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Viewpoints » Letter to the Editor

Letter: J Street liberals fundamentally misunderstand “pro-Israel”

In her November 26th piece, “What It Means To Be Pro-Israel,” Daniela Tolchinsky completely flubs what it actually means to be pro-Israel. In keeping with her status as a J Street UChicago board member, Tolchinsky proffers a left-wing approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as purportedly representing the unequivocal paradigm of what it means to be a pro-Israel American. This unfairly undermines Israel supporters who hold legitimate differing views.

Tolchinksy inveighs against both Hillel and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) leadership while claiming to have a “clear idea of what being pro-Israel means.” This is utter malarkey. Tolchinsky’s vision amounts to more “land for peace,” which resembles the poorly planned 2005 Gaza Strip withdrawal that directly fomented Hamas militants on Israel’s southwest border. In the absence of an acceptance of Israel’s legitimacy and a concomitant fundamental cultural change within its Palestinian neighbors—who inculcate a violent culture that celebrates murderous terrorists as martyrs and uses propaganda to instill children with deep-rooted anti-Semitism—more “land for peace” will simply yield a smaller and less secure Israel that is even more vulnerable to Islamist terror from its neighbors. Tolchinsky’s use of the highly tendentious term “occupation” to describe the present Israeli presence in the disputed West Bank is sufficient grounds in and of itself to disqualify her from being the enlightened pro-Israel sophisticate she claims to be.

Tolchinsky is correct insofar as she suggests that pro-Israel should not be defined to include only Naftali Bennett–style hawks. However, she is sorely misguided in her support of the inverse position—that to be pro-Israel simply means to accept and advance J Street’s dovish “land for peace” approach to the Palestinian peace process. To be pro-Israel, quite simply, means to support the Jewish State’s sovereignty and its legitimacy as an actor on the world stage. To be pro-Israel is to trust the vibrant Israeli democratic process to yield rational actions in furthering Israel’s own self-interest—which, due to shared moral and national security concerns, is incidentally oft tantamount to advancing American regional interests. Regarding the Palestinian conflict, the Iranian nuclear quagmire, and all other regional conflagrations, then, American supporters of Israel must recognize Israel’s ability to think and act for itself as it deems prudent. That is what it  to be pro-Israel. Period.

In submitting her own left-wing quixotism as the voice of reason for pro-Israel Americans, Tolchinsky has denigrated those who properly value Israel’s autonomy, sovereignty, and security, while rejecting her talking points and policy aims. Many, and probably most Americans, eschew actions such as cajoling the Jewish State into releasing 100 Palestinian terrorists, as Tolchinsky’s beloved Secretary of State recently did. Liberal American Jews have no grounds upon which to dictate specific and possibly self-destructive actions Israel should take as the quintessence of supporting our steadfast ally. Such intellectual deceit as Tolchinsky’s—and J Street’s—is unwarranted and dangerous, and it must be strongly denounced.

—Josh Hammer, Law School Class of 2016


11 comments on “Letter: J Street liberals fundamentally misunderstand “pro-Israel”

  1. reply

    The author misreads the piece he is commenting on pretty egregiously. The author claimed that being pro-Israel means working towards peace and security in the region, not just saying positive things about Israel. And then she presented her views on the best way to achieve that goal.

    I also find it amusing that a letter obstensibly about acknowledging a diversity of legitimately differing opinions engages in such blatant generalizations of an entire people and suggests that only the conservative pro-Israeli framing of an issue is legitimate.

    Finally, I find it troubling that Israel’s status as a “Jewish State” is juxtaposed, without any sense of the tension, with claims about it’s vibrant democracy.

    • reply

      1) Israel is and will remain a Jewish State and a vibrant democracy.

      2) “Working towards peace and security in the region” is too broad a goal to form the basis of what it means to be pro-Israel. Jimmy Carter works towards peace and security in the region and no reasonable person would call him pro-Israel.

