Jared Sapolsky

If You Say You Love Israel…

Over the past week, Israel has once again found herself the center of attention. After months of buildup by Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, their efforts have culminated in international drama as the Israeli government chose to bar them from entering the Jewish State rather than give them a greater platform to promote their anti-Israel agenda. 

If you feel conflicted on Israel’s decision, that’s a good thing. You’re supposed to feel conflicted. You’re supposed to want anyone and everyone to experience the Israel that you know and love. You’re supposed to question the value of Israel admitting individuals who promote its destruction. If you are not conflicted on this issue, then that is a clear indicator that you may be too biased. But if you say you love Israel, you’re also supposed to examine all of the specifics as best you can so that you can speak with a more informed voice. Here are ten common sense approaches. If you say you love Israel, you should

Reaffirm the Truth About Zionism

First familiarize yourself with the basic truth that Zionism is defined by Zionists as the belief in the right of Jewish self-determination in our ancestral homeland. You should see attempts by Israel’s detractors to redefine Zionism as a racist ideology for what they are: demonization. You should clarify beyond a doubt the real meaning of Zionism, as to ensure that people discussing the conflict are not talking past each other. You should strongly affirm that the“Zionism is racism” lie has no place in civil discourse.

…Understand BDS

Fully understand the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctionsmovement, and see it as the modern, trendy iteration of the decades old war to destroy Israel. Despite the rhetoric of its supporters, BDS is in no way peaceful. As Bill Maher pointed out on his show last week, BDS founder Omar Barghouti is on record saying that “no Palestinian – no rational Palestinian, not a sellout Palestinian would ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine. Barghouti calls for one state to replace Israel, and BDS supporters can be heard at rallies chanting “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”. Despite the the media consistently softpedaling BDS as a human rights movement based on international law, there should be no ambiguity here. This is a call for Israel to be replaced by an Arab-majority nation – from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. 

Know Who Started It

Israel has not taken this fight to the congresswomen. It is the congresswomen who have taken this fight to Israel. After months of attacks on IsraelOmar stated at yesterday’s press conference that “we are going to fight this administration and the oppressive Netanyahu administration until we take our last breath”. These women have spent a a lot of their time demonizing Israel and take every opportunity to use emotionally-packed buzzwords to do so. It is their desire that words like “oppression”, “evil”, “distrust”, and “apartheid” become synonymous with Israel.

…Understand the Strategy of Israel’s Enemies

On Monday the congresswomen held not merely a press conference but unveiled a new brand of anti-Israel PR, a next step in a long process of putting Israel on trial in the court of public opinion. By forcing Israel into lose-lose situations, Omar and Tlaib hope to use their influence to dictate the narrative for the next generation of Americans. The congresswomen are helped along by several groups of allies. If you say you love Israel, you should understand these groups:

The first group are the “useful idiots”. This includes significant figures with a voice such as Alexandria OcasioCortez who was recently criticized for likening the detention centers on the US border to concentration campsand has called for a decrease in foreign aid to Israel. Last year she called Israel’s defense of her borders against violent Hamas-engineered riots from Gaza a “massacreShe has demonstrated her ignorance of the details needed to make educated statements on this issueDespite not having any obvious ill-willOcasioCortez’s actions and words help mainstream the anti-Israel movement

The second group are the “good Jews” – Jews who lend their voices to, or dismiss the bad faith of, the anti-Israel movement. Their refrains of as a Jew…” or “even so-and-so Jewish person said…” are frequently used to support wild claims against Israel. Writer Peter Beinart and Senator Bernie Sanders would be the best examples of the “good Jew”. Sanders has frequently misquoted statistics from the conflict and has invigorated the anti-Israel movement by questioning aid to Israel. Peter Beinart has excused terrorism against Israelis as an understandable – if not acceptable – response to Palestinian frustration. Unwittingly or not, “Good Jews” provide moral and political cover to those who look to do Israel harm.

The third group are the “good Jew” organizations – groups who make frequent statements condemning Israel under the cover of being Jewish. This includes groups like IfNotNow (INN), Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), and Breaking the Silence (BTS). Those who look to demonize Israel use these organizations to support their beliefs because they are at least Jewish in name. INN co-founder (and aid to Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren) Max Berger tweeted in 2013,  “Confession: I would totally be friends with Hamas,” while his organization responded to yesterday’s press conference by tweeting that “We are kvelling (welling up w/ emotion) as we listen to @RashidaTlaib describe her experience as a child on a visit to the West Bank”. Two years ago, JVP executive director Rebecca Vilkomerson shared a stage with Omar Barghouti where she defended the use of suicide attacks because of the “occupation”. These are the “allies” that the congresswomen frequently reference.

