Opinion | Susan Knopf: You represent what? | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Susan Knopf: You represent what?

Our mountain community seems a long way from the Middle East and Israel. We work to promote and respect diversity and value differences while they bicker for dominance between Abrahamic faiths. Yet the way this conflict plays out reflects directly on the way we struggle with our own issues.

In the continuing saga, our president metes out foreign policy by tweet. We witnessed Donald Trump cue Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu to disinvite two Muslim-American congresswomen saying Israel would look weak. Bibi obeyed. Then one representative was granted permission to visit her aging Palestinian grandmother so long as she agreed to nix negative anti-Israel speech. First she said yes, and then she said no. 

Folks said the whole episode was ill-considered. My friend Rabbi Joel Schwartzman and I discussed these issues. 

Schwartzman says Israel’s denial of entry to Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, was a faux pas for four reasons:

  • There are 435 representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives. Over the past months, the media has focused the spotlight almost solely on these two women and their anti-Israel rhetoric and antics. Denying them entry to Israel serves only to exacerbate and prolong this media circus. It serves to amplify their negative messages rather than to allow them to fade into the obscurity they so richly deserve. America certainly has bigger fish to fry than to concentrate on the hostility and falsehoods levied in Israel’s direction.  
  • Israel is the only democracy in their part of the world. Democracy, of course, involves freedom of speech. Denying entry detracts from the institutions of argumentation and debate that Israelis practice so freely and vociferously in their print and electronic media. There was more to be gained from hearing and countering hostile rhetoric and debunking falsehoods and lies than the propaganda and black eye Israel incurred by refusing to engage.
  • Netanyahu’s decision, following on Trump’s urgings, might serve to make Israel a partisan wedge issue in the coming elections, something Israel assiduously has avoided over the years. This latest flap might serve to divide Americans along party lines and within the parties themselves. It will surely come back to bite Israel in the future.
  • Most importantly, one does not behave this way toward members of the U.S. Congress. Although there may be well-established precedent, blocking entry nonetheless is not how one allied, friendly government treats members of another. It is unnecessarily provocative, rude and offensive.

With all due respect to Schwartzman, I agree with his points, but I disagree with his conclusion. Israel passed a 2017 law prohibiting entry to those who pose a threat to Israel because they advocate the boycott, divestment, sanctions movement. This movement aims to harm Israel and its citizens economically, politically and socially. 

Movement supporters with erroneous recitations cast aspersions upon Israel and try to blacken successes enjoyed by all Israeli citizens. Muslim residents of Israel enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the Middle East. For the record, the movement has been rebuked by the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate in a rare demonstration of solidarity.

Following their swearing in, the two representatives demonstrated for all the world to see that they do not represent the interests of the U.S. They posed with a map of Israel. With a Post-it note, they relabeled our ally Israel as “Palestine.” 

They may be sitting in the House of Representatives, but they have identified themselves as enemies of Israel and our country. Let us remember there were Nazi sympathizers in British government as well as the U.S government during World War II. Such conflicts within a sitting government are not new and shall likely endure in a robust democracy.

Thus Israel was legally, morally and politically well within its right to bar these two and spare us an additional platform for their hate of Israel, based not on facts, but instead based upon ancient Arab sentiments best understood through the lens of Nonie Darwish

Darwish’s father, a high-ranking Egyptian military man, was sent to Gaza in the 1950s to disrupt nascent Israel and kill Jews. When he was ultimately murdered by Israeli intelligence, Eygpt’s president asked 8-year-old Nonie and her siblings, “Which of you will avenge your father’s death?” And so begins a cycle of violence that continues to this day.

Why is there a wall? To stop violence. The U.N. insists Israel return territory won in defensive battle. When are Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq finally going to relinquish and reunite Kurdistan? When is the U.S. going to return California and Texas to Mexico? What would we do if terrorists lobbed bombs from Tijuana into San Diego? I’m guessing way more than Israel is doing to prevent violent attacks on its citizens.

Books have been written on this topic. I cannot do it justice in this column. Let me just say silencing hate and falsehoods is legally permitted in specific limited cases in a democracy. I believe this case falls in that category. As we try to solve our various conflicts, we would do well to starkly delineate between facts and falsehoods frequently repeated and passionately extolled. 

Susan Knopf’s column “For The Record” publishes Fridays in the Summit Daily News. Knopf has worn many hats in her career, including working as an award-winning journalist and certified ski instructor. She moved to Silverthorne in 2013 after vacationing in Summit County since the 1970s. Contact her at sdnknopf@gmail.com.

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