      3) Mr. Hammer is entirely correct in observing that acceptance of Israel’s legitimacy is a sine non qua element of being pro-Israel. Short of that, one should be skeptical of claims that they are really just concerned with “Israel’s best interest.”

      4) I don’t believe that Israel is above reproach, or that any nation is for that matter, and I don’t believe that is Mr. Hammer’s claim either. Trusting in a democracy to yield rational actions is different from approving of every decision. If we cannot trust democracies what would you have us trust? Your contention that Mr. Hammer espouses blind approval of everything Israel does is, let us say, overeager.

  2. reply

    WOW. This is so dumb. He doesn’t even PRETEND to be balanced. Daniela’s piece was much more thoughtful. Everyone should just calm down and realize Israel’s not perfect. It’s not a big secret.
    Ya, also what’s with how pedantic this letter is? Is using words like “quixotism” and “inveighs” really necessary to articulate the point?

  3. reply

    The following is a tad OT but still relevant to the underlying issue, IMO:

    “There are two UN refugee agencies in the world: First is the United Nations
    Relief and Works Administrations (UNRWA) for 5 million Palestinian refugees
    (which includes the descendants of the original 500,000 Palestinian refugees
    from the Israeli War of Independence) which employs 30,000 workers. The UNRWA
    has resettled no Palestinians.

    The second refugee agency is the United Nations High Commissioner for
    Refugees (UNHCR), which assists every other refugee in the world–including 100
    million displaced people during the last 50 years–and employs 7,000 people. The
    UNHCR has resettled tens of millions of refugees.

    Looking at these numbers, one would think that the cause of the Palestinians
    is somehow morally superior to that of all other war refugees. After all, why
    have so many more workers been assisting a dramatically smaller group of
    people? But if the Palestinians are unique it is only because of their moral
    inferiority, as they are the only group of refugees that regularly commit acts
    of terrorism against innocent civilians.

    Another obvious question: why hasn’t the UNRWA resettled any of the
    Palestinian refugees? The answer, of course, is that the surrounding Arab
    states would rather have these refugees remain a thorn in Israel’s side, than
    help them start a new life. The UNRWA is happy to oblige.”

  4. reply

    Come on everyone. Let’s put aside the silly bickering as to whether liberal Zionists or right-wing Zionists are more genuinely pro-Israel. Just because some people have different views on how best to advance the interests of a violently racist colonial enterprise, it doesn’t mean they are any less committed to maintaining ethnic hegemony on land stolen from its indigenous population.

    • reply

      I assume you are referring to the USA and it’s attempt to keep Mexicans out of California.

      Israel is neither racist nor colonial. Israel allows all its citizens to vote, including Arabs and has an Arab on the Supreme Court.

      By the way, Jews are indigenous to Israel. Jews have lived there for 3000+ years. Israel was never stolen from anyone, it was partitioned by the UN, which according its charter, its function is to settle land disputes. Following which the surrounding Arab countries instructed the native Arabs to flee because they were going to war and would destroy the newly recognized state. Many fled, many did not, a luck woudl have it, Israel, with practically no military won the war and the Arabs were left kicking and screaming it’s not fair.

  5. reply

    ^^^^and that my friends (Matt Andersson’s comment to be precise) is a prime example of anti-semitism in the 21st century. And aside from being anti-semitic, it is also a complete lie.

    I think Matt Andersson should take his own advice– Wake up. Grow up.

  6. reply

    No people on the planet are more “racist” or “colonial” than Muslims.

    Their latest victims are Christians in Nigeria, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon; and Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh; and Buddhsts in southern Thailand; and Chinese and Russians, and Animists, homosexuals, Bahais, Zoroastrians, etc…

    And as far as colonialists how did Muslims come to rule over most of southern Asia, all of North Africa, almost the entire Middle East despite the fact that Islam is a modern religion when compared to all other major religions?

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