Diaspora Jews and Israeli politics, a dysfunctional relationship?
The private cash dependence that Israel's politicians have on foreign donors is maximizing the worst stereotypes we have of each other.
To what extent should the Diaspora be involved in the upcoming Israeli elections? To your average Israeli taxpayer, the answer is, not at all. Without the burden to pay tax, send your kids to the army and live with the consequences of your vote, you should have no role to play on determining who runs Israel.
This argument seems correct in theory. Yet in practice Jews abroad are having a tremendous impact on the election. As Haaretz recently reported, 96.8% of the Prime Minster's personal fundraising took place overseas. In total over 53% of all political donations over the past two years has come from abroad. The only party who has not taken a dime it seems has been Meretz.
How politicos in Israel choose to raise money doesn't bother me; that is for their electorate to decide. What irks and worries me is how this phenomena, a public distancing while maintaining private cash dependence, is maximizing the worst stereotypes we have of each other.
I don’t think that Diaspora communities should have a voice in decisions yet we cannot ignore the fact that in every Zionist educational program the question is asked whether Jews around the world should have a say in Israel's internal affairs. The Israeli prime minister, declaring themselves the leader of the Jewish People, and reserving Jerusalem as an eternal Jewish capital, spurs this question on.
If someone purporting to be my leader, and declaring a city my capital uses me to strengthen his or her legitimacy, surely I should have some say in the matter. The question is made sharper by the fact that they come to me for my money in their pursuit for public office.
The mismatch of public Israeli feeling, with the private reality feeds the unhealthy ATM relationship between Israel and the global Jewish community. The bounds of the current relationship are outdated and eroding. The distancing mixed with dependency culture is unsustainable and both sides will need to demonstrate a willingness to change.
What the global Diaspora offers Israel today is a petri dish of public policy ideas and solutions to tough problems currently facing Israel. How does one square pluralist Judaism with an Orthodox establishment? What are the best methodologies of integrating an ultra-Orthodox community into a secular society? How do we encourage a culture of philanthropy to sustain our public institutions? What is the correct way we should approach interfaith programming, where are the pitfalls and opportunities?
These are just some of the questions that can be helped by plumbing the depths of the various Jewish communities around the planet to find answers. Using the modern Jewish experience from abroad, rather than just our checkbooks, will open the door to a far more productive relationship than one of dependence. Jewish communities want to have a deep and meaningful connection to Israel. Yet as long as it is publicly disrespected and privately pandered to, this relationship will continue to be dysfunctional.
Joel Braunold is a Bnei Akiva alumnus and a former staff member of OneVoice Europe who is currently living in Brooklyn working in the NYC startup scene.