How Can You Defend Israel?

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[This article is reprinted from The Jerusalem Post.]

I was sitting in a lecture hall at a British university. Bored by the speaker, I began glancing around the hall. I noticed someone who looked quite familiar from an earlier academic incarnation. When the session ended, I introduced myself and wondered if, after years that could be counted in decades, he remembered me.

He said he did, at which point I commented that the years had been good to him. His response: “But you’ve changed a lot.”

“How so?” I asked with a degree of trepidation, knowing that, self-deception aside, being 60 isn’t quite the same as 30.

Looking me straight in the eye, he proclaimed, as others standing nearby listened in, “I read the things you write about Israel. I hate them. How can you defend that country? What happened to the good liberal boy I knew 30 years ago?”

I replied: “That good liberal boy hasn’t changed his view. Israel is a liberal cause, and I am proud to speak up for it.”

Yes, I’m proud to speak up for Israel. A recent trip once again reminded me why.

Sometimes, it’s the seemingly small things, the things that many may not even notice, or just take for granted, or perhaps deliberately ignore, lest it spoil their airtight thinking.

It’s the driving lesson in Jerusalem, with the student behind the wheel a devout Muslim woman, and the teacher an Israeli with a skullcap. To judge from media reports about endless inter-communal conflict, such a scene should be impossible. Yet, it was so mundane that no one, it seemed, other than me gave it a passing glance.  It goes without saying that the same woman would not have had the luxury of driving lessons, much less with an Orthodox Jewish teacher, had she been living in Saudi Arabia.

It’s the two gay men walking hand-in-hand along the Tel Aviv beachfront. No one looked at them, and no one questioned their right to display their affection. Try repeating the same scene in some neighboring countries.

It’s the Friday crowd at a mosque in Jaffa. Muslims are free to enter as they please, to pray, to affirm their faith. The scene is repeated throughout Israel. Meanwhile, Christians in Iraq are targeted for death; Copts in Egypt face daily marginalization; Saudi Arabia bans any public display of Christianity; and Jews have been largely driven out of the Arab Middle East.

It’s the central bus station in Tel Aviv. There’s a free health clinic set up for the thousands of Africans who have entered Israel, some legally, others illegally. They are from Sudan, Eritrea, and elsewhere. They are Christians, Muslims, and animists. Clearly, they know something that Israel’s detractors, who rant and rave about alleged “racism,” don’t. They know that, if they’re lucky, they can make a new start in Israel. That’s why they bypass Arab countries along the way, fearing imprisonment or persecution. And while tiny Israel wonders how many such refugees it can absorb, Israeli medical professionals volunteer their time in the clinic.

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  • DalRan

    Im always proud too speak up for Israel. I wear Israeli colors with name Israel. I only accept complyments period

  • Johnny

    Anti-Zionism is the world's worst form of bigotry and barbarism

  • Andres de Alamaya

    Perhaps I'm overly cynical but it is that same, admirable liberalism in Israel that I find myself criticizing. Most people don't seek justice. They seek privileges. The Muslims who have all that freedom in Israel would kill their Israeli neighbors if they thought they could get away with it. The Africans who seek to settle there envy Israeli accomplishments and will rob and rape when given a chance. People who keep pit bulls as pets feel that by treating them kindly they will become as docile and safe as poodles and they are so astonished when the nature of the animal suddenly takes over and a child gets mauled or killed.

  • Chezwick_Mac

    "…the thousands of Africans who have entered Israel, some legally, others illegally. They are from Sudan, Eritrea, and elsewhere. They are Christians, Muslims, and animists…And while tiny Israel wonders how many such refugees it can absorb…"

    Demographically, these present a threat to the "character" of the Jewish state that is similar to the now-stateless Palestinians living in the West Bank. Israel's humanitarian impulses are laudable, but if she admits increasing numbers of non-Jewish refugees, she will inevitably lose her Jewish identity. As for these Somali and Sudanese Muslims, they may be grateful to their adopted country but, as is so often the case, their children may grow up with a completely different perspective.

  • 080

    One good way to defend Israel is to call your local representative in Congress and ask why is the Democratic party so intent on sinking the state of Israel? If any; politician comes with a D in from of the nme change that to an F. (And I don't mean F for fail).

  • MixMChess

    A good way to defend Israel is to get involved with AIPAC and become educated on how to counter anti-Israel hate speech through websites such as honestreporting, campuswatch, standwithus, palestinefacts and Mitchell Bard's book Myths and Facts about Israel.

