There's no correct way to be pro-Israel
- There's no correct way to be pro-Israel
By Jeff Halper*
The Jerusalem Post
A funny thing happened to me on my way from Tel Aviv to New York a
couple months ago. I was sitting in my aisle seat reading a book, when
all of a sudden I became aware of the tall figure of a man looming
I looked up and saw a guy with a mustache and kippa whom I had never
"I am Gerald Steinberg," he trumpeted. "I am the person who will put
you out of business."
Then he abruptly lurched off. But he apparently had one more thought
he wanted to share with me. Suddenly he turned around, pointed at me
and bellowed: "You are a Jewish anti-Semite!"
Now accosting me in the street is one thing, but accusing me of
anti-Semitism in a voice everyone could hear on a planeload of Jewish
passengers was virtual incitement to a lynching. Fortunately, my
fellow passengers had their seat-belts on, and the incident passed
Later, in the passport line at Kennedy, we passed each other. "Why
don't we get a cup ofcoffee sometime and talk?" I offered.
"You're not important enough," he snapped back as he disappeared into
the Goldene Medine.
THE ACCOSTING has now moved to the pages of The Jerusalem Post
("Europe to host NGO attack on Israel," August 23) where, not for the
first time, Steinberg refers to me as, in general, anti-Israel -
although here I only "appear" with anti-Semites.
All this is silly stuff, of course. But the kind of rhetoric Steinberg
employs is significant because it is often used by self-proclaimed
"pro-Israel" advocates to obfuscate the very important debate that
must take place if we are to overcome conflict and usher Israel into
the state of peace, security and reconciliation most Israelis seem to
In his article, Steinberg employs epithets, simplistic and accusatory
terms as if they were"objective," the very technique of "radical
propaganda" of which he accuses me and others.
In the Brussels meetings - to which I wasn't invited, despite
Steinberg's insinuation that I was - he refers to "radical"
Palestinian NGOs (whatever that means); "anti-Israel" NGOs (including
a number of Israeli ones), "radicals" in general (although as an old
'60s person that doesn't sound bad to me), "liberation theology"
(apparently a bad thing in Steinberg's world), "anti-Semitic themes,"
and so on.
THE UNSPOKEN and misleading assumption underlying all this is that
there exists a normal, acceptable, correct "pro-Israel" position from
which no one should be permitted to deviate. And I'll bet that
position conforms precisely to Steinberg's.
There is no such position, of course. Twenty years ago, to support a
two-state solution - which Steinberg today touts as the epitome of
being "pro-Israel" - would have gotten you thrown out of town. Things
change, but they cannot change for the better if open, honest and
occasionally heated debate is not allowed.
Steinberg urges that the UN/European Parliament meeting in support of
Israeli-Palestinian peace be cancelled. This seems to contradict the
motto on the banner of his own NGO Monitor: "Promoting critical
debate" on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Promoting civil debate would be enough.
*Jeff Halper is the coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House
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