“American Jews and Israel: A Shifting Alliance’”(Ledger, Dec. 1), highlighted a real problem, but one that seems to be rather overblown.
Speaker Tip O’Neill often noted that “all politics is local.” So, it is to be expected that, given their very different circumstances, the political views and interests of American and Israeli Jews would diverge. Politics, moreover, is inherently quite messy, and particularly hard-edged now, both in the U.S. and Israel.
In Israel, more than a double-digit number of parties regularly contest elections, though few gain any Knesset seats. Even in Labor’s heyday, no party has ever managed to win an outright majority, forcing it to govern with coalition partners. A single-issue minor partner can thus potentially bring a government down.
The Western Wall agreement provision for an alternate prayer space, though carefully crafted and widely applauded, has so far not been implemented due to such built-in political dysfunction. While non-Orthodox American Jews have been particularly incensed at that and other instances of perceived disrespect, they shouldn’t blame Israel or seek to punish it for this debacle. Both sides of the religious divide need to exhibit much greater mutual understanding and tolerance.
Even more contentious has been alleged Israeli mistreatment of Palestinians. Israel is not perfect, but its policy has been largely reactive towards Palestinian predations. American Jews, particularly the young, are being bombarded with unending mendacious anti-Israel messages. Media consistently portray Israelis as aggressors, the Palestinians as passive victims. Yet, despite Oslo agreements, the Palestinian Authority (PA) incessantly incites violence against Israelis and Jews. Having spurned repeated Israeli peace proposals, it continues to refuse to negotiate, running instead to international bodies for an imposed settlement. The PA adamantly refuses to recognize the legitimacy of a sovereign Mideast Jewish state, renounce non-existent right-of-return claims for a rapidly diminishing cohort of real refugees and their, by now, multi-generational descendants, or to declare an end to conflict.
American Jews and Israel are mutually dependent. Jewish history abounds in instances of Jews fighting Jews, even as the enemy was at the gates and scaling the walls.
We are at such a moment. Antisemitism is on the rise worldwide. Jewish history itself is under attack at the U.N. and its various agencies. Even as the Mideast explodes, the human rights violators controlling its misnamed Human Rights Council obsess on non-existent Israeli crimes. Israel’s genocidal enemies – Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, etc. – slowly are encircling the Jewish state. It’s no time to join the jackals. That so much anti-Israel activity on campus and in the outer community is led by Jews should surely sadden and deeply disturb. Still, they represent but a small, if highly vocal, segment of the Jewish community.
Israel should be a source of pride for Jews everywhere. A beacon of light in a region largely of darkness; an inspiration and a provider of aid to developing nations; a global first responder, even to enemies, after natural disasters; and a first-world technological powerhouse. Israel has succeeded far beyond even the expansive dreams of its founders.
Now is not the time for letting relatively inconsequential disputes blur the absolute imperative for solidarity before a gathering storm.
Richard D. Wilkins