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Whether liberal Democrats actually support Israel depends on the definiton of "support"

Reader comment on item: Republicans and Democrats Look at the Arab-Israeli Conflict

Submitted by Mark Gold (United States), Apr 7, 2006 at 17:04

I address this question as follows:

What is a "Supporter of Israel"?

Israel has no shortage of avowed detractors. It also has many genuine avid supporters. Even more people and institutions claim to "support Israel." But what does "supporting Israel" really mean?

Sadly, and insidiously, in many cases, it means very little. It is the proverbial "talking the talk" without the willingness to "walk the walk." Certainly, the climate in some circles, notably academia and the media, is apt to make the malleable fall on the denigrate-Israel team. But given the circles in which some others travel, it evidently is more comfortable to claim status as a supporter of Israel, rather than not.

A recent poll commissioned by The Israel Project illustrates that point: Eighty-two percent of the American Jews that took part in the survey said they support Israel, with most of them characterizing themselves as "strong supporters." Yet when asked if they engage in conversation about Israel or defend Israel while talking to non-Jews, most of the participants replied negatively. Thus it appears that the majority of American Jews claim they "support Israel," yet they are not even willing to "talk the talk", much less "walk the walk."


In life generally, it is important to know who your real allies are, and who are on the team or are friends in name only -- whom you can count on, and who will dilute the effort; who will help, and who will not. And you want to know whether your contributions to an ostensibly pro-Israel organization are likely to help Israel's cause, or be used in the service of another agenda.

While recognizing there are many ways to support Israel, here are some guidelines to judge whether one is a genuine supporter:

Action

What does the individual or organization actually do to support Israel, beyond claiming to be a supporter? If the answer is little or nothing, the verdict is self-evident.

A discussion of specific types of activities follows.

Speech

What does the individual or organization actually say beyond that he "supports Israel"? Something like "I support Israel but not its government," or "I support Israel but not the occupation," or "I support Israel but I want it to change"?

That is not support. It is a realm of the double standard applied to Israel. These "supporters" insist on virtual perfection for Israel (and, of course, only Israel). In this mindset, Israel and only Israel can be considered supported with a reservation, if not downright opposition appended in the same sentence. It makes as much sense as "I love that restaurant, but the food is terrible." For another example, did John Kerry, or any other UN-firster, ever say, "We should rely more on the UN, but the oil-for-food-scandal is a travesty"? (Not that any of Israel's misdeeds compare to the oil-for-food-scandal.)

"I support Israel but not its government" is a common refrain, but most of these "supporters" repeating this mantra were saying the same thing of Israel's previous governments, whether led by Ehud Barak or any of his predecessors.

Contributions and Membership

What organizations does the individual support with contributions and membership? Any pro-Israel organizations – groups that actually work on behalf of Israel? A few that come to mind include Americans for a Safe Israel, CAMERA, Stand With Us, Zionist Organization of America, and Friends of the IDF. Or are groups such as these disdained and scorned as "extremist," considered unworthy of support for some other reason, or perhaps just not considered important enough?

Of course, support of any Israeli organizations that don't seek to "change" or tear down the state is also a mark of a true "supporter of Israel." There are, of course, innumerable such Israeli organizations, such as Bar-Ilan University, Magen David Adom, One Family Fund, Shaarei Zedek Hospital, and Palestinian Media Watch.

Or does the "supporter" find that non-Israel causes always have a higher priority? Or, even worse, is the individual more comfortable with, and thus a contributor to organizations with an anti-Israel agenda, such as Oxfam, "Human Rights Watch", and too many others of a similar bent?

And what do the organizations themselves do, when perhaps Israel's actual supporters are not paying attention? In a 2003 case, a major Jewish organization one might have relied on to lend support to Israel was devoting its resources to filing a brief supporting the University of Michigan's affirmative action program.

Many organizations that promote themselves as "supporters of Israel" or "Israel advocates" in fact operate more as largely neutral forums for Israel-related programs. They apparently feel compelled to provide a balance of speakers with some providing an obligatory bashing of Israel, to offset pro-Israel aspects of their programs. Apparently, for these groups, it is too politically incorrect to include only pro-Israel voices.

Somehow, compared to these "Israel Advocacy" organizations, "advocates" of other entities don't as often feel compelled to gratuitously invite speakers or authors to bash the subject of their advocacy. Do other "advocates", perhaps your college's alumni association or any chamber of commerce invite even lukewarm speakers? Not likely.