When Omar was answering questions at the press conference, she used these people by saying that “you’ve heard from Jewish members of my constituency. We had a really wonderful meeting before I took my trip to get insight of what kind of questions they wanted me to ask, what they were interested in learning.” These people speak for a very small segment of Jews, yet can be used to show that the congresswomen are listening to “all sides” and young Jews in particular. Surely speaking only with IDF veterans from BTS is not the same as speaking with the average Israeli soldier, but it is easy for Omar to twist her itinerary into sounding diverse for a less informed audience. 

Reject Fake Apologies

Israel’s defamers saying sorry shouldn’t cut it. In 2012 Ilhan Omar tweeted that “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” Before her campaign in 2018, she had declared herself against the BDS movement. After winning the election however, Omar had a change of heart. Earlier this year, she claimed that Congressional support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins“. Despite her strategic apologies, a pattern has become clear. The congresswoman claims to love while simultaneously sowing discord, asking for forgiveness for words she does not regret saying. 

Those who refuse to apologize for their behavior should of course not be forgiven either. Referring to Republican colleagues who oppose the BDS movement in America, Tlaib claimed that they “forgot what country they represent”, giving voice to the claim of “dual loyalty” – not merely for Israel supporting politicians, but for Israel supporting Jews. Earlier this year she said that the Holocaust gave her a “calming feeling” due to her family’s role in providing safe haven to Jews. This mainstreamed an ahistorical narrative that betrays the true history:Palestinian Arabs at the time were attacking Jews and protested their presence in the land until the British closed Jewish entry into Palestine during the Holocaust. In response to Bill Maher slamming BDS for what it is, Tlaib suggested that he be boycotted as well. While Omar remains cool and casual as she feigns ignorance of her anti-Semitic dog whistles, Tlaib is unable to disguise her emotions and is less apologetic. 

Get Into the Details

OmarTlaib and anti-Israel activists generally have a tendency of taking out of context what is agreeable to them while simultaneously minimizing what is disagreeable to them. Once the itinerary of the congresswomen became public, opinions on the matter quickly became even more complicated. Citing their destination as “Palestine” (a not-so subtle reference to their belief that the Jewish State is illegitimate and only temporary) the trip was geared towards creating propaganda and demonizing Israel. The trip was to be funded by Miftah, a Palestinian non-governmental organization founded by PLO activist Hanan Ashrawi. Despite Miftah’s terror links, rejection of Israel, and even promoting the ancient blood libel that Jews kill Christian children to use their blood to make matzah for Passover, the congresswomen (and Beinart) defended the organization. 

Pay close attention to how the congresswomen weaponize stories that are based in half-truths in order to promote their agenda. Featured on their trip was a stop in Hebron, one of Judaism’s holiest cities, and one of the most misunderstood places in the region. While tours of Hebron are often used to point out Israeli Apartheid“, these tours fail to tell you that only 3 percent of the city, part of what is known as H-1, is open to Jews. Palestinians comprise 82 percent of Hebron in what is known as H-2. While the tours of Hebron focus on the area that is twisted to paint a picture of Palestinian desolation, they intentionally avoid showing tour participants any part of the large, thriving Palestinian city which accounts for 30 percent of the West Bank’s GDP. Israel’s military administration keeps the peace in the 18 percent of Hebron that makes up H-1 while the Palestinians maintain civil administration. IDF soldiers are there to keep the peace as per the agreement, but visitors only get a small part of the story and leave with little understanding of the situation. By meeting with Breaking the Silence in Hebron, this is what the congresswomen mean when they say they are “meeting with Israeli organizations”. 

Another stop on the propaganda tour was to be the Temple Mount, the crown jewel of flash points in Israel. Here there would be real life consequences that go far beyond public relations disasters. The Israeli government already has its hands full trying to reduce tension at the Temple Mount, where the next riot could come at any moment. Weighing the risk of such a visit against a wished for pat on the back from the international community should not have been a difficult cost-benefit analysis for the Israeli government. 

The congresswomen were also planning to visit Bethlehem, where they would “learn” about the separation barrier. While anti-Israel advocates focus on the “inhumanity” of the wall, likening it to President Trump’s fixation on the border wall with Mexico in order to play on emotions, there is little context given as to how the barrier came about. Rarely is it mentioned that the separation barrier was constructed while the left wing Prime Minister Ehud Barak was in office. Rarely is it mentioned that during the second intifada, between September of 2000 and July 2003, 73 terror attacks were committed by residents of Samaria against Israelis. In the year following the erection of the first segment of the separation barrier, only 3 attacks were successful. Attacks fell over 90 percent while casualties dropped 70 percent. It is the job of the Israeli government to protect her people, and construction of the barrier succeeded. In the words of Golda Meir, “I prefer to stay alive and be criticized than be sympathized.” 

