Jerry Seinfeld, the Jewish American comedian, who was performing in Tel Aviv Israel at the Menora Mavtichim Arena at the end of December, recently made the news over his real live adventure at an anti-terrorism tourism camp. The so-called Counter Terror and Security Academy named Caliber 3 is a tourist training camp near the Efrat settlement south of Bethlehem, which means it is, appropriately enough, actually built on land stolen from the Palestinians. The camp’s website commemorated the Seinfeld visit by posting notice of the participation of “the legendary Jerry Seinfeld and his family,” plus photos, in a vignette that has since been removed.
The Caliber 3 website describes itself as “the leading counter terror and security training academy, run by active members of the IDF.” The day visit includes a “shooting adventure” involving a simulated suicide bombing in a Jerusalem marketplace as well as a terrorist knife attack. The package, which costs $115 per adult and $85 for children, includes sniper training and a demonstration of the use of attack dogs against a terrorist suspect.
The bad guys in the scenarios were inevitably the Palestinians, invariably described as “terrorists,” and the heroes were the Israeli army and police who were, of course, protecting innocent Jewish civilians. Jerry was photographed grinning and his entire entourage cheered and waved to demonstrate what a wonderful time they were having.
Now Jerry Seinfeld is not just a funny man, he is also a hard-core Hollywood-by-way-of-New York liberal and he may actually believe nonsense like Benjamin Netanyahu really wants peace or that a two-state solution for Israel-Palestine would work just fine, not recognizing that that ship has already sailed. Most of his peers in the heavily Jewish entertainment industry are also politically liberal, though they would likely choose to be called “progressive,” the preferred nomenclature since Ronald Reagan made liberal unfashionable.
Jerry is probably full of warm and fuzzy feelings about racial injustice, illegal immigrants and voting rights in America but he is either unaware or indifferent to the fact that a fundamentally racist Israel is preparing to expel or imprison forty-thousand African asylum seekers and that hundreds of thousands of Arabs who are under the life-and-death control of the Israeli security services have no rights whatsoever apart from being tried by military tribunals where the conviction rate is 99%. Nor is Jerry or any of his Hollywood friends likely to stage a benefit for 16 year old Ahed Tamimi, who is in prison in Israel facing a possible life in prison sentence for having slapped an Israeli soldier from a patrol that had invaded her family home in her West Bank village shortly after shooting her cousin in the head.
I have to believe that Jerry doesn’t obsess much over his Israeli hosts having stolen someone else’s land and killing them if they resist. But I also have to believe that if Jerry were to witness a training camp like C-3 in the United States where the shooting of black people or illegal Mexicans were simulated he would no doubt be both outraged and disgusted, even though somehow shooting simulated Arabs and grinning while doing so does not appear to bother him one bit.
Unfortunately, Jerry the Jewish liberal is not that unusual. American Jews, who are the key to the continuing blank check American support of Israel, balk at recognizing the evil that the self-defined Jewish state represents even though both opinion polls and voting patterns suggest strongly that they are predominantly reliably liberal regarding both social and political issues. Israel does, in fact, reject the values of most diaspora Jews while also contradicting the moral and ethical tradition of Judaism itself, which it claims to uphold. It is the antithesis of what many American Jews believe to be the right way to behave.
As a theocracy that acts like every other theocracy, including neighboring Saudi Arabia, Israel exists to promote the interests and well-being of its own co-ethnoreligionists, which means that the concerns of other religious groups or citizens are basically of no interest whatsoever. And Israel is not only a theocracy, it is also a prime model of a national security state where the military and police have a relatively free hand. In its interaction with the indigenous Arabs, Israel is a settler colonial state that regards the original inhabitants as inferior creatures only fit to be ethnically cleansed or, at best, to do menial work for their Jewish masters.
Israel has consequently been called an “apartheid state,” but some observers who actually experienced South African apartheid believe that what is practiced in Israel, where Palestinians are harassed at numerous military checkpoints and are routinely denied building and residency permits to force them to leave their homes, is far, far worse. “Liberal Zionist” Michelle Goldberg, writing recently in the New York Times, put it succinctly: “Supporters of Israel hate it when people use the word ‘apartheid’ to describe the country, but we don’t have another term for a political system in which one ethnic group rules over another, confining it to small islands of territory and denying it full political representation.”