Then, according to the Forward of August 6, 2004, there is the case of America's largest synagogue movement, the Union for Reform Judaism, representing 900 congregations and 1.5 million followers. It criticized Congress "for passing one-sided pro-Israel resolutions." Maybe the Union for Reform Judaism (erroneously) thinks that it supports Israel, and that action is an example of doing so.

But probably most of the Union's members did not even know of that action. And while undoubtedly some would have approved, others would not have. Did any ostensibly pro-Israel member congregations that were aware of the Union's action repudiate it (much less withdraw from the Union)? Did any congregants press their congregations to do so?

In fact, many non-orthodox Jewish congregations appear to have a minimal concern for Israel, at most. That logically mirrors their congregants' attitudes as revealed by the Israel Project's poll. Action to support Israel just doesn't cut it along with feel-good activities such as bingo and casino nights, and other, more "liberal" social action projects.

It goes without saying that "ethnic cleansing" in Darfur is commonly protested, but "ethnic cleansing" in Gaza is one of the few areas where these congregations did "support Israel."

A number of congregations offer Israel token support, but may consider that support as generous. Many are willing to keep their Israeli flag in the sanctuary, along with the U.S. flag, but in many cases this is a holdover from years past when supporting Israel was less controversial.

Another example offered as congregational "support for Israel" is that of a 300-plus family congregation that plants one $7 tree in Israel for each of a few dozen B'nai Mitvot each year. In fact, that practice is a largely a symbolic gesture, and not one that provides any meaningful aid to the state or its people.

Media

Where does the "supporter of Israel" get his news? The old mainstream media, such as most major newspapers, network television, public radio, or CNN? It is very hard to be a true supporter of Israel while relying on these sources, as they relentlessly vilify and inculcate a subliminal or overt "Israel is bad" message.

A true supporter of Israel is apt to rely on niche sources of news and commentary that are more likely to present Israel in a more fair or even favorable light.

Politics

Does the "supporter of Israel" support, accept, or demonize Israel's friends, such as are often found among conservative Christians and conservatives in general? Does the "supporter of Israel" generally support President Bush and the war against Islamofascist terrorism? Or did the "supporter of Israel" cast his vote for John Kerry and his lot with anti-war groups laden with Israel vilification and anti-semitism?

One must consider that a large majority of Israelis themselves preferred President Bush.

Shopping

Does the "supporter of Israel" seek Israeli products when shopping? For example, many supermarkets in metropolitan areas with a significant Jewish population carry a number of products made in Israel that supporters may purchase.

In contrast, I recall an instance of a Jewish Federation distributing giveaways made in China. When queried about the possibility of sourcing trinkets from Israel rather than China, Federation headquarters personnel reacted as if the question were from an alien.

Travel

Does the traveling "supporter of Israel" ever go to Israel, or is everywhere else (say, France) a higher priority?

Investing

Is a more-than-trivial part of the "supporter of Israel's" portfolio invested in Israel?

Investing in Israel could not be easier. Beyond the well-known Israel Bonds, which are available in denominations as low as $100, there are many Israeli companies traded on US markets, with readily available information. In fact, the NASDAQ hosts more Israeli companies than any other nationality, save for the US and Canada. American mutual funds of Israeli securities are also available.

In Sum

These are among the factors that tend to indicate whether an individual or organization actually "supports Israel," or just pays it lip service. If a consideration of these factors spurs anyone to realize that he can do more to genuinely support Israel, all the better.

Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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Reader comments (56) on this item

