What’s an Israelophile to Do?

Burston has been a voice of reason in Israel for many years. A progressive Israeli who has served his nation in the Israeli Defense Force but who also wants Israel to live up to the ideals embodied in its democratic and Jewish roots. He is also a friend of acclaimed journalist Ray Hanania who has one of the clearest (and sanest) peace plans.

A Special Place in Hell /Leftists who love Israel: A self-help guide

Where it comes to Israel be as honest about what you love, as you are about what turns your stomach, chars your conscience, makes you want to throw shoes at the news.

By Bradley Burston
Published 15:58 04.10.10

I’d like to talk about this problem I have. You can’t talk about it to just anyone. Friends of mine have it too. But you’ll never see this one on Dr. Phil. I don’t care how big the self-help section is in your Borders or Waterstones, you’re not going to find it there either.

It kicks in when you least expect it. And kicks is the word. Let’s try to give it a name. Leftists who love Israel. And who feel – or are made to feel – like leftists who love Israel too much.

By leftists, I am including people who may describe themselves, or, without coming out to others, may know themselves to be, doves, peace activists, social democrats, Democrats, disenchanted former Meretz voters, disenchanted former Labor voters, disenchanted longtime non-voters, human rights activists, vegans, activist moderates, the ostracized Orthodox Jew, the ostracized Protestant, the broad-view Catholic, the proactive pro-social justice moderate, the anti-neocon, the girl or guy you just passed on the street in Israel. Me. You.

There was a time when this grouping represented little more than an intensely interested but effectively disenfranchised buffer between the pro-occupation right whipping Israel along the road that leads straight off a cliff, and the detest-Israel’s-guts-as-a-philosophy-of-life extreme left, which sought to see the Jewish state, pretty much any Jewish state, go out of existence in any event.

No more. The success of the former, aided and abetted by the excess of the latter, has made the abyss all too tangible up ahead. These days, whether they believe it or not, leftists who love Israel are one of the nation’s only hopes for survival. If there’s a rescue squad out there, these people are it.

Not coincidentally, this is the group most likely to become the target of the contempt and thus the very public venom of extremists on the far-right and the far-left, working in unacknowledged but full concert, keen to neutralize people they see as spineless, bloodless sell-outs.

They’re warming up even as we speak – you’re about to meet them at the bottom of this page, and every other. You’ll know them by by their characteristic incontinence of reason and the foam at the mouth.

This is where self-help comes in. The extremists, to which we will hereafter refer by their more fitting name, maniakim, will do everything they can to intimidate, humiliate, silence and paralyze the person who believes in and works for a two-state solution, who believes in and works for a Jewish state of democratic values, prophetic humanism, equality, and honorable relations with neighbors and the world at large.

As in most any self-help guide to relationships, this would be the juncture to suggest a three-point program to help leftists who love Israel, respect themselves. Not that I know better than anyone else, but the following would be my choice:

1. Your Heart Counts. Be Real.

Where it comes to Israel, be as honest about what you love, as you are about what turns your stomach, chars your conscience, makes you want to throw shoes at the news. Be as up front about what you hate, as you are about what spurs inspiration, spiritual engagement, an overwhelming surge of beauty.

Where it comes to the Palestinians, train your eyes to see past fear, stereotype, hype, slander and distance, until children and their families come into focus as people trying to live the best lives they can.
2. Your Faith Counts. Be Strong.

No one has a monopoly on love for Israel. Your faith in the future of a just Israel alongside an independent Palestine is certainly every bit as valid as that of

Neither does anyone have exclusive rights to the meaning of justice. There is a name for the hard leftist who rejects the right of Jews to have a state of their own – any state in any part of the Holy Land, no matter how democratic and respectful of minority rights – but who accepts the rights of Muslims to have formally Islamic nations:


3. Your Actions Count. Be Sweet.
There is no greater heroism in wartime than facing down one’s fears and acting with compassion. This is war. There is an Us, and there is a Them. But it’s nowhere as simple as Jews versus Arabs. The real war now, the true battle for the future, is a contest between the side which wants to see justice for both Palestinians and Israelis, and, on the other side, maniakim.

Leftists who love Israel should turn their fury at the likes of Avigdor Lieberman and Eli Yishai into tangible support for the many activists who are working to reshape the country for the sake of a healthy and just future.

Leftists who love Israel should actively support Israeli companies and individuals who work and produce goods in True Israel, within the Green Line, just as they support Palestinians working in the territories.

Treat the maniakim the way the self-help expert Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, deals with the snarling, the territorial, the aggressive, the unremittingly dominant: Exude an air of calm assertiveness. No more following. Do not be submissive. Lead.

This much the maniakim can teach leftists who love Israel:

Trust your gut.
Respect what you believe.
Fight for it.
Love is bravery. Love is hard. Love wins.
You’re not alone.

Bradley Burston


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