A Sanders supporter makes the progressive’s case for Israel
Surfers retreat to a sandy cove as the sun blurs into the horizon. I’m on vacation in an artsy city with beaches for miles and tattooed locals. Could be Austin-by-the-Sea. The are no historic gay neighborhoods here because the whole town is LGBTQ friendly. Solar-powered signs count the minutes until the next bus arrives. Giant public recycling bins collect water bottles. There’s widespread, bipartisan passion for farm-to-table cuisine. So why would Lana Del Rey and Lorde refuse to play here?
I’m in Tel Aviv in the Middle East’s only functional democracy. Even with the region’s low bar of dictatorships and violent theocracies, Tel Aviv is an extraordinarily liberal oasis in this nation founded by socialists and social democrats. As a Bernie Sanders progressive who’s counting on a Blue Wave this fall, I feel right at home here, and so should you. This country is a progressive exemplar worth singing about.
Later, while drinking a hoppy local ale, I wished more people would see this country for what it is, and less for how it appears to be. Like, for example, a rehashing of the American Civil Rights Movement, where Arabs are black and brown victims and multiethnic Israelis are … white Dixiecrat oppressors?
The truth isn’t so neat. Most Israelis are Middle Eastern and African; Americans would call them people of color. Palestinian nationalism is not the story of a minority once bound in slavery now advocating for equality. It’s a zero sum fight for sovereignty. Jews will not be granted citizenship in a future state of Palestine, even in biblical towns like Hebron or Jericho. Yet 20% of Israelis are Arabs and their citizenship is not up for debate. Making things more inverted, Israel has roughly 6 million Jews, most of whom fled here and are unwelcome in former homes in Baghdad, Cairo, Tunis and beyond. The surrounding Arab world has over 400 million souls. To this day, Israelis are barred from most Arab states. Who is the disenfranchised minority?
Current Palestinian politics bear no resemblance to a nonviolent integration movement. Hamas embraces a radical Islamism linked to Al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS. They are intolerant fundamentalists with social policies that make The Handmaid’s Tale look like a rom-com. And Hamas controls fully half of Palestine so when they say they’re resisting the occupation, they mean all of Israel. Their struggle ends with the annihilation of the Jews. Not exactly a civil rights dynamic.
Across the divide, the Palestinian Authority rejects peace when it isn’t stealing from its own people. It supports terror groups that compete with Hamas for brutality and it’s far from democratic—the last time there was an election was in 2005, when Facebook was limited to college students.
Israel is not blameless. It created the occupation in the first place, builds far flung settlements to frustrate future Palestinian sovereignty, deploys harsh security tactics and perpetuates internal racism against citizen Arabs.
It’s tempting to equate photos of racist police beating nonviolent black protesters with teenagers throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at well-armed Israelis, but Ramallah is no Selma. Goals and context matter. Confusing America’s brutal legacy of slavery and white supremacy with Israeli security policy is about as as insightful as conflating Northern Irish politics with the Boston Celtics.
Beyond bus loads of super friendly Holy Land tourists, I wish more Americans would visit here for fun, but Israel suffers from polarized reviews in the TripAdvisor of our minds. The country is seen as either too dangerous or too controversial to risk discovering 15th-century Mamluk architecture, or the joys of a Yemenite breakfast with its slow-bake pastries and chili tapenades.
I find myself going back to what people here call “The Land” once or twice a year. I like playing my bit part in the epic saga of Jewish survival. When I think about my grandparents escaping conscription and murder in Odessa, I’m amazed by my luck: There’s a Jewish homeland, right now, in my lifetime. American Jews shouldn’t need an exit strategy, it should be paranoid to consider a retreat after all these years, but then came Charlottesville chants of “Jews will not replace us” and Holocaust deniers winning Republican primaries. If America falls further to the right, where do we go? France with its unrelenting anti-Semitism? The U.K. where the head of Labour supports Hamas? Canada is an option, until it isn’t. Rich fields of plenty suddenly seem arid compared to the land of milk and honey.
Beyond the literally biblical significance of a long-sought refuge, with citizens of every shade of human from every corner of the world, this country is a plucky example of democratic socialism. Yes, there’s now a right-wing administration that cozies up to an ultra-religious swing vote, but whichever party is in charge, universal health care, free tuition, muscular labor unions, public arts funding and a strong safety net are secure. Israel boasts medical, cultural, academic, and technical innovations of a far larger and less vilified country. These are the very achievements progressives like me strive for back home, vote after vote, rally after rally.
Published in Tablet magazine
Zachary Thacher runs a boutique digital marketing, Thacher Interactive. He is a frequent visitor to Israel and leads the Friday night minyan, Kol haKfar. He’s published in the HuffPo, the NY Post and Tablet. Zachary graduated with an MA in Communication from Stanford in 1996.
