Israel advocates finally condemn skunkwater – now that it’s being used on Jews

Philip Weiss

Mondoweiss  /  August 2, 2023

The Netanyahu government is causing leading U.S. advocates for Israel to finally acknowledge realities that only critics raised before like Israel practices apartheid and U.S. aid to the rogue government should be cut.

Israel’s fascistic government is, of course, fueling huge protests inside Israel. But it is also generating a crackup in the American Israel lobby. The scariness of the Netanyahu government is causing leading Israel advocates to say things only critics have said before, statements that would once be characterized as anti-Israel.

Such as:

–The U.S. government should consider cutting aid to Israel and no longer defending Israel in international forums.

–Israel is practicing apartheid in the West Bank. It’s not a democracy when millions of Palestinians can’t vote.

–American politicians have been indoctrinated to support Israel out of fear of being labeled antisemitic, but privately they express a different view. And we the Zionist community have to stop indoctrinating them.

–There might be a civil war in Israel, religious Jews against secular Jews in “sectarian violence.”

–Skunkwater is “awful.” About time– Palestinians have been sprayed with it for years.

Let’s see who’s saying these things.

Max Boot, a neoconservative, admits in the Washington Post that he has been in love with Israel since he was a child (nice to know that now) and goes on to utter a heresy in Washington: Israel has been charged by human rights groups with “apartheid.”

The political parties representing Jewish settlers make no secret of their desire to annex the entire West Bank — which would entrench a military occupation that has been denounced by human-rights groups as an Israeli version of “apartheid.”

Just what Tom Friedman admitted a couple weeks ago.

Boot says the U.S. should “discuss a phase-out of U.S. military aid,” due to the occupation, and Israel’s rogue character.

Israel is now an increasingly illiberal, and difficult, ally: the Hungary of the Middle East…

Israel isn’t on the U.S. side regarding Ukraine, Boot complains, and “Netanyahu is also trying to block Biden from reviving the badly needed Iran nuclear deal.” (Yes, Netanyahu’s been interfering successfully forever. The U.S. is something easily moved, he’s said.)

Boot joins a number of other establishment Zionist voices who have lately called for the “unmentionable” — reducing U.S. aid.

In this forum at Americans for Peace Now, liberal Zionist Hadar Susskind and centrist Zionist Susie Gelman agree that the U.S. government must consider cutting aid to Israel over its annexationist policies.

Scales falling from her eyes, Gelman says Israel is not a democracy because of the unending occupation.

You can’t have a true democracy, if you rule indefinitely over 5 million people. That’s just not possible.

Gelman, the past chair of Israel Policy Forum, seems open to the idea of not protecting Israel at the U.N., a step that’s always been anathema to Israel lobbyists:

There are other potential levers that I think are being considered potentially. One is, will the United States continue to defend Israel in international fora? The United States has been counted on almost entirely to defend Israel at the UN…. Particularly if Israel continues to move ahead with annexing the West Bank, which… is happening as we speak… will the United States be counted on to defend Israel? No matter what I think, that’s one question.

Susskind, the head of Americans for Peace Now, says the establishment U.S. discourse is changing faster on the issue of cutting aid “in the last three years than in the 20 years before that.” At first it was only Bernie Sanders and the Squad in Congress, advancing the idea, over Israeli human rights violations.

“And none of them spontaneously combusted. None of them were hit by lightning. All of those people were reelected to office. Like it or not, that’s now actually a view in Congress– a minority view, but it’s a view and many more people, including handfuls of Senators now, are talking about conditioning aid…[W]e’re seeing a tremendous change.

Susskind and Gelman agree there is a good possibility of civil war in Israel. Gelman:

The passion that we’ve seen, the outpouring of support in defense of Israel’s democracy…. where does it go? I mean, I think one thing we have to be concerned about, quite frankly, is civil war in Israel. I mean, you’re already seeing some violence… Itamar Ben Gvir is in charge of the police and… made it very clear that he wants them to come down really hard on the demonstrators and frankly, crack heads and draw blood.

