There are debates over Israeli policy that focus on the supposed “fact” that Israel cannot accept criticism. Left-wingers–some of whom are Zionists, and others who aren’t–have parroted the common Arabist trope that Jerusalem is unable to hear or abide by critiques. Some claim that the Israeli government and its supporters declare that any critic of its policies is an anti-Semite. This may be true for a few people on the very fringes of society and politics, but is by no means the norm.
Israel has many supporters–many of whom are Israeli citizens!–who criticize its policies. These critiques may range from the Palestinian issue, to treatment of migrants & refugees, to LGBT and women’s issues, or treatment of minorities. From the most conservative Zionists to the most liberal kibbutzniks, from the Zionist Union to Likud, there are many inside the country who debate the direction Israel is going, how to make it a more ethical society, and how it should approach peacemaking with the Arabs. If anyone cannot accept criticism in the conflict, it is the Palestinians.
The Recent UN Vote
The recent UN failure to condemn Hamas was in part because the Palestinian Authority–otherwise hostile to the Iran-backed terror entity–couldn’t stomach a United Nations condemnation of a Palestinian movement. Similarly, the Palestinian leadership has refused to accept responsibility for rampant corruption in their governing institutions. Tim Sebastian, a renowned and fair British journalist, has interviewed a wide array of Palestinian politicians and leaders. Often he brings up the dismal human rights record of the PA, including torture and arrests of critics. Naturally, these leaders deny that such things ever take place, or–as Hanan Ashrawi chose to do–bizarrely blame it on being “occupied by Israel.”
The United Nations and left-wing academics have embraced the Palestinian tendency to blame all their woes on “the occupation”–that is, if they don’t deny them outright. The UN shamefully blamed Israel for an epidemic of Palestinian men beating their wives. Jasbir Puar, a professor at Rutgers University, complained in a book that Israel didn’t kill Palestinians, but instead left them maimed and disabled so it can dominate them. The National Women’s Studies Association decided her book was worthy of the Allison Piepmeier Book Prize. PA President Mahmoud Abbas has also recently blamed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for recent terror attacks on Israelis in Judea & Samaria (the West Bank).
Too many Zionist activists have remained on the offensive when it comes to “the debate” on Israel. Whether in college campuses, academia, literature, or journalism, well-known pro-Israel voices keep responding to anti-Israel “activists” instead of ignoring them and forming our own narrative. Others remain defensive in the face of anti-Zionist smears or Palestinian incitement. Instead, pro-Israel activists need to go on the offensive, and choose our battles more wisely.
We should feel comfortable criticizing the Israeli government when need be. Like all other countries and governments, Israel isn’t perfect. There’s much room for improvement. More can be done to advance the rights of the LGBT community, non-Orthodox Jews, and marginalized Jewish groups (Sephardic/Mizrahi Jews and Ethiopians in particular), in addition to minorities. We should be on the forefront of this push. Not only would it make Israel better, it would also take the wind out of the sails of those who claim we cannot handle criticism, or accuse critics of being racist.
Similarly, it must be acknowledged that the infantilism displayed by and towards Palestinians will never bring about peace. They must be held accountable for their own faults. Not only will it make Palestinian lives easier and better, but it will increase the chances of starting real dialogue and peace talks without everything being blamed on Europe, the US, the West, or “the occupation.” It shouldn’t be hard to admit that both sides have flaws in governance, or have enacted harsh and at times unjust measures on each other. Denying this helps nobody, but it certainly doesn’t help Palestinians gain sympathy, governing experience, peace, or independence.