An open letter (of the kind not to be read and answered, most probably). Still - a kind of a letter and definitely very open.
Jonathan Freedland aka Sam Bourne is a journalist and a writer of eminence and, to be stated clearly outright, a supporter of Israel's right to exist. Which is not saying much, apparently, if you look closely at the way Jonathan - and many other so called "liberal Zionists" in UK and elsewhere - support Israel. If the article Liberal Zionism After Gaza, penned by Jonathan on July 26, 2014, in the midst of the latest war in Gaza, nicknamed Operation Protective Edge, to be a witness to that support.
It is a good thing the article fell (electronically speaking) in my hands with a delay of several months. With a perfect hindsight, in July I would have said and written a few words I may have been loath to repeat today. As it is, even today I have to summarize my (and other Israelis') reading of the article in the following sentence: "Yeah, I am a liberal Zionist and I am kinda supposed to support you all out there, but I am fucking tired of your shenanigans and of what the goyim say about you all, so why don't you simply curl up and die quietly already?"
The article in question starts with a sentence that is already highly contentious: "Never do liberal Zionists feel more torn than when Israel is at war." Normally, if there is a good time to be torn by doubts and to criticize the Zionist Entity, I would say it is during peace time, much better suited to exchange of opinions, to debates and to open eyes, ears and hearts. But no, Jonathan feels otherwise, setting the tone of the article from the word go.
Now comes one of the key statements to be quoted (but to be discussed later):
Even during the grim chain of events that led to this episode, liberal Zionists found themselves facing both ways, switching direction day-by-day, even hour-by-hour.Now we can proceed to this:
Of course, they, like everyone else, condemned the brutal June kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers on the West Bank, an act immediately blamed on the Hamas leadership (falsely so, it later turned out: the kidnapping was, in fact, the work of a local “lone cell,” acting without authorization).The statement is based on such an authoritative source (in the link) as some Buzzfeed reporter Sheera Frenkel:
Citing Palestinian sources and experts in the field, Frenkel reported that kidnapping three Israeli teens would be a foolish move for Hamas.I can't blame Jonathan for repeating what sounded like truth at the moment and later turned out to be wrong, no matter what kind of speculations appear in that NYMAG article Jonathan used. But his unwillingness to wait and his readiness to repeat crappy sources that whitewash Hamas... no, a journalist of his stature should know better.
Further on, the curious switching of positions, already mentioned in the quote above, is stressed again (unwittingly or otherwise):
This constantly dual posture—defense of Israel paired with horror at the violation of liberal values—only became more pronounced as the military operation gathered steam.Eventually things came to a head for me with this passage:
But the first week of Protective Edge produced awkward statistics. The Palestinian death toll kept climbing while Israel’s remained stubbornly at zero. (Israel’s first casualty came on July 15.)Now is the time to remember that it's an open letter and to call upon its subject: what is it you really want, Jonathan? That we produce a dead Jew for every dead Arab to make your liberal Zionist soul feel better? Your weather-vane - like consciousness has to be carefully balanced by the "proportional" number of deaths on both sides? What is it in the definition of the word "war" that applies to all other people and doesn't apply to Israelis that you know and we don't understand? Please share it, feel free.
Jonathan is, actually, sharing some of it in the rest of that article. Like this:
For Zionists of the right, repeating these arguments came easily. But liberal Zionists felt conflicted. A death rate that saw civilians account for four out of every five Palestinians killed—and that by July 25, according to the UN, included nearly 200 children—was hard to defend.No matter that these numbers appeared to be lies later - the readiness to accept the numbers coming from Hamas via UN is telling. The liberal Zionists were made uncomfortable - again! And another good reason for the liberal Zionists to wring hands:
In continental Europe there is another dimension. Defending Israel when Israel is killing civilians by the hundred now exacts a very direct price. In Paris, protests against the war in Gaza spilled over into anti-Jewish violence, with chants of “Death to the Jews” and the attempted storming of two synagogues. In Berlin, an Israeli tourist was attacked during a Gaza-related demonstration.Jew-haters of Europe, you see, got another pretext to beat up some Jews - and the weather-vane swings around again.
Then comes a confession:
So there is a weariness in the liberal Zionist fraternity.We can definitely see it. And more:
When Israelis and Palestinians appear fated to fight more frequently and with ever-bloodier consequences, and when peace initiatives seem to be utopian pipe-dreams doomed to fail, the liberal Zionist faces something like an existential crisis. For if there is no prospect of two states, then liberal Zionists will have to do something they resist with all their might. They will have to decide which of their political identities matters more, whether they are first a liberal or first a Zionist. And that is a choice they don’t want to make.What can I say to you, Jonathan? Much as our dreams about a peace solution and the euphoria brought on by Oslo dissipated in the bloody years of Intifada I, II, ... much as we can blame for it both our own leadership (or the lack of it) and the Palestinians, we can talk about it forever without a clear conclusion. The future, whatever it may be, is uncertain. But let's go back to liberal Zionists and their struggle with the directions of the winds.
Let's take a brief look at what this country is facing:
- A clear and deep erosion of relationships with our main friend in this world - US of A
- Gradual but sure worsening of same with European states
- A growing isolation in the UN, the Dictators Club, where the patients completely took over the asylum
- A total failure of Israeli (pitiful as it always was) Hasbarah to counter the waves of hate, bigotry and lies produced by the much more numerous and much more financially powerful Muslim propaganda
- A more and more powerful BDS movement that doesn't do a good work of hiding its eventual goals of dismantling the state of Israel, damn the genocidal consequences
- More and more successes for anti-Israeli demagoguery on campuses, where the next generation of leaders is being groomed by their leftie professors
- I don't even want to mention the military threats, existential and otherwise
- And now a clear beginning of erosion in certain influential circles of Jewish community abroad
But, Jonathan, facing all this, what we can do without is the kind of weather-vane behavior you have displayed. This "yes, but..." attitude of our liberal friends in the hour of war eventually becomes a liability instead of an asset, and I hope that you are aware of it. Wringing your hands when the expected number of dead Israelis doesn't materialize is an extreme example of this trait, but you have given enough besides this in one single article to fill a very long books of complaints. And we shouldn't be busy submitting complaints at our brothers and sisters abroad, I suggest. Not now. Not ever, if possible.
The last thing: as if written for this occasion, here is an article by Fred Maroun, a Canadian of Arab origin, who is a more staunch supporter of Israel than many of my Jewish brethren abroad are: Have American Jews Become a Liability to Israel?. While it discusses another group of Diaspora Jews, the lesson is the same. Isn't it, Jonathan?