This sort of behavior made most members of the Jewish community distinctly uncomfortable. While support for everything done in the name of Israel has never been unanimous, most American Jews have always felt decisions on issues such as borders, settlements and military tactics should be left to the people on the front lines: namely, Israel's voters and elected representatives.
Coupled with this is a distinct sense that such demonstrations against Israel gave aid and comfort to its enemies, especially in a time of conflict. And given the fact that Arab and anti-Zionist groups (among whose members Jews were often ubiquitous) used the same sort of tactic to show their opposition, the burden of proof fell upon Jewish critics to show that their goal was distinct from those who sympathized with the terrorists and not their victims.
But on Tuesday, we witnessed a different sort of activity on Independence Mall: a gathering by some who oppose Israel's withdrawal from Gaza. Led by the Zionist Organization of America's local chapter, these critics chided the government for measures they feel are a surrender to terrorism, as well as expressed solidarity with those Israelis who are being dispossessed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan.
Like the left-wing rallies, the ZOA action illustrates how the searing tensions that animate Israeli politics have been exported to America. Yet while no one could accuse these folks of sympathizing with Israel's foes, there is, nevertheless, a sense that some of those who once denounced left-wingers for undermining Diaspora solidarity should now get a dose of their own medicine.
That having been said, we view the spectacle of Jews demonstrating against Israeli governments in American cities with distaste. The same principle applies to the right as to the left: Those whose children serve in the Israel Defense Force have the right to make decisions about the the Jewish state's life-or-death issues.
Withdrawal from the Gaza Strip still appears to have the support of the majority of Israelis and Knesset members. As long as that stronghold remains, our position should be one of firm support for measures the government feels will preserve Israel's Jewish majority, and, hopefully, also enhance its security.
Still, the right to dissent is sacred, and if the ZOA or its counterparts on the left insist on milling about in front of symbols of American democracy to express support for individuals saying the same things inside Israel, then that is indeed their right. But in reply, we would insist that the proper focus of activism for American friends of Israel lies elsewhere today.
The failure of the Palestinian Authority and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to restrain the terrorists under its authority is the greatest threat to Israel and any measure toward peace.
Rather than demonstrating against Sharon, Americans should be calling for the Bush administration to place increased pressure on its favorite Palestinian to start acting like the peacemaker he claims to be when speaking to Western and Jewish audiences.
The terror attacks that stole the lives of several Israelis last week should make it clear that what Washington must do is to put Abbas – and not Sharon – on notice, insisting on the fact that actions speak louder than words.