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Strangely, no such ambivalence has shown up in the American Jewish community’s public life. The main organizations and their leaders, the ones that raise tens of millions of dollars, reach hundreds of thousands of households — and most important, sway Congress — continue pumping out the same alarms they’ve been broadcasting for a half-century, as though nothing’s changed since 1985.
They’re regurgitated daily in editorials and op-ed essays, action alerts and electronic news digests. Every tinpot Arab who bashes Israel is the subject of dozens of urgent alarms. Interviews and speeches by Palestinian Authority leaders reiterating their commitment to coexistence and negotiated peace go unheard.
Stranger still, they’re trying to defend Israel by promoting doctrines that are, often as not, the opposite of what Israel’s actual defenders think. If you follow Israeli affairs from these shores, you’ve certainly heard that the so-called Arab Spring has left Israel surrounded by unprecedented new dangers. If you happened to attend the Jerusalem Post Conference in New York April 28, you would have heard a parade of Israel’s most senior military and intelligence figures declaring—unanimously—that Israel is more secure than it’s been in years because its neighbors are consumed with their own internal chaos.
Strangest of all, when friends and lovers of Israel hear from Israeli generals and spymasters, as they’re doing with increasingly frequency these days, they tend to respond not with reexamination but with disbelief and anger. That was the response from the audience at the last two Jerusalem Post conferences. That’s been the overwhelming response to “The Gatekeepers,” the Oscar-nominated Israeli documentary in which all six living ex-Shin Bet directors call for a change in Israeli policy and an end to the occupation of the West Bank.
You hear that they’re grandstanding. Or running for office. Or that the architects of Israel’s spy network were duped by a filmmaker. Or — I get this constantly — that they don’t know what they’re talking about. What do the heads of the Israeli army, the Mossad and the Shin Bet know about Israeli defense?
If it seems like you’re hearing about this a lot lately, that’s because Israel’s world-renowned security experts are speaking out more than ever before. The reason is that they’re scared.
Not scared of Syria or Iran. They’ll tell you they know how to handle problems like that. No, they’re scared that Israel is painting itself into a corner, turning itself into an international pariah. They’re scared that Israel will be boycotted, shut off from international credit markets, unable to buy spare parts for its tanks.
They’re scared that the next generation will move to Berlin and Los Angeles. That the Zionist dream will die. That’s why they’re speaking out — in newspapers, at conferences, in films.
And on May 21, former Mossad agent Tzipi Livni took the fight right to the Knesset.
Contact J.J. Goldberg at firstname.lastname@example.org