On Sunday, a group of Israeli Air Force reserve F-15I pilots announced that due to their opposition to the Netanyahu government’s judicial reform bills, they would not participate in their squadron’s training mission this week.
It’s hard to know what the pilots thought would happen in response to their declaration, but if they believed the IDF would compel the government to shelve its judicial reform efforts, they received a rude awakening. The very notion that their stunt could succeed is a testament to the Israeli elite’s isolation from the rest of the country. Things look quite different outside their exclusive echo chamber.
The government stood firm. The public was enraged. The pilots’ colleagues were incensed. Thousands of reserve officers, including Air Force pilots, signed petitions demanding that the IDF be left out of the public dispute over judicial reform and pledging to serve under all governments and in all circumstances.
IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi initially angered the public by refusing to publicly condemn the pilots. But on Tuesday, Halevi broke his silence. Halevi read the pilots refusing to serve the riot act behind closed doors, making it clear that if they failed to show up to reserve duty on Wednesday, they would be thrown out of the IAF. On Wednesday, they all showed up. On Thursday, Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar threw the group’s leader, Col. Gilad Peled, out of the squadron.
One of the justifications that leftist retired generals and leftist defenders of Israel’s legal oligarchy more generally give for their refusal to countenance the government’s efforts to place minimal limits on the power of the Supreme Court is that the Court, and the unchecked legal system as a whole, is their shield against international tribunals. With the Palestinians and their international supporters threatening to put IDF warriors—including IAF pilots—in the dock at The Hague, talk of placing checks and balances on the Supreme Court, they insist, is dangerous.
There are two problems with this claim. First, it is wrong. Neither the Supreme Court nor the attorney general protects them from the Palestinians and their supporters. The Goldstone Report from 2010, which falsely accused the IDF of committing war crimes during the 2008-2009 war with Hamas, came out after the Court, the attorney general and the IDF Military Advocate General Corps’ lawyers placed massive, extralegal limits on IDF operations in real time.
The same goes for the legal fraternity’s actions in subsequent operations against Palestinian terrorists in Gaza and Judea and Samaria. The International Criminal Court’s “investigation” of “the situation in Palestine” began well after the Supreme Court, the IDF Military Advocate General Corps, the attorney general and the Justice Ministry were arrogated the power to dictate military policies. The ICC and its anti-Israel prosecutors couldn’t care less what Supreme Court President Esther Hayut and her colleagues and underlings think of IDF tactics or their proportionality.
The second reason judicial reform, and a broader program of legal reform, will have no impact whatsoever on the lawfare campaign against IDF soldiers is that the lawfare campaign isn’t in response to anything Israel does. The purpose of lawfare is to criminalize Israel and present its very existence as a crime against humanity.
The campaign to delegitimize Israel grows more audacious and politically and culturally powerful with each passing day. Last month, I experienced it in Toronto when several anti-Israel activists braved a snowstorm to protest my invitation to speak at a synagogue in town. The placards told the tale. They weren’t opposing “settlements” or “the occupation” of Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. They opposed “Israeli Apartheid.” Israel, their signs said, is “a terrorist state” and I am a “Nakba denier.”
Separately and together, all their messages made clear that they object not to Israel’s size, but its existence. Israel is “racist and Apartheid” because it is Jewish and Jews have no right to self-determination. Israel is a “terrorist state” because it defends itself against Palestinian terrorists committed to its physical annihilation. I am a “Nakba denier” because I am an Israeli patriot. I am proud and relieved that Israel defeated the coalition of Arab states and irregular forces that came together between 1947-1949 in a genocidal bid to destroy the nascent State of Israel.
The “Nakba denial” charge was arguably the claim that should most anger and trouble Jews in Israel, Toronto and worldwide, because as one of the protesters explained in a write-up of the demonstration, its purpose is to silence and demonize not just Israel but its supporters, particularly its Jewish supporters.
“Nakba denialism ought to be taken as seriously as Holocaust denialism,” Paul Salvatori wrote. He then explained how it should be used against local Jewish communities.
“It’s in the Canadian public interest to know that Nakba denialism pervades certain areas of Canadian society, including but not limited to the northern part of Toronto [i.e., the Jewish part of Toronto]. … Such denialism unnecessarily harms any decent society and so Canadians are entitled to know where it exists so they can rightfully challenge it and prevent it from doing further damage,” he claimed.
“Nakba denial” was a new concept for me, but the effort to use demonization of Israel as a means to exclude Jews from the public square is anything but novel. As Tablet magazine laid out in a spate of articles published late last week, the intersectional, racialist pecking order of progressive victimology places Jews in the two worst oppressor categories. Jews are both “Zionists” and “white.” Either one would be enough to push them out of polite society. But the two together make for a toxic mix that has seen Jews increasingly pushed out of all the areas of American life where they have thrived and excelled for decades.
