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What do 'pro-Israel' image-mongers actually stand for?

A lengthy Forward article by Nathan Guttman describes the makeover of The Israel Project (TIP) following the replacement of its founder and leader, with erstwhile AIPAC killer-shark Josh Block. The breathless description of his battering-ram personality almost had me swept along – almost.

And when I say swept along, I mean that it is tempting to jump into the ring and do battle – fight fire with fire, stake out the liberal ground in the professional ring of image-peddlers for Israel (IPFI?).

Just what we need.

The Israel Project President and CEO Josh Block (Photo: TIP/CC)

What really grates is the author’s description of Block’s self-image as a defender not merely of Israel, but even more nobly – of the pro-Israel crowd.

Block, while stating that TIP’s mission and goals remain unchanged, comes to the organization with strong convictions about threats that pro-Israel advocacy faces from critics. He sees many of those critics as aligned with the liberal camp. And he paints them in stark terms.

So that’s what this is all about? The conversation over Israel has levitated from policy itself (like the occupation, stupid) to the meta-argument over whether Israel’s image is fairly or unfairly portrayed, to the meta-meta (uber-meta? meta squared?) conversation of whether the pro-Israel camp (a flawed euphemism for pro-occupation) is fairly or unfairly portrayed by the liberal camp, and whether those liberals are fairly or unfairly being called anti-Israel, anti-Semitic, Iran-loving and by association, nuclear-destruction-second-Holocaust-of-Israel extra-terrestrials (all but the final moniker is a paraphrase of Block’s quote in the article – but trust me, it’s there by implication).

Although I work on campaigns for a living, in which images and communications are integral to the effort to connect elites with the public, the question of imaging Israel has gone far, far too far.

I dare each camp to say what it really stands for regarding Israel, and while we’re at it, for the Palestinians too – since Israel does in fact control them. Specifically, I dare the other side to stop trying to distract the conversation, along with millions and millions of dollars, by mumbling about meta-meta. I’ll start! Here’s what I stand for: ending the occupation, preserving and salvaging Israel’s democracy, equality and human rights in every society where I can have an influence. That means mainly in Israel, but since I view Israelis and Palestinians as intertwined under any circumstances, I feel somewhat responsible for both.

I dare the pro-Israel camp to say what it stands for. Members of that camp have created a wildly polarized, self-important discourse (after meeting one recently, he tweeted his surprise to find that I was not a “bat-shit crazy leftie”); so I would have to guess that they are diametrically opposed to everything I believe. That makes the “pro-Israel” camp pro-occupation, anti-democracy, anti-equality, for a pre-emptive strike on Iran even if it happens unilaterally and the Middle East becomes Armageddon. Go on guys, say what you really think: I dare you. And if you can’t, then spend those dollars on some starving people.

Who is ‘right-wing’ and what is ‘pro-Israel’? 

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    1. XYZ

      You don’t seem to realize your comment that you feel “somewhat responsible for both (Israel and Palestinians) is actually quite condescending, but is typical of Jewish ‘progressive’ thinking. You act as if you know what is best for Palestinians and you end up speaking for them. You have decided what it is they want and that happens to be what YOU want, i.e. “two states living side by side in peacea and harmony, etc, etc, etc”. That is why the “progressive” ignore what people like HAMAS think and even say, assuming that they can reach a deal with Abbas and that deal is based on the terms that the Israeli Left likes, ignoring demands for unrestricted right of return for Palestinian refugees, refusal to accept any acknowledgment of Jewish holy places and Jewish historical connection to them and to Eretz Israel as a whole. “Progressives” pretend that these will not be a problem and if only Israel accepts a withdrawal to the pre-67 lines, everything else will fall into place. They seem to think that Abbas will go against HAMAS and the considerable body of Palestinian and pan-Arab opinion even though Arafat (who had a lot more credibility on the Palestinian street than Abbas does) said clearly to Clinton that he would be assassinated if he made concessions in these bedrock issues. I don’t know what it will take to get the Jewish and Israeli ‘progressives’ to finally wake up and see the Arab-Israeli conflict for what it really is…an existential conflict that it is viewed by the Arab side as a zero-sum game (unfortunately for all of us).

      Reply to Comment
    2. Kolumn9

      If he tweeted his surprise that you are not a ‘bat-shit crazy lefty’ doesn’t that imply that you two do not have diametrically opposing beliefs?

      I don’t think there is a pro-Israel monolith whose views can be stereotyped. In general what the pro-Israel camp people have in common revolves around the desire for the continued existence and security of the state of Israel. Views on democracy, equality and territory are quite diverse.

