Last week we saw four examples of how not to advocate for Israel:
1. Don’t back lawsuits you can’t win.
The Supreme Court struck down a law that forced the President, through the Secretary of State, to identify, upon request, citizens born in Jerusalem as being born in Israel even though the United States has never acknowledged Israel nor any other country as having sovereignty over Jerusalem.
President Bush did not enforce this law, and neither has President Obama. No one should have been surprised that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Executive Branch. But as a result of this short-sighted lawsuit, which never should have been brought, the Palestinians are claiming victory and pro-Israel groups are upset.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro provided some perspective:
The decision was not about whether Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. It was solely about the separation of powers between the Executive Branch (the President) and the Legislative Branch (the Congress) of our government, and which branch has the right to recognize foreign governments and their capitals. The Court decided, by a 6-3 majority, that it agreed with the position that has always been held by the Executive Branch — that only the President has that authority. That decision overturned a law passed by Congress that required the place of birth to be written as “Jerusalem, Israel” instead of “Jerusalem”.
U.S. policy on Jerusalem was not decided by today’s ruling. That policy has been the same under every administration since 1948 — namely, that the status of Jerusalem has not been decided and must be determined by negotiations.
Brad Schneider (D-IL) wrote on June 8 that
irrespective of today’s Supreme Court ruling, Jerusalem is the eternal, undivided capital of the Jewish people. And while the only path to a two state solution is through negotiations, and such talks must and will include determination of the ultimate status of Jerusalem’s borders, we should allow U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem to be recognized as born in Israel.
I agree with Brad, but the Supreme Court could not have ruled any other way. If you’re going to read one article about the case, read Jay Michaelson’s analysis. The pro-Israel groups that backed this lawsuit should have known they would lose, but some still don’t understand why they were wrong.
2. Don’t make fighting BDS a right-wing issue.
Arguments that resonate with right-wingers will not convince the people we need to convince. Ari Shavit writes that
Netanyahu, Erdan, and Adelson have to internalize a truth that for them is a bitter truth: The battle is a battle for the left and the fight is a fight within the left, which means that anyone who despises the left can’t win it. Ninety percent of the young people I met at the universities are Democrats who support U.S. President Barack Obama. Trying to sell them the Gush Emunim agenda won’t work. Only a liberal Zionist message can foment change. Only liberal Zionists can generate enthusiasm and provide inspiration. Only Israelis who believe in the two-state solution can confront those Israel-haters who believe in exactly what the right believes in – one state.
That’s why StandWithUs is making a big mistake bringing right-wing Rabbi Shmuley Boteach to Chicago in November. Maybe the guy whose judgment was so poor that his ad was condemned by the AJC, ADL, Jewish Federation, The Israel Project, AIPAC, the Orthodox Union, J Street, JCPA, and the Rabbinical Assembly should not be the face of the anti-BDS movement.
3. Don’t heckle pro-Israel administration spokesmen.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, an Orthodox Jew, was heckled by right-wingers at the Jerusalem Post Conference in New York. Israeli Minister Yuval Steinitz said the “felt embarrassed” by the heckling “because Jacob Lew is a true friend of Israel.” Natan Sharansky also defended Lew.
Read Lew’s remarks or watch the video. Is there anything you would have booed? Almost every paragraph demands applause from those motivated by love of Israel rather than baseless hatred of President Obama.
Also read Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken’s June 8 remarks at the AJC Global Forum. Blinken said that “no administration and no President has done as much for Israel’s security as President Obama,” and he backed up his statement with facts that should convince even the most skeptical.
Some of our friends who oppose a deal with Iran act as if they’d rather not hear the answers to their questions. Don’t be one of those people. Read Lew’s and Blinken’s remarks carefully, and if you still oppose a deal, at least you’ll know what you’re talking about.
Meanwhile, the White House again backed Israel’s right of self-defense following rocket attacks.
4. Don’t demonize President Obama.
Ari Shavit wrote on Thursday that
The incitement against Obama must stop. We must reach out to him. It is not Pharaoh that is working in the Oval Office. It is not Haman that is residing in the White House. It is a true friend. It is absolutely legitimate to argue with the thinking person serving as president of the United States, but that person must be respected and cherished. It’s not too late to restart the ailing relationship. It is a moral and political imperative to do at once.
Yet too many of our Republicans friends relish tearing apart the U.S.-Israel relationship with their over-the-top rhetoric and absurd accusations, all to score short-term political victories (and failing at that too, since Jews will continue to vote Democratic).
So how should we advocate for Israel?
On June 5, AJC Executive Director David Harris wrote a great Huffington Post article on Why History Matters, which is an excellent companion to my Huffington Post article, Progressives Should Support Israel.
These are the arguments we should be making.