Opinion

Now American Jews Are Angry

When it comes to the Western Wall, suddenly U.S. Jews are liberals, criticizing Israel. Did they ever fight for the right of Palestinians to worship freely?

A dove flies by the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on June 27, 2017.
THOMAS COEX/AFP

American Jews are hurt. They’re furious. They say that Jewish unity is imperiled, that the entire Zionist vision is about to implode. In urgent nighttime cables, Israel’s consuls in the United States were instructed to prepare for the growing protest and to address it “with an obliging spirit.” Never before have American Jews expressed such anger and protest against Israel.

What is causing American Jews to be so furious at Israel, the apple of their eye and a source of pride until now? Is it the antidemocratic legislation passed here in recent years, which shames Israel and casts doubt on its democracy? The witch hunt against left-wing civil society organizations? Its shameful treatment of African asylum seekers? Its withholding of electricity from two million people who’ve been caged up for 10 years? The massacre of civilians during Operation Protective Edge? The massacre of civilians in Operation Cast Lead? The executions of knife-wielding girls? The 50 years of occupation?

None of these has ever provoked any real anger from American Jews. They adored Israel blindly, even when it committed all this. They contributed to Israel generously even when they knew all this was going on. They sent their children here to visit the settlements and the army with armed escorts, to be brainwashed, and they ignored the occupation.

Now they are furious at last. Over what? Over all-important issues: the worship arrangements at the Western Wall, which will remain as strict as ever, and over conversion in Israel, which will remain Orthodox. These are serious issues that should not be taken lightly, but after forgiving Israel for everything, this is what they’re so worked up about?

After all, Reform and Conservative Jews — the majority of U.S. Jews — are considered so liberal and enlightened. These self-described liberals support the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and battle aggressively against any conscientious person who tries to criticize Israel. Unlike the benighted Orthodox minority, men and women pray together, and they drive to synagogue on Yom Kippur, which is of course their right.

But these liberals, who supported Barack Obama and despise U.S. President Donald Trump, many of whose parents took part in the civil rights movement, forgive Israel everything. They remain silent and their silence is thunderous and shameful.

Now they are launching a determined, furious battle on behalf of the Women of the Wall. Is it only when something affects them personally that their enlightened souls are awakened? Are they liberal only when it comes to religious ritual? Did they ever fight for the right of Palestinians to worship freely at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, or even to go there? But when it comes to the Kotel, suddenly they are liberals, daring for the first time to loudly criticize Israel. They’ve even threatened to use their doomsday weapon: to stop fighting the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, heaven forfend.

There is no connection between liberalism and fighting for the freedom of worship at the foot of a stone wall, located in occupied territory, on account of which the homes of hundreds of people were destroyed 50 years ago.

American Jews must stop talking high and mighty. To provoke this turmoil in the name of freedom while supporting, directly or indirectly, one of the most repressive enterprises in the world, sets a new record for hypocrisy. American Jews applauded Israel for everything. They saluted Israel automatically and sickeningly even when it committed far worse actions than blocking women wearing colorful scarves from praying alongside men.

Let them continue to cheer. They have no right to oppose the government in the name of a rule of conscience. Let them go to the Western Wall and pray — men and women together, or separately —for a more just Israel. The state needs their prayers much more than it needs their hypocritical preaching.