September 23, 2019

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Long Game 3 (Divest This!)

Continuing a series that started here and continued here, I hope by now that readers appreciate the difficulties Israeli and its defenders face if we decided to “fight fire with fire” by mirroring enemy tactics.  But presuming our only choices are to ape our foes or sit back and take a beating represents a failure of imagination, born from a failure to think through our choices from a strategic perspective.

Fortunately, we already have the most important starting point needed to approach our problems strategically: a well-understood goal we are heading towards.  In the case of Israel and her friends, that goal can be summed up as seeing the Jewish state free, safe and strong.

Seeing the Israeli and Jewish condition normalized, so that we are treated with the same respect automatically given every other nation and people, is also a worthy goal, albeit a more difficult one to achieve given how much that would involve changing human hearts.  That said, people tend to treat those they are impressed by better than those they consider weak or inferior.  So focusing on a free, safe and strong Israel might have positive knock on effects regarding wider normalization goals.

With a free, safe and strong Israel as our North Star, we need to think of the most effective ways of achieving this end.  Maintaining strong, bi-partisan support for Israel in the US has been a strategy American Jews have pursued successfully for decades.  Indeed, one of the reasons AIPAC is so ferociously demonized by Israel’s enemies is those enemy’s correct perception of how successful the organization has been in staying on and accomplishing its mission.

The passage of dozens of resolutions at the state and national level condemning BDS is another instance where our side has played to its strengths, which includes broad support among legislators who understand the popularity of Israel among the public at large.  If you consider the years and years of effort the BDSers have put into unsuccessful attempts to get even one small municipality to officially condemn the Jewish state, the fact that half the nation’s legislatures have instead condemned the boycotters is testament to what we can accomplish without having to develop the fanaticism and pathologies of our foes.

Continuing to be able to succeed with such audacious tactics will involve maintaining bi-partisan support for Israel within the US, which today means fighting with all our might the continued attempted takeover of the Left end of the political spectrum by the forces of BDS.  This work will be thankless, and painful, and will require us to put aside our own partisanship in order to achieve a higher good.  But from a strategic perspective, better to have both sides mostly in our camp (including the one we never vote for), rather than see Israel become a wholly owned issue of one party, a party that – as history shows – will not always be in power.

These are all illustrations of what US Jews and non-Jewish supporters can and should do domestically.  Abroad, the situation is bleaker with anti-Semitic politicians close to power in parts of Europe, and the war against the Jewish state continuing in international political and NGO forums.  Without minimizing such challenges, success only comes to those who show up, rather than give up.   Remember that a few years ago, the Third World (including most of Africa) seemed similarly lost to the enemy until outreach (i.e., “showing up”) by Israeli diplomats opened doors that were previously closed.

On the Israel front, a nation that can send a vessel to the moon is likely to retain its technological and economic edge over those whose greatest achievement is to replace kites with balloons as the most effective way to burn neighboring farmland.  Because military adventures outside the nation’s borders have never been an Israeli political priority, Israelis can focus their technological, economic and military superiority on the task of defending fixed borders, a much easier strategic challenge than conquest outside those borders.

If you compare where Israel was in 1948 vs. where it is today and contrast that with how neighboring enemies have done during this same period, one can see how maintaining siege walls both succeeded in keeping foes at bay, while forcing those foes to live with the consequences of their choice to prioritize Israel’s destruction over the creation of healthy stable societies.   In fact, the greatest blunder in Israeli political history – the Oslo Accords – failed specifically because it traded those consequences for rewards that the Palestinians squandered years ago, condemning their people to live lives far worse than the ones they had when under the dreaded “Occupation.”

The greatest risk to our side achieving our ends (vs. our enemies achieving theirs), outside of an Iranian atom bomb, is a failure of will.  If young Israelis start losing confidence in the virtue of their cause to the point where they stop making sacrifices in the form of military service, that’s a game changer.  Similarly, if active support for Israel in the US loses out to a combination of hostility and indifference, that could threaten both the Jewish state and the American diaspora.

If faith in one’s cause was generated solely by libeling one’s enemies, those who have attacked Israel militarily over the years would have done much more advancing than retreating.  So next week, in the final segment in this series, I’ll talk about what a campaign might look like that leverages all that is right with the Jewish state without making our side come off as wusses.

We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.

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