Monday, December 3, 2012

The American Diaspora Dilemma

Earlier today while reading a left leaning website regarding Israel and American politics I came across the following quotes:
"American Jews lack the moral courage to criticize Israel publicly when Israel does such things"
 "Perhaps it's time for American Jews to rethink automatic support for Israel."
I would say that the short answer to those comments that it is NOT a lack of moral courage to criticize Israel and "NO, it is NOT time for American Jews to rethink their support for Israel". I think that these comments deserve longer answers though, however, I don't believe that website is the place for those kinds of answers. But here are at least my answers, within a forum that doesn't cater to anti-Semitism and other forms of racism.

Now here is my take formulated through years of Youth Group, Community Activism AND having lived and gone to school in Israel for a year.

Addressing the first comment.... The answer to this is certainly "NO", American Jews do not lack the moral courage to criticize Israel publicly. Aside from the "Good Jews" (heavy sarcasm) at JVP and "post/anti- Zionist: community" who populate the blogosphere in a greater number of comments than actual individuals,  There are many Jewish critics of Israel that are Pro-Zionist who freely criticize the Israeli government in the American Community. One mainstream group that comes to mind is J Street. Over the last few years J Street has gained in popularity within the community, and while not quite being a mainstream movement, it certainly is gaining influence.

But even more to the point. Many of us do criticize the actions of the Israeli Government when we feel that they are acting against the interests of their own people as well as against those of the worldwide Jewish community. However that criticism is now kept within our own community or within sites and forums where these criticisms will not be used as fodder for bigots and racists to twist to their own means so that they can feel good about "Jew Washing" their complaints. Our logic here is sound. WHY would we want to give the people who posted those comments (anti-Semites in this case), something to support their claims, in a forum (in this case an article) that cackles with joy over the diplomatic row between Israel and Europe over Israeli construction in the "E-1 area" outside Jerusalem?

Personally, I have some real issues with this construction (article to follow) and it's after effects. I think, at this time it is an incredibly foolish idea. However, that is not for this article. I just don't feel the need to publicly "bash" Israel in a place where conspiracy theorists, bigots (of all kinds), and people that are completely ignorant of the politics of the situation are welcomed and given a preferred platform. There simply is no need to do that as frankly it won't do any good.

As for the Second comment.... the answer is an unequivocal "NO". In my opinion, here is no need whatsoever to re-think the relationship of American Jews to Israel. Despite any issues with the current government there, I see absolutely zero reason to not continue to support the existence of the Jewish State and what it means to our people.

Understanding history here is the key. For thousands of years the Jewish people have struggled for their place in this world. Israel and it's people represent the success of the Zionist dream that created a modern, dynamic country at a time when most of the world was firmly against the Jewish people. To think that we as a people would be better off without Israel is sheer nonsense. It is simply unimaginable to me that any Jewish person could stand against the nation of Israel.

Now, this doesn't mean accepting or giving credence to everything that the current Right Wing ruling coalition utters. Nor does it mean accepting the policies that Israel seems to be putting place with regards to increased settlement activity in the Occupied Territories. It just means that for the anti-Semite that made these comments, he or she doesn't have to be privy to the discussion - see the answer to the first part.

On the other hand, we also should not be held hostage to the macho fantasy's and bigoted ramblings of the Right. Just because we don't buy their completely distorted view of history, a view fueled by hatred and a strong sense of inadequacy doesn't mean that as American Jews we somehow dislike Israel. Of course to these "wannabee Israelis" (though they would never actually live in Israel as that would require them to actually have to sacrifice, and settle for a lesser standard of living), if one doesn't buy the nonsense and hatred spouted by them... somehow, someway means that we are acting just like an "ostrich:" willing to stick our collective heads in the ground until danger passes.

What the Rightists don't understand is that our sense of history is not governed by hatred or bigotry. Our sense of history is rooted in the pride of our traditions of humanity, understanding and strength of community. It is governed by scholars, warriors and our history as a people. We refuse to give in to the fear that dominates their sector of the community particularly in the U.S. A fear that causes them to abandon every principle they supposedly stand for and even sacrifice their loyalty to their fellow American citizens on the alter of supposedly standing with Israel.

MOREOVER, they claim that only they have a sense of history. That no one else, but them holds the true key to what the Jewish community has gone through for the past 3,000 years. As one deranged columnist writes in the Times of Israel: 
Until progressive-left Jews, who make up the majority in the diaspora, begin to articulate some sense of the history of the Jewish people in the Middle East we can never win the sympathies of world opinion.  It’s probably too late for that, anyway.  The world doesn’t know this history because we fail to enlighten them of it and part of the reason for that is the progressive Politically Correct disinclination to ever say anything negative concerning Islam.
This is a matter of respecting ourselves through articulating our history and if we cannot respect ourselves, then just who will?
Here's a word towards this columnist. Most of us know our history as a people and most of us have plenty of respect for our community that we actually understand our history. We understand the lessons we have learned and continue to learn. Rushing off to try to create Masada plays well in theatres, and in the the living room of wannabee Maccabees but, that's about it. Rather, it is important (and most American Jews do understand this) that we play on our strengths as a culture that values human life and making moral decisions. One thing that has kept our community together throughout 2,500 years of unrelenting persecution is our sense of who we are and what we believe in.

