Guideline for ‘pro-Israel’ debate

Guideline for ‘pro-Israel’ debate

I received this from a friend in Australia! It’s from “Rosner’s Domain” in the Jerusalem Post.
>> Arieh

“Your guideline for ‘pro-Israel’ debate” by Shmuel Rosner

[1] Sunday Jul 17, 20111

Here’s an interesting attempt [2] to agree on the “guidelines” necessary for more “serious” discussion of Israel-related matters among American Jews. It is really an attempt to define what “pro-Israel” means today. Can it work? I doubt it. Do I agree with all five points of this plan? Not necessarily. But I do really like the measured tone of Prof. Brent Sasley [3]. Try it:

First, there should be a determination of what, exactly, it means to be “pro-Israel.” There is lots of talk about how big the pro-Israel tent should be, but it should be obvious that the answer is tied directly to the Zionist enterprise itself. The culmination of this enterprise is the Israeli Declaration of Independence. The Declaration makes reference to “the right of the Jewish people” to rebuilding itself in its ancient homeland. It also makes reference to “freedom” for all its citizens, “complete equality of social and political rights,” “freedom of religion,” and “full and equal citizenship.” So, to be pro-Israel on the basis of Israel’s founding document itself means to support an Israel that is grounded in Jewish values as well as liberal democratic values and structures.

Second, any group that is pro-Israel must eschew violence by non-state groups. Isolated vigilantism aside, which every country has, no state can survive intact without it holding a monopoly on the use of violence. Indeed, the Failed State Index includes as one of its indicators just such a lack of control over the means of violence. (Of concern in this context is the fact that the Index ranks Israel, including the West Bank, 53 out of 177 countries; the closer to 1 a country is the more failed it is.)

Third, American Jews must be committed to liberal democracy in Israel. In part this is because that is what the Declaration sets out, and Israeli leaders from Ben Gurion on promoted it. But it is also because most American Jews, and indeed most Diaspora Jews around the world, place a premium on it. It is part of this community’s value structure because we see it as a very good thing. And the community cannot — should not — support structures and policies that conflict with the very values they demand of their own government and society.

Fourth, Israel must be geographically defined as contained within the 1967 borders. This is not an argument on final borders, which will be determined through negotiations with the Palestinians. Rather, there must first be an acceptance of a specifically defined entity before we can move on to discussing the final form of that entity. Because Israel accepted the 1949 armistice lines as its border, and because Israel itself never formally and legally annexed the West Bank (despite the administrative and military control it exercises over much of it), the Diaspora community cannot argue that it is part of Israel. Once this is accepted as the baseline, the conversation can then turn to what kind of support for what kind of borders. But the basic acknowledgment must come first.

Fifth, there must agreement that Israel must be secure from attack, both from regular armies and irregular forces. And the contours of this security must be defined according to Israeli needs and perceptions, and not according to the balance sheets of outside strategists and military planners. In The Jewish State, Alan Dowty has noted that “Israelis … tend to interpret security more broadly as freedom from threat to their personal safety and the ability to live without fear of politically motivated violence.” Given that Israelis, not Diaspora Jews, face these types of threat, it must be the measuring stick by which Israel’s ability to defend itself is supported.

This also means that the community will have to expect, under conditions of war, potential levels of violence they might otherwise be uncomfortable with. This doesn’t mean that all kinds of Israeli violence should be accepted; Israel has signed on to global norms and laws of war and it must be held to that standard. But neither should we expect that the fight against guerillas and terrorists is the same as the fight against state armies on clearly-delineated battlefields.


By | 2011-07-19T13:14:00-04:00 July 19th, 2011|Blog|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Benjamin July 20, 2011 at 1:14 am - Reply

    I’d like to add my own guideline: Be courteous to those you’re debating. I’ve seen debates degrade into shouting matches (between the audience and debaters), and they’re both counterproductive and unpleasant to be in.

    As my grandfather said, ‘There’s no accounting for taste, and difference of opinion. Lack of etiquette is completely tasteless.’

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