Collateral Damage

Judicial reform and arguments against it have crossed certain red lines. One of them is the active and militant participation of members of the necessary and vital Israel Defense Forces.

Michigan State Sen. Sylvia Santana apologized on Aug. 10 for traveling to Israel. The senator posted on Facebook that she should have exercised more discretion in accepting the invitation of the Jewish Federation of Michigan, which sponsored the trip. She acknowledged that her visit sparked anger and disappointment among her constituents in the Arab Muslim community.

Some spokespeople expressed their displeasure at the visit to a country that certain Europeans are boycotting given that President Joe Biden has not yet decided to receive Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, as has been the custom of many presidents when there is a change of government in Israel. The reaction of Sen. Santana’s Arab Muslim constituents to her visit was not surprising.

The senator’s submission to pressure from a constituent group, however, was surprising, as was her [subsequent] rebuff of the Jewish Federation of Michigan. The incident is noteworthy because it reflects a shift in the United States. Until recently, politicizing the issue of Israel was treated with more discretion and care because of Israel’s status and because Israel is a strategic ally of the imperial colossus.

Visits to Israel by senators and important American politicians have been routine, providing first-hand experience and the opportunity to forge bonds of friendship. There are always those who do not accept invitations or who return with critical opinions, but rarely have we witnessed a reaction like that of Santana or a pushback from her lobby. One thing is clear: Santana’s reaction and that of the Arab Muslim lobby have nothing to do with current domestic events in Israel; in particular, the much discussed judicial reform.

The Arab Muslim lobby condemned the visit, asked for explanation and found it wanting. Sen. Santana’s reaction adds to the conclusion that both her position and that of the Arab Muslim lobby are based on non-recognition of the right of Jews to an independent state and the denial of any negotiation process that would lower tension and achieve a decent solution to the serious and long-standing Palestinian problem.

It is repetitious and even tedious to discuss this again. But it is necessary. The Palestinian problem has a solution that recognizes the right of a Jewish state to exist and allows the parties to negotiate, knowing they will not achieve all their demands. All the pressure, particularly from those who have some influence in Arab and Muslim lobbies, should be on Palestinians to come to the negotiating table instead of expressing sterile solidarities that reaffirm mistaken positions.

Those positions have not borne fruit for the suffering Palestinians and perpetuate their drama — a drama like so many others in this region of this troubled world that is growing less important, less shocking. Rather than being seen as a crisis, it is perceived now as a regrettable but stable situation.

Turning to the subject of Israel, it is evident that domestic review of the judicial reform process has the country on tenterhooks. The seams of a complicated Israeli society are showing, and arguments and passions are surfacing, fomented by debate on the reform. The level of confrontation is very high, and there are those who fear it will affect Israel’s greatest vulnerability: its security.

The judicial reform and opposition to it have crossed certain red lines. One of them is the active and militant involvement of members of the necessary and vital Israel Defense Forces. Another is the use of outside elements to present the bad or good that reform might entail. Degrading the level of financial solvency affects the country, as does directly or indirectly enticing friendly or allied countries to express concern regarding the reform or issues that divide Israeli voters, a group that frequently shows itself at the ballot box.

It is necessary to be careful. Read all events well perhaps with Sen. Santana’s case in mind. She regrets her visit and offers many explanations, but this has nothing to do with the domestic Israeli debate and its consequences.

One thing is clear: Israel is a very peculiar country, and the eyes of friends and enemies scrutinize it with many and not always noble interests. The magnified internal debate, using media and factors that are not necessarily friendly or like-minded, generates collateral damage. But damage, nonetheless.

Elías Farache S. is vice president of the Confederaciòn de Asociaciones Israelita de Venezuela.

About this publication

About Patricia Simoni 182 Articles
I began contributing to Watching America in 2009 and continue to enjoy working with its dedicated translators and editors. Latin America, where I lived and worked for over four years, is of special interest to me. Presently a retiree, I live in Morgantown, West Virginia, where I enjoy the beauty of this rural state and traditional Appalachian fiddling with friends. Working toward the mission of WA, to help those in the U.S. see ourselves as others see us, gives me a sense of purpose.

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