Joined at the Hip

The daily life of Jews, even as individuals, is greatly affected by the actions and blunders of Israel, including its oppressive policies in the territories and its image in the media.

Thousands of good Jews from America converged on Jerusalem this week to show their solidarity with some rather vague thing they called "Israel." They were careful not to specify whether they meant Ariel Sharon's Israel or Yossi Beilin's Israel, rich Israel or poor Israel, the Israel of Shas or the Israel of Yosef Lapid. They just said "Israel," the way people say "love," without really working out in their minds what they mean. That's their way of dodging real partnership.

The Jews show plenty of independence when it comes to dividing up their fund-raising dollars. They decide how much of it stays there, how much of it goes to Israel and who does the spending - the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee or the Jewish Agency. But usually they let the people they call their "leaders" support whatever elected government is in power in Israel, never challenging it on any major score. That is a dangerous policy, because Israel, for its part, has a tendency to ignore the effects of its policies on the lives of the Jews.

The government frequently takes into account how the White House will react to its decisions, what The New York Times will have to say, how it will look on CNN, what the UN will do. Very rarely does it ask itself how its actions will affect anti-Semitism, for example. Perusing the historical record, one can see that even in the past, this was not one of the considerations that has guided Israeli decision-making.

Israel may provide various kinds of security assistance to overseas Jewish institutions, but the basic premise is that the Jews belong in Israel, and if they choose to remain abroad, they shouldn't come running to us with complaints. The car bombing in Turkey invariably elicited this cliche even from Sallai Meridor, the chairman of the Jewish Agency.

According to a headline in Haaretz this week, Mossad chief Meir Dagan said his organization had received 40 alerts for possible attacks on Jewish targets around the world. From the report itself, it turns out that the list includes both Jewish and Israeli targets. Hopefully, the head of the Mossad recognizes the difference between the two.

Attacks on Israelis, even if they occur overseas, belong to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Not infrequently, Diaspora Jews are injured, too. The Israeli establishment tends to describe every attack on a Jewish target as an anti-Semitic incident - as if this were a marvelous example of how Israel and the Jews of the world share the same fate and have identical interests. In America, there are many who buy that theory. But the story is more complicated than that.

The daily life of Jews, even as individuals, is greatly affected by the actions and blunders of Israel, including its oppressive policies in the territories and its image in the media. A man gets up in the morning, switches on the radio, and hears that an Israeli attempt to assassinate some wanted Palestinian has also killed this or that number of women and children. When he gets to the office, he can see traces of this news in the eyes of his non-Jewish co-workers.

Often, it puts him in an intolerable situation: Either he finds some excuse for what happened, or he feels that he has to denounce it, in the same way that an Arab mayor in Israel is expected to denounce a suicide bomber who leaves from his town. Or maybe the Jew just keeps his mouth shut. Not always, but often enough, he may find himself the butt of anti-Semitic hatred. And so this Jew has good reason to hope that Israel will take the dangers that its policies engender into account.

Since World War II, it has been the norm to wage the fight against anti-Semitism as an inseparable part of the global battle for democracy and human rights. These causes have no borders.

But as the oppression of the Palestinian people continues, Israel's voice is losing its moral clout in the fight for human rights, and that includes the fight against anti-Semitism. This has a debilitating effect on the Jews of the world. They are entitled to demand that Israel figure them into the equation, too.