The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration — which seeks to criminalize criticism of migration — is nothing more or less than a dangerous effort to weaken national borders, to normalize mass migration, to blur the line between legal and illegal immigration, and to bolster the idea that people claiming to be refugees enjoy a panoply of rights in countries where they have never before set foot.
One thing about the agreement, in any event, is irrefutable: almost nobody in the Western world has been clamoring for this. It is, quite simply, a project of the globalist elites. It is a UN power-grab.
The waterfront in the Chilean city of Valdivia. Photo: Arvid Puschnig via Wikimedia Commons.
Top Jewish groups have welcomed a Chilean government decision made earlier this week to ban municipalities across the country from boycotting Israel.
The ruling — issued by the Comptroller General of Chile – stemmed from a complaint filed by the Chilean Jewish community over a move of the Valdivia municipality to ban the city from signing contracts with Israel-linked companies.
New immigrants to Israel arrive at Ben-Gurion International Airport, Aug. 17, 2016. Photo: Reuters / Baz Ratner.
A top Israeli minister called on the government on Sunday to craft a “comprehensive plan” to encourage the aliyah of French Jews.
In Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett’s view, there has been a “historic missed opportunity” in recent years to bring more French Jews to Israel as immigrants.
“There are 200,000 French Jews who want to come here, and the state bureaucracies simply aren’t prepared for it,” Bennett, who also serves as education minister and head of the right-wing HaBayit HaYehudi party, claimed at a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. “These are ethical people, Zionists, lovers of the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, and it is our moral obligation to help them.”
Israel has started uncovering and destroying Hezbollah’s attack tunnels under the Lebanese border, but destroying the group’s ambitious precision missile project will be much more difficult.
The Israel Defense Forces placed a camera into Hezbollah’s secret cross-border attack tunnel before sunrise on Dec. 4. They pushed it into the Lebanese side, under the Blue Line that separates the two countries. At dawn, two Hezbollah operatives reached the spot on their morning rounds. In the video disseminated by the IDF on Tuesday evening, one of the operatives is seen approaching the camera with suspicion. He stuck his nose in its direction and started to sniff around until something exploded in his face and he ran back the way he’d comVisibilitye.
The timing of Operation Northern Shield, to destroy Hezbollah tunnels leading from Lebanon into Israel, suggests that considerations other than security were behind the decision to launch it.
An Israeli commando from Yahalom, an engineering unit, takes part in a tunnel-hunting drill near Tel Aviv, March 7, 2012.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a speech to Likud activists on Dec. 2 that was both defensive and combative toward law enforcement authorities. He complained about the supposedly suspicious timing of the police announcement recommending his indictment for taking bribes in Case 4000, coming as it did one day before Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh concluded his term in office.
This week, for the first time, Israel made public its discovery of the tunnel constructed by Hezbollah and reaching into Israel’s sovereign territory. This brought to an end a long period during which a large number of Israelis living in communities adjacent to the Lebanese border reported hearing sounds of digging as well as feeling tremors in the walls of their homes.
Attack tunnels are intended to allow for significant numbers of armed infantry bearing weapons, artillery and supplies, to traverse them within a minimal time span, avoiding Israeli lookouts and thereby gaining the element of surprise.
Last Saturday, Iran’s “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani called Israel “a cancerous tumor” in a speech at the regime’s annual Islamic Unity Conference.
Rouhani’s fellow speakers included deputy Hezbollah chief Naim Qassem and Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh. Both terror bosses called for the destruction of the “cancerous tumor.”
With the predictability of a Swiss clock, the Europeans rushed to condemn Rouhani. The EU in Brussels condemned Rouhani. The German Foreign Ministry condemned Rouhani. And so on and so forth.
We could have done without their statements.
It was clear that with the onset of Operation Northern Shield—meant to neutralize terror tunnels Hezbollah has constructed along the Israel-Lebanon border—some would call it a public relations stunt by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Those who believe the timing of the police’s recommendations in Case 4000—announced on the last day of Roni Alsheikh’s tenure as the police commissioner—was reasonable, somehow complain about the timing of the operation.
On Sunday evening, December 2, the people of Sderot, Israel – a town located a mere kilometer from the Gaza border – gathered to light the first candle of the town’s menorah to commemorate the first day of Hanukkah. Jews around the world celebrate this holiday, which marks the time some two millennia ago when the Jews regained control of Jerusalem and rededicated the Second Temple.
What makes the candle lighting in Sderot worth mentioning is the fact that it is particularly symbolic of how the Jewish spirit looks for ways to turn tragedy into triumph.
This is obviously a short-lived honeymoon that will end the day after the UN General Assembly vote on the anti-Hamas resolution. The morning after the vote, Abbas will wake up to the realization that Hamas was a strange bedfellow indeed.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s hatred of Hamas is far from secret. But Abbas is now defending Hamas because he despises the Trump administration, which has sponsored a UN draft resolution that condemns Hamas. Pictured: Abbas (right) meets with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on May 30, 2007 in the Gaza Strip. (Photo by Abu Askar/PPO via Getty Images)