WASHINGTON (JTA) – Pro-Israel activists across the United States should be congratulated this week for confronting the fourth annual “Israeli Apartheid Week” – part of the ongoing campaign to vilify the Jewish state.
Facing up to the Israel-is-an-apartheid-state canard is an important service for Israel and for the cause of truth and justice.
But it’s a partial service.
Full service should address the danger to Israel’s Jewish and democratic nature if its government – and ours – does not insistently pursue a policy that leads to the creation of a Palestinian state.
Most Israelis have come to recognize that the consequence of failing to reach a two-state solution is either a binational state, which could not be Jewish, or an undemocratic regime where Palestinian residents could not enjoy equal rights.
It’s time for American Jews not only to confront the false charges that Israel practices “apartheid” but also to labor so that Israel does not face that fate.
Recently, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert underscored that notion in several courageous public statements.
In an interview with Israel’s daily Ha’aretz last November, Olmert warned that if the two-state solution collapsed, Israel would “face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, and as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished.”
Two weeks ago, at the annual Herzliya Conference, Olmert said: “Now we must understand that we do not have time. Once we were afraid of the possibility that the reality in Israel would force a binational state on us.” He continued: “For 60 years, we fought with unparalleled courage in order to avoid living in a reality of binationalism and in order to ensure that Israel exists as a Jewish and democratic state with a solid Jewish majority. We must act to this end and understand that such a reality is being created, and in a very short while it will be beyond our control.”
Olmert is talking about demography: In 2020, Arabs will be the majority of the overall population in historical Palestine – Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. He is talking about the deepening roots of Israeli settlements in the ground of the West Bank. He is talking about majorities in both societies – Israeli and Palestinian – that have not known any relationship between Jews and Arabs other than occupation accompanied by violence, humiliation, fear, hatred and enmity. He is talking about a growing perception, among both Israelis and Palestinians, that the other side does not want peace and is not a viable partner for peace.
Olmert’s point is that Israel’s national security – indeed, its very existence in the long run – hinges on the formation of a viable Palestinian state. His point is that a Palestinian state is a necessary condition for the survival and health of Israel as a democratic state with a solid Jewish majority.
Pro-Israel advocates in America do Israel a service when they confront canards and calumnies about Israel, often through effective public relations campaigns that give the Israeli side of the story or show Israel in a positive light.
While such efforts are important, they are not sufficient. What Israel needs now is more than “hasbara,” or propaganda, efforts. It needs help securing its character at least as much as it needs help polishing its image.
The implication for American friends of Israel is that defending Israel – on or off campus – means going beyond PR campaigns and into the realm of public policy. It means going the extra mile not only to defend Israel’s image but to actively support its government’s efforts to avert the deterioration toward binationalism.
Being truly pro-Israel in America today means actively working to support the peace process launched last November at Annapolis, Md. A negotiated two-state solution is the best way to defend Israel from turning into an apartheid-like regime.
Ori Nir is the spokesman for Americans for Peace Now. a Zionist organization that promotes Israel’s security through peace and supports the Israeli Peace Now movement.