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

By Letter to the Editor

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