Diaspora Jews can love Israel, and also help right its wrongs
This Rosh Hashanah, let’s whisper not only the many sweet nothings we’re moved to utter when we think about the Tel Aviv surf, the sun glinting off the Jerusalem stones, the music of Shlomo Artzi and Idan Raichel, and the heady kibbutz memories that many of us treasure, but also the hard truths that need to be told.
This Rosh Hashanah, one progressive Zionist organization is getting North American Jews to send a particular kind of holiday greeting to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Ameinu is calling on supporters of Israel to implore Bibi to “walk the walk” toward a two-state solution.
Ameinu’s petition and social media campaign tells Bibi that “We want to help Israel combat the myth that it is not interested in peace, but we cannot do so when your government reinforces that myth.” The letter points out various unilateral initiatives that the Israeli government has taken recently, including legalizing new settlement “outposts,” and compensating settlers for the Ulpana neighborhood evacuation with “more than 800 new settlement units.”
It’s become a truism that only the two-state solution can ensure that Israel remains Jewish and democratic. Yet in an Alice-in-Wonderland turn, that outcome seems farther off each day.
As I have written here before, when I suggested that we need a much broader understanding of what the “Jewish Establishment” entails, I sit on the board of directors of Ameinu.
And since Ameinu holds a seat at the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations as well as being part of AIPAC’s “national leadership council,” I suppose I am a tiny part of that behemoth, the Jewish Establishment that so often seems to support the tragic status quo.
Along with other progressive Zionist organizations, Ameinu is trying to do what it can to help shift the conversation. Many of us who identify with the organized Jewish community in various ways can’t stand to bear witness to Israel’s policies of land appropriations, settlement expansion, and the general extension of the tentacles of occupation, a series of moves that makes the two-state solution appear farther off each day. Many of us in the Diaspora are committed to the idea that emotional connection to a far-off “homeland” sometimes entails frustration, and the imperative to help make things right.
Is Israel the only side to be blamed for the bloody stalemate that transcends the fading Green Line? Of course not. Are Israelis understandably fearful of regional instability, of Iranian threats, and of Hamas rockets? Of course. But as Jews, our primary responsibility cannot be to shape the policies of Israel’s adversaries (though we can certainly try) but the policies and wellbeing of Israel itself. Hatikvah is the anthem we sing alongside our other national anthems at our community events. Israel is the recipient of a portion of the monies of our annual Jewish Federation Campaigns, and Israel is the country to which we send our teens - and our tourist dollars.
As Jews, not only do we have Israel’s back, we also have Israel’s ear. This Rosh Hashana, let’s whisper not only the many sweet nothings we’re moved to utter when we think about the Tel Aviv surf, the sun glinting off the Jerusalem stones, the music of Shlomo Artzi and Idan Raichel, and the heady kibbutz memories that many of us treasure, but also the hard truths that need to be told.