A few days ago, a friend and I were discussing the exchange of rockets between Israel and Gaza. She condemned all of the violence as equally inexcusable and denied that there is any moral high-ground between Israel's government and Hamas. So I referred her to Senator Charles Schumer's recent op-ed in the New York Post, "There Is No Moral Equivalency Between Israel and Hamas." Her response was startling. "Well, that's not a biased source," she responded sarcastically, implying that the fact that Senator Schumer is Jewish absolves his credibility.
This person had just stripped from a U.S. senator of over fifteen years all integrity pertaining to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The sheer ignorance of such reflects a larger pattern shaping pro-Palestinian advocates.
Among critics of Israel and pro-Palestinian advocates, there's a common misconception that members of the pro-Israel community have views motivated by bias. The repeated term "Jewish lobby" encompasses this misperception -- that Jews are bound by a common ideology demanding support of Israel, unconditional of morality. Hence, pro-Israel advocates are seen as a categorically "biased source," heedless of the conflict's other side. As a result, their views lack credibility.
This is a delusion.
In reality, the pro-Israel community forms its position -- that Israel acts more morally than its enemies and therefore, deserves support -- based on evidence. Supporters of Israel look through history to examples like the multiple partition plans that Israel accepted and the Palestinians denied, and to the wars when their Arab neighbors collectively pledged to destroy the Jewish state. Supporters of Israel look through recent history, such as the past two decades marred by repeated Palestinian suicide attacks against Israeli civilians. Supporters of Israel look to the past few weeks, featuring Hamas indiscriminately launching rockets at Israeli noncombatants, as Israel performs precise strikes on terrorist strongholds in Gaza. These are logical reasons to support Israel, irrespective of religion.
There are even Jews who oppose the State of Israel. At every Israel Day parade, you'll find ultra-orthodox groups like the Satmar Hasidim and Neturei Karta behind barricades bellowing their anti-Zionist chants. Furthermore, there are minimally-affiliated Jews who, in overcompensated efforts to portray themselves as assimilated, sensitive "citizens of the world," unduly criticize Israel.
If pro-Israel advocacy were a matter of bias, there wouldn't be non-Jewish organizations supporting the cause. America's largest pro-Israel organization is Christians United for Israel, which draws inspiration from the Christian Bible. And among the most popular Twitter hashtags of the past few weeks has been #Indians4Israel. There's support for the Jewish state throughout the world that well transcends the Jewish community.
If any progress is to be made on the Arab-Israeli conflict, all parties have to come to the table without predispositions. Trying to de-legitimize the pro-Israel stance by calling it non-credible is an unsophisticated cop-out from joining this conversation. So for those advocates who deny the credibility of the pro-Israel movement, they might as well step away from the conversation because they are not advancing the prospect of peace. They are only further entrenching the difficulties we already face.
Follow Aaron Miller on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AaronJ_Miller