Alex Massie

Israel’s Enemy Within

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I confess I don't know very much about Isi Leibler, but he's a columnist at the Jerusalem Post who wrote this week that:

The exploitation of Judge Goldstone's Jewish background by our enemies intensifies our obligation to confront the enemy within - renegade Jews - including Israelis who stand at the vanguard of global efforts to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state. Such odious Jews can be traced back to apostates during the Middle Ages who fabricated blood libels and vile distortions of Jewish religious practice for Christian anti-Semites to incite hatred which culminated in massacres. It was in response to these renegades that the herem (excommunication) was introduced...

Israel prides itself on being the only country in the region in which genuine freedom of expression reigns supreme. But it is also a country under siege, surrounded by neighbors seeking its destruction and confronted by an ever-hostile global community. To tolerate such abominations in the name of freedom of expression is taking an ideal to a lunatic extreme...

The rot has extended to the Diaspora, especially Europe and has also affected the United States. Highly vocal Jewish groups like the recently created J Street describe themselves as 'Zionist' but their prime objective is to pressure the US government to use "tough love" against Israel - a euphemism for demanding that the Jewish state make further unilateral concessions to neighbors pledged to its annihilation...

The Israeli government must now take steps to neutralize the impact of renegade Jews who present themselves as legitimate alternative Jewish viewpoints. Such an initiative by a country which provides genuine democratic rights to all its citizens, including Arabs, could hardly be categorized as eradicating freedom of expression. It would rather represent a highly overdue effort to exorcise such odious groups from the mainstream and expose them as unrepresentative fringe groups with no standing. Now even allowing for the columnist's hyperbolic rights, this seems over-cooked. One need not possess too much imagination to appreciate the fears that many Israelis have. Nor do I think those fears unreasonable. But it's hard to avoid the thought that, rhetorically at least, calls for this sort of "excommunication" amount to, forgive me, a kind of pogrom. Note too that Mr Leibler loves Israel's tradition of freedom of expression so much that he's prepared to kill it. Well, fine. But it's hard to see how this sort of talk advances Israel's - legitimate - interests.

For that matter, his criticism of American Jews - including those at J Street - is shameful. I know some of J Street's supporters and I don't think they're "renegade Jews" who should be "excommunicated". Nor do I believe that they're animated by an anti-Israel bias. In fact I know they're not. You may think J Street misguided, but they're neither seeking the destruction of Israel nor abetting that destruction and only a fool or a liar can presume they are. Then again, I also don't believe that one should demand that all Jews support the Likud line any more than I think it acceptable to demand that all arabs support the destruction of Israel.

Equally, it's hard to see how this sort of thinking helps Israel. On the contrary it's likely to lose Israel friends.

[Via the noted self-loather who calls himself Matt Yglesias. Because that's his name.]

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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