A lot of folks are passing around an excellent column by Chemi Shalev in Haaretz saying that the Israel lobby is overreaching; it has so nakedly manipulated the US discourse, from the Brooklyn College flap to the Chuck Hagel hearing to the presidential debates of last fall, that it’s exposing itself in the eyes of sensible people and will ultimately undermine US support for Israel.
Far more Americans know of the Palestinian BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement today than did a week ago. Many millions of people have been exposed for the first time to the idea that Israel should be boycotted, divested and sanctioned for its occupation of the territories. Many more Americans, one can safely assume, have formed a positive image of the BDS movement than those who have now turned against it.
…Rather than focusing attention on what BDS critics describe as the movement’s deceitful veneer over its opposition to the very existence of Israel, the disproportionate onslaught succeeded in casting the BDS speakers who came to the Brooklyn campus as freedom-loving victims being hounded and oppressed by the forces of darkness.
…The Brooklyn College incident, after all, is far from isolated. It is, in fact, symptomatic. The distressing tone and self-defeating tactics of the most vocal elements of the so-called pro-Israeli camp in America have been the rule, not the exception, in recent years, and they are also bound to backfire on us all.
This inflated and melodramatic nature of what passes as political pro-Israelism was evident to many Americans, as the New York Times correctly noted, in the dismayingly over-the-top inquisition of Chuck Hagel at his confirmation hearings in the Senate last week. Senator after senator found it necessary to extract from Hagel meaningless vows of allegiance to Israel and to press him again and again on the etymology and usage of the two or three words he may have used many years ago.
The Armed Services Committee devoted more time to Israel than it did to all the other world trouble spots combined, a proportion no less preposterous, frankly, than the comparison between a college get together and a second Holocaust.
But that’s the way it’s been over the past year, since the Republican debates and primaries and throughout the presidential election campaign: disproportionate, hyperbolic and ultimately counterproductive….
This preposterously simplistic portrayal of Israel is bound to backfire. It is dishonest, and therefore self-defeating. It quashes disagreement and abhors true debate. It distances anyone and everyone who does not subscribe to its narrow definitions of what it means to love Israel and to truly support it, warts and all.
And it will eventually erode the genuine bedrock of support that Israel enjoys in America.
It will be like Brooklyn, but on a much grander scale.