The Foundation for Constitutional Democracy

01-Apr-2008

Do American Zionist Organizations Really Help Israel?

Filed under: Zionism/NationalismThe Diaspora — eidelberg @ 6:48 am

Edited transcript of the Eidelberg Report, Israel National Radio, March 31, 2008.

Just returned from a US lecture tour. After a lively discussion at one of my talks, a member of the audience, I’ll call him “Mr. X,” engaged me in a remarkable conversation, one that has prompted me to formulate the following dialogue:

Mr. X: “Professor, I have read many of your articles, but you say nothing about American organizations that want to keep Israel weak by opposing any change in its impotent and unstable system of government.”

PE. “What organizations are you referring to?”

Mr. X. “Zionist organizations, whose leaders have a vested interest in keeping Israel weak—those who never call for basic reform of Israel’s decrepit system of government.”

PE. “Maybe they feel such criticism would undermine US support of Israel?”

Mr. X. “That’s what many want us to believe, but they have a Machiavellian motive in being mum about Israel’s dysfunctional system of government.”

PE. “But Zionist leaders often criticize the government’s policy of territory for peace.”

Mr. X. “Sure, they do, professor, but here is where you have not probed their motives deeply enough. The way I see them, by their remaining silent about Israel’s flawed system of government on the one hand, but by criticizing Israel’s feeble foreign policy on the other, their organizations obtain substantial funds from those who flatter themselves by identifying Israel as ‘the only democracy in the Middle East.’”

PE. “But some Zionists admit that Israel is an imperfect democracy.”

Mr. X. “You can say this about any democracy, professor; but as you have shown in many ways, Israeli democracy is a myth. You have repeatedly emphasized that members of the Knesset are not individually elected by or accountable to the voters in constituency elections, contrary to the practice of almost every democratic country. You have said an Israeli prime minister can pursue his own foreign policy unilaterally without fear of being toppled by a vote of no confidence, since his cabinet ministers do not want to risk their jobs by new elections. And you are not the only one who has said that the president of Israel’s Supreme Court and two of his judicial colleagues actually control who will be members of the court, and that makes the court a self-perpetuating oligarchy. Zionist leaders know the court has usurped legislative and executive powers, and this has made the government even more impotent.”

PE. “Yes, I have said this many times; but what has this to do with your view of the Machiavellian motives of Zionist leaders or your contention that they want to keep Israel weak by not criticizing the undemocratic nature of Israel’s political and judicial institutions? Is this their conscious intention or just a consequence of their silence? How do you explain this? ”

Mr. X. “Conscious or not, I contend that American Zionist leaders have a vested interest in being silent about Israel’s undemocratic system because this system, by making Israel impotent, also makes Zionist organizations appear all the more important for Israel’s security. In other words, a weak Israel justifies the existence of these Zionist organizations. After all, would Israel have any vital need of such organizations if Israel had a strong and stable system of government? Besides, none of these Zionist organizations has had any discernible impact on Israel’s foreign policy. None has strengthened Israel’s government or even made Israel more Zionist. Their pro-Israel rhetoric and lobbying in Congress do little more than feather their own nests.”

PE. “That’s a pretty ugly conclusion. You ignore the fact that these Zionist organizations elevate American public opinion on Israel. Consider the pro-Israel attitude and even pro-Israel resolutions of the US Congress.”

Mr. X. “Come now, professor! Hasn’t Congress appropriated hundreds of millions of dollars for the PLO-Palestinian Authority? Have you ever heard Congress criticize Israel for releasing countless Arab terrorists who may even endanger US interests in the Middle East? Has Congress ever criticized the CIA for training Arabs terrorists? All the pro-Israel talk of congressmen is little more than PR—good for getting Jewish money. And much the same may be said of Zionist organizations, even if they are sincerely pro-Israel!”