      Here’s what I stand for: ending the occupation, preserving and salvaging Israel’s democracy and equality. Familiar? I also stand for securing the future of the state of Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    3. The Trepasser

      The I/P conflict has long became the meaning of life to quite a lot of people.

      It can’t be ended ever simply because too many are dependent on it as their primary source of income – or inspiration: Palestinians themselves, international agencies and all kinds of activists.

      Reply to Comment
      • Haifawi

        It’s not like you care. You live in a comfortable house, behind a fence, and can play in your Biblical backyard whenever you like.

        Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          It is good that you have an opinion, leftist.

          Pity that it’s worthless.

          Animals in the zoo live rather comfortably behind the fence.

          Reply to Comment
        • Deborah

          True enough.

          Reply to Comment
      • Blake

        @trespasser: So let me understand that correctly according to you human beings only care because we have no life? I will have you know I work 60 hours a week and give up a lot of my time to speak up for the oppressed. P.S. what an appropriate moniker you have there.

        Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          You did not understood me correctly.

          I work maybe few hours a week – the beauty of being self-employed top-notch specialist. So what?

          p.s. I nearly always am appropriate, even if it might not quite seem so.

          Reply to Comment
    4. Dany

      And there it is, the whole pro-israel Josh Blockfanclub, the x, the9 % the pisser. Can some one theRss give a call?

      Reply to Comment
    5. XZY, I’ll try not to be insulted that you have clearly not read much of my work, if you believe my thinking can be characterized as you have. I do think you’re quite mistaken to believe that only the Arab side views the conflict in zero sum terms.
      Kolumn, this was someone I met for perhaps 15 minutes. We did not get around to exchanging policy views. I think his comment was about my generally non-martian appearance or less cynically, the fact that we held a respectful, good-natured, if brief, conversation. I do believe it reflects his expectations that we at 972 are all “bat-shit crazy.”
      Trespasser, I’m sure you too have an opinion, however, I fail to understand what it is. Something tells me that it does not recall either Buber or Heschel.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        Which part of my opinion did you fail to understand?

        My dissatisfaction with Israel’s closed borders and need to live behind a fence is not obvious enough?

        Reply to Comment
    6. XYZ

      Dahlia, I am sorry if I have misrepresented your views but my considerable exposure to Israeli and Jewish Leftist or ‘Mugressive’ viewpoints has led me to the conclusions I stated. You have not convinced me that you have internalized views of HAMAS or Muslim Brotherhood thinking. I read a fairly sympathetic biography of MB thinker Sayyid Qutb by American historian John Calvert and even this exposition of Qutb’s view shows him saying that all the Jews have done since the time of Muhammed has been to be contsinually conspiring against Islam. Really. He wrote this in his seminal work “In the Shade of the Qur’an”. There is no place for Jews in the world except as docile dhimmis, certainly not even in a deJudaized Jewish majority state in Palestine. HAMAS is the local branch of the MB and the President of Egypt is in the MB. This is the Arab/Muslim thinking we are up against Zero-sum.

      Reply to Comment
      • Laith

        What a superbly ignorant comment. Firstly, as I’m sure you know, significant portions of the Arab population are not even Muslim, and secondly, even more Arabs than that are opposed to the MB and most everything it stands for – especially left-leaning arabs. You also forget that much of the Palestinian resistance and indeed the Arab leadership was secular and primarily opposed to the MB.. A paradigm which has shifted in large part due to Western interference in the Mid-East – including strategic Israeli sponsorship of Hamas as a buffer against the stronger secular movements of the time.

        Your tactic here is actually quite typical of your sort – find the most frightening representation of Arabs and use it as the color with which you paint your entire portrait.

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        • Leen

          Also calling the MB as true islamists is misleading. Morsi only cares about his hold on power, not Islam. Evidence? Recently women who were the hijab and abiya who were found in anti-Morsi rallies were dragged by Morsi’s (and the MB) security guards, beaten, stripped naked and sexually harrassed.

          So if they are so Islamic, why are they attacking women who adhere to the MB’s dress code?

