When 'pro-Israel' means comparing Israel to the Nazis
It's time for U.S. Jews to examine the Zionist Organization of America,and ask whether it is really pro-Israel or not.
Question: What do you call a foreign-based activist organization which compares Israeli security policies to those of Nazi extermination camps?
What do you call a not-for-profit organization that denounces Israel for its policies in Jerusalem's holiest shrine, voicing outrage that the devout endure humiliation, discrimination, draconian bars to religious expression, oppressive denial of access to holy sites, physical mistreatment, enforced thirst, arrests and beatings at the hands of Israeli police?
What do you call a group that, at a time of extreme tension in the most incendiary location in the Old City, supports fundamentalist radicals in a push to overturn a precarious balance between faiths, a move that could set off massive violence and cause untold damage to Israel?
Answer, in every case: The Zionist Organization of America.
You know the one. "The oldest pro-Israel organization in the United States." The proud, unrelenting crusader against demonization of Israel.
In a recent statement, the ZOA took up the plight of radical rightist Jews who demand the right to pray on the Temple Mount. No matter that the demand is in direct violation of long-established rabbinical prohibitions. No matter that it contravenes Israeli security regulations aimed at maintaining a fragile calm.
Denouncing Israeli police and security forces for "blatantly discriminatory and humiliating behavior" in their dealings with would-be worshippers on the Temple Mount, the ZOA described the scene in outrage:
"Identified Jews are shunted to the side to wait separately in what some have come to cynically call 'the selekzia,' alluding to the Nazis' orderly process of deciding which Jews would live and which Jews would go to their demise."
In brackets, the statement added that "While ZOA does not condone inappropriate use of Holocaust imagery, especially in matters relating to Israel, it is telling that Jews subjected to systematic abuse on the Temple Mount would even contemplate using this term."
Unsettling as the statement may be, it points to a much broader effort on the part of Zionist hardliners: moving the goalposts of the concept of "Pro-Israel" wide, wide to the right.
In fact, for some hardliners, the ideological borders of what may be defined as genuine support for Israel are so far to the right that not even the government of Israel is pro-Israel enough. Nor its prime minister.
Take, for example, an article widely e-mailed this month across the States. The piece, published on the right-wing Israel National News site, offers to teach readers to "learn how to become an effective pro-Israel advocate in 10 easy steps."
Step Number Four attacks Benjamin Netanyahu for endorsing a "meshugana" [Yiddishism for insane] peace plan. The cited Netanyahu plan, though it offers the Palestinians far, far less in concessions than did the Olmert outline, the Barak-Clinton Camp David initiative, the Sharon-Bush Road Map, or the Oslo accords, is still portrayed as suicidal for Israel.
The ZOA, meanwhile, also stresses that it knows what is better for Israel's defense than does Israel. It portrays Israel's government, judiciary, and security forces as weak.
On the Temple Mount prayer issue, the organization notes that the Jerusalem Magistrates Court has "ruled in favor of the police who had argued it was necessary to 'guard the calm [that] could explode very quickly.'"
Then the Zionists of America move in for the kill.
"The ZOA, however, maintains that the broader security picture also must be considered; Israel's repeated acquiescence to threats of violence more likely emboldens, rather than satisfies, Muslim extremists."
The parameters of what may now be considered "pro-Israel" may be defined by a more recent ZOA statement, which suggests that the two-state solution is also anti-Israel.
No matter that the two-state concept has been endorsed by successive Republican and Democratic administrations, by the great majority of Israel's allies worldwide, and,
according to a 2011 Gallup poll, 78 percent of American Jews. No matter that Benjamin Netanyahu is on record as supporting two states.
Two weeks ago, the ZOA offered its "highest praise" for a "solidarity with Israel" resolution unanimously passed by the Florida state legislature, recognizing, in the ZOA's words, "that the right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel is unquestionably superior, and that Jerusalem and the West Bank must remain united under Israeli sovereignty for the sake of peace and security."
This is the new loyalty oath for the designation "Pro-Israel":
A pledge of allegiance to One State, under a Jewish God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for Jews alone.
The great majority of American Jews, whose support is vital for Israel's continued existence, will fail this test. Some of them, passionate Zionists, influential and articulate, have already come in for special treatment - vilified, boycotted and threatened as overtly anti-Israel - because their views on the Jewish state's future happen to differ with those on the hard right.
M. J. Rosenberg, for decades one of the most important thinkers among American Zionists, is accused by Alan Dershowitz of "the kind of virulent hate speech you’d expect to find on a neo-Nazi website."
Writer and commentator Peter Beinart "doesn’t represent the Jewish community any more than a black member of the KKK would represent African-Americans," writes Ronn Torossian, praised by hard right Likud MK Danny Danon as an authority on Israel's public relations. "Beinart is a shame to the Jewish community – a self-hating Jew,"
The house of author and rabbi Michael Lerner is repeatedly attacked and vandalized, with posters portraying him as a Nazi.
M.J. Rosenberg, Peter Beinart, Michael Lerner, and countless other moderate and progressive American Jews, care about Israel every bit as much as does ZOA President Morton Klein. They want to see a secure, just, democratic Jewish state fully as much as does any member of the ZOA.
The ZOA has every right to implicitly question whether most American Jews are pro-Israel. Its actions, however, suggest that it's time for American Jews to begin to question whether, at this point, the ZOA really is.