During the recent war in Gaza, many people and organizations labeled themselves as being "Pro-Israel." This label insinuates that their primary concern is reaching the best outcome for the state of Israel. The irony is that sometimes the most so-called "Pro-Israel" people are those who are advocating for policies that hurt Israel.
Israel is a parliamentary democracy with a multiparty system. There is a joke that says that everywhere there are two Jews, there are three opinions. You can't expect Israel to be any different. The 120 seats in the Knesset, the parliament of Israel, are divided between 12 parties who range from United Arab List, a Muslim party with four seats, to United Torah Judaism, an Ashkenazi orthodox party with, seven seats. The Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is the head of the largest party in the Knesset, Likud Yisrael Beiteinu, which in the last elections received a little bit over 23 percent of the vote. When asked who should lead the country, less than a quarter of Israelis chose to answer Benjamin Netanyahu, so why does it feel that among "Pro-Israel" Americans, Netanyahu's policies are a consensus?
The occupation is not sustainable, and there is no future for the state of Israel as long as it keeps ruling over a population of more than four million people. Many former generals have spoken about how the occupation is a threat to Israel's security. Naftali Bennett, the head of the Jewish Home party, which is to the right of the Likud on the political map, offered a weird annexation plan as a way to end the occupation. (Granted, this plan doesn't take the Palestinians into account and would have devastating consequences for the region if ever implemented.) Even Netanyahu himself, by agreeing to sit in the Kerry led talks, shows that he understands that things can't keep going as they are. The status quo of occupation is not sustainable, and the question should be what can be done and what form a solution will take, not if a solution is needed. But Netanyahu chooses stagnation, he chooses to maintain the occupation and not to end it.
If you are not supporting a solution to the occupation, you are not "Pro-Israel." War, violence, aerial attacks, building settlements, and giving statements about who you "will or will not talk to," are all road blocks for peace, and as such road blocks for the future of Israel. This voice exists in Israel. During the war, every Saturday, thousands went to the streets of Israel to protest Netanyahu's government's actions. They were all Israelis and "Pro-Israel," so how come in America they would be considered something else?
It is hard to see a war in your home country from afar. It is even harder when people who claim to love your home country judge you and your loyalty because of your beliefs. In a letter to American Jews, a group of Israelis who live in New York addressed that issue. " We are reaching out to you because we want to re-examine what it means to be Pro-Israel or Pro-Palestine. We argue that these terms might be one and the same. We believe that supporting equal rights for both peoples is the only way to build a better Israel and a better Palestine and we want the American Jewish community to stand behind that message," the letter, which has already been signed by more than 300 Israelis residing in the United States, reads.
A couple of weeks ago, the authors of the letter hosted a meetup of the group, which has become the Israelis For Sustainable Future. We met in a backyard in Brooklyn, and those who attended had a wide range of backgrounds, from CEO to art student. The main focus of the meeting was to plan next steps and how to make the letter reach as many people as possible. After the meeting some stayed a bit longer. We chatted in Hebrew, talked politics, and asked each other questions about what led us to New York. No one came here because of a lack of love for Israel. One came to do his PhD, another to pursue graphic design. I came because I fell in love with an American girl. The conversation surrounded politics, the letter, and how to end the occupation, but went on to discuss important issues such as where to find the humus that tastes the most like it does back at home. When I left the meeting I felt empowered. If you were to ask me what I did that Saturday, I would reply that I went to a meeting of a real Pro-Israel group.
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