Is Israel Morphing into a Militaristic, Racist Country?

Liberal Zionism in the "good old days".

Dr. Harold Goldmeier

OpEds Dr. Harold Goldmeier
Dr. Harold Goldmeier
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We are in the season when Jews admit their guilt for sins committed and repeated. We promise to repent and act better next year.  What better time for liberal Jews to encourage Israelis to forgive their enemies, be serious about making peace, and forsake religious extremism? Are Israelis so evil that co-religionists are justified calling Israelis militarists and racists?    

In a recent New York Times editorial, Israel is warned that American Jews feel a growing dissonance with Israel as Israel moves to the political right.

Moving to the right means taking a hard line on negotiations for a two-state solution. Israel is growing intolerant of rocket fire from Gaza and pounding back with ever increasing ferocity. It is making the Palestinians pay higher prices in land appropriations and nighttime raids in response to terror attacks on Jews. 

This forewarning of the price Israel is paying was explained in more detail by Antony Lerman’s assessment of modern Israel in NYT Op-Ed piece. The Britain-based persistent critic of Israel claims liberal Zionism is gasping its last breath.  He bemoans its replacement by a tenacious web of “shock and awe militarism” and religious extremism.  I agree with Lerman,, and with the Times, on the change in Israel, not because Israel is evil and bloodthirsty, but for another reason, which Lerman and the left give short shrift.

The swing to the right is a natural reaction to constant existential threats, repeated sardonic abandonment by one-time friends, decades of war, terror attacks, missiles and mortars, denial and degradation of Jewish history.           

Lerman, and what remains of the Left, misses the Israel of yesteryear: the pioneering kibbutniks dancing the Hora in their shorts and kova tembel hats; fighting off British supplied Arab armies and Palestinian marauders with smuggled Czech rifles, pots and pans. When the only sweet, cold and thirst quenching in the desert heat, were Sabras floating in tubs of ice water sold by street vendors.           

Politics and government were in the hands of socialists, liberals, and anti-religious decision makers then. Freedom from moribund religious ties became the cornerstone of the utopian socialist Zionists. Zionism replaced Judaism. The 1950’s and 60’s were heady times. His service in the IDF was enthralling and romantic.           

The new power elite is neo-conservatives and religious fanatics, he claims. They tarnish “the reality of modern Israel” attacking freedom of speech and human rights organizations. They are land-grabbing settlers. The country is infected by anti-Arab and anti-immigrant racism, and intolerance of religious differences. The “mixture has pushed liberal Zionism to the brink,” he pines in a daze of nostalgia.           


Liberal Zionists shipped Sephardic immigrants Jews off to segregated camps, dust bowl communities, and stole their kids.
I believe Israel is a more tolerant, dynamic, and free society today than in Lerman’s memory.

Today we integrate immigrants of color into society.  Liberal Zionists shipped Sephardic immigrants Jews off to segregated camps, dust bowl communities, and stole their kids.

Lerman’s heroes indoctrinated immigrants with imperious and impious Zionistic East European culture. Sephardic and religious Jews were systematically locked out of government.

The liberal Zionists never initiated a two-state solution, but ruthlessly, for self preservation, authorized special forces like those under Ariel Sharon to track down and eliminate Palestinian terrorists no matter leaving dead civilians in their wake. They kept Gaza occupied and underdeveloped. The liberal Zionists exacted revenge worldwide for the killing of Jews.           

Today, Israel enjoys its multinational mishmash of peoples, including significant intermarriage rates between Sephardim and Ashkenazim, black Ethiopians and whites, chyulim secularists and observant traditionalists. It took 60 years for Sephardim and religious Jews to break the glass ceilings in military, politics, and industry.           

Concomitantly, urbanization replaced rural life; hi-tech and bio-med replaced agricultural economic dominance; higher education meant more than physical labor in the changing Israel; and most significantly, a hi-tech, disciplined military replaced the ragtag civilian defenders, but it also made Israel into an arms exporter and top dog.           

The miraculous events of the Six Days War thrust the tiny State of Israel onto the world scene slaying the powerful unified Arab armies. She lost her innocence, as European religions, values, military prowess, and old World power crumbled.  Post 1967, the Woodstock generation saw Israel as another nuclear armed, prodigious fighting force, oppressors and colonizers.

Israel’s economy began morphing into the start-up nation. Capitalism sliced through old socialist hamstrings in Israel.           

Social liberals in the West became more resentful of Israel, and excised   Israel’s socialist leaders Golda and Rabin from their leftwing club.  Israel’s leaping standard of living, achievements in education, health care, medical, science, and a plethora of Nobel and other prizes, produced envy not admiration. Israel’s military and intelligence successes make her the neighborhood bully, blamed for Arab peoples languishing in misery, without mention of Arab leadership living lavishly on Europe’s and American handouts.              

Lerman returned home from his Israel excursion to Britain nurturing liberal Zionism philosophy from afar. Elsewhere, he wistfully describes life with his Christian wife, their celebration of Christmas and other holidays, as an exemplar of what Liberal Zionism has to offer the open-minded and good hearted.           

Israelis became less tolerant over the decades of Arab hatred, boycotts, and launching wars. In time, the voters turned to conservative politicians and religious salvation, since the left never brought lasting peace or prosperity to the country. Ths was a natural response to years of lost lives and opportunities with young adults serving in the army; families torn asunder by dead fathers or disappearing for months serving in military guard duty; politicians with no time to focus on social problems for a developing society, because of the unquestionable demand to remain five steps ahead of sworn enemies like Hamas today who in each generation of the State promise to wipe Israel off the map.            

High taxes were needed to pay for self-defense stymied economic growth. Immigrants and survivors, the memory keepers of Jewish history, rejected the misology of their centuries in Arab lands and Europe. They revealed how brutalized they were by Muslim persecutors and Christian anti-Semites. Jews hone hate and their children mistrust. Israel’s fortitude is not limitless.              

Nevertheless, few countries treat their enemies with the kindness the Jews treat Arabs, give of themselves during tragedies like Haiti, and throughout Africa.

Suffice to say Israel is one of the most generous countries on earth in spite of not being a nation run by liberal Zionists.           

Lerman declares, “They should know that Israel is not Judaism. Jewish history did not culminate in the creation of the state of Israel. Regrettably, there is a dearth of Jewish leaders telling Diaspora Jews these truths.”           

There you have it.  The elusive explanation of why some Jews are so fed up with Israel they may not care if the State survives. It has been a heart rending mystery to Israel supporters—Jews, Christians, and Muslims. We are confused and slightly heartbroken when our own people attack Israel; when they undermine their own people collaborating in name-calling, boycotts and sanctions.           

Israel is better behaved than her neighbors. Israel has a better human rights record than the world superpowers, holds regular, free elections empowering minorities in her sovereignty. Israel more than most strives to ensure the values expressed in the Magna Carta, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man, the U. S. Constitution and Bill of Rights ensured by an activist judiciary and hot-tempered parliament.           

Dr. Seuss asked his countrymen during World War II, “What have you done today to help save your country from them?” America is not perfect. It’s a shame Lerman and the anti-Israel cabal of Chait, Friedman, and Beinart he names cannot be as loyal to Israel as Dr. Seuss was to America.

Dr. Harold Goldmeier is a university instructor in Tel Aviv, business advisor, and writer. He was a Research and Teaching Fellow at Harvard, worked for four U.S. Governors, and President of a company before moving to Israel.



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