Nefesh B’Nefesh may have a mixed record when it comes to taking care of the new immigrants whose move to Israel it facilitated, but the NGO promoting aliyah from North America and Britain has a flawless PR operation. On Monday morning, it brought a plane-load of 338 new immigrants to Ben-Gurion Airport for a stage-managed rally attended by President Rivlin. The central attraction was a group of 108 young men and women who will be inducted into the IDF in a few weeks.
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With all the patriotic fervor sweeping the country in the wake of the Gaza operation, no-one is asking the necessary question whether military service should be the first stage in a new life in Israel. Moreover, should the IDF continue opening its ranks to hundreds of young Jewish men who do not plan to become citizens and spend their lives in Israel?
No-one wants to ask this question so soon after Los Angeles-native Golani sharpshooter Max Steinberg was killed in the fighting in Gaza, but it should be asked nonetheless. Is the IDF doing itself and these recruits a disservice by becoming a foreign legion for the Diaspora?
Some writers in America and Britain have raised this issue in tendentious columns accusing various pro-Israel organizations of “brainwashing” and asking why these “Jewish jihadis” are different from Muslim men going off to fight for ISIS in Syria and Iraq. These are ridiculous claims – a man over 18, with a vote, who enlists in an army is making a conscious choice and can take responsibility for himself. And while there is a real concern that the ISIS volunteers will return home and carry out terror attacks, as Mehdi Nemmouche did three months ago at the Brussels Jewish Museum, no Western security service has yet warned that IDF veterans have any intention of doing the same.
The real objection to aliyah in uniform is that it adds little to Israel’s security, as most of them serve shorter than regular terms (made even shorter by an immigrants’ introductory course) and many don’t go on to serve in the reserves. Few of them are prepared for the wrench of dislocation from a comfortable life in the West to the tough environment of a combat unit.
Basing the Israel-Diaspora connection on the military warps these valuable ties. Jews from around the world can make a huge contribution to Israel’s insular civil society – harnessing their energies in those directions will be of much greater benefit to them and Israel.
There is another type of Jewish jihadi, the online one.
For the last few weeks they have had one mission – get on Twitter and be a constant thorn in the side of journalists covering this conflict, especially those reporting on the ground in Gaza. Some are actual employees of “pro-Israel” NGOs funded by Diaspora billionaires and coordinated at various discreet levels with official government hasbara departments. Most are self-appointed defenders of Israel who believe that by spending their days and nights online they are ensuring the survival of the Jewish State. Together they have stoked an ongoing debate on journalistic ethics, a field they know nothing about.
The media is not above reproach, and the question of to what degree interference and pressure by Hamas affected the coverage is a legitimate one. Many seasoned correspondents in Gaza insist they experienced no effective censorship, while others have said they were subject to intimidation. A statement by the Foreign Press Association denouncing these Hamas actions is currently dividing the foreign press corps, many of whom feel that denunciation has undermined their credibility. All of this has very little to do with the cyber-bullying on Twitter.
Few, if any of those sniping away at journalists trying to do their work under strenuous conditions have spent a day of their lives working in conflict-zones. Their professed concern for the media’s integrity is totally false. Their true objective is to marginalize any coverage of the human toll paid by the people of Gaza during these weeks of warfare. It has nothing to do with the important debate over who bears the blame – Hamas by cynically launching rockets and operating from heavily populated areas or Israel by retaliating in a fashion that can only result in horrendous numbers of civilian deaths. Even news organizations traditionally supportive of Israel understand that giving the human toll wide coverage is an indispensable part of their role.
The online Jewish jihadis trying to suppress this are doing Israel no favors whatsoever and have also further corrupted much of the Iocal media, which has done little to present Israelis with the consequences of our army’s actions. All they do is strengthen the illusion that all Israel needs to do is “explain itself” better and cow its critics into silence.
The latest round of bloodshed has proved the fallacy of this approach. The media coverage has had absolutely no impact on the diplomatic situation. With the U.S. and European governments – not to mention the Arab ones – still broadly in support of Israel, pictures of dead children in Gaza, whatever the context, have had next to no influence. But the jihad against the media has played a central part in shutting down democratic debate within Israel. Whatever the justifications of Operation Protective Edge and the hypocrisy of some of its critics, the Jewish jihadis have weakened Israel with their campaign.
A new, much more select group of Jewish jihadis is now coming to the fore – the lawfare warriors; jihadis with law degrees who are now working on their non-commissioned briefs defending Israel from war crimes indictments which will never come anyway. This bunch of Dershowitz wannabes are perhaps causing the most long-term damage to Israel.
It’s not that the United Nations Human Rights Council isn’t a hopelessly morally corrupt body controlled by some of the worst human-rights offenders on the globe. They couldn’t have appointed a more obviously biased and prejudiced “expert” to chair the commission tasked with investigating the Gaza conflict if they tried. Professor William Schabas, who accused Benjamin Netanyahu of committing war crimes in the 2009 Operation Cast Lead, which took place while Netanyahu was not even in government, who whitewashes the Assad regime of using chemical weapons against its own citizens and proudly took part in a conference in Tehran under the auspices of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the epitome of the quote misattributed to George Orwell that some ideas are “so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them.”
If the government and its supporters were really self-confident enough to deal with the tough questions rising from the way the latest operation has been conducted, they would formally cooperate with the Schabas Commission and give the professor all the space in which to make a fool of himself, as he already has in every interview he’s given this week.
Instead, egged on by the Jewish jihadi lawfarers, the government has ruled out any contact with the commission. The argument that the commission’s conclusions have already been written is probably true; but that doesn’t change the fact that to be effective and credible in investigating the operation, Israel’s legal system must be fully transparent and open to international forums, as hopelessly hostile as they may be.
The only way Israel can be a true democracy with a properly functioning legal system and open media is to stop listening to these Jewish jihadis who tell us we are always right and the world is out to get us.