The 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding, coupled with the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem and the mass protests and killings in Gaza, gives every indication of being a turning point. Israel is not divorcing America’s liberal Jewish community quite yet, but it is well on its way to estrangement.
Not surprisingly, the media coverage of what’s happening on the ground has fallen behind. The sight of Israeli Defense Force snipers shooting unarmed protesters is indeed appalling. Yet the punditocracy remains filled with those who do not merely excuse Israel’s use of excessive force but actively praise it.
This is particularly true of the New York Times op-ed page, which, aside from Michelle Goldberg’s laments for the fate of liberal Zionism, is dominated by apologists for the Netanyahu government. Shmuel Rosner is one of a dwindling number who see their role as defending Israel to liberal Jews. He authored a Times op-ed that was headlined with a phrase that ought to shock defenders of Israel: “Israel Needs to Protect Its Borders. By Whatever Means Necessary.” In the piece, Rosner argues, “Guarding the border was more important than avoiding killing, and guarding the border is what Israel did successfully.” Rosner even tried to justify the use of live bullets. We so often hear that Israel is a technocratic marvel, but is murder by sniper really the best method of border control it can come up with?
Yossi Klein Halevi is a more skillful and honest pro-Israel commentator. In The Wall Street Journal a few weeks earlier, Halevi wrote a measured, relatively balanced column, whose essential thesis was nevertheless irrelevant: “What has been missed by most observers is the rare clarifying moment that this confrontation has offered: The March of Return is an explicit negation of a two-state solution, with a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza coexisting beside Israel.” This may be true, but it is beside the point, since Israel is ruled by a party that not only explicitly rejects Palestinian statehood but also seeks to make such a solution impossible in the future. If Israel is not practicing apartheid today—and that point is arguable—there can be no doubt that it is planning its implementation soon. There is simply no other way to continue the 51-year occupation and retain the state’s Jewish character.
No doubt the most prominent member of the “Israel is always right” brigade is the Times’ Bret Stephens, formerly of the Journal, where he was known to complain of the “disease of the Arab mind.” In his latest column on Gaza, Stephens can’t even write the word “occupation” without derisive quotation marks. He whines, Trumplike, “Why is nothing expected of Palestinians, and everything forgiven, while everything is expected of Israelis, and nothing forgiven?”