In his article “The Vanishing: The Erasure of Jews from American Life,” Jacob Savage documented how, from Hollywood to the media, from academia to the arts and New York City, the progressives have erased Jews. Not only has Jewish acceptance to elite universities gone down 50% in a decade, Jews are being barred from Hollywood and erased from its history.
One passage from Savage’s article, about the Academy of Motion Pictures’ new museum is particularly stunning: “The new Academy Museum, dedicated to ‘radical inclusivity,’ and paid for with Haim Saban’s Jewish money, couldn’t bring itself to include Hollywood’s Jewish founders. In ‘Babylon,’ Damian Chazelle’s epic flop about Hollywood’s golden age, the director follows an ahistorical Mexican studio executive and an Asian American lesbian rather than any of the very real Jewish moguls or screenwriters or directors of the era. What’s telling isn’t that Chazelle ignored Jews (anyone can do that) but that not a single reviewer bothered to notice this ‘erasure.’ The culture has moved on.”
For Jews keen to remain members in good standing in this new anti-Jewish progressive upper crust, there’s only one choice. If you identify with your victims—whether non-white Americans or, more often, Arabs and their supporters—against the Jews, then you may be able to eke out a place for yourself in the new progressive cultural and political ecosystem.
There were a few Jews among the protesters outside my speech in Toronto and Salvatori made a big deal out of them in his write-up of the event. This makes sense. Jewish Israel-haters are important for those who seek to hound Jews from public life in the West and pave the way for Israel’s physical annihilation by demonizing its very existence.
The first function they serve is that of a fig leaf. Hiding behind Jewish fellow travelers, Jew-haters who seek to define Jews as the anti-nation—the one nation that has no right to nationhood, much less national history and national self-determination—have an easy out from allegations of bigotry. The old line “some of my best friends are Jews” has been transposed to fit the new fashion: “Anti-Zionism isn’t antisemitism. Plenty of Jews are anti-Zionists.”
In fact, progressive ideologues insist that Zionism itself is a form of antisemitism because Jews are not a nation and have no homeland. Zionists are genocidal thieves squatting on the Arabs’ land and Zionism is a perversion of the true “Judaism,” which, as anti-Zionist Jews happily proclaim, is really just Marxism with a side of corned beef on rye.
The second function anti-Zionist Jews serve is that of saboteur within the Jewish community. By insisting that the Jews are the villains of their own history, anti-Zionist Jews work to divide communities and confuse their members. For the umpteenth time, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman demonstrated how this is done in his latest column, ostensibly about the Israeli left’s rejection of limiting the power of the judiciary.
Friedman’s headline told the tale: “American Jews, You Have to Choose Sides on Israel.” How a leftist columnist gets the nerve to order his fellow Jews around as if they were his servants is an issue worth analyzing in some depth. But suffice it to say that anti-Israel Jews like Friedman believe that it is their duty to act like garden variety antisemitic bullies towards their fellow Jews. As a Jew who has been accepted into the progressive camp by dint of his hostility to Israel and its Jewish supporters, Friedman’s job at the Times is to humiliate his fellow Jews into joining the ranks.
And this brings us back to the pilots, the commandos, the cyber warriors, the high-tech workers, the economists and the yoga instructors who insist that Israel is awful and about to become a tyranny because the government wants to limit the authority of the increasingly post-national judicial oligarchy. Thanks to Israel’s leftist media and progressive universities, for four decades, Israel’s elites have been trained to believe that the war to demonize their country is legitimate. Like their counterparts in the American Jewish community, called on to exculpate their “white guilt” and “Jewish chauvinism,” their problem is that their nation is a gang of “ethno-nationalists” (whatever that is) or that their national liberation movement is a form of “settler colonialism” (whatever that is) or that religious Jews who live in Judea and Samaria are “Judeo-Nazis.”
Like their American Jewish counterparts, who are suddenly awakening to the fact that they are being erased from American life, it is time for Israel’s leftist elites to recognize that their prosperity and success cannot be won by rejecting and disparaging their fellow Jews in Israel and courting favor from the likes of Friedman and The New York Times. It can only be achieved and preserved by joining forces with their fellow Israelis—including the Netanyahu voters they hold in contempt. The only way that pilots, commandos and the rest of Israel’s elite will be safe from enemies committed to their criminalization is if Israel is strong and self-confident. The only antidote to Jew-hatred is Jewish power. Pilots, above all, should be able to understand this.
Reprinted with author’s permission from Jewish News Syndicate