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Column: A United Jewish Appeal to Moderate Israel Critics is a Must

This is a fine mess we’re in, to paraphrase Laurel and Hardy.

“We” covers Israel, American Jews, most U.S. citizens and the Democratic Party. Israel faces a crisis that many believe threatens its survival. American Jews are being physically attacked and derided for their presumed support of all Israeli government policies. Americans who seek social changes will be denied them if Donald J. Trump is elected president.

That means President Biden could be defeated by Trump next Nov. 5, and Biden along with congressional Democrats will be unable to enact gun safety laws, upgrade health coverage, resurrect abortion rights, aid Ukraine, raise taxes on the wealthy, etc.

I am pointing this out not for any obsession with helping the Democrats. I wish we had a wider choice to elect candidates, but the reality now is that only a Democrat or a Republican can win the presidency and, for that matter, most congressional offices.

Trump was already a disaster for his first four years, and he promises to be far worse next year, and that could threaten Israel’s situation, too.

Biden probably worries most about how supporters of the Palestinians will vote, or not vote. A great many have promised or threatened to vote for someone other than Biden, or Trump or not vote at all. Biden’s loss of votes will certainly help Trump, perhaps to the point of Biden losing swing states that will decide the election.

Arab-Americans especially are infuriated by the deaths of a reported 32,000 Palestinians in Gaza since Oct. 7, when terrorists from Gaza slaughtered 1,200 people (mostly Jews) in southern Israel. They are joined by other racial minorities who identify with the Palestinians as oppressed victims. Many other Americans sympathize with the Palestinians and are particularly incensed by Israel’s strong military response.

They blame Biden for tolerating Israel’s bombing and want to punish him, which to them is more important than obstructing Trump’s return to the White House. They have been warned that Trump will likely harm their most basic interests, but they claim there is no difference between Biden and Trump because of Biden’s alleged abuse of the Palestinians.

The immediate future is bleak if the numbers are high enough in a half-dozen swing states, and maybe even in solidly Democratic states. What can we do? Are we left with praying that this situation will not materialize? I think something can be done to confront this threat in the time period allotted.

We must consider that some minds will never change, but more of their allies can be influenced. Many critics are diehard advocates for the Palestinians whose goal is to destroy Israel. Others are antisemites who see this conflict as another opportunity to undermine the Jewish people. The former segment opposes the presence of anyone who is not Muslim, whether Jewish, Christian or anyone else.

But the vast majority, as I have long sensed, are well-intentioned people who sincerely try to do right. They are mostly reasonable people willing to change their opinions – if the facts are presented to them in a rational manner. A few critics of Israel have apologized to me when I corrected their factual errors. Don’t expect them to become “Zionists,” but we can hope they will take a more balanced view of the conflict.

Or maybe they will cease their involvement altogether if they realize that protest leaders have fed them a pile of garbage. Their leaders in America regularly distort the situation. While Palestinians do suffer, their society is not struggling for social justice. They are trying to eliminate Israel. Many of their followers qualify as “useful idiots,” but that is not a description we need to dwell upon. They are misguided, but so are some supporters of Israel in terms of the government’s extremist policies.

Pro-Arab advocates must think of what this fight is all about.

They need to be reminded of what Oct. 7 means. If Hamas and other extremist Arabs are fighting for self-determination in the territories, why did they slaughter 1,200 Jews in such a savage manner? In sovereign Israel, mind you, not Gaza or the West Bank. Why did the Palestinian leadership reject Israel’s offer of a Palestinian state 24 years ago? Why does Hamas refuse a cease-fire while civilians continue to starve and face Israel’s military attacks?

Few of them have called for releasing the remaining 100 Israeli hostages. Some have cited the hostages, but far less than necessary. Sex abuse agencies have likewise ignored sexual violence against Jewish women. Also, we do not notice anyone pressuring Hamas to do its part.

Egypt refuses to allow Gazans to move in, even temporarily. As letter-writer Katryn Aslanian states in Monday’s Philadelphia Inquirer, “Not one Arab country has opened its doors to Gazans for even temporary sanctuary…Gaza is a battlefield…Sadly, the compassion and offer of refuge extended to the small number of Jews during the ‘30s and the Holocaust is severely lacking in this conflict.”

Why is nobody pressuring Egypt?

When we appeal to critics of Israel, we cannot be defensive. We must be willing to concede if we recognize mistakes that Israel makes or if Israel takes steps open to question.

Then there are American Jews.

On Manhattan’s Upper West Side, two Jewish men on March 17 were struck by what police said were “multiple objects” in a drive-by firing, but it is not clear what they were hit with, The New York Daily News reports. One victim wore Hasidic clothing, and they both refused medical treatment. Another assault – at 9:30 in the morning on Nov. 18 – was reported in the News last Saturday of a young couple chased into an apartment building in midtown Manhattan, by a man crying “Die, Jews, die!”

Jews were not only massacred in southern Israel. Before Oct. 7, Jews here were shot dead in Pittsburgh, Jersey City, the lakeshore town of Highland Park above Chicago and the San Diego suburb of Poway. Not to mention multiple assaults and acts of vandalism that underscore the urgency of preventing further harm to Jews.

We must alert harsh critics of Israel that most American Jews do not participate in oppression of racial minorities. I recognize that this is an exaggerated way of wording things, but most Israel-bashers would embrace such a description. Up to 75 percent of American Jews vote Democratic in presidential elections. Most Jewish communities are represented by Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Democratic senators represent New York, California and Illinois in the Senate, among other states with large Jewish populations. Florida election results are usually close.

Many of us support the same domestic policies espoused by the most virulent Israel-bashers in Congress. Though a sizable minority of Jews defend most Israeli government policies, the majority of Jews here either disputes its policies or do not even pay attention. Our definition of Zionism differs from that of Knesset members who seek to expand the so-called settlements and annex the West Bank.

Among other measures, Biden could recount his difficulties with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. If Netanyahu lied to Biden or made serious miscalculations, as has been suggested, that should be amplified. It would suggest that Biden cannot always be faulted. However, it is yet hard to judge Israel’s military response in general terms.

It would also help if Netanyahu’s government coalition is replaced by a more moderate government, but that is unlikely until elections are held in 2026. So long as Netanyahu remains in office, he could explain in more specifics Israel’s military response.

An essential message to pass on? Let’s send it already.

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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