          Reply to Comment
    7. XYZ

      First of all, the MB plus Nur-Salafists got 75% of the vote in parliamentary elections. The MB won the presidential election. No doubt there are many pious Muslims who reject the MB’s POLITICAL leadership but who subscribe to its religious views.
      Secondly, Christian Arabs are a marginal group, and in decline.
      Thirdly, you will have to prove to me that secular Arabs and Leftists Arabs are willing to accept the “two states for TWO PEOPLE’S” solution (I emphasize the word ‘PEOPLES’ which Abbas always leaves out).
      There is no doubt in my mind that the scenario I laid out represents a majority of Arab thinking.
      The time has come to forget about “peace agreemens” are work on “Modus vivendi” without endlessly nagging the Arabs to make peace agreements they can never agree to.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Max

      No need to read into it too much, it’s an old-fashioned money takeover. Previously somewhat-mainstream Israel org sees a shift in donors, or the power among top donors, and suddenly everybody at the top of the staff is out, and right-wing loudmouths are brought in to replace them. Happens all the time in DC.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Trespasser – I did not understand which side you believe to be animals, nor why you think it is an “appropriate” way to refer to people in any context, ever. (sorry, animal-lovers. He did not use this term as a demonstration of kindness)

      Reply to Comment
    10. The Trespasser


      Haifawi: You live in a comfortable house, behind a fence, and can play in your Biblical backyard whenever you like.

      The Trespasser: Animals in the zoo live rather comfortably behind the fence.

      Meaning that living behind a fence is not the best thing in the world, even though it might be somewhat comfortable.

      I do not see any significant difference between animals and people.

      Reply to Comment
    11. rsgengland

      I fully agree with the authors stand on what she desires for Israel.
      I am in much the same camp.
      I do believe that the problem in reaching an agreement with the Palestinians is mired in a minefield of pre-conceived ideals on both sides which need to be addressed.
      On the Palestinian side there is a split and undemocratic leadership, which does not have the power, legitimacy and courage to resolve the refugee right of return issue.
      On the Israeli side is the basic distrust and fear of making strategic deals with the Palestinians, and then for regime change to return the situation to square one.
      In this battle image is everything, and with the threat of BDS, Israeli supporters find they end up having to support policies that they would otherwise not , for fear of giving [or appearing] to support Israels enemies.

      Reply to Comment
      • Why not begin change where one is? Could not Israel make settlers accountable? Such a stand could be used by those Palestinians who want to find a (relatively) non-violent way out for all. And such a stand would remove a major international complaint. Nothing is said of withdrawal. Just apply the law as hard on settlers as resident Palestinians.

        The reason for the meta talk is that this fight is, outside Israel involves social and money links and is simply about getting one’s group said links. Being the meanest to the “enemy,” defining such as a Satanoic danger, is often the best way to do that; witness American primaries.

        I’m all for “IPFI” as a new “place to be” acronym. “Have you been IPFI’ed lately?”

        Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          >Such a stand could be used by those Palestinians who want to find a (relatively) non-violent way out for all.


          Number of Palestinians who want to find a (relatively) non-violent way out for all is minuscule and can not be taken into account.

          Reply to Comment
          • Leen

            Recently a poll was taken and 60% of Palestinians were found to support non-violent protests.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            Since there is about 0 (zero) Palestinian Arabs who are preventing violent protests, it is safe to assume that these polls are false.

            Reply to Comment
          • Leen

            I guess the security apparatus in the WB doesn’t exist.

            Or weirdly, when Hamas security guards where preventing Palestinians from approaching the boarders during Land Day last year, in case there would be hostilities.
            You can google it, youtube it. There’s quite a lot of pictures and footages on that, Hamas security people restraining some people from approaching the border.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            >I guess the security apparatus in the WB doesn’t exist.


            60% is three out of every five. But there is not ever 1 (one) person who would try to prevent violence.

            >There’s quite a lot of pictures and footages on that, Hamas security people restraining some people from approaching the border.

            Irrelevant as well. Hamas is preventing their own people from dying while attacking another state. What does it have to do with peace?

            Reply to Comment
          • Leen

            How is it irrelevant? The security apparatus are always there to make sure protestors don’t get violent. Hence how they prevent violent hostilites.

            ‘Irrelevant as well. Hamas is preventing their own people from dying while attacking another state. What does it have to do with peace?’
            Huh? Are you trying to detract? I never said anything about peace. You said there are 0 people preventing violent protests then I said Hamas Fatah security forces regularly prevent people from approaching the borders and confronting Israeli soldiers. So basically, your statement is false, regardless of the motives.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            >How is it irrelevant?

            Absolutely irrelevant.

            >The security apparatus are always there


            >to make sure protestors don’t get violent. Hence how they prevent violent hostilites.

            Oh, so throwing stones is not violence. Right?

            >… I said Hamas Fatah security forces regularly prevent people from approaching the borders and confronting Israeli soldiers.

