Commentary Magazine


RE: True Friends of Israel

Jeffrey Goldberg attended the Friends of Israel Initiative dinner. Good for him. However, his comments at the dinner and his posting afterward leave something to be desired.

First, he writes:

In my brief remarks at the dinner, I mentioned a prime strategy of the Israel-denial movement, which is to convince self-defined liberals and leftists that Zionism is incompatible with their understanding of the world. I hope Aznar’s group does a more vigorous job of recruiting pro-Israel leftists to its ranks (one of the organization’s high muckety-mucks jokingly suggested Fidel Castro as a board member), because this is a prime worry of mine, that the most liberal country in the Middle East is being abandoned by people who should be its natural allies.

Well I’m glad he’s come clean that the problem is on the left, but let’s be clear: the Israel-denial movement isn’t out to convince leftists — they are leftists. European socialists, the J Street gang, the signers of the Gaza 54 letter, the anti-Semites on U.S. campuses — the list goes on, and they all reside on the left. So let’s give up the fiction that the left is composed of innocents seduced by some shady delegitimizers. They are the delegitimizers.

Goldberg observes that Israel “is the safest and best place in the Middle East to be, among other things, a woman, a gay person, a journalist, and a dissident.” Yet he doesn’t quite get to the nub of the matter: the left’s usual sympathy for all these sorts of people suddenly and uniquely is muted when the Jewish state is involved. That’s more than anti-Israel sentiment; it’s anti-Semitism. Israel’s good deeds are unworthy of respect because, well, it’s the Jewish state. It is painfully obvious that Goldberg, as he is wont to do, pulls his punches with those on the left. For to go down that road would place him alongside the dreaded neocons, whom he routinely scorns.

Second, if the aim here is to rebuff the left, which routinely denies Israel the right to defend and investigate itself and cheers international bodies (like the UN) that excoriate the Jewish state, then why is Goldberg so enamored of J Street? It can’t have escaped his notice that the J Street gang was instrumental in drafting Richard Goldstone’s defense or that they cheer our participation in the UNHRC. Goldberg could certainly do something constructive by delivering the same speech he gave to the Friends of Israel to J Streeters.

Listen, any support for the Friends of Israel Initiative should be applauded. But if well-meaning liberals really want to help, they will clean their own house and stop soft-peddling criticism of the very people who scorn the diluted support afforded to the Jewish state by groups like this one.