Ben-Gurion used to say that it doesn’t matter what the gentiles say, what matters is what the Jews do. Yet this slogan disappeared from Israel’s public discourse because its incongruence with current day political correctness. Yet I understand and agree with one important aspect in the dictum coined by the man known as the father of the modern-day Hebrew nation – nations are built or collapse on the inside, rather than as result of outside pressure.
This is the immediate danger posed to Israel at this time; the danger of seeing the Israeli collective crumbling. Our domestic hatred has reached dangerous proportions that do not befit a life-seeking nation. The internal collapse is caused by mutual hatred that nobody can claim to be clear off: Seculars and religious, rightists and leftists, members of the majority and minority, Jews and Arabs – all of us are at fault for getting addicted to hating the other and blaming him for all our troubles.
There is no better place from which to observe this grim picture than the United States. Here is where representatives of all the groups come and present domestic conflicts in order to elicit support. One can understand why groups of Iraqi or Iranian opposition would come here, yet in a democratic country like Israel the main debates should be held within our own home.
Parts of the Left in Israel have despaired of the situation in the territories, and therefore they initiate human rights seminars where they present “the horrors committed by Israel” to all. Indeed, criticism is legitimate within a democratic regime, yet many times the groups that support such activity in the US are not only critical towards Israel, but rather, don’t even believe in its right to exist. They exploit arguments of apartheid in the territories as a means aimed at dismantling the whole Israeli collective.
On the other hand, parts of the Right distribute materials around here that portray the IDF and Israel Police conduct in the settlements as the behavior of “Nazi thugs.” Every arrest of a rightist activist in the territories is described as a Israeli government pogrom against the Jews there.
Dealing with Jewish protestBoth the Right and Left fundraise plenty of money here – some in order to invest it in the settlements and others in order to dismantle them, some in order to purchase the apartments of Arabs in east Jerusalem, and others in order to bring those evacuated from the apartments for PR tours in the US.
And what’s worse, the exportation of Israeli debates started to be reflected within the Jewish communities in the US. First, the pro-Israel lobby has split into AIPAC – which is accused by leftist elements as representing the Right – and J Street, which is accused of being a leftist lobby group. At the synagogues of most Jewish streams the situation is even graver, as the internal disputes about Israel prompted rabbis to refrain from mentioning it while addressing their followers, for fear of entering a minefield that would anger some of the faithful.
And so, following the crisis that emerged after the Gaza flotilla, I found myself in a rather odd situation. While I was sitting in the consulate and being interviewed by various radio and television stations and presenting Israel’s position, two young Jewish women were leading hundreds of people in an anti-Israel rally outside my window. A reporter with the largest daily in the southern US even made note of this unusual situation in his report. Israeli spokespeople abroad today must contend with Israeli and Jewish protest, on top of the usual hostile elements.
Israeli society must regain its senses and do so quickly in order to stop this dangerous deterioration. The time has come to bring back the debate on national issues into Israel and allow Israel’s democratic process to take its course. Foreign involvement in this debate, even if it is Jewish, and engagement in this debate overseas, are dangerous phenomena that will merely serve to destabilize Israeli democracy and prompt arbitrary and artificial decisions that will not be good for any group in Israel.
Moreover, if we keep declaring that Ahmadinejad, Nasrallah, and Haniyeh are Israel enemies, yet at the same time behave as though our Israeli neighbor is an even more dangerous enemy, we’ll be doing the job for our real enemies on the outside. We must not present the state to them on a silver platter and sacrifice it on the altar of domestic hatred. Only genuine dialogue among all parts of society and the building of new national consensus, in Israel, will constitute a guarantee for security and prosperity.
Dr. Reda Mansour is Israel’s Consul General in Atlanta