Mondoweiss / January 24, 2023
A leading Israeli think tank warns the country’s “special relationship” with the US is in danger due to a progressive shift among American Jews, which poses a strategic threat to Israel.
The Institute for National Security Studies, an Israeli military outfit housed at Tel Aviv University, just delivered its strategic assessment report to Israeli President Isaac Herzog yesterday, January 23. The report is not yet available for viewing, but it’s being widely reported on and partially quoted in Israeli Hebrew-language media.
The main takeaway from the report is that Israel’s “special relationship” with the US is in danger.
The report attributes the reason for this change to a generational shift in American politics, expressed in “the influence that the progressive young generation has had in denying the legitimacy of Israel and Zionism, which they see as expressions of white-colonialist supremacy.”
The report speaks of being “challenged by social-political developments which are internal to America, and are due to the distancing of Jewish [American] communities from Israel, due, among other reasons, to what goes on in the country [Israel].”
This threat, of course, represents Israel’s greatest strategic threat above the danger of a third Palestinian Intifada and above the supposedly ever-looming “Iranian nuclear threat.”
The chair of INSS, Major General (Res.) Tamir Hayman spoke on Channel 12 with Oded Ben Ami, explaining that this phenomenon of “distancing” between American Jewry and Israel has been a long-term issue, and he said that it is really mostly about developments inside the US:
“In the long term, without it having to do with Israel, due to internal processes inside the USA — social, political, and other [processes] that have changed the social value structure of America — a crack might form in the values that connect us to the United States”.
Hayman says this ‘crack” doesn’t really have to do with Israel. It’s just about the United States becoming more progressive. But what about Israel becoming more visibly regressive and oppressive? And what about young Americans reading multiple reports from the whole of the human rights community that Israel is practicing apartheid? In general, American Jews are getting the message – already, one out of four Jews in America realizes that Israel is an Apartheid state. The younger are even quicker to understand it — when it comes to Jews under 40, that understanding goes up to 38%.
Hayman, who is the former head of Military Intelligence, spoke of the “position of the Israeli supreme court and the legal system in Israel” in terms of securing Israel’s position as it is seen by liberals. “The Israeli justice system, [being] independent and critical, has a very good reputation in the world,” he said, and this reputation “has been a defensive wall against demands for external investigations and meddling and restricting of operations of the IDF in anything that relates to Judea and Samaria [biblical names for the occupied Palestinian West Bank] and in the Palestinian arena in general.”
The protests of the many thousands in Israel for “democracy” is very much about securing the fortitude of this “defensive wall” for the “Jewish democracy”. It is very much a conceptual wall. Hayman’s point, applying the Israeli militant jargon of “defensive wall,” is also echoed by recent protests at the President’s residence by opponents of the judicial reform which would weaken the supreme court powers:
“The High Court is the flak jacket of IDF soldiers, it is protection for our sons and daughters that serve in the army, from attempts to petition against IDF soldiers at the International Criminal Court in The Hague,” warned Rachel Azaria, a former centrist lawmaker, now CEO of Darkenu, in one of those protests.
But let us remember that the Israeli refusal to criminally investigate the targeting of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh last year was before this current government. That was the supposedly liberal Defense Minister, Benny Gantz.
Nonetheless, a weakening of the supreme court would reduce Israel’s image as a state with a robust and critical judicial system. Its supreme court has actually legitimized all the major principle violations of the Apartheid state’s occupation — its illegal wall (declared so by the ICJ in 2004 but contested by the supreme court), the illegality of its settlements, the whole occupation (which the court first regarded as temporary and then as merely “prolonged”) as well as the racist and discriminatory “Nation state” law of 2018.
Haaretz journalist Gideon Levy writes in his recent article concerning the mass protests:
“Even if all the demands of the protesters are realized, the Supreme Court carried aloft, the attorney general exalted and the executive branch returned to its rightful stature, Israel will remain an apartheid state.”
But keeping the mask is a prime strategic security concern for Israel. It cannot stop its trajectory of apartheid. Indeed, it is becoming increasingly explicit, although it didn’t start with this government and will probably not end with any “government of change” in the foreseeable future. Young Americans are seeing it — they are neither blind nor stupid, which is a problem for Israel. American Jews, especially the younger ones, who have been taught that Israel is part of their identity, feel betrayed.
The message of this INSS report for Israel will mean one thing: more Hasbara, more Zionist propaganda — the only tool Israel knows besides repression.
Since Israel simply can’t change from within, it needs to change everyone else’s minds.
Jonathan Ofir is an Israeli musician, conductor and blogger/writer based in Denmark