Last week I argued that supporters of Israel – myself included – would be better off dropping the “pro-Israel” terminology, and that one of the reasons that Israel is not viewed as a normal state is because Israel’s supporters create a Manichean dichotomy that inadvertently keeps Israel a state apart. My brilliant and talented Israel Institute colleague Margaret Weiss, who holds degrees from Princeton and Georgetown and was formerly a Research Associate at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, disagrees with me, and so today I hand over the reins of O&Z to her so that she can explain why I am wrong:
I agree wholeheartedly that the pro-, anti- terminology that is inevitable in any discussion about Israel does Israel more harm than good. I also agree that it is not very meaningful for one to reduce one’s thoughts about a country which, like all countries, is multi-faceted and complex, to the terminology of “liking” or “disliking” it.
But I think Michael is incorrect in pinning the blame for this categorization more heavily on the pro-Israel camp. He writes that “Israel is virtually the only country in the world in which its supporters press people to loudly declare this support,” but it is in response to the pervasive demonization of Israel in the world that Israel supporters have adopted the pro-Israel categorization. Through no fault of its supporters, the Jewish State is perpetually in the spotlight, to a degree that far exceeds the country’s size and influence in the world.
Michael also argues that “the pro-Israel delineation unnecessarily defines support for Israel according to an extremely high standard and creates a threshold that keeps people out who wouldn’t otherwise necessarily be so situated.” In discussions with people who label themselves pro-Israel over the years, I can recall very few, if any, instances in which the individual had no criticism of the Jewish State. Nor do Israel’s supporters unthinkingly and blindly agree with everything that Israel does. Israel’s supporters understand that the label does not obviate criticism. At the same time, it is also clear that some, for political reasons, adopt the pro-Israel label while indicating through their words and actions that Israel would do well to remove itself from the map.
I also disagree that it is the fault of Israel’s supporters that Israel is not viewed as a normal state. Michael cites the expectation on the part of Israel’s supporters that the US should protect Israel at the UN with its veto power. But this expectation does not reflect the belief that there is never room to criticize Israel. Rather, Israel’s supporters know that even as dictators worldwide further restrict their people and people all over the world endure war crimes, torture and genocide, the UN focuses its attention on Israel. In 2012, for example, the UN General Assembly adopted 22 resolutions targeting Israel and just 4 on the entire rest of the world despite the crimes of the Assad regime against its people, to offer just one example. And this figure is representative of a trend in that body, dating back to the Zionism is Racism resolution of 1975. If there were any hope of the UN acting in a fair and unbiased manner, Israel’s supporters would not adopt such a black-and-white approach.
The difference between Israel and a country like the U.K. is that even Argentinians who hate the U.K. and want them to leave the Falkland Islands, don’t expect or want the U.K. to leave the U.K. The same cannot be said of Israel. In the unique case of Israel, some of its detractors believe the state should not exist, period.