Sunday, March 04, 2007

Exiled From "Pro-Israel"

Filling in at Ezra Klein's place, Neil the Ethical Werewolf has a good post on the problematic labeling of certain hard-right groups and speakers as "pro-Israel."
I want the folks who live in Israel now to stay there and live happy lives untroubled by violence. I think that peace agreements, like the agreement of the late 1970s that has ended war between Israel and Egypt, are the only way to achieve this. Compare me to the Texas megachurch pastor who endorses Israeli military action as the best means for covering the region in a "sea of human blood drained from the veins of those who have followed Satan." The term "pro-Israel" should not be applied to his view. Yet NPR bestows the "pro-Israel" appellation on him, even while noting that most Israelis reject his position.

I obviously agree that this preacher is not "pro-Israel"--calling for the country to plunge itself in a violent, potentially genocidal conflict runs wildly hostile to both Israeli national interest as well its moral and ethical commitments.

I'd add further that when people like me let "pro-Israel" slide to the right like this, we allow at least two negative impacts to occur. The first is that we make it less likely that politicians and groups with innovative solutions for peace will be seen as operating within a "pro-Israel" framework. This reduces their effectiveness and implies that there is a gap between a pro-Israel and pro-peace position. Second, it gives credance to those who think that Israel's position really does reflect that of this blood-thirsty pastor, which is a serious problem and badly at odds with the belief of most Jews, most Israelis, and most Americans who would consider themselves supportive of Israel.

Insofar as these people call themselves or are called part of "my" group, I have an obligation to try an disassociate myself from them and render them to the marginal fringe where they belong. Unfortunately, I can't do this myself--or even with the help of the majority of pro-Israel liberal Jews out there. We have a role to play, obviously, but nothing will change unless the media too is willing to break from this frame in cases where what is being called for is not a position that favors Israel, but the objectification of Israel into a tool for the radical right's dream of anti-Arab bloodletting.

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