How Can You Defend Israel?

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It’s Save a Child’s Heart, another Israeli institution that doesn’t make it into the international media all that much, although it deserves a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. Here, children in need of advanced cardiac care come, often below the radar. They arrive from Iraq, the West Bank, Gaza, and other Arab places. They receive world-class treatment. It’s free, offered by doctors and nurses who wish to assert their commitment to coexistence.  Yet, these very same individuals know that, in many cases, their work will go unacknowledged. The families are fearful of admitting they sought help in Israel, even as, thanks to Israelis, their children have been given a new lease on life.

It’s the vibrancy of the Israeli debate on just about everything, including, centrally, the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians. The story goes that U.S. President Harry Truman met Israeli President Chaim Weizmann shortly after Israel’s establishment in 1948. They got into a discussion about who had the tougher job. Truman said: “With respect, I’m president of 140 million people.” Weizmann retorted: “True, but I’m president of one million presidents.”

Whether it’s the political parties, the Knesset, the media, civil society, or the street, Israelis are assertive, self-critical, and reflective of a wide range of viewpoints.

It’s the Israelis who are now planning the restoration of the Carmel Forest, after a deadly fire killed 44 people and destroyed 8,000 acres of exquisite nature. Israelis took an arid and barren land and, despite the unimaginably harsh conditions, lovingly planted one tree after another, so that Israel can justifiably claim today that it’s one of the few countries with more wooded land than it had a century ago.

It’s the Israelis who, with quiet resolve and courage, are determined to defend their small sliver of land against every conceivable threat – the growing Hamas arsenal in Gaza; the dangerous build-up of missiles by Hezbollah in Lebanon; nuclear-aspiring Iran’s calls for a world without Israel; Syria’s hospitality to Hamas leaders and transshipment of weapons to Hezbollah; and enemies that shamelessly use civilians as human shields.  Or the global campaign to challenge Israel’s very legitimacy and right to self-defense; the bizarre anti-Zionist coalition between the radical left and Islamic extremists; the automatic numerical majority at the UN ready to endorse, at a moment’s notice, even the most far-fetched accusations against Israel; and those in the punditocracy unable – or unwilling – to grasp the immense strategic challenges facing Israel.

Yes, it’s those Israelis who, after burying 21 young people murdered by terrorists at a Tel Aviv discotheque, don the uniform of the Israeli armed forces to defend their country, and proclaim, in the next breath, that, “They won’t stop us from dancing, either.”

That’s the country I’m proud to stand up for.  No, I’d never say Israel is perfect. It has its flaws and foibles. It’s made its share of mistakes. But, then again, so has every democratic, liberal and peace-seeking country I know, though few of them have faced existential challenges every day since their birth.

The perfect is the enemy of the good, it’s said. Israel is a good country.  And seeing it up close, rather than through the filter of the BBC or The Guardian, never fails to remind me why.

David Harris is Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and a Senior Associate at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University.

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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.