The Voices of Israeli Government and Israeli Dissent

In his newly released book Zeal for Zion: Christians, Jews, and the Idea of the Promised Land, Shalom Goldman argues that Jewish Zionism was influenced by–and cannot be understood in isolation from–Christian culture generally and Christian Zionist culture specifically. Shedding light on the deep and interrelated roots of Christian-Jewish relations, fraught with tension and ambivalence, he finds that Christian support for the Jewish Zionist cause has been essential to the success of the movement.

Since the Israeli raid of the Gaza flotilla last week, Goldman has tuned in closely to public and media response in Israel and the United States. In an essay posted at Religion Dispatches, Goldman explores the diversity of opinion within Israel which has long been underreported in America. Goldman begins:

The Daily Alert newsletter sent by the Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations is quite predictable: the news sources it quotes are either the official statements of Israeli officials or media articles supportive of Israeli governmental policies. In the days after the Israeli interception of the Gaza Flotilla Daily Alert bombarded its subscribers with so-called ‘pro-Israel’ articles by pundits like Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Elliot Abrams, George W. Bush’s ‘Special Assistant… on Arab/Israel relations,’ and Sean Hannity, talk radio host and self-styled expert on Middle Eastern affairs.

American politicians from across the political spectrum are widely quoted in this daily report. That Joe Lieberman wrote that “Israel exercised her legitimate right of self-defense,” is not terribly surprising; that Joe Biden said that “Israel has an absolute right to deal with its security interest,” is perhaps a bit more so.

Or is it? For a steady diet of DA supports a world view in which it is inconceivable that Israel’s military, diplomatic and political situation is the result of its own actions. Rather, Israel seems to exist in a parallel dimension—one in which its actions are always justified, no matter what the actual circumstances are. While this worldview may make sense to those who consider Israel a ‘miracle’ it makes little sense to most others—especially to those Israelis, Arab and Jew, who dissent from their government’s policies. For twenty percent of Israel’s citizenry is Arab—and the dissenting voices among them are heard in the US even less frequently than those of their Jewish fellow-citizens.

Reading DA daily one would get no sense that there are other Israeli voices, some of them highly critical of their own government’s actions. Here I am not speaking of Israelis who are anti-Zionist or non-Zionist, but rather of loyal Israeli citizens who feel that the policies of their government endanger the welfare of the state. A rich tradition of such loyal dissent has been part of the fabric of Israeli life since the 1948 establishment of the state, but one would be hard pressed to learn this in the United States.

Goldman explores some of those voices of dissent in the rest of the essay. Read the full article, “Clueless in Gaza.”

You can read the introduction and first chapter of Goldman’s most recent book using the “view inside” feature in the widget below.