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Israel’s new man in NY: Bring on the broad — but legitimate — criticism of Israel

18 5 1

HOLLYWOOD BEACH, Florida — Israel’s new consul general in New York touched down in the US three months ago with his work cut out for him.

“I told my predecessors that I received a New York that is much more difficult than what they experienced,” said Asaf Zamir in an interview last month. Advertisement

“During their tenures, Israel was only a positive buzzword,” he said, positing that the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 and the Gaza War the following year intensified the intersectionality framework’s prominence among progressives who now tie the Palestinian struggle “to all other issues.”

While Zamir clarified that the support for Israel he has encountered in recent months both within and beyond the local Jewish community has been “overwhelming,” the new era in the US now features “politicians of all wakes who allow themselves to comment in such extremes on [the Israeli-Palestinian conflict] — some of it legitimate criticism, and some of it crossing [the line] into antisemitism in my eyes.”

In this newly challenging environment, Zamir fears that young Jews arriving on college campuses are particularly vulnerable.

In a wide-ranging discussion on the sidelines of the Israeli American Council’s annual conference in Florida, Zamir revealed that one of his main goals in his job as consul general is to provide these students with the tools to be able to defend their Zionist identities on what has become at-times hostile turf.

The outreach efforts of previous governments may have been similarly motivated, but the new diplomat indicated that the message so far failed to resonate. With the most politically diverse coalition in Israel’s history sworn in last June, though, Zamir argued that Jerusalem was uniquely suited to make inroads with the next generation of Americans.

He admitted that the new government’s policies still won’t satisfy many of the skeptics he’ll be serving in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Delaware.

“Because life is complex, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is complex,” he said.

This may have been the same line used by Israeli diplomats before him, but Zamir insisted that “those who said this until today had the wrong buildup, the wrong choice of words and the wrong general energy.

“If you come at it with a sense of self-righteousness, if you weren’t willing to really listen until now and if you’re inattentive to criticism, you create an environment in which only those who are blindly supportive of Israel will accept what you have to say while everyone else is deemed an enemy,” he said.

So Zamir is seeking to create a new environment — one that embraces complexity and does not shy away from pushback. He draws a line at those who object to the “Jewish people’s right to self-determination in a Jewish and democratic state in the land of Israel,” but beyond that argues that engaging with American constituents in 2022 requires “broaden[ing] the tent of legitimate criticism of Israel.”

Just back from a quickie is Israel with @UJAfedNY .
Important meetings with @Isaac_Herzog @naftalibennett and @gantzbe and just back on time to light up some menorahs in NYC! pic.twitter.com/UUiZUCz46l

— Asaf Zamir (@AmbAsafZamir) December 1, 2021

Zamir, 41, is arguably the........

© The Times of Israel

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