Recently Israel has demonstrated its essential thuggishness by taking advantage of the Trump Jerusalem decision to legalize the expansion of its borders farther into the West Bank while also approving the building of more than 1,100 new houses. It has banned travel to Israel by representatives of twenty international organizations that have been critical of its behavior, including the Quaker American Friends Service Committee that saved many Jews during the Second World War as well as the largely Jewish Code Pink and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).
And the predominantly liberal highly educated and assimilated American Jews who choose to hold their noses and look the other way when Israel misbehaves exact a price on every other American. Lockstep support for Israel costs billions in U.S. Treasury provided and tax-exempt dollars annually, but does even more damage in terms of bad foreign policy choices and loss of respect from other nations due to Washington’s constant protecting of the murderous and corrupt Netanyahu government, defending the indefensible in a client state which contributes absolutely nothing to the well-being of Americans.
And then there are the wars fought at least in part on behalf of Israel, supported enthusiastically by the U.S. media and political class. Most recently, the White House and Israel have entered into a secret arrangement to destabilize Iran, which does not threaten the United States. Such pointless interventionism by Washington in the Middle East derives from the corruption of American politics and politicians due to Jewish money, a process that is currently working its way through various legislatures in seeking to define any criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism while also driving the same, labeled “hate speech,” from the internet. At the local level, government job seekers and those applying for public grants must actually agree in writing in some states not to boycott Israel, incredibly imposing rules relating to a foreign government on American citizens.
The recent bad decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem came about mostly due to the millions of dollars that Israeli/American casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson pumped into the Trump election campaign. Adelson, who regrets having once served in the U.S. Army instead of that of Israel, once claimed that the Palestinians exist “to destroy Israel.” He has his Democratic Party counterpart in Hollywood’s Haim Saban, the principal donor to the Hillary Clinton campaign, who has claimed that he is a one issue guy and that issue is Israel.
Indeed, liberal Jews understand perfectly well, just as do most other observers, that the Israel story is a tale of follow the money, even if it is not considered polite to say so. The Jewish oligarch billionaires club – Adelson, Saban, Bernard Marcus, Paul Singer, Larry Ellison – who are to a man obsessed with protecting Israel, work together with major Jewish organizations to dominate the American political class through their largesse. Inevitably, they expect a quid pro quo and they almost always get what they want.
And then there are the venal bootlicking politicians who wallow in Israel-love for tribal reasons, my favorites being Senators Chuck Schumer and Ben Cardin. Schumer has designated himself the “shomer” or defender of Israel in the U.S. Senate, leading one to ask how is it possible that the voters in New York elect someone who says openly that he will protect the interests of another country rather than the United States? And how does such a reptile become Senate Minority Leader? More money assiduously applied to the Democratic National Committee, one suspects.
Allan Brownfeld of the American Council for Judaism describes the situation with considerable clarity. He says Judaism is a religion and Israel is a country. The two should never be confused and active or tacit support for the bad behavior by Israel actually damages the ethical basis of Judaism. American Jews are first and foremost Americans and that is where their loyalty should lie, not with a foreign country.
Gilad Atzmon has a somewhat different take on the dilemma confronting diaspora Jews who are somewhat befuddled, if not completely convinced, by the Israeli government claims that it represents all Jews worldwide. He writes “if Israel defines itself as the Jewish State and decorates its F-35s with Jewish symbols, we are entitled to ask who are the Jews, what is Judaism, what is Jewishness and how all these terms relate to each other! Evidently these questions terrify some Jewish ethnic activists.”
Some would argue that there is growing sentiment among liberal American Jews, particularly the younger ones, to dissociate from Israel and to condemn its behavior. To be sure this would appear to be true, and there are also numerous Jewish dominated “progressive” organizations that are highly critical of Israel’s current government. Many of them are astonishingly ineffective, suggesting that there is a certain ambivalence among the critics. This arises in part, I suspect, because they ultimately want to protect Israel as a Jewish state, only demanding that it somehow behave better and be nice to the Palestinians, but there is no likelihood that that will happen in the foreseeable future given the lack of any significant political party in Israel that would support such a development.
This process of rationalizing ultimately contradictory theses has been described as working from inside the Jewish bubble and is related to the politics of Jewish identity. Groups like Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) do not really see themselves as Americans speaking to other Americans about the impact of Israel on the United States. Instead, they identify as Jews addressing worldwide Jewry over the issue of how to support Jewish supremacy in Israel/Palestine as a sine qua non of Jewish identity while doing what is necessary to avoid unpleasant consequences. The effect of this ambivalence from inside is corrosive, leading some to believe that Jewish gatekeepers will successfully misdirect grassroots movements like Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) to make sure that they do no real damage to the Jewish state just as they have already hamstrung groups demanding an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.
