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Who are the Friends of Israel?

By , contributor
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All of us have friends who fill our ears with praise and are uncritical of our every action: they are mere sycophants. And then we have really good friends who are unafraid to criticize us when we are heading off the track, acting against our best long term interests. Thus, those so-called friends of Israel who support the expansion of settlements, maintaining illegal outposts, not negotiating with enemies, and urge alliances with the Christian right are like the “friend” who will “not only let you drive home drunk but offer you their Porsche and a shot of tequila for the road.”


In urging progress towards a two state solution, Prime Minister Olmert warned that the Palestinians who are now “running an Algeria-style campaign against Israel … will try to run a South Africa campaign against us.” If this happens and worldwide sanctions are applied then, said Olmert, “the state of Israel is finished.” Labor leader Ehud Barak put it in slightly different terms in 1999: “Every attempt to keep hold of this area as one political entity leads, necessarily to either a nondemocratic or a non-Jewish state. Because if the Palestinians vote, then it is a binational state and if they don’t vote it is an apartheid state.”


We are told that Canadian Jews will vote for Stephen Harper and his Conservatives because he is a champion of Israel. We were told the same thing before the last election and the Jewish ridings remained resistant to the Conservative cause. The predictions were wrong because first, the Jewish organizational elites are not representative of their community. Second, like most Canadians, Jews are not one issue voters and are concerned not only with Israel but with the environment, medical care, competence in government, the economy and other vital issues. Third, many Jews likely understand that Harper’s dubious support for Israel grows out of the Christian right agenda.


Some Jewish groups, purporting to be supporters of Israel, have allied themselves with the Christian right both in the United States and Canada. These fundamentalists believe that only when the Jews occupy the entire land of ancient Israel, will Armageddon and the second coming of Christ take place. In other words, they and their Jewish allies will resist any attempt at territorial compromise and condemn Israel and its youth to eternal conflict. Of course the Christian right also carries the dubious baggage of homophobia and Islamophobia. All of us would condemn militant Islamism but none of us would want to be counted in the ranks of Muslim or gay bashers.


This alliance of the Jewish and Christian right also constantly condemns negotiation with Israel’s enemies as a species of appeasement. Yet, even now Israel is engaging Hamas through Egypt and Syria through Turkey. Israel is talking because one must talk to one’s enemies, to try to move Syria away from its alliance with Iran and even to try to speak reason to Hamas. These talks may fail but failure and more bloodshed is guaranteed by the refusal to negotiate. The right wing opponents of negotiation do not fear for Israel’s security but care only for land. It would seem that the red wine of the Golan is more precious to them than the red blood of the young IDF soldiers.


Canada was once respected as a peace broker and a peace keeper in this world but we have traveled a new road to become a preferred junior partner of George W. Bush. Perhaps there are still those who view Bush and Harper (who supported the Iraq War) as great friends of Israel. They should ask themselves whether Israel is more secure now than it was seven years ago, at the beginning of the Bush administration. Who destroyed Iraq and the balance of power in the Middle East and made Iran the dominant power in the region, with satellites in Gaza and Lebanon? Who turned away from the Clinton era efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians? The Bush-Harper agenda of the Christian and Jewish right has made Israel more vulnerable. In the words of the old cliché, with friends like these who needs enemies?

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