Shira Herzog: What does being pro-Israel mean?

In North American and European Jewish communities, criticism of Israel’s attack on the Turkish flotilla has reignited discussion over a deceptively simple question: What does being pro-Israel mean? Regardless of widespread domestic criticism (even after this week’s findings by an Israeli military investigation) of both the decision to attack and its faulty execution, leading Jewish organizations largely defended Israel. Liberal Jewish organizations questioned Israel’s action, as they do others with which they disagree.

These divisions aren’t new, but they’re particularly sensitive now. Last year’s Gaza incursion and the flotilla incident have isolated Israel to an unprecedented degree. In parallel, recently formed American (J Street) and European (JCall) Jewish lobby groups have gone public with their dissent without following the Jewish establishment’s automatic support of Israeli policies. They consider themselves no less pro-Israel and see ending the Palestinian conflict and holding Israel accountable for its human-rights record as critical for its future.

Last month, Peter Beinert spawned the latest round in this debate with his New York Review of Books essay, The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment. Mr. Beinert argued that, if established Jewish advocacy groups don’t make room for “pro-Israel criticism of Israel,” they’ll alienate liberal American Jews from an Israel whose policies are increasingly dissonant with their American values. Mainstream Jewish organizations quickly contested his conclusions, reiterating that, in an increasingly critical world, burdened by unique security imperatives and with only one reliable ally (the U.S.), being pro-Israel requires holding the line against public criticism.

There’s no doubt that Israel is more vulnerable due to the growing presence and sophistication of what the Tel Aviv-based Reut Institute calls “the delegitimization network.” That disparate, largely viral coalition links European and North American radical left NGOs and fundamentalist Islamic groups in rejecting Israel’s legitimacy. In other words, they don’t distinguish between Israel and its continued occupation of Palestinians and territory. They’re focused not on resolving the Palestinian issue through a two-state deal that would respect Israel’s territorial integrity and Jewish majority alongside a Palestinian state, but on branding Israel as a pariah internationally. (The loose network includes the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu considers this new “battleground for legitimacy” serious enough to rank it as one of Israel’s key challenges (along with Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian process). He isn’t wrong: Reut’s comprehensive report documents the potential scope of the network’s reach and its strategic implications for the country’s international standing unless checked….READ MORE

Support for Israel near record high, Gallup Poll shows

Source: JTA, 7-14-10

Support for Israel among Americans is at a near record high, a new poll showed.

According to the Gallup Poll, 63 percent of Americans say their sympathies in the Middle East conflict are with Israel, while 15 percent side with the Palestinians. The rest favor both sides, neither side or have no opinion.

Support for Israel was higher only in 1991, shortly after Israel was hit with Scud missiles during the Gulf War, when it was at 64 percent.

The poll, conducted in early February, was part of Gallup’s annual World Affairs survey in which Americans were asked a series of questions about their opinions of 20 countries or entities, including Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Israel’s ranking, at 67 percent favorable, was among the highest of the countries surveyed. The Palestinian Authority, at 20 percent, was among the lowest.

Support for Israel increased more among Republicans and independents than Democrats, the poll showed. Since 2001, there has been an increase of 25 points among Republicans and 18 points among independents. Support for Israel among Democrats has stayed about the same.

Asked whether peace eventually will be reached in the Middle East, 67 percent of respondents answered “doubtful” and 30 percent said “there will come a time” when there will be peace.

In a general trend over the past 10 years, Democrats were more optimistic than Republicans about the chances for peace. Thirty-nine percent of Democrats said it will come; 25 percent of Republicans agreed.

Pollsters conducted telephone interviews with a random sampling of 1,025 American adults between Feb. 1 and 3. The poll has a 4 percent margin of error.

Israeli Bill Reflects Frustration With Academics Who Support Boycotts

Source: Chronicle of Higher Education, 7-14-10

Israeli Bill Reflects Frustration With Academics Who Support Boycotts 1Gideon Sa’ar, Israel’s education minister (left, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu), says he welcomes sanctions against professors at public universities who support boycotts. (David Silverman, AP Images)Enlarge Image //

An effort to discourage Israeli public-university professors and others from supporting boycotts of the Jewish state is roiling the country’s academics.

While an academic boycott and other efforts to isolate the country have long been debated, recent public condemnation of Israel’s botched military raid on a flotilla of ships bound for Gaza has heated up the political situation.

Israeli legislators, feeling embattled by hostile world opinion, are considering a series of measures responding to what they regard as inappropriate sanctions against their country and its leaders, some of whom have been threatened with arrest for alleged war crimes.

A bill introduced in June in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, proposes that Israelis could be sued by anyone affected by a boycott and forced to pay up to $8,000 in damages. Foreigners could find themselves banned from entering Israel for 10 years and denied the ability to hold a bank account or purchase land.

The primary target of the new legislation, which is sponsored by 24 of 120 Knesset members, is the Palestinian Authority boycott of goods from Israeli settlements, which has also won support from some European countries.

But according to a draft of the bill, supporters of academic boycotts would be included in its provisions. Such boycotts urge professors and students not to attend academic conferences in Israel, not to invite Israeli scholars to conferences, not to accept them as students or faculty members in their own institutions, and not to publish scholarly articles by Israelis….READ MORE

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