            Again – 60% is three out of five. Majority.

            Clearly, there is no majority of any kind that would try to prevent violence.

            Reply to Comment
        • Haifawi

          100% agree. The first and best step towards ending this quagmire would be to begin applying military law towards the settlers.
          Until then, all this Jewish Israeli belly-aching about how “oh it’s so terrible that I need a fence” is meaningless, when we choose to live behind a fence and we FORCE the Palestinians to the same.

          Reply to Comment
    12. Boxthorn

      Answer: Israel

      Next question.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Ellen L.

      I have long had a problem with the terminology “pro-Israel.” FYI, it is not only the pro-occupation camp that invokes this phrase; groups such as J Street go out of their way to use it as well. But it seems to me to be “pro” one thing by definition means one has to be “anti” something else. I have no problem with being pro-peace (i.e., anti-war), or pro-democracy (i.e., anti-dictatorship). But what is the “anti” here? If you are “pro-Israel,” what exactly are you against? It is language that has the very unfortunate effect of reinforcing the prevailing “you’re either with us or you’re against” us mentality that plagues so much discussion about Israel, especially in the United States, the mentality that to varying degrees suggests that any criticism of Israel and Israeli policy is ultimately “anti-Israel.” So thank you for taking those who invoke this phrase to task. (As an American citizen, I would never use the absurdly simplistic and pointless phrase “pro-American.”) It really is a distraction from what we all need to be talking about and a disservice to the people who, like you, believe in ending the occupation and reinforcing democracy and human rights.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        >But what is the “anti” here? If you are “pro-Israel,” what exactly are you against?

        Against anti-Israelis or anti-Zionists. Isn’t it obvious?

        >…believe in ending the occupation and reinforcing democracy and human rights.

        “Democracy” and “human rights”?

        Palestinian Arabs had undemocratically denied Jews equal rights. WTF are you talking about?

        Reply to Comment
    14. Shmuel

      “Go on guys, say what you really think: I dare you”

      Not very hard at all. I stand for what Ehud Barak offered to Arafat in 2000/2001. And maybe even what Ehud Olmert offered in 2008.

      Did the Palestinians accept? No they did not. Ergo, I now believe the scare mongers. Those who say that the Arabs are still playing a zero sum game and they want Israel’s destruction.

      Reply to Comment
      • Arieh

        And what do ‘Arab Image Mongers’ stand for?

        They are like chameleons. They change their colors to suit the environment.

        Historically, when they felt confident in their ability to destroy the Jewish state, there was no concept of a ‘Palestinian People’ there was only a common Pan Arab dream to establish an Arab empire in the Middle East and they presented themselves as a goliath that will squash the Jewish state. I will never forget the image of a Syrian man who was interviewed by western media just befor the 1967 war and was asked who will win the war that everybody knew would be coming. He puffed out his chest and proudly crowed: “we Arabs are 100 million and we will finish Israel … ”

        After 1967 when it dawned on the ‘Arab Image Makers’ that Israel will not just go away, they changed their colors. To gain world sympathy, suddenly it was a case of a small, weak and oppressed ‘Palestinian People’ doing battle against an evil all encompassing, multi tentacled, Jewish Empire/Goliath.

        And people have fallen for it thanks to the tireless efforts of progressives such as +972 magazine, who prop up that argument on a daily basis.

        Reply to Comment
    15. Lilach

      Do you really have to ask that on the eve of the Holocaust memorial day? The ‘other side’, as you call it, stand for the survival of Jews. Whatever it takes, this is their main concern. This is why they were against providing arms to the PLO, which was later targeting Israelis, this is why they supported building the security fence, which eradicated terror attacks from Judea and Samaria, this is why they were against giving the Golan to the Syrians (I can only imagine what would be the situation in Northern Israel these days had they had the Golan…), and this is why they are against idiotic gestures, that would only put Jews in danger.

      If you still need some info, why don’t you read the following letter. It was written by Rabbi Kahane (a fellow New Yorker) a long time ago, but it is more relevant than ever…


      Dear World,

      I understand that you are upset by us, here in Israel.

      Indeed, it appears that you are quite upset, even angry.

      Indeed, every few years you seem to become upset by us. Today, it is the “brutal repression of the Palestinians”; yesterday it was Lebanon; before that it was the bombing of the nuclear reactor in Baghdad and the Yom Kippur War and the Sinai campaign. It appears that Jews who triumph and who, therefore, live, upset you most extraordinarily.

      Of course, dear world, long before there was an Israel, we – the Jewish people – upset you.