Title Commenter Date Thread
1Divergence Started With Oslo Failures [223 words]DaveDec 28, 2016 13:31234944
US conservatives have changed; but not necessarily because of Israel [634 words]Michael SJan 14, 2017 10:49234944
Good Point Re Cold War [46 words]DaveJan 19, 2017 08:00234944
Maybe God wanted us all to have a turn being stupid. [290 words]Michael SJan 21, 2017 01:32234944
put a fork in it [12 words]cvtJul 13, 2015 15:37224178
2So why do American Jews support Democrats? [8 words]Fred McMurrayApr 20, 2015 10:17222968
bothersome pop-ups from danielpipes.org [269 words]Michael SMay 2, 2015 09:35222968
Ho hum -- another dynastic sham [84 words]Michael SApr 18, 2015 09:00222938
American Diplomacy on a Ride It will not be Able to Dismount [265 words]M. ToveyMay 4, 2015 16:03222938
Old water, old wineskins, old names [83 words]Michael SMay 8, 2015 10:10222938
Is Jewish support for PM Cameron and PM Harper a leading indicator of change? [79 words]
w/response from Daniel Pipes
PezDispenserApr 16, 2015 13:26222902
Jewish demographics and politics not easily generalized [372 words]Michael SMay 17, 2015 11:17222902
Trouble for America means trouble for the world [95 words]Michael SApr 16, 2015 04:20222890
Update time? [250 words]R. CraigenSep 8, 2012 02:18198453
Democrats and Israel [76 words]nadiaFeb 22, 2012 02:01193552
Perspective on Diversity [66 words]Straight_Talk_LuigiNov 1, 2010 23:19179832
4the current "peace talks" [219 words]Jules PostenOct 17, 2010 15:45179359
Fox news motives [177 words]AnonOct 16, 2010 18:40179317
Disrespectful and ill conceived comments [180 words]saraOct 16, 2010 19:14179317
It's not so simple [284 words]Peter HerzOct 16, 2010 19:23179317
Just speaking my mind [140 words]AnonOct 16, 2010 22:18179317
2Jews as a people or a religion [405 words]saraOct 17, 2010 19:54179317
1A Secular Israel Has No Future-Neither Republican or Democratic-Only a Biblical Future [1041 words]M. ToveyOct 18, 2010 18:05179317
please don't say that [75 words]mariahNov 14, 2010 03:17179317
fairy tale?? [129 words]y Brandstetter MDJun 23, 2011 11:30179317
the overriding factor [25 words]Jules PostenMar 30, 2010 13:13170775
1Three Overwhelming Facts/Arguments Being Ignored [373 words]Ron ThompsonMar 29, 2010 23:17170761
Kill the myth of "linkage" for America's sake [714 words]Randall P.Mar 29, 2010 14:46170755
A vote of no-confidence in Netanyahu [77 words]J SheffMar 29, 2010 13:55170754
do away with terms "pro-israel" or "pro-palestinian" [28 words]mayaMar 27, 2010 19:53170701
Questions and Hands [146 words]Jay1Mar 26, 2010 20:12170651
Each party and ideology should support the one country in the entie Middle East that is not planning to kill us. i.e. ISRAEL ! ..Mar 2010 [37 words]Phil GreendMar 26, 2010 15:05170642
longing for the armageddon? [88 words]G.VishvasJul 5, 2009 07:20158497
It won't be Armageddon [23 words]Tom DundeeMar 27, 2010 15:56158497
I think this is a combination of things [568 words]JayJun 21, 2009 15:15157731
help finding article [54 words]roger kleinJan 10, 2009 16:57147675
2The right to defend itself is the right of all countries including Israel [627 words]Tess McNamara (Australian and Pro Israel)Jan 2, 2009 23:29146704
1Names of Republican and Democrats. [8 words]SvetlanatchkaJan 2, 2009 17:38146675
14 favorable [10 words]YnnatchkahMar 7, 2008 14:09121997
14 in 100 people are favorable of the Palestinian Authority [69 words]KristaMar 8, 2008 17:51121997
Your point was better than mine. [10 words]YnnatchkahMar 8, 2008 21:20121997
Present Arab-Israeli conflict [82 words]John S. HancockJul 16, 2006 22:4349853
reply to John S. Hancock [125 words]mikeDec 15, 2006 14:0549853
1What Has Israel Done For the Palestinians? [60 words]Glenda LoughMar 27, 2010 16:0749853
1On "naming the Enemy" [779 words]Christina LuciaApr 21, 2006 18:4143765
Excellent [14 words]Glenda LoughMar 27, 2010 16:1343765
Build a consensus for Israel [49 words]Octavio JohansonApr 13, 2006 11:2443114
Whether liberal Democrats actually support Israel depends on the definiton of "support" [1496 words]Mark GoldApr 7, 2006 17:0442652
where are Democrats for Israel-east bay san francisco? [82 words]Shirl FinkApr 17, 2006 21:1542652
Reply to Mark Gold [382 words]Seamus MacNemiOct 18, 2007 15:3842652
I Am A Supporter [118 words]Tom DundeeMar 27, 2010 16:2542652
Lumping categories & support for Israel is bipartisan [121 words]
w/response from Daniel Pipes
Emanuel GoldmanApr 4, 2006 18:2342366
Bipartisan support for Israel [14 words]Octavio JohansonApr 5, 2006 07:5442366
There is actuallly only one separation. [32 words]Tom DundeeMar 27, 2010 16:3442366
A note on one "irregularity" [30 words]pdbApr 4, 2006 11:3542306
Liberals merely in denial [47 words]Mark GarretsonApr 4, 2006 10:5942304

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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