Susskind says the left is also armed.

I think [there’s a] very real danger of civil war, right? Nobody, Nobody enjoys saying those words or says them lightly. But I think the violence that we’re seeing and the buildup of real hatred… is really scary…. In Israeli society, almost everyone is a veteran… It is a country that is heavily armed. And that’s not just the right wing. And I think, you know, that fear for me is very, very real about is this going to, you know, degenerate into into sectarian violence.

Yossi Alpher at Americans for Peace Now also warns of a “tragic” outcome: “escalation between the High Court and the Netanyahu government, and between increasingly angry demonstrators and increasingly violent Israel Police forces.”

Here’s my favorite part. Hadar Susskind admits that the Israel lobby has been too successful at indoctrinating politicians. For generations, “they’ve taught them the code words, ‘unbreakable bonds’, and ‘special relationship.’” So the politicians say things about Israel “privately” that they are afraid to say publicly. Because they’ll be accused of being anti-Israel:

We need to speak out in every context that we can– with other American Jewish organizations, with other leaders, with other political activists, political donors, with anybody who we know who has, or could have, a voice in this space, because we are still fighting back on years, and, frankly, generations of political education, that have taught our elected officials… They’ve taught them the code words, unbreakable bonds, and special relationship, and all of these things, and many, many, many of them don’t know how to get past that successfully, and don’t know how to say things that they say to me privately. And I’m sure to you, too. They don’t know how to say those things publicly without being afraid that they’re going to be called anti-Israel, and that they’re going to be called antisemitic. And because they are there, right, they are called antisemitic by other organizations. And so all of us need to reach out to them. You know, for people who have relationships with members of Congress, that’s great…

Now the Israel lobby needs to change the message:

We want them to speak out, we want them to fight for Israel’s democracy, we want them to fight for human rights. We want them to fight against occupation and annexation. So I think that is the biggest hurdle for so many of our elected leaders. And the only way we help them get over it is by them hearing over and over and over again, from as many people as possible that we’re urging them to do that, that we want them to do that…

But Gelman has a redline. American Jews can’t walk away from Israel.

I’d say first and foremost, what American Jews can do and must do is not walk away from Israel…

Notice the political access that Gelman is accustomed to: speaking to the president and Congress members. (This is the Democratic Party Israel lobby, based on the cultural/donor power of wealthy Jews who stand by the Jewish state.)

I think those of us who have relations with members of Congress need to be in an open dialogue about our concerns and what constructive things Congress might contemplate doing….Those of us who have connections to the administration should do likewise… I have spoken directly with [President Biden] about his commitment to the two state solution which is unshakable. His commitment to Israel’s future is unshakable, and his commitment to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, is also unshakable. So we need to be reinforcing those views within the administration, as well as in Congress. But most importantly, this is not a time to say gevult and walk away.

Gelman thinks there’s a positive story to tell to “reassure” American Jews. The pendulum will swing back. Someday there will be a better government in the Jewish democratic state:

I think it will be more of a challenge for those of us who are in America, in the leadership of American Jewish organizations, to try to explain what is happening and reassure people that while this looks like a very dark day, there’s a long fight ahead for Israel’s future. And it may take a generation…

So let’s maybe try to be a little bit hopeful… The hope is that eventually — we’re seeing one extreme right now — that the pendulum swings, and that Israel gets back on track as a Jewish and democratic country,

It’s a measure of Gelman’s ethnocentrism that she says she didn’t know about skunkwater until water cannons were turned on Israeli Jewish demonstrators (here’s one case). But skunkwater has been used on Palestinians for many years.

You’re already seeing police are using as you mentioned, not just water cannons on Jewish Israeli demonstrators, but what is it– skunk–water?… I think it sounds awful, and I guess it just makes you smell like a skunk. And probably very hard to get off.

“It’s not a skunk that it smells like,” Hadar Susskind says– meaning feces. He is familiar with skunkwater, as a liberal Zionist who visits the occupation.

You’d think the Israel Policy Forum should have been upset about that years ago.

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