The real existential threat to Israel: honest debate

'Jesus is the son of a whore,' 'we will crucify you,' 'Jesus is dead' and 'death to Christianity' were among messages left behind by vandals who attacked the Baptist Narkis Street Congregation in West Jerusalem on February 20. Photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler

When Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, called Jeff Fager, chairman of CBS News and executive producer of 60 Minutes to speak about their upcoming report, “Christians of the Holy Land,” it’s clear he had only one objective: to kill the report.

When interviewed by Bob Simon, Oren did not express concern about how 60 Minutes would report on the plight of Palestinian Christians living in the West Bank. His objection was that CBS should find any merit in the topic whatsoever. Why should the fate of Christians living under Israeli occupation deserve any attention while Christians elsewhere in the Middle East face persecution? The story, Oren was convinced, was merely a pretext for attacking Israel.

In February this year, vandals — the evidence suggests they were Jewish settlers — daubed “Death to Christianity” on the walls of a Baptist church in Jerusalem. “The graffiti also included profanity about Jesus, and the vandals slashed the tires of several cars parked in the church compound,” Reuters reported.

It wasn’t long before Oren spoke up on the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal denouncing attacks on Christians and the desecration of a church — though not the one in Jerusalem. The vandalism that concerned him involved the Arabic letters for Hamas being sprayed on a church in Bethlehem in 1994. About the much more recent vandalism on the church in Jerusalem he said absolutely nothing.

Oren’s message while ostensibly being an expression of concern about the plight of Christians across the Middle East, including Palestinian Christians living in the West Bank, was instead a message tailored to resonate with American Christian Zionists: Jews and Christians stand in solidarity opposed to Islamic extremism.

Kairos Palestine, a group of Palestinian Christians in the West Bank who featured in the 60 Minutes report, were quick to denounce Oren’s statement.

In this inaccurate and manipulative text, Oren… blames the plight of Palestinian Christians on oppression at the hands of Palestinian Muslims — rather than at the hands of the illegal Israeli occupation itself, as is our reality.

We add our voices to several other recently published responses that have emphasized this reality and the ways in which Oren’s op-ed attempts to mask it. Indeed, contrary to his assertions, Christian persecution is caused mainly by the occupation that systematically degrades all Palestinians, restricts our movement, confiscates our land, devastates our economy, and violates our rights — including the very basic right to a decent life.

We are particularly troubled by Oren’s attribution of migration within the Palestinian Christian community to ill-treatment by Palestinian Muslims. This damaging analysis wilfully ignores the underlying political oppression that afflicts Christians and Muslims alike. In the case of Bethlehem, for instance, it is in fact the rampant construction of Israeli settlements, the chokehold imposed by the separation wall, and the Israeli government’s confiscation of Palestinian land — largely Christian-owned land in the Bethlehem area — that has driven many Christians to leave.

In Oren’s op-ed and his dealings with CBS we see the two main thrusts of the Zionists’ communications strategy: propaganda and suppression.

If critics can’t be drowned out in the media then efforts to silence them have to become more direct. Never is their any willingness to face a challenge directly. Zionism, it would seem, even for its most strident proponents is indefensible. Rather than respond to honest criticism, first comes the hasbara, then the silencing, and if neither of those work, the plea: our survival is at stake!

But what really threatens Israel?

The breakdown of public morality, in my view, poses the greatest single existential threat to Israel. It is this threat that undermines Israel’s ability to cope with other threats; that saps the willingness of Israelis to fight, to govern themselves, and even to continue living within a sovereign Jewish state. It emboldens Israel’s enemies and sullies Israel’s international reputation. The fact that Israel is a world leader in drug and human trafficking, in money laundering, and in illicit weapons sales is not only unconscionable for a Jewish state, it also substantively reduces that state’s ability to survive.

Those being the words of Michael Oren not long before he became an ambassador and one of the pillars of Israel’s public morality.

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5 thoughts on “The real existential threat to Israel: honest debate

  1. dickerson3870

    RE: “The breakdown of public morality, in my view, poses the greatest single existential threat to Israel. It is this threat that undermines Israel’s ability to cope with other threats; that saps the willingness of Israelis to fight…” ~ Michael Oren

    MY COMMENT: This sounds very similar to some of the things said by the National Socialists in 1930s Germany!

    SEE THIS EXCELLENT DOCUMENTARY: The Architecture of Doom (Undergångens Arkitektur), 1991, NR, 119 minutes (on YouTube in 12 segments & available for streaming at Netflix)
    This chilling documentary explores how artistic, cultural and historical trends forged the National Socialist aesthetic, which in turn contributed to the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust.
    Swedish-born filmmaker Peter Cohen, whose parents escaped the Nazis, examines Hitler’s failed career as an artist, his fascination with Wagner, the Nazi obsession with cleanliness, the paradoxical link between “beauty” and evil in the Third Reich, and more.
    Netflix Availability: Streaming and DVD
    Netflix Listing –
    ALSO ON YouTube, Architecture of Doom (12 segments) –

  2. delia ruhe

    Yes, I know *The Architecture of Doom* — the Third Reich as multimedia installation (!). Fine Arts students love it. It helps to explain that mysterious attraction to “Nazi chic.” Apparently even Urban Outfitters has got in on the act, producing a yellow T-shirt with star-of-david accent just in time for Easter and Passover:

    All of this stands as pretty conclusive evidence that we haven’t got anywhere near divining what the Nazi movement was about, and why Germans were so willing to risk their better judgement to follow Hitler as if he were the messiah.

    But that’s off-topic.

    Michael Oren, busy making a fool of himself yet again. That’s what happens when you offer to carry water for Israel — that is, carry buckets of hasbara. That he has given up a tenured position and his American citizenship to do this says something about his character. I’m not sure what, though. Has he finally come to realize that outside of the Zionist community, he’s not all that respected as an historian? Or has he gone a little crazy and decided to throw caution to the wind and get on board (if that’s not a mixed metaphor)?

    At any rate, he’s setting himself up as a tragic hero. Israel and its Zionist troops on this side of the ocean are on the defensive as never before. Half the troops are writing hysterical reviews of Beinart trying to head his influence off at the pass. The other half are attacking CBS and Simon. Then there’s that idiot Israeli soldier bashing unarmed activists in the face with his rifle; that has to be put to bed. Israel just can’t seem to keep the focus on the evil Iranians and their nefarious plans to bomb Israel off the face of the earth.

    It’s been a while since Israel started losing control of the narrative. It looks as if the unraveling is proceeding apace.

  3. Paul Woodward

    As someone who for better or worse is willing to make instant judgements about character, having asked myself what motivates Oren, I’m inclined to think that it’s a hefty dose of vanity. I don’t imagine he thought he was destined to become an ambassador but when offered the opportunity thought there would be something heroic about assuming the role at a time when Israel faces so much criticism. Moreover, it offered him the opportunity to prove his commitment to Zionism and give up his US citizenship but continue living in the US.

    I wonder how he will feel about becoming an ex-ambassador? Maybe his fantasy is that he might someday reclaim his US citizenship by becoming a US ambassador to Israel. After all, the roles do seem amazingly interchangeable!

  4. charlie

    OK, so when does this Oren call any criticism of the zionist entity “anti-Semitism”? That seems the next step in the process if the usual “script” is to be followed. ANY critical comments about the zionist entity and/or the “chosen people” are by default, “anti-Semitic”/”anti-Semitism” according to AIPAC and the ruling class of the zionist entity.
    This madness has to stop before the zionist entity drags the US into another damn fool war of choice. (Iraq, Afghanistan/Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen being the current idiotic wars of choice.)

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