American foreign policy American Jews Israel Israel lobby Lebanon

What can American Jews learn from the Winograd Commission?

I am starting to get private and public criticism about this blog from people who believe I am betraying Israel, people who believe I am justifying Israeli war crimes, people who don’t want Israel to exist, people who think the U.S. should provide knee-jerk support for every Israeli decision, and people who believe the U.S. should withhold all support from Israel…So I must be doing something right.

Here is one with elements that may well upset people in all of the ideological camps noted above, but especially the Israel right-or-wrong crowd:

Israel Policy Forum’s MJ Rosenberg, as expected, has written a provocative and instructive piece about the Winograd Commission report on the Israeli government’s handling of the Lebanon War. He thinks Member of Congress who called for a ceasefire, and therefore did not toe the line of the mainstream American Jewish community, are owed an apology. He doesn’t need my help to get (well-deserved) attention and I’ve never felt compelled to point readers in his direction. But his latest “IPFriday” is worth noting. Among his reactions to the Winograd report:

What of us here, the pro-Israel community?

We supported the war whole-heartedly. I didn’t think Israel had any choice but to hit back hard and, throughout the war, held my tongue (and pen) when I started to perceive that the war was going badly. I assumed the Israeli government knew what it was doing, that it wouldn’t risk its soldiers without a solid plan to accomplish the mission.

I was wrong. And so were all those who felt that this war was a necessary battle for Israel — in contrast to the various raids, skirmishes and attacks on Palestinians which accomplish little other than to take lives and postpone the negotiations that will end the conflict.

Especially wrong were those people who tried to shut down criticism of the war by people who understood that it was a mistake, like the Members of Congress who spoke up and said that the United States should help end the conflict by seeking a cease-fire.

The response these Members of Congress received from local community leaders who wear the pro-Israel mantle was loudly and unambiguously negative. They were told that their call for a cease-fire was inappropriate. They were summoned to community meetings where they had to defend themselves against the charge of being anti-Israel.

Now we see that these Members of Congress were not wrong. A cease-fire, once the war started going badly for Israel (which was the precise point that the Congressional cease-fire calls were issued) would have saved dozens of Israeli and hundreds of Lebanese lives.

Those dissenting Members of Congress clearly deserve an apology. After all, the Winograd Commission and, essentially, the entire population of Israel now agree that the war was a debacle.

But apologies aren’t likely. Despite everything we have learned, there are still those spokespeople for the pro-Israel community who believe that lockstep support of official positions is invariably right. No matter that they have been proven wrong, over and over again.

The good news is that the pro-Israel community is changing. Nobody loses their Congressional seat for telling the status quo crowd what they don’t want to hear. Sure, they get some flack from those champions of the status quo. But that is about it. And more and more people in the pro-Israel community want their Representatives to speak up when they perceive our (or Israel’s) policies to be damaging — damaging to America and damaging to Israel. The ice is cracking. The Winograd Report only helps.

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