This past Thursday, I was on the Riz Kahn show on Al Jazeera English. along with Mitchell Barak, CEO of Keevoon, a polling firm. The more I do these media gigs, the more I understand the impossibility of commenting on the Middle East, American foreign policy and American Jews without offending someone.
In this case, for this audience, I was delighted to get the opportunity to point out that even though Israel has one of the most powerful militaries in the world, the security threats it faces are NOT the concoctions of fear mongers; the possibility of Iranian nukes, Syrian chemical weapons, Hamas rockets reaching Israel’s coastal plain from the West Bank cannot be discounted or disregarded. I stated that Israel had to continue developing weapons to maintain its defensive capacities, but that trying turn down the regional temperature via diplomacy was critically important. So, hundreds of thousands of Israel-bashers were probably infuriated.
I also provided standard-issue sound bites on behalf of the pro-Israel, American Jewish left: e.g., Obama needs the political wiggle-room to lean on both sides of the conflict, rather than just one side; there is no contradiction between between being pro-Israeli, pro-Palestinian and pro-American, as we all share an interest in ending the occupation and a peaceful, two state solution, etc. etc. So, those in the pro-Israel community who passively accept the status quo (who knows how many? Al-Jazeera is increasingly popular in Israel, I hear) were probably infuriated.
The question is, how many passionate moderates were in that audience -in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, small pockets of North America? How many Al Jazeera fans are willing to admit to themselves, if not to each other, that Israeli fears are based on tangible realities, even if they are sometimes overblown and exaggerated by politicians and activists? How many are willing to swallow their distaste at the idea that it is possible to be “pro-Israel” and not the incarnation of evil? Not many, I fear.