Don’t judge us ‘by what we do,’ Israel’s president tells Americans

Philip Weiss

Mondoweiss  /  June 26, 2023

“In some places we are judged wrongly by what we do and how strategic we are.” Israel’s president Isaac Herzog tells American Jews to fight those “judgmental attitudes” and preserve “our only Jewish state in the world.”

“In some places we are judged wrongly by what we do,” Isaac Herzog, the president of Israel, says of American public opinion.

Herzog made the statement in an interview with Ted Deutch, the head of the American Jewish Committee, two weeks ago (but it was published on Friday).

At an AJC forum in Tel Aviv, Deutch asked Herzog what American Jewish advocates for Israel should do “to strengthen the relationship between the diaspora [American Jewry] and Israel.”

“You have a huge role to play,” Herzog responded. He immediately brought up the “problem” — Israel is judged unfairly in the United States. Americans need to see what Israel is up against, surrounded by enemies who foment antisemitism.

I would say first that I believe part of the problem is a lack of understanding of what Israel is all about. There’s a judgmental attitude in certain spheres of American public life, in certain quarters, that judges us according to certain scales that is not always realistic, in terms of where we live and what we do.

We are a small nation which is truly challenged by a huge enemy, which works day in, day out, to undermine us, to kill our citizens, deploy terror against us, surround us from all sides, and rush to the bomb and spread antisemitism and hatred.

And on the other hand, we are a nation that is extremely zestful, successful, reaching incredible heights in so many incredible fields that you know….

All I’m saying is that in some places we are judged wrongly by what we do and how strategic we are. And I think you have an immense role to play in telling the story of Israeli democracy, diversity, achievements. We can of course deal with the faults and mistakes. Like any nation– I’ve got news for you– all nations are challenged and simmering and debating, especially in the modern era.

And of course they need to protect and preserve our only Jewish state in the world.

Herzog’s theme is a variation on the We-live-in-a-bad-neighborhood idea promoted by Tom Friedman. Though the enemies now go on forever; and now they’re judging Israel in the U.S.

The latest Gallup poll shows that Democrats have more sympathy for Palestinians than Israel by 49 to 38– a stark reversal of attitudes just a few years ago. The shift is surely due to Israel’s own conduct.

But talk about blindness: neither Herzog nor Deutch mentioned Palestinians once in that quarter-hour discussion.

Herzog also seems to be saying that American Jews are now judging Israel for what it does. And he’s right. Polling in 2021 showed that 25 percent of American Jews think Israel practices apartheid, and the attitudes are far stronger among the young — one in five saying Israel has no “right to exist” as a Jewish state. So those Jews are not interested in protecting and preserving “our only Jewish state in the world.” And that was three years ago. It has gotten worse for Israel since.

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-2006