PE. “I agree with what you say about American congressmen, but I think you carry things too far when you attribute the same self-serving motives to American Zionist leaders. You have to distinguish between Jewish organizations like the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which supported Oslo and ‘disengagement,’ and Zionist organizations that vigorously opposed these defeatist policies.”

Mr. X. “Professor, I think you’re being naive on this point. The vocal opposition of Zionist organizations to Israel’s land-for-peace policy has not prevented those defeatist policies. Israeli governments continue to withdraw from Jewish land, continue to release and arm Arab terrorists, and continue to behave as if Israel was a banana republic or pathologically sick society. Israel would appear very differently if it had a strong and responsible system of government—a subject Zionist leaders never explain to the American people in any clear way—certainly in no way that would also prompt Israel’s ruling elites to reform their inept political system ”

PE. “Are you serious? If Zionist organizations described Israel this way, then Israel would never get a dime from the USA!”

Mr. X. “Exactly! But neither would Zionist organizations get a dime from their present benefactors! That’s why they have a vested interest in not criticizing Israel’s weak system of government, which has become a strategic liability to the United States, as we saw when the Olmert government failed to destroy Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy in the Second Lebanon War. The Olmert clique, as you yourself have shown, Professor Eidelberg, was the direct result of Israel’s flawed system of coalition cabinet government. You have shown how this flawed system made Olmert prime minister and Amir Peretz defense minister—embarrassing facts unmentioned not only by the Winograd Report, but also by Zionist leaders!”

PE. “But since when do Zionist leaders have the right to criticize Israel’s flawed system of government?”

X. “Why shouldn’t they—especially when Israel’s system of government is largely responsible for the debacle in Lebanon, a debacle that strengthened Iran, America’s gravest enemy? Besides, don’t American Jews have families in Israel—families endangered by Israel’s corrupt and divisive system of multi-party cabinet government? And since Israeli governments appease Arab terrorists, isn’t that enough reason to criticize a system of government that enables the prime minister and other Israeli politicians to ignore public opinion with impunity? I don’t see why American Jews have to make aliya to fault Israel’s political system. You have often said the system is being perpetuated by Israel’s ruling elites—politicians and judges, academics and journalists—who have vested interests in fostering the myth of Israeli democracy, a myth that endows Israel’s government with legitimacy and Israel’s ruling elites with respectability. Who would invite these elites to America to and talk about Israel’s existential problems if Israel had a strong and stable system of government? And who would need Zionist organizations if Israel had a solid government? After all, U.S. military aid of 2.28 billon dollars to Israel is only 1.3% of Israel’s 170 billion dollar Gross National Product.”

Well, folks, I think my interlocutor was being too cynical, but I must admit that except for my columns in The Jewish Press, I found no reference in any local Jewish newspaper about Israel’s dysfunctional system of government as a primary cause of its problems. Perhaps some Zionist leaders are a bit timid to criticize Israel’s political system? Or perhaps they are reluctant to adopt a position on that issue which might label them “Eidelbergians.” But I doubt they are animated by Machiavellian motives. Whatever the case, I’m happy to be back in Israel, even though its ruling elites are timid fools as well as Machiavellians.

Here I want to assure my audience that Israel, in contradistinction to its government, has many true supporters in the US. Among those that hosted me during my March lecture tour—and none necessarily agree with the above assessment—I want to thank my long-standing friend Meir Jolovitz, Director of the fabulous Syrian Community Center in Brooklyn. Thanks also to Chabad Rabbi Faivish Dolfin, who sponsored a major address of mine in Miami. I also want to thank my charming hosts in Miami, Gail and Dr. Abraham Tenzer. Professor Richard Freer, an ardent supporter of Israel, scheduled other venues for me in that city. Matthew Finberg arranged fascinating venues for me in Denver and Greeley. I also want to thank my dear friends Keren and Gershon Horowitz who hosted me during Purim and arranged a large gathering of people for my talk at Congregation Adat Yeshurun in San Diego.