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March 6, 2018 4:39 pm

Can Israel Be Rebranded for Liberals?

avatar by Jonathan S. Tobin / JNS.org

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Marchers in a past Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.org – While much of the national and Israeli media has centered on the reception that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or representatives of the Trump administration will get at the annual AIPAC conference, the organization itself had other priorities. They’re worried by polls that show Republican support for Israel far outstrips that of Democrats. Arguments over the peace process, Iran and criticisms of the Jewish state’s stands on religious pluralism have dominated the discussion about Israel among political liberals. Faced with this threat to what they have always sought to ensure is a bipartisan coalition, AIPAC is doing what it can to remind Americans that support for Israel is as natural for liberals as it has become for conservatives.

Given that Israel is a bastion of liberal democratic values and diversity, AIPAC leaders have a powerful and unanswerable argument to make. But while reminding liberals why backing Israel is a great idea, such efforts should not run afoul of the same mistakes that doomed previous attempts to “rebrand” the Jewish state. As much as the left should embrace Israel for its enlightened stance on gay rights, its willingness to absorb Jews of all color and denomination, and its advanced health-care system, it’s foolish to think any public-relations campaign can ignore the conflict with the Palestinians. Try as they might, Israel’s advocates must never think they can avoid making the case that Israel’s case is just. Liberals who love these aspects of Israeli society and culture must also understand that standing up to those who seek to delegitimize the Jewish state — even when they are allies on other issues — is obligatory, no matter what you think of Netanyahu or the Orthodox rabbinate.

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