  • btilly

    Israel is Hebrew word and is the name God changed Jacob name to. Jacob was the grandspon of Abraham. No way is Israel an Arab word. Genesis 25:26

    Mo never left his bed, but had a dream about going to allah's paradise of vice, on a horse-woman named Buraq. He was in bed with Aisha and never went to Jerusalem.
    allah is the greatest deceiver and l;iar as he bragged Use facts and truth, something Allah cannot stand as he is Satan the Devil. Surah 3:54 and( Rev. 12:999(bible)

  • aspacia

    I will purchase an Israeli T-shirt to wear on campus, and I am a Deist whose maiden name is Candelaria:-) Baptized Catholic raise Episcopalian.

  • guest

    Even though or president stands firmly with Islam, as his book said, and says we will never be at war with Islam, he does not speak for the US, and they (Islam) clearly state they are at war with us.

    So we all support Israel and stand against the person the saudis put in charge of the USA.
    and the evil sent to us.

    God help us all.

  • PhillipGaley

    Kind-a sad, . . . except for that quavering drivel about, "I’d never say Israel is perfect. It has its flaws and foibles. It’s made its share of mistakes. But, then again, . . .", this was an "A" paper:
    Where ever in the world have some of our thinkers not learned sense of propriety and logic appropriate to argument, . . .
    Please, use backtracking and slobbering confessionals in comedy and such, but in a serious presentation upon so grave and momentous a matter, don't pull your punches—not ever, ever, ever, . . .

  • Taimy

    Israel maybe a democracy internally (though it clearly prefers Jews over other non-Jewish Israelis in many things) but it is occupying Palestinian land and oppressing them. Internal "good" things about Israel cannot be used to its expansionist and racist foreign policies against Palestinians.

    • Spirit_Of_1683

      And you are a vicious Jew baiter. Israel occupies nothing other than Israeli land. Israel is no more an occupier of so-called Palestinian land than what Denmark or Switzerland is, so get lost, uneducated and feckless clown.

    • MixMChess

      Wrong Taimy, Israel provides equal rights to all of its citizens. There are no government policies which favor Jews over non-Jews other than the right to immigrate to Israel (however, even after Jews have immigrated there is no guarantee for citizenship and they have to apply for citizenship through the same process of non-Jews). In fact, Israel has special affirmative action programs for minorities such as Arabs to alleviate any potential discrimination.

      Israel is not "occupying" the Palestinians and is not engaged in any expansionist policies with regard to the Palestinians. In fact the exact opposite is true… Israel completely withdrew from Gaza in 2005. The Palestinian Authority autonomously governs the W. Bank. Israel has already agreed to dismantle/abandon W. Bank settlements as part of any final peace settlement agreement. Israel has been actively shrinking its borders in order to accommodate the Palestinians.

      Unfortunately the Palestinians have been engaged in racist attacks against Israel and the Jewish people for years. The Hamas charter calls fro the worldwide extermination of Jews. The PA regularly runs childrens programming that encourages Palestinian children to hate and murder Jews. Ever seen Farfour the mouse? Perhaps the Palestinians shouldn't be allowed to have a state until it is willing to give up its xenophobia and brainwashing of hatred?

    • Hessanfefer

      Another knee-jerk reactionary!! Emphasis on JERK!!!

    • Stephen_Brady

      A tame attempt to appeal to American political correctness by using the word "racist".

  • AL__
  • ziontruth

    Mr. Harris has performed well in his listing of Israel's liberal-values credentials. Mr. Harris's only mistake is that he thinks today's "liberals" care about those credentials.

    The fact that religious freedom, sexual equality and other liberal tenets are found in Israel do not matter one jot to the Leftists of today. Nor does the fact that such tenets are absent from all the states surrounding Israel matter one bit to the Leftists of today.

    What chance can liberal tenets stand against the one and only true criterion that today's Leftists care about? I'm talking about The Grand Unified Narrative:

    In the beginning, all indigenous peoples lived peacefully, frugally and in harmony with the Earth. But then came [any combination of] the Whites, Bible-believers, Capitalists, Zionists and ruined it all. End of narrative.

    In this scheme of things, Israel for all its liberality is a force of evil to be destroyed (God forbid), and the oppressive Islamic states for all their atrocities are to be defended, their violence justified by the most creative of excuses, excuses that invariably involve pointing the finger at the other side.

    No, Mr. Harris: This is not a public relations war to be won by rational arguments; this is a real war to be fought to the bitter end. If you happen to be one of the true classical-liberal left-wingers of old, then you must face this terrible truth: Your persuasion has been wholly taken over by the anti-liberal, anti-Western, anti-Zionist, Jew-hating Far Left of Lenin's and Stalin's pedigree.

    With them, no compromise is possible.