It is astounding how Israel’s foes have assembled an immense if bulky movement in America and Canada to advocate for the Palestinian cause.
A great many people support this cause, and their strength is in the numbers. They have developed an extensive network of Americans and Canadians who genuinely believe that Israel’s status must be delegitimized. They have succeeded so well that Democratic leaders are stuck maneuvering through pro- and anti-Israel voters. The Israel-bashing crowd has served as an effective counterweight to the longtime pro-Israel lobby.
Awfully formidable, aren’t they?
Another way to describe this phenomena means revising the top lead paragraph with synonyms of key words: These enemies have fabricated a deceptive, artificial drive which has motivated misguided people to jump on the bandwagon.
This wall can crumble – so long as Israel supporters respond with intelligence and patience.
The pro-Arab mob appeals to anger or idealism. Many new-found allies genuinely believe that Israel is the villain because Arab supporters persuade them on a grass-roots level. They accomplish this by lying and leaving out some important facts.
The trick is to curb their enthusiasm for the Palestinian cause, as Larry David might say. Talk to people on a personal level to explain Israel’s situation and emphasize the weaknesses of the Palestinian side. The more people who distance themselves from the cause, the more that true believers will lose their influence.
A few caveats: Do not expect any of these people to become vigorous supporters of Israel. There is room for legitimate criticism of Israel, and we must concede that there is right and wrong on both sides – though far more wrong can be found on the Arab side.
However, one-time defenders of the Palestinians could take a more balanced, fact-based view of the situation or just abandon the Palestinian cause altogether. They will recognize there was never a cause. The Palestinians were never the kinds of underdogs that we see in the Black and Native American communities.
I am not dealing with attitudes in Europe or elsewhere because other issues are involved. I have always thought that Europeans fear terrorism more because they do not have that 3,500-mile pond, known as the Atlantic Ocean, to serve as a buffer.
To influence attitudes, we need to chip away at flawed perceptions. Following is a guide to disabusing people of their current perspective:
- America is very generous in its support of Israel with military aid and diplomatic support, which is not lost on racial minorities and other vulnerable Americans whose social needs are repeatedly ignored. We need to stress that both political parties are behind Israel, but only one party strives to solve social ills.
Democrats can only accomplish what their power allows. They spent months pressing for a multi-trillion dollar legislative program that would improve conditions for the middle-class and the poor. Democrats control the House of Representatives while they narrowly lack votes to alter procedures in the Senate and adopt more enlightened laws.
- Jews in America prioritize Israel over the needs of their fellow citizens. Or so they think. Tell that to the vast majority of Jews who vote for Democrats. In every presidential election during the last three decades, Democratic nominees took anywhere from 67 to 82 percent of the Jewish vote, according to Jewish media.
All the senators from three states with a combined Jewish population of 3 million (New York, California and New Jersey) are Democrats. Most House members in and around New York City and Los Angeles are Democrats, as they are in south Florida, all heavily Jewish bastions. Many Jews need the same services as everyone else as many of us are middle-class and poor, if in lesser proportions, than some other racial and religious groups.
- At one workplace, I learned that a Black woman made reference to “a Jew war.” Some African-Americans believe that our government participates in Middle East wars for Israel’s benefit, and their children must risk their lives by joining the military to escape poverty. It is true that some American and Israeli Jews wanted America to invade Iraq in 2002. In fact, Benjamin Netanyahu – when he was not prime minister – testified before Congress in favor of the attack on Iraq.
However, there is no evidence that the Israeli government sought America’s involvement in Iraq, and the vast majority of Jews here voted for Democrats Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004 vs. George W. Bush in both elections. If Jewish voters wanted American intervention in the Middle East, why on earth would they vote for Democrats?
- America enslaved Black people from Africa and stole the land of and massacred Native Americans, just as Israel oppresses the Palestinians today. Again, so they think. Do African-Americans plan to drive Philadelphia Jews into the Delaware River? Do they slay their sisters and daughters when they become pregnant outside of marriage? Do they behead Black gays because of their sexual orientation? Lots of nuance here. Sure, Palestinians are suffering and there are questions about Israel’s treatment of them.
However, it is their leadership – namely, Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank– that blocks any progress. During a summit at Camp David in 2000, then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak proposed an independent state for the Palestinians, and Yasser Arafat rejected the plan. Beyond that, many Palestinians, not all, seek nothing less than driving the Jews into the sea. They do not seek justice or better economic conditions. Many also engage in honor killings of their women and murder homosexuals.
We hope these arguments can change minds, which would be those primarily to the left. Now, what about the right? From my personal experience, that is a far more solid wall, but we should take on that challenge, too.