Israel should be seen accurately

BY GALIT LEV-HARIR

Both of the commentaries on Aug. 20 — by J.J. Flotken and David Rubin — represented calls to action for Jewish individuals in St. Louis. Flotken’s article called upon Jewish Baby Boomer offspring to participate in their synagogues and in other community Jewish organizations, whereas David Rubin called upon Jews to speak out against anti-Semitism whenever it appears, and to educate our children to know the details of the Jewish religion, to be proud of it, and to be proud of our fellow Jews.

I would like to add another call to action. Israel is regularly portrayed in the mainstream media as the aggressor in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Far too often, Jews hear or see others attacking Israel, claiming that Israeli soldiers have killed Palestinian civilians or that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have imposed hardship on Palestinians by requiring them to pass through security checkpoints or by constructing a security barrier that divides Palestinians from their farmlands. On occasion, the media displays images of Palestinians who claim that Israeli soldiers destroyed their homes or killed their children.

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Too often, Jews remain silent in the face of such allegations, often because they do not know how to respond, or because they think that the allegations may be true.

It is important to recognize that allegations against Israel are often the product of what Phyllis Chesler calls “The New Anti-Semitism.” Often European leaders’ criticism of Israel is no more than thinly-disguised Jew-hatred. Additionally, Islamic clerics throughout the world routinely teach their disciples that Jews do not have a historical connection to the Land of Israel and that the Holocaust never occurred, and they regularly present anti-Semitic manifestos, such as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, as fact.

We should defend Israel against hate in the same way that David Rubin calls upon us to defend the Jewish family against hate.

Israel is committed to adhering to high moral standards in all of its military actions. Despite the fact that over a quarter of a million Israelis in the south are subjected to a daily rain of Kassam and GRAD rockets, Israeli military activities have never, ever targeted civilians. Moreover, Israeli legal authorities are invariably consulted before the approval of military operational plans and all military actions are subject to stringent judicial review by the Israeli High Court of Justice.

The IDF takes every possible precaution to avoid civilian casualties, including notifying residents prior to the time that a house is destroyed or that an offensive action is conducted against a military target. Also, checkpoints and the security barrier were established for the sole purpose of preventing suicide bombers from entering Israel, and have proven to be extremely effective at preventing suicide bombers from carrying out their deadly missions.

Viewers should be skeptical when the media shows footage demonizing Israel. For example, in September 2000, the media charged that Israeli forces killed a Palestinian boy named Muhammad al-Durah; however, a court case against France 2 television later proved that the entire event was staged, with the knowledge of the cameraman. Likewise, in April 2002, the media claimed that Israeli soldiers massacred Palestinians in Jenin, although subsequent investigations found no evidence to substantiate these charges, and it was determined that a massacre had not occurred.

What is the message here for the St. Louis Jewish community? The message is: we should take the time to investigate offensive allegations against Israel; we should speak out against anti-Israel propaganda whenever it appears; and we should educate ourselves and our children to know the history of the conflict in the Middle East and to be proud of Israel’s accomplishments in the world.

Galit Lev-Harir participates in the Israel Response Group and the Israel Speakers Bureau organized by the St. Louis Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), and she invites others to join her by contacting JCRC. For those wanting to learn more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she recommends The Case For Israel by Alan Dershowitz.