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"If you hate Israel so much, then f------ leave ... I sincerely wish you would die of cancer, and I hate that your piece of s--- parents created you."

Excerpt from a letter signed 'Mike of NYC'

I write this as a person who loves Israel. I make no apologies for this. I fell in love with this place a long time ago. Without warning, with no prior hints, this place came to be my place in this world.

As love tends to do, Israel has both given me a deeper understanding of what it was that I fell in love with, and also a more honest perspective of its failings and faults.

Meanwhile, time and distance being what they are, I hadn't noticed the extent to which I had lost touch with what it is to be, what I was born and raised - a Jew abroad.

Thus it came as a shock when I began to read the responses to a piece I wrote recently about living here as someone who loves the country, but dislikes much of what this country is doing. you have no place in the movement called Zionism, here or abroad.

Of the hundreds of responses - most of them negative, many of them unprintable, some of them threatening - an astounding percentage, nearly one in every five, sounded the same theme:

"If you find it so necessary to criticize Israel, you should just pack up and leave, and the sooner the better."

Nearly all of those who wrote in this vein, it turns out, live not in Israel but overseas.

You have to envy them. No mandatory conscription, no kids in danger and under arms, no occupation of the neighbors, no decades of compulsory military reserve duty, no unending need to take to the streets in protest.

Over there, they have lower taxes, cheaper cars, better schools, better separation of church and state, better politicians, less McCarthyism, less ethnic and religious discrimination - and, if that were not enough, they now get to decide who should stay in Israel and who should go.

What can you conclude about Jews overseas who declare that they love Israel with all their hearts, but who want to see Jews who live in Israel - the ones with whom they disagree - clear the hell out?

One thing you can conclude, is that part of the Jewish state's demographic problem begins at home - with the Jews themselves. Increasing numbers of hardline Jews have been stating publicly and categorically - some of them in an official capacity - that if you do not agree with a set of arbitrary, occupation-friendly articles of faith, you cannot call yourself pro-Israel, and that

There is little room for democracy, after all, between my way and the highway.

It used to be, that right-wingers assured each other that eventually the leftists in Israel would simply leave of their own secular, bleeding-heart, masochistic accord. That, so far, hasn't panned out.

If they are still here, the new reasoning goes, the least the left could do, is flack for Israel's advances in biotechnology, and/or shut up.

Some on the right, arguing for the latter stance, will note that there's a war on. They will add that, surely democracy has its place, but, for the duration, if you have nothing positive to say, do us all a favor and clam.

In a related vein, others will take the press to task for "emphasizing the negative in these troubled times."

Fair enough. Only, it's not the job of the press to make nice.

You want the truth? Here it is: Living in Israel is both vastly more rewarding and vastly uglier than we paint it here in Haaretz.

What kind of Zionist criticizes Israel in these troubled times? The kind that recognizes that troubled times don't simply happen, they are the result of a long slide of bad decisions, no decisions, and the kind of governmental feel-good/fuel-fear inertia that has placed all of us in the hand-basket that's hurtling down the hell track.

What kind of Zionist believes in the need for a Palestinian state alongside Israel? The kind who believes in a sovereign homeland for the Jewish people, something which can only truly happen when there is also a sovereign homeland for their neighbors.

What kind of Zionist will go to the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah this weekend, and the next, and the one after that, to protest against a takeover of Palestinians' homes by settlers who sing paeans to Jewish terrorists?

The kind who cares about the future of Israel. The kind who cares about the present-day Jerusalem. The kind who believes that the mayor and police of Jerusalem must not engage in incitement, or do the bidding of foreign millionaires competing to pry Palestinians from their homes in order to install settlers.

What kind of Zionist criticizes Israel in these troubled times?

Exactly the kind that Israel needs.

 

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