      We upset a German people who elected Hitler and upset an Austrian people who cheered his entry into Vienna and we upset a whole slew of Slavic nations – Poles, Slovaks, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Russians, Hungarians and Romanians. And we go back a long, long way in the history of world upset.

      We upset the Cossacks of Chmielnicki who massacred tens of thousands of us in 1648-49; we upset the Crusaders who, on their way to liberate the Holy Land, were so upset at Jews that they slaughtered untold numbers of us.

      For centuries, we upset a Roman Catholic Church that did its best to define our relationship through inquisitions, and we upset the arch-enemy of the church, Martin Luther, who, in his call to burn the synagogues and the Jews within them, showed an admirable Christian ecumenical spirit.

      And it is because we became so upset over upsetting you, dear world, that we decided to leave you – in a manner of speaking – and establish a Jewish state. The reasoning was that living in close contact with you, as resident-strangers in the various countries that comprise you, we upset you, irritate you and disturb you. What better notion, then, than to leave you (and thus love you)- and have you love us and so, we decided to come home – home to the same land we were driven out 1,900 years earlier by a Roman world that, apparently, we also upset.

      Alas, dear world, it appears that you are hard to please.

      Having left you and your pogroms and inquisitions and crusades and holocausts, having taken our leave of the general world to live alone in our own little state, we continue to upset you. You are upset that we repress the poor Palestinians. You are deeply angered over the fact that we do not give up the lands of 1967, which are clearly the obstacle to peace in the Middle East.

      Moscow is upset and Washington is upset. The “radical” Arabs are upset and the gentle Egyptian moderates are upset.

      Well, dear world, consider the reaction of a normal Jew from Israel.

      In 1920 and 1921 and 1929, there were no territories of 1967 to impede peace between Jews and Arabs. Indeed, there was no Jewish State to upset anybody. Nevertheless, the same oppressed and repressed Palestinians slaughtered tens of Jews in Jerusalem, Jaffa, Safed and Hebron. Indeed, 67 Jews were slaughtered one day in Hebron in 1929.

      Dear world, why did the Arabs – the Palestinians – massacre 67 Jews in one day in 1929? Could it have been their anger over Israeli aggression in 1967? And why were 510 Jewish men, women and children slaughtered in Arab riots between 1936-39? Was it because Arabs were upset over 1967?

      And when you, dear world, proposed a UN Partition Plan in 1947 that would have created a “Palestinian State” alongside a tiny Israel and the Arabs cried “no” and went to war and killed 6,000 Jews – was that “upset” caused by the aggression of 1967? And, by the way, dear world, why did we not hear your cry of “upset” then?

      The poor Palestinians who today kill Jews with explosives and firebombs and stones are part of the same people who when they had all the territories they now demand be given to them for their state -attempted to drive the Jewish state into the sea. The same twisted faces, the same hate, the same cry of “itbach-al-yahud” (Massacre the Jew!) that we hear and see today, were seen and heard then. The same people, the same dream – destroy Israel. What they failed to do yesterday, they dream of today, but we should not “repress” them.

      Dear world, you stood by during the holocaust and you stood by in 1948 as seven states launched a war that the Arab League proudly compared to the Mongol massacres.

      You stood by in 1967 as Nasser, wildly cheered by wild mobs in every Arab capital in the world, vowed to drive the Jews into the sea. And you would stand by tomorrow if Israel were facing extinction. And since we know that the Arabs-Palestinians dream daily of that extinction, we will do everything possible to remain alive in our own land. If that bothers you, dear world, well think of how many times in the past you bothered us.

      In any event, dear world, if you are bothered by us, here is one Jew in Israel who could not care less.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Peter Hindrup

      Interesting the belief that a wall will keep bombers out. Ack in the middle ages, yes, wall were relatively effective but today, when I hear ‘bombers’ I am looking for ‘planes or rockets, unimaginably high, loosing tonnes of bombs at each pass.

      The obvious act is that if the Palestinians get some solid support and they get aggressive, walls will be less than useless in deterring them. The very fact that walls can be portrayed as deterrents illustrates just how poorly armed are these people who are constantly portrayed as an existential threat to the Israelis, who constantly claim to have the third or fourth best, most modern equipped military in the world.

      Of course the fact is that they are effective only against the unarmed, or against stone throwing kids, women and children.

      It would be enormously generous of the Palestinians to accept a settlement of one secular democratic state, with all equal before the law. It is not the Palestinians that have to make concessions, but the illegal invaders who are war criminals under international law.

      Reply to Comment
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