Congresswoman Omar continued to tell half-truths in order to demonize Israel in her press conference when she said “this is the policy of his government when it comes to anyone who holds views that threaten the occupation.” Building on this, she accuses Netanyahu of deporting a man named Omar Shakir merely “because he has reported anti-human rights issues in the West Bank and Gaza”. Leaving out the context as usual, the congresswoman fails to mention that Shakir has a long history as an anti-Israel activist who supports a one state framework and openly supports the BDS movement. He serves in a key position at Human Rights Watch despite having a clear bias. This is one appointment of many that Human Rights Watch uses to slant their reporting in Israel. 

If you believe that this trip would have exposed the congresswomen to the reality of Israel that you know and feel, you need to wake up to the battle that is at hand here. Omar and Tlaib have consistently demonstrated that the only Israel they support is one that does not exist. 

…Understand the History of External Pressure on Israel

Familiarize yourself with the long history of pressure applied to the Jewish State by US presidents from both the left and right. Israel was under immense pressure to not attack the Arab states preemptively In the days and weeks leading up to the Six Day War. Prime Minister Levi Eshkol struggled to take actions that would ensure a swift victory because of the feared fallout from making the decision. Once victory was in sight, Israel hit the brakes, and bowed to international pressure. By doing so, Egypt was ready to start another war in 1973. In the days before the Yom Kippur War, Prime Minister Golda Meir failed to act on intelligence indicating that the Arabs were once again ready to attack, forfeiting Israel’s advantage in order to show the world that the country was not striking first, as it did in 1967. This decision cost many Israeli lives and Meir was never truly forgiven by the public. The fallout of this history drives Israel’s policy to this day. 

In 1981, Prime Minister Menachem Begin chose to strike Iraq’s nuclear reactor before it became operational. Israel was initially condemned by the United States, although years later President Bush Sr. thanked Israel since it saved America from having to deal with a nuclear Iraq during the Gulf War. In 2007, Israel destroyed Syria’s nuclear reactor when President George W. Bush refused to do so. Israel was once again condemned internationally despite the fact that it prevented ISIS from one day obtaining nuclear weapons. The past has taught Israel that as much as it would like the world’s approval, in particular from the United States, she must protect the lives of her citizens above all else. Keeping this in mind is essential when judging Israel for her actions. 

…Understand the Danger and Futility of Previous Israeli Land Withdrawals

Israeli territorial withdrawals have resulted mostly in pain and suffering, and short-lived credit from the international community. While withdrawal from the Sinai resulted in peace with Egypt, similar attempts elsewhere have failed. Although the Oslo Accords established the foundations for a Palestinian State in the West Bank, Yassir Arafat incited the violence he promised to curb, and refused to accept multiple peace overtures. The militant leadership of Fatah and Hamas have demonstrated that a peace agreement was not forthcoming. This led Ariel Sharon to withdraw from Gaza unilaterally in 2005, removing all traces of Jews there. As a result, Gaza immediately became a launching pad for countless rocket attacks at Israelis. The failure of this unilateral move has prevented similar moves in the West Bank where Israel would have an even more difficult time protecting her borders. 

…Do Not Allow Our Liberal Values to be Weaponized Against Us

As Times of Israel contributor Michael Yadov opined earlier this week, “if a would-be visitor has a known goal to damage the host nation, the open border crowd would turn this nation and its citizens into hostages of the nation’s own liberalism. Thus, while freedom of movement is highly desirable, it should be clear that the spirit of the policy is far more important than the letter, and a liberal democracy is fully entitled to bar malicious actors.” While democracies must often fight as if one hand is tied behind their back, their number one responsibility is to protect its people. The congresswomen often pray on the goodwill and emotions of our people and the American public in order to put blame on Israel’s shoulders. The government is elected by the people in order to make the tough decisions. The realities that we face as Americans are not the same as the realities faced by Israelis. 

…Do Not Rush to Judgment

Israel’s government is not immune from our criticism, but as the representative of the Israeli people and a voice for many in the Jewish diaspora, it deserves the benefit of the doubt before a rush to judgment. It is the goal of the congresswomen to put the pressure on Israel through half-truths, provocative language, misdirection. We need to break through their smokescreen and that can only be done by further engagement and by becoming aware of accusations that lack context . As people who claim to love Israel, we have a responsibility to delve deeper into that context, so we can elevate the conversation instead of co-signing condemnation

About the Author
As a Jewish New Yorker trying to do his part to support Israel from the Diaspora, Jared is an advisor/ member for the B'nai Brith Youth Organization, Legion Self-Defense Program, and Fuel For Truth Advocacy Boot Camp, as well as a Birthright Madrich.
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