So let’s begin with the fact that Netanyahu’s not everyone’s favorite Israeli PM, that he’s done things that many liberal Israelis and liberal American Jews disapprove of. But let’s also note he’s been democratically elected and, with all the corruption swirling around him, polls consistently show he continues to have a high favorability rating. (I know that the counterargument might well be that all this indicates is an unsavory trend among Israelis, but I won’t entertain that at the moment.)
That said, in Saturday’s Washington Post, columnist Dana Milbank wrote an anti-Israel screed that begins with a YK sermon by Danny Zemel, Milbank’s rabbi. The article can be found here.
I try not to be a knee-jerk defender of the Israeli status quo, but I find pieces like utterly, and I mean utterly, devoid of proof, consisting entirely of a familiar laundry list of accusations against Netanyahu from the usual suspects, i..e, Haaretz and J Street. From this sloppy journalism Milbank attempts to draw apocalyptic conclusions regarding the Israel-Diaspora relationship. Apparently Milbank was not among the 18,000 folks at the AIPAC policy conference in March.
Here’s my response to the piece.
A close read of this article will reveal shabby reasoning, the kind I don’t expect from the WaPo in general and Mr. Milbank in particular.
His rabbi, Danny Zemel comes from Zionist royalty, adding rhetorical force to his words. Milbank then goes on to rehearse all the by-now familiar arguments, quoting Rabbi Zemel, an article from Haaretz, Israel’s far-left daily, which can always be counted on the criticize Netanyahu, and a university sociologist, again without any proof.
So, first note, none of the accusations is supported by any argument, only generalized quotes.
Second, note the accusation of alliances with unsavory governments. Hmm, isn’t the job of a government to make alliances when possible? The author fails to mention Russia and China, two other unsavory countries with which Israel has alliances. Why the ones he does mention? Doesn’t America have alliances with unsavory governments? Don’t governments ally with other governments?
And then, third, let’s drag John Hagee into the mix, a well-known evangelical, and let’s mention something stupid he’s said. But let’s not mention that he started a remarkable Israel advocacy group that works enormously hard on Israel’s behalf in Washington and around the US, regardless of who’s in charge in Jerusalem.
Fifth, let’s refer to Israel as an ultra-nationalist, apartheid state without one iota of proof.
Sixth, let’s wrap this up in the notion, again without any proof other than a rabbi’s Yom Kippur sermon, that American Jews are, as the title stipulates, watching Israel with horror.
Put it all together it spells utter nonsense.
Mr. Milbank should be ashamed, though I doubt that’s going to happen any time soon. Though he is to be congratulated on attending religious services on Yom Kippur. Good going Dana. Next YK come to my shul.
Rabbi Phil Cohen Ph.D.
“Oy!” That says it all, doesn’t it? It’s easy for folks to criticise Israel from a distance, where they are not personally affected by the happenings on this side of the Pond. Jewish America should be more concerned about their own Jewishness, not ours. Pointing one finger at us is pointing three fingers back at themselves. We’re doing the best we can with what we have. What are they doing with what they have? Thanks for this post.