Thursday, August 02, 2018

 Vic Rosenthal's Weekly Column

The missiles are falling all over Israel, their multi-ton payloads blasting the Jewish state, built at such great cost in human effort and blood over the past 70 years, to bits.

I am not talking about physical missiles. They are infrequent today, as we experience a slow period in the long, traditional war that our regional enemies have been waging against the Jews of the land of Israel since the days of the British Mandate. No, I am referring to blows being struck in the cognitive war that has been going on since the 1960s. In this arena, there is no intermission. The cognitive war is raging today at white heat.

In cogwar world the enemies are not precisely the same as in the kinetic war. Here we are also fighting Arabs and Iranians, but our most serious enemies are Western European governments, forces based in the USA, like the New Israel Fund and the Union for Reform Judaism, and post-Zionist intellectuals here in Israel.

One of the central battles is over the Nation-State Law just passed by the Knesset. If you haven’t read it, you must, in order to understand the paradox of how a law with almost no practical effect can create so much fury in its opponents. What happened is that the law blew open the uneasy truce between those who aspire to fulfil the vision of Herzl to create a democratic and free state that will nevertheless be a state of and for the Jewish people, and those who want Israel to be nothing more than a modern, democratic state that happens to have (at least for a while) a Jewish majority.

This is a legitimate conversation that can and should be had. For myself, I believe that it is possible for Israel to be, in a significant and fundamental sense, the nation-state of the Jewish people, while still providing equal rights for members of minority groups. This new law, which explicates the meaning of “the nation-state of the Jewish people” is part of the answer that the majority of Israel’s Jews have given to the question.

The opposition to the Nation-State Law is couched in the most inflammatory language possible, including epithets like “racist” and “apartheid.” This is nonsense and is part of a larger campaign to paint the Likud government as made up of right-wing extremists. According to PM Netanyahu and others, the New Israel Fund (NIF) is actively encouraging members of Israel’s minority groups to oppose the law.

Many other issues are brought up for the same purpose and in the same exaggerated way. For example, the controversies about the recognition of non-Orthodox forms of Judaism in Israel have no relevance for any but a tiny fraction of Israelis; yet the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) in America has established a lobbying and activism arm in Israel which seems to exist mainly to provoke crises that can be used to vilify the government. It also is doing its best to introduce an American-style obsessionwith race and racism into Israeli discourse.

Attempts by the government to deport illegal African migrants also received the same treatment, by the same players. Again the accusation of racism was deployed, despite the very real damage that this population continues to do to the residents of South Tel Aviv, and despite the fact that Israel went to great lengths to bring black African Jews to Israel. Again, various NGOs, the NIF, and the URJ vehemently attacked the government for its policy.

Another more recent issue to explode in this way is the the law that regulates how the health funds can pay for surrogate mothers in Israel. Although the PM promised that this benefit would be extended to include gay male couples, he gave in to pressure from religious elements in the coalition and opposed it. There was a massive demonstration and even a nationwide strike in protest. The PM was denounced as illiberal, anti-democratic, and homophobic, but at worst he was pragmatically keeping his coalition intact.

Everything negative that happens in Israel is blown up and appears in the New York Times, CNN, and other liberal/progressive media as an example of Israeli depravity. The stupid arrest of a rabbi for violating a stupid law forbidding anyone from performing a Jewish marriage without approval from the Rabbinate was a top news item (Israel’s Attorney General immediately ordered the rabbi’s release, and even ultra-observant Haredi rabbis criticized the arrest).

The pattern is always the same. In each case, a coalition of the Israeli and foreign left-leaning media, foreign-funded Israeli NGOs, outside players like the URJ, J Street, and the NIF, attack Israel, her government, and the Prime Minister. Even Trump’s move of the American Embassy to Jerusalem was criticized by these groups. Going back further, many of them supported Obama’s Iran deal, which in hindsight has been exposed to be as bad as opponents said it was.

This is a coordinated assault whose objective is to convince those who think of themselves as liberal and pro-democracy that Israel is a backward, undemocratic, racist theocracy.

You say this is just rough-and-tumble Israeli politics as usual?

I disagree. Traditionally, opposition politicians criticized the government and the Prime Minister (and when speaking for foreign consumption, they rarely even did that). Sometimes they threw water on other members (video here), but they did not attack the country itself. They did not conspire with foreign elements to disseminate anti-Israel propaganda.

The media, especially Ha’aretz, are even worse than the politicians. Reading the Ha’aretz English edition – very popular among foreign government officials – one could as well be reading Al Jazeera’s website (in fact, Ha’aretz writers are far more contemptuous of Israel and Israelis than Al Jazeera’s).

The Knesset passed a law two years ago that Israeli NGOs that receive more than half of their financing from foreign governments have to report it. The law was passed against strong opposition in a form far weaker than what was originally proposed. It was in reaction to the more and more outrageous actions of several dozen Israeli NGOs that function as subversive, anti-state agents (for example, Breaking the Silence, which travels the world spreading lies about the IDF). Their money comesmostly from European governments and charities, but also from the US, particularly the Rockefeller Brothers fund and the NIF. There is also money coming into this shadowy enterprise from charities linked to George Soros, whose anti-Zionism is well-known.

Together, the foreign-funded NGOs, the NIF and URJ, the anti-Zionist media in Israel and overseas, and much of Israel’s academic and cultural elite join the anti-Zionist Arab members of the Knesset in waging cognitive warfare against the state.

Time and again polls show that the majority of Jewish Israelis support the supposedly “hard line” government, which is actually very centrist and not at all extreme. But, ironically, that doesn’t seem to matter to these champions of “democracy!”

To re-engineer an old antisemitic phrase, as a Zionist, some of my worst enemies are Jews.

We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.

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