A guide for the perplexed
David Brog’s latest book was written for students looking to know more about Israel. (photo from David Brog)
During the Oslo Process of the 1990s, David Brog was quite optimistic about peace in Israel. Now, in light of a generation’s worth of Palestinian terrorist incitement and attacks, his opinion has changed.
However, what the scholar and author is optimistic about is that a better educated public on Israel issues will garner increased support for the Jewish state.
For the past 12 years, Brog has been involved in pro-Israel advocacy, including heading the group Maccabee Task Force, which combats boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) activities on college campuses. He is also executive director of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), an American pro-Israel organization. In March, he released Reclaiming Israel’s History: Roots, Rights, and the Struggle for Peace, a book he says was in response to scores of students desperately seeking a single volume of facts about what’s been happening in Israel.
“When they get to college, they’re told terrible lies about Israel. They’re told Israel is an occupier, an obstacle to peace, a human rights abuser. And, not knowing better, they believe it,” he told the Independent. “The book really summarizes what I think are the most important things to know about Israel’s history if you were someone who wants to defend Israel.”
Contrary to various public relations efforts, he believes that the primary language to do the convincing is evidence-based dialogue, rather than touting Israel’s material successes.
“I think the way to confront the big lie is not just to talk about how wonderful Tel Aviv nightlife is, and not just to talk about how amazing Israeli start-ups are. I do think we have to dirty our hands and talk about the conflict, and the history of conflict,” he explained.
That means understanding why the peace process seems to perennially stall, or often move backwards.
“If you freeze the frame today, the way almost everyone does, people think that the Israelis are ‘occupying’ the West Bank, and it’s best to pressure them to leave, to make way for two states, and then there’ll be peace,” he said. “But whatever you see, you have to know that what’s happening is not the product of Israeli intransigence or Israeli unwillingness to compromise. It’s the product of this Palestinian rejectionism that has driven the conflict from day one.”
Since Israel’s birth, in fact, there have been five offers of a Palestinian state, each time flatly refused, he said. But it wasn’t simply that the proposals were rebuffed – it was that Israel didn’t have a peace partner to begin with.
“We saw danger signs along the way – almost from day one. We saw [Yasser] Arafat saying one thing in English and a very different, troubling thing in Arabic. We saw Arafat turning a blind eye to terror against Israelis – not try to stop it. And, later, we saw him competing with Hamas to see who could blow up more Israelis,” Brog explained. “There was the Second Intifada. I think that changed me, and it changed [then-prime minister Ehud] Barak, and it changed a lot of Israelis.”
As for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Brog noted: “He doesn’t educate his people toward peace and coexistence. He doesn’t educate his people toward the validity of Jewish claims. Instead, he incites to terror and he generously funds terror.… It’s got to call into question [whether] they would actually ever recognize Israel, end the conflict and not use any land they are giving as a base from which to attack Israel.”
Given the situation, Brog – once a “great supporter of a two-state solution” – said, “I don’t see how these compromises would actually produce peace.”
Still, there’s endless opportunity for lay leaders to learn more about Israel. He is hopeful that his book will enlighten those who are either ignorant or misinformed, resulting in fewer fallacies being spread.
“Most people are not anti-Israel because of the reality,” he said. “They’re anti-Israel because of a myth, because of a distortion, because of a lie. And, therefore, if we tell Israel’s truth, and we tell it repeatedly, and we tell it proudly, and we dispel the myths, I think we can make enormous progress.”
Dave Gordon is a Toronto-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in more than 100 publications around the world.