It has also been observed that Jewish liberals who oppose Israeli policies frequently have more pity for themselves than for the people under Netanyahu’s jackboot and their proposals frequently defer to Israeli interests. And sometimes there are personal interests at stake. Rebecca Vilkomerson of JVP, who was blacklisted by Israel and will be unable to travel there, is married to an Israeli Jonathan Lebowitsch, who is a Solution Architect at Checkpoint, a cybersecurity company with ties to the Israeli military. She is now for the first time living with a reality imposed by the Israeli government that is analogous to what many Palestinians have experienced since 1948, i.e. being unable to go back to the homes that their families have lived in for generations. And she is a Jew who has broken no law, dealing with a Jewish state that is proclaimed to be the “only democracy in the Middle East.”
Other groups like J-Street veer even further in the direction of compromise with Israeli interests, basically wanting a Jewish state that is less offensive to the international audience, with some kind of fantasy concordat with the Arabs that will make the issue of what kind of place Israel really is less visible. Some time ago, I attended a J Street sponsored talk by a retired Israeli general who was supposed to be of the “peace” party. His message: “Iran must be destroyed.”
I used to believe that educating the American public about what is really going on in the Middle East would bring about a change in policy. I don’t believe it any longer because Jews control the media and the message. As Peter Beinart puts it, “In part that’s because establishment Jewish discourse about Israel is, in large measure, American public discourse about Israel. Watch a discussion of Israel on American TV and what you’ll hear, much of the time, is a liberal American Jew (Thomas Friedman, David Remnick) talking to a centrist American Jew (Dennis Ross, Alan Dershowitz) talking to a hawkish American Jew (William Kristol, Charles Krauthammer), each articulating different Zionist positions.”
And beyond the media there is the heavy hand of the agitprop being disseminated by the Trump Administration. U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who recently tried to expunge the word “occupation” from the State Department language describing Israel’s colonization of the West Bank, claimed falsely last week that the Palestinians and their leadership are to blame for the lack of a peace deal with Israel. The statement by Friedman denounced Hamas for praising a drive-by shooting that killed an Israeli Rabbi in a West Bank attack. “An Israeli father of six was killed last night in cold blood by Palestinian terrorists. Hamas praises the killers and PA laws will provide them financial rewards.” Friedman said. “Look no further to why there is no peace.” Friedman supports the fanatical settler movement and has never expressed any sympathy for the far more numerous Palestinian children killed in the past two months by Israeli security forces.
It is undoubtedly true that an increasing number of Jewish American liberals have been troubled by the Israeli police state, which politically has tilted increasingly hard right. Even with an accommodating media, the Israeli refusal to end the occupation of the West Bank and the strangling of the open-air prison that is Gaza have been very visible and have made many question the state’s democratic pretensions. The military domination of a subject population also has a demographic downside in that the land controlled by Israel includes over 6.2 million Palestinian Arabs and about 6.5 million Jews. The Palestinian birthrate is higher than the Jewish birthrate and, in twenty years, Arabs will outnumber Jews in what might be described as Greater Israel, but it is now clear that Israel as it currently sees itself will never grant those Arabs equal rights or give up its attempt to completely dominate the region from the Jordan River to the sea.
Why is all this obsessing over the paradoxical behavior of Jewish liberals important? It is important because American Jews are hugely over-represented in the places that matter: in the media, in entertainment, in politics, in financial services, in the professions, in the arts and in education. It has been my own personal experience that some prominent Jewish critics of Israel resent identical criticism coming from non-Jews and tend to use their resources to marginalize it, frequently alleging that it is motivated by anti-Semitism. That means that the goyim will never be able to shift the press or congress or the White House about how awful the connection with Israel really is, no matter what we say or do, but as soon as Jewish American liberals get on board and convince themselves that they cannot stand any more of the lying about Israel change will come. It is all about Jewish power in America, but this time as a potential positive force. Guys like Jerry Seinfeld will have to figure out that performing in Israel and playing around for a laugh at their counter-terrorist indoctrination centers that simulate shooting Arabs is not exactly acceptable. We might even get Hollywood on board to produce an honest movie about the plight of the Palestinians.
Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is www.councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is [email protected]