This plays out in our relationship with America. Unlike the bigots on the right, our concern is for our fellow American citizen. The transparent hypocrisy of supposedly standing up for universal human rights (in other words, supporting attacks both verbal and otherwise on Islam and it's adherents) all the while actively supporting, and campaigning for a candidate and a party that stood against human rights for Americans is pathetic to say the least. To actually say that one looks forward to voting for a candidate and a party that actually calls for teaching of Evolution as only a theory, that calls for suppression of civil liberties for America's LGBT community, that calls for supporting only the richest Americans at the expense of 98% of the our population and then to say that they are truly for human rights is completely mind-boggling in its derangement. It would be laughable if it were not so pathetic.

So for most of us, it is "Clowns to the Left of us and Jokers to the Right". Because the hard Left and it's acceptance of anti-Semitism, indeed has become a side-show unto itself. It's a bad joke that has policy support for similar positions on the Hard Right. (witness Hungary and the Right's claim that all Jews should be registerered).. At the same time, the Lunatic Right feels it needs to replay Masada and thinks that Israel should pull away from the U.S. and from the U.N. (Note they only think that sitting in their little living rooms in places like Oakland, California.If they ever had deal with the realities of Israeli life they would probably either crap their pants or fly home on the first plane all while formulating various stories about how tough they are). Funny thing, you know who else wants to see no U.S. Military aid to Israel? You guessed it! The Hard Left.

In the end, our community has faced this challenge and survived. I am confident we will continue too without having to resort to becoming what we hate the most. We are not that weak. 


  1. The other way that the loony Jewish right fails to understand and appreciate Jewish history is in regard to our respect for knowledge and education. The Jewish people had a knowledge-based economy and society 2000 years before the rest of the world, and our head start is the reason why Jewish people, including those in Israel, are at the forefront of human science, art, and culture. And yet these supposed super-Jews willingly throw themselves in with the American political party which denies the carbon cycle and evolution, and is on the verge of denying mathematics.

    As for the loony left, today I happened to pick up a local paper at lunch (The San Mateo Daily Journal) and wouldn't you know it, as sson as I opened it there was a letter to the editor supporting a one-state "solution". If I tried to make a parody of a Bay Area style lazy stupid left person, I couldn't have done better than this actual letter, which was full of historical and contemporary inaccuracies (e.g. Israel has a "state religion"). Shame on them for publishing it, but it shows what we're up against when it comes to these type of people.

    It truly is clowns to the left, jokers to the right.

  2. (livosh1)
    Great diary, Volley. While a web diary written by a useful idiot for pathological Jew haters is certainly not the best forum for constructive discussion about Israeli policy, there are plenty of other forums where it is incumbent upon progressive Pro-I folks to speak out and voice our strong objection to Bibi's settlement policy. We shouldn't allow those types to silence us. And on the other hand, we shouldn't give a rat's ass about what those on the right-wing lunatic fringe say about who is or who isn't a friend of the Jews or Israel. Nobody with half a brain takes them seriously, and we shouldn't waste a second thining about their lunatic ramblings.

    But we must continue to speak out, even if circumstances sometimes make it difficult to do so.

  3. Don't forget the other part of the dilemma: we're not the ones living our lives within Hamas and Hezbollah missile range, and we're not the ones who had to spent nights in bomb shelters last month. That should give pause to those of us who wish to publicly urge the government to take specific action (in EITHER direction-- more aggressive or more moderate). We don't get to live with the consequences of a wrong decision.
    I've seen up close the hate and the bloodlust of the hate-Israel crowds here. Our cousins over there live with entire countries full of them on their borders, and armed with rockets not megaphones.

    And yes, at the exact same moment, I will also point out that if you see your cousin doing something that you sincerely believe is suicidal, you must speak up. But temper your own judgment with wisdom and the understanding that what it looks like from here may be very different than what it looks like from over there.

    1. (livosh1)
      The new housing construction is not a response to Hamas and Hezbollah -- it is a response to the PA. It is incumbent upon us to speak our minds on this issue and declare our opposition to the settlement policy (and to all actions that endanger Israel's long term interests by making a two-state resolution more difficult to achieve), just as it is incumbent upon us to speak out that Israel has a right to defend itself against the the terrorist rockets coming from Gaza.

      And of course we have a perspective that is different from those over there -- but it is one that nonetheless should be shared.

    2. I think you are both right, livosh and Dr.Mike. I agree with livosh that speaking up is important particularly when not only does it affect America but, it also affects the United States. Remember, we are a part of this whole thing as well. Israel and Israelis need to understand what our needs are in the region as long as we are their major ally. Now, if like the lunatic fringe on the Hard Right and Hard Left suggest that America cut ties, well that is another thing. However, in the world of sanity where reality still lives - I think we do have to be able to express ourselves.

      That said... I think Dr.Mike hits it here when he says:

      And yes, at the exact same moment, I will also point out that if you see your cousin doing something that you sincerely believe is suicidal, you must speak up. But temper your own judgment with wisdom and the understanding that what it looks like from here may be very different than what it looks like from over there.

      THAT, is very true.

      It's funny, last night I had a discussion (in Hebrew I might add) with some friends from Israel after my Krav Maga class. They are much more conservative on I.P. than I am. Because it was in Hebrew, it was not possible for me to fully express myself but I am rather proud of the fact that I was able to hang in the discussion. It was very interesting to hear their perspectives (none of which I agreed with but which are born out of a different series of circumstances).

  4. I worry about the hard right more than the hard left. The only reason we even hear about the hard left is because we hang out at left wing websites. The hard left is a small minority within a small minority.

    The hard right is more numerous and more powerful/better funded.

    1. I can't disagree too much with this. The Hard Left takes its cues from the Hard Right. And it's true that the Hard Left is a tiny minority while the Hard Right.. That's the Republican Party.

      And as for funding.. yes I can agree with this as well. I worry about both sides though because really in some ways they are no different.