Israel's flag flying atop Masada.
Israel's flag flying atop Masada.

Column: Two Perilous Forces in Israel

No question that American Jews should be anxious about the future of an Israel in Bibi’s hands. There will likely be two prime forces at work that can intensify the conflict with the Palestinians.

We already know that Bibi (a.k.a. Benjamin Netanyahu) plans to govern with an alliance joined by far-right political leaders who urge harsher measures against the Palestinians. We must wonder what Netanyahu’s government will do.

On the other side, pro-Palestinian activists may well persist in their arguments with some of their most frustrating tactics: rationalizations and distortions. The very last words of a New York Times article signaled that their excuses will never end.

“They don’t really care,” said Maha Nakib, a Palestinian activist quoted in the Times. “Our eyes aren’t blue and our hair isn’t blond like the Ukrainians.”

If that is true, Ukrainians were broadminded enough to elect a darkhaired man, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, as their president. Besides, I vaguely recall that news photos often depict Ukrainians as darkhaired. Perhaps that image is part of the Jewish-controlled media conspiracy.

Their physical appearance is hardly the only difference from Palestinians. Unlike a great many Palestinians, Ukrainians are defending their land from an invasion driven by a crazed autocrat. They do not seek to push the Russian population into the sea, as many Arabs hope to do to the Jews.

Ukrainians would relievedly accept Vladimir Putin’s offer to withdraw all his troops from Ukraine without demanding control of eastern Moscow. More than 22 years ago, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat rejected an Israeli proposal to create a Palestinian state for most of the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem. None of that was sufficient for Arafat.

They also appreciate their newfound democratic system and many have sacrificed their lives to keep it that way. Can Maha Nakib show us an Arab nation that has been able to operate by democratic means?

Advocates for the Palestinians make life worse for them by demolishing their credibility. They make sweeping accusations against Israel without backing them up with the facts. If they persist with this course, they will have less leverage in case the Israeli government does anything wrong or at least questionable.

Arafat’s response to a plan for an independent state was a moment of truth for them. He turned down a realistic plan that was not good enough for him. He could have worked with Israel on it and tried for an improvement in terms later, if that was a possibility. Instead, the Palestinians followed this up with a bloody uprising.

Why should supporters of Israel care after that? I considered the situation an Arab problem and ceased caring about Palestinians as a society. I am concerned about individual Arabs who are caught in the middle. For Israel, these events moved its people to elect rightwing governments.

Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman, who has reported from Israel for almost four decades, neatly laid out the landscape in an analysis in last Saturday’s Times headlined “The Israel We Knew Is Gone”: “Netanyahu has been propelled into power by bedfellows who: see Israeli Arab citizens as a fifth column who can’t be trusted; have vowed to take political control over judicial appointments; believe that Jewish settlements must be expanded so there is not an inch left anywhere in the West Bank for a Palestinian state; want to enact judicial changes that could freeze Netanyahu’s ongoing corruption trial; and express contempt for Israel’s long and strong embrace of L.G.B.T.Q. rights.”

More fuel tossed on the fire. Israel could do without any of this approach. So can the rest of the world. The slightest appearance of any provocation could set off another war. Any reader could say Israel is already in a war, and add that Palestinian terrorists need no provoking. But the forthcoming arrangement, unless there is a change of direction, is yet a likely way to make matters worse.

Even before the new administration takes any action on its mindset, perceptions of Israel around the world will predictably be more negative.

Add to that the spectacle of a prime minister, namely Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption.

In America, some American Jews are bound to be confronted with disconcerting responses in less-enlightened spaces. If a disturbing incident in Israel arises from the government’s attitudes, Jews could possibly, even probably, be interrogated by gentile co-workers who look to us as Israel’s ambassador to the office. If my personal experience is any indication, our colleagues will ask, in so many words: What the heck are your leaders trying to do?

In my past experiences at some workplaces, I contended with patronizing assumptions, even from people usually more objective. I was as confused as they were by the situation. While I felt natural emotional ties to Israel as the Jewish homeland, I did not follow the conflict very closely at the time.

As I am not an Israeli citizen, Israel’s prime minister is not my leader. My influence on them is at best distant and indirect. Presidents and Congress can pressure the Israeli government, but I am one of 330 million Americans, many of whom will have different views. For that matter, my co-workers had as much influence as I did.

If your officemates do not buy that, my advice is to tell them you missed the last Jewish Conspiracy meeting. I wonder how many of them will believe you.

With or without dealing with such pests, American Jews will still feel very uncomfortable. They will need to understand the Israeli government’s actions and, if we can ever comprehend it, determine what to do about it.

Like all nations, Israel must strike a balance between providing security for its citizens and delivering services and justice equitably for all its people. That is an especially hard task for Israel. If American Jews conclude that Israel’s government is abusing its power, what then?

About Bruce Ticker

Bruce S. Ticker, who writes from Philadelphia, also blogs for The San Diego Jewish World and Smirking Chimp and previously for the suspended Philadelphia Jewish Voice. He was previously a reporter and copy editor for daily newspapers in eastern Pennsylvania.

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One comment

  1. I read the article about the elections results in Israel with great interest. Unfortunately, in my view, too much weight was put on the Palestinian problem and not on the plans of the newly elected government to turn Israel into a dictatorship by legislation which will strip our Supreme Court of its ability to defend laws that will affect not only the Israelis but Jews all over the world. The change of the law of return for example will reduce the a ability of many to immigrate to Israel, should they wish to do so. Israel’s economy will collapse due to increased budgets to Charedim, their Yeahivot and schools and increase the number of non paying taxes due to their attendance in Yeshivot. The weight of taxes and army service will fall on less and less shoulders and will affect the will of young Israelis to serve in the army as they will be treated as second class citizens. They will be payed less then Yeshiva Bucher during their service, they will and do not get any assistance as students in university and at the same time have to serve in reserve to the age of 42. All of that coupled with what was written in the a article about the Palestinian problem which will be enhanced by the right wing extremists does not portrait a hopeful future to half of the Israelites and might lead to a wave of emigration of many young families and professionals from Israel.