulations to you all. Seriously, you have done wonderful work in the past. At the outset of the 2nd intifada in the case of Mohammad Durra, you discredited the evidence with fierce tenacity. When Israel was accused of a massacre in Jenin, you were there correctly disproving it. When the separation barrier was being built to keep terror out of our streets, again you were there. When our government mishandled the flotilla, which ended in debacle – you came forward. The Goldstone report – assiduously dissected and discredited. The UCU in Britain and its academic boycott: you brought evidence of institutionalized anti-Semitism.

But times have changed. The reality on the ground is changing as we speak and new challenges arise. We are now at a point in history where a shift has occurred here in Israel. One that undermines your work and places our precious democracy in peril. As fastidious readers and researchers for your writings, you clearly know from your reading that many of the issues are no longer black and white. That for example parts of the separation barrier were built deep in Palestinian territory for the benefit of Jewish settlements and that the Israel Supreme Court ruled that sections were to be rebuilt – at a massive cost. That much of settlement is illegal, built of privately owned Palestinian land. That according to the fourth Geneva Convention, all settlement in occupied territory is illegal. That settler violence is how a daily occurrence including desecration of religious sites, destruction of property, beatings and lynching. That the Abbas government has fulfilled its obligations regarding the Roadmap for Peace while Israel has used and abused the resultant quiet in West Bank streets and cooperation with the Palestinian Authority to further the settlement endeavor.

All of this leaves us with a distinct feeling of discomfort. However the deep problem that we do not address is that the two-state solution is under attack – from the government of Israel, the very sponsor of this process. Whether the current ruling party in Israel today is a prisoner of its own massive settler presence within it or whether its leaders still believe in settling Judea and Samaria, it is clear today that Netanyahu’s Bar Ilan speech is no more than a veil of ostensible acceptance of what the majority of Israelis, the majority of Palestinians and the entire international community wish for and are asking of us: a true solution whereby Israel’s borders are recognized and secure and the Palestinians have an independent state of their own.

All this leads us to a place where many of the accusations against Israel find resonance that did not exist before. This situation of bad faith means that using the survivalist argument of threat and imminent danger from Palestinian terror no longer finds a listening audience. That audience now sees the visuals and hears the sound bites of one people dominating another while exploiting their assets for hegemony and expansion. Settler belligerence is undermining real security needs. It is undermining Israel’s standing among nations. It threatens long term sustainability and closes down the two-state option.

This is the issue at hand and must be addressed. The time has come for a serious tough discussion within Israel and together with the Jewish Diaspora as to whether we see ourselves driving the Jewish State towards a Greater Israel which will include millions of disenfranchised Palestinians, or whether we bring an end to the settlement enterprise and work for secure manageable borders in the theatre of diplomacy together with a search for common ground with our Palestinian neighbors.

For those that fret that the resultant polemic brings with it a lexicon of terms we reject such as “Apartheid”, “human rights abuses”, “colonialism” and so forth, we now need to allow space to engage and talk because the imminent dangers coming from within Israel, led by a resolute settler body, now pose a greater threat to Israeli democracy and the continuity of the Zionist idea than extraneous forces outside this discourse. Israel’s isolation continues. The BDS movement is not swayed by any Zionist blogger however it will only gain traction and real momentum if settlement and indefinite occupation continue. We are allowing that.

The piece headed  “Dershowitz: tongue tied”, is addressed not only to him but to all of you. Your silence on this matter in effect means complicity. The hasbarah machine has run out of fuel and borrows low-octane material coming out of the Judea and Samaria Council. Your skills serve a greater gain by bringing fresh research and voicing an opinion. Criticizing government policy does not diminish you support for Israel: it is a Jewish, Zionist democratic obligation and it brings real value and credibility to anything you may have to say to any honest audience.

About the Author
Originally from South Africa, Jonathan made aliya in the seventies, and lived and worked on a kibbutz for several years. He has a graduate degree in business from Boston University and is a managing partner of an Israeli based business. He was a co-founder of the Forum Tzora peace action group and participates in the Geneva Initiative workshops. He is the author of the book “Valley of Heaven and Earth”.