July 22, 2024
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July 22, 2024
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Israel Advocacy: Facts Not Tales

The recent challenge to the Democratic incumbent by the progressive Kreibich campaign (see article in The Jewish Link of July 9, “Why Jewish Voters Should Ensure Candidates Adopt the IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism”) drives home the need for revitalized Israel advocacy. If flirting with a BDS boycott of Israel is seen as a vote-getter in a Congressional race in Bergen County, you can imagine what happens in proverbial Peoria where there is no active pro-Israel community.

Naively, one would expect warm relationships between progressives around the world and the state of Israel. After all, Israel has led the way on issues such as women’s rights, state-provided healthcare, absorbing refugees, income equality, best human and gay rights policies in the region, renewable energy, recycled water and sustainable agriculture—issues close to the progressive heart. Alas, the current stream of progressive thought emerged in Europe. This stream identified Israel and America as its two archenemies. I personally witnessed this strand of progressive thought emerge while growing up in the Netherlands.

On the extreme left during the 1970s, there were agitators with anti-Israel sentiments, but there was no coordinated propaganda message—no narrative. They made Israel out to be a bridgehead for white colonialism—ignoring the fact that a majority of Israelis are Sephardim, persons of color. At the same time, Arab interviewees on Dutch TV propagated the message that “the Holocaust never happened.” Not a very believable argument in a small country that lost 102,000 Jews in the Holocaust with virtually every Dutch person of the war generation aware of murdered neighbors, colleagues or classmates. Thus, the anti-Israel cause became a mortal embarrassment for Leftists, since surviving Nazis had the same anti-Israel and Holocaust-denying message.

But assistance in the progressive propaganda war was on its way.

By the time I had left Europe and was marching in the U.S. with Glenn Richter’s Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, much was changing on the global propaganda front. Incredibly, of all the nationalities forced into the “Soviet family of peoples,” the Jews and Zionism were successful in challenging the legitimacy of the communist empire. That challenge was not going to remain unpunished.

The world’s second-most powerful nation was intent on protecting its reputation as a workers’ paradise and its global movement of socialist progressivism as the ultimate just cause. Enormous resources had been pumped into western Europe since the end of WWII to sway public opinion, especially on university campuses and in labor movements. I was not aware of any Americans falling under this influence until reports surfaced recently of then-Mayor Bernie Sanders of Burlington, later a long-time senator of Vermont, joining such a socialism-glorifying trip.

In the meantime, back in the Netherlands, my father retired from the Royal Navy where he had been flying planes to track Soviet submarines near or in NATO territorial waters. He became active full-time in politics and was elected the next year to be a senator and member of the Senate Defense and Intelligence committee. Informally he also became one of the spokespersons defending Israel’s position in the media.

It became clear that the other side had abandoned its amateurish approach. No longer were the messages from Socialists/progressives at loggerheads with Arab messages from the region. The new anti-Zionist propaganda was expertly developed to serve two broad goals: (i) replace the accurate perception of Zionism as a liberation movement with that of a movement of oppression; (ii) create a political identity for a European population that within one generation, had lost faith in religion. The new identity’s purpose is to make progressives feel part of a righteous cause. But with moral relativism at its foundation, progressive righteousness is a relative concept as well. Respect for human life, core value of liberalism, was abandoned. New progressivism perceived no injustice in backing terrorism that targeted innocent and defenseless citizens—thus seamlessly connecting to extreme Arab nationalist movements.

Senator van Bemmelen realized that it would be more effective if many voices came together to support Israel. He promoted active involvement of the full spectrum of members of the small remaining Jewish community, and from surviving members of the Resistance. He used the platform www.Likud.nl� to build bridges to Christian supporters of Israel, and to representatives of groups oppressed by Arab or Islamist regimes, who contributed responses to progressive provocations in the media.

Over the years, he identified 150 recurring items of fake news and during 2016, Senator van Bemmelen edited the book “150 Palestinian Tales,” which was translated and published in English a year later.

In my (potentially biased) opinion, the book reads well and also is a great reference source, because it presents 150 vignettes containing answers to propaganda points, which are all referenced in an easy-to-use index.

When U.S. Representative Rashida Tlaib recently said that she is proud that Palestinians created a safe haven for Jews fleeing the Holocaust, she is presenting talking points from the same playbook that European anti-Israel activists have peddled for a long time. The book includes a picture with each section that is devastating to the Palestinian narrative, such as a picture showing the 1943 meeting of the first Palestinian leader Al-Husseini with the leader of the SS, Heinrich Himmler יִמַּח שְׁמוֹ. Maybe of less historical significance, but just as poignant, is a recent picture of a car transporter loaded with BMWs heading into independent Palestinian Gaza.

Another such response is to an invited op-ed by a prominent history professor alleging that the state of Israel routinely executes gay men. The effect of these lies is two-pronged: First, they provide ammunition for delegitimizing Israel. Secondl, they undermine human-right actions against states with the death penalty for gays, such as Somalia, Iran and Gaza. The current U.S. Congress has a member born in Somalia, Ilhan Omar, who does not criticize her former home country for the persecution of gays, but has plenty of criticism for Israel and its local U.S. supporters.

“150 Palestinian Tales” may provide a preview of coming attractions from a global propaganda machine, coming soon to a campaign in your district.

Michael van Bemmelen holds a PhD in economics from Columbia University, and an MA from Erasmus University Rotterdam. He works as a consultant in Teaneck, New Jersey.

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