Friday, August 3, 2012

Recovering Kentucky Politician Defends Israel

Jonathan Miller, 45, a progressive Kentucky Democrat, served as his state’s Treasurer for eight years and unsuccessfully ran for the office of governor in 2007. A former aide to Vice President Al Gore, Miller now considers himself a “recovering politician” whose website serves as a forum of ideas how to fix America’s most intractable problems: climate change, skyrocketing health care costs, the country’s multi-trillion-dollar debt, and more.

Since his retirement from politics, Miller says “I am dedicating my life to working on causes that I believe in, which of course includes the safety and security of the Jewish State.”

In June, Miller published The Liberal Case for Israel: Debunking Eight Crazy Lies about the Jewish State (Kindle edition). Miller spoke to me about his book in an exclusive interview.

Q: What was the motivation that led to your writing “The Liberal Case for Israel”?

A: I have been a Zionist my entire life, but upon a recent trip to Israel, I learned for the first time how Israel has become an extraordinary liberal democracy -- progressive in so many areas including womens' equality, gay rights, immigrant support, and tax policy.

Q: Do you think that the American media is responsible for misrepresenting modern day Israel, its security needs and politics? Are there any exceptions to this?

A: Yes, and I write extensively in my book about how and why the American media gets Israel so wrong. There are few exceptions: The New Republic and ironically for this liberal, Fox News.

Q: Your book debunks “eight crazy lies” about the Jewish State. Are they actually lies, or possibly misunderstandings?

A: There are many misunderstanding, but I identify untruths that really do rise to the level of crazy lies. This includes the libel that Israel is an Apartheid state and the ridiculous notion that Israel promotes gay tourism as a way to "pinkwash" its faults.

Q: One of the lies you debunk in the book is the use of the word “apartheid” when referring to Israel. In brief, what is your argument against this lie?

A: Arab citizens of Israel have all of the same rights and responsibilities as their Jewish neighbors (with one exception -- military conscription which is now being debated.) This thoroughly refutes the notion that there is apartheid. Even in the disputed territories, Palestinian engage in self-government --- a completely opposite approach of the former apartheid regime in South Africa.

Q: How do you define “Israel Firster” and what is the lie connected to that term?

A: In recent years, that's the term anti-Zionists have used to label those of us who oppose the U.S. government pressuring Israel to make unilateral concessions in the pursuit of peace. Like the rest of American Zionists I know, I am an American first, and to say that I place Israeli interests over my home country is libeling me as a traitor.

Q: You describe Israel as being a liberal democracy, yet in many ways, especially concerning religion, Israel is very conservative. Any contradiction here?

A: There are many conservative elements in Israel that have a disproportionate sway over public policy in Israel. The same is true here in the United States. But Israel is not even close to resembling the conservative theocracies of the countries that surround it. In every way we in America value liberal democracy -- freedoms of speech and religion, the rights of judicial redress, non-discrimination against gays, minorities, women, new immigrants -- Israel passes with flying colors.

Q: What more can Israel do to help make its case to the American public?

A: I discuss in my book how I am trying to educate American liberals of the extraordinary democracy that is Israel. I encourage other Zionists to join me through passing my book around and using social media to get the message out.

Note: Jonathan Miller was recently in the news due to his “impossible run through the World Series of Poker tournament” in Las Vegas which resulted in his finishing 8th place in a $1,000 No Limit Hold’em event and winning $69,000.

This article originally appeared on The Times of Israel.

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