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Friday, July 22, 2005

Liberals, Leftists and Israel

Last week I posted on an article by Allen Gorin, a regular contributor, who is the leader of Idahoans United for Israel. He used the term "Leftist" to describe the Boise State professor with whom he disagreed regarding, inter alia, the controversial fence erected by Israel. Below is Allen's e-mail to IUI where he effectively provides the distintion between liberals and Leftists as far as the State of Israel is concerned. It is a valuable essay worth considering as labels are used in discussion and debate.

Dear Friend of Idahoans United for Israel:

As most of you know, last week the Idaho Statesman published my Reader's View: an op-ed rebuttal of BSU Professor Marcy Newman's attack on Israel's security fence. In that rebuttal, I made reference to Newman's "leftist views, " using this term in a pejorative sense. While all IUI e-mail recipients who contacted me liked my Reader's View, a couple took issue with my use of "leftist." One critic felt that my "thoughtless use" of such terminology would only alienate the more liberal members of the pro-Israel coalition. Such criticism deserves a response.

While my use of the term "leftist" may have been controversial (with some), it was hardly thoughtless. Long before I had even heard of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), I realized the need for a broad pro-Israel coalition, one that spanned the political and theological spectrums. Assuming a leadership position in this type of diverse coalition requires showing deference and respect to the different factions. When people tell me that I should not unnecessarily alienate liberals who support Israel, they're really preaching to the choir. Anyone who's attended our meetings or read the articles I've sent out over the years would, hopefully, attest to my not catering to one faction at the expense of another.

Why then did I choose to label Marcy Newman a leftist, linking that term with anti-Israel sentiment, especially on college campuses? My reasons follow:

1) First, I never once used the term "liberal" in my article. In my mind, there is a distinct difference between being a liberal and a leftist--although I acknowledge that in our political culture, both liberals and leftists are often lumped together--both groups being "on the left"-- especially when viewed by conservatives. On the matter of Israel, liberals can and do support the Jewish state for reasons which include the fact that Israel is much more liberal than any of its Arab neighbors. Whether we're talking about women's rights, abortion rights, respect for minorities, social justice, governmental safety net programs, or any other issue that's generally important to liberals, Israel wins hands down.

For leftists, on the other hand, all this is trumped by the fact that Israel is viewed as an oppressor of Palestinians--a result of the leftist "lens" that sees the world made up of the powerful and the weak. Add the fact that Israel is a capitalistic society, and Israelis are almost as bad as ............well, Americans! This is the leftist (aka Marxist) viewpoint.

There is also a profound difference between liberals and leftists when it comes to grappling with the facts of the Arab/Israeli conflict. Liberals may debate the pros and cons of disengaging from Gaza, the Oslo Accords, or the Roadmap. But rarely have I heard a liberal question Israel's right to exist as a sovereign Jewish state, or right to defend itself (with measures like the security fence). Leftists, on the other hand, routinely raise the "legitimacy"of the Jewish state; or, like Marcy Newman, criticize Israel's acts of self-defense.

2) On many college campuses, anti-Israel sentiment is being driven (for the most part) either by Arabs/Muslims or ardent leftists--sometimes in collusion with one another. Anti-Iraq war activity will, quite often, have an anti-Israel/pro-Palestinian component as well. This is just a given in contemporary academia, as a general rule.

Am I suggesting that all anti-Iraq war sentiment is also anti-Israel, or that only leftists oppose America's policy in Iraq? Not at all. I know some conservatives and libertarians who have real doubts about President Bush's strategies vis a vis Iraq. The difference with leftists--I'm generalizing here--is that it seems as if they want America to lose, to take a beating. They're not particularly interested in facts and logic to the contrary. So strong is leftist antipathy for America (and Israel) that leftists will seek out and maintain leadership positions in college activist groups--just like Marcy Newman has.

3) In singling out leftist anti-Israel sentiment, I'm not above criticizing anti-Israel feeling that emanates from the right of the political spectrum. For example, the libertarian right is often hostile to the notion of foreign aide to Israel. Certain libertarians don't want to acknowledge the value-for-value relationship between America and Israel, and posture Israel as some sort of welfare recipient. These libertarian ideas should be forcefully countered by pro-Israel advocates, especially by fellow libertarians and conservatives.

On the religious right, certain Christians have bought into replacement theology: the view that Jews are no longer the chosen people, and beneficiaries of Old Testament covenants with God. According to this worldview, Christians are the new chosen people, and Israel has no more significance than, say, Peru. Replacement theology--in part, because it has disastrous implications for critical Christian support for Israel--should be forcefully countered, best done so by fellow Christians.

Last but not least, the Pat Buchanan wing of the Republican Party--whether because of isolationist, "America-first", or anti-Semitic tendencies--has its problems with Israel. They too should be engaged and rebuked where appropriate, ideally by fellow Republicans.

* * * *

Finally, we should never underestimate the difficulties in maintaining broad-based coalitions like Idahoans United for Israel. Melding together Jews and Christians, liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats--all working together for Israel--does not happen of its own accord. Treating each faction with respect, never mind alienating anybody, is so critical. That said, there is a time and a place to call a spade a spade: to clearly state that ideas like those espoused by Marcy Newman do not come out of a vacuum. My Reader's View was one of those instances.




At 10:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does this flake professor consider a sniper or homicide bomber a lamb?

Are security personnel working to stop the slaughter civilians the lions??

It is this type of mindless drivel that so called intellectuals attempt to pass off as scholarly thoughts to productive working stiffs like us. This crap then becomes a blue print for all to live by in the eyes of the idiots who buy into this garbage.

At 2:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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