THE BLOG
10/14/2014 02:13 pm ET Updated Dec 14, 2014

Does Israel Have to Be Likable?

It's no secret that Israel has a bit of a P.R. problem. Especially after this summer's graphic Gaza operation, Israel supporters across the country have their hands wringing: how do you make Israel likable? How do you make the case for Israel when Israel has bigger guns and smaller casualties? Against a backdrop of bloody pictures from Gaza, garnering sympathy for the Jewish state seems almost impossible.

There are a couple of different strategies. One is touting Israel's liberalism -- democracy, free speech, and so forth. This goes along with Israel's technological achievements.

Another is everyone's famous word: context, context, context. Reframing the conflict. While much of the world labels the crisis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is really the Arab-Israeli conflict. Israel is clearly the underdog in the middle of a hostile Middle East. Just factoring in the reality of the Palestinian state being an Iranian client state escalates things quickly.

These are all important points to make. Necessary, even. Yet there is also an inherent flaw here: Trying to cast Israel as the likable underdog goes against the very reason Israel was established.

Israel was created so the Jewish people could be strong. So their existence would not be conditional on a society's favor, or whether or not other people "liked them."

Bret Stephens, a foreign affairs columnist for the Wall Street Journal and former Editor-in-Chief of the Jerusalem Post, takes this to the extreme. He calls the people who fight for a battered image of Israel "Holocaust Fetishists," and describes them as such:

"The people who confuse victimization -- whether genuine or perceived - with righteousness. And who look at Jewish powerlessness as a kind of moral ideal that Zionism, as a philosophy of Jewish empowerment, betrays by its very nature."


You can't be a Zionist and try to make Israel small. Zionism is not about being liked. It is about the opposite -- freedom from the mercy of others.