Opinion

U.S. Jews Are to Blame for Crisis With Israel

The painful truth is that the rupture between Israel and progressive American Jewry is worsening because the thing they may want to change most of all, without succeeding, is us

A woman at a "Day of Rage" rally in front of the NYC Israeli consulate to protest violence against Palestinians, October 2015
Andy Katz / Pacific Press / Ligh

It’s hard to ignore the rupture between American Jews and Israel. Many people believe the solution to the problem lies in resolving questions of religion and state in Israel, as reflected, for example, in the efforts of the group Women of the Wall at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

But this is a marginal issue compared to the real one, which, due to political correctness and the desire to maintain a sense of harmony within the Jewish people, remains unmentioned: The disappointment and shame felt by some American Jews on the progressive left, mainly Reform Jews, when it comes to everything related to the Zionist enterprise called the State of Israel.

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 12

Last week, a bill sponsored by U.S. Republican Senator Marco Rubio aimed at thwarting the activity of BDS movement, was brought to a vote. The bill’s opponents have included the freshman (Palestinian-American) Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, Senator Bernie Sanders and the “pro-Israel” lobby group J Street.

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At first, J Street adopted the argument expressed by Sanders, Tlaib and others on the extreme wing of the Democratic Party, claiming that the new law would contradict the First Amendment of the Constitution, which protects freedom of speech. Digging deeper into these claims, however, one can discern what really lies behind the opposition.

J Street, for example, has argued that the law would promote the West Bank settlement enterprise, as if the BDS movement ever proclaimed that its campaign stops at the Green Line.

Putting the settlement issue aside, left-wing progressive Jews, such as those represented by J Street, who never miss an opportunity to declare that Israel’s policies are causing a rift between Republicans and Democrats, are knowingly missing the chance for unity around the issue of Israel. On the face of it, bridging left and right and Democrats and Republicans in this way could have been deemed as furthering the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam – repairing the world – or “brethren dwelling together in unity,” in the words of the Book of Psalms.

But not when it comes to Israel. The mother country of the Jewish people can purportedly serve as an ambassador to repairing the world only if it adheres to the standards and values that are dictated by the progressive Jewish left, namely signing a peace treaty with the Palestinians at any cost; blithely accepting the “death-sentence” nuclear agreement that President Barack Obama signed with Iran; a closing of ranks between religious and secular according to American Jewry’s rules; and completely forgoing national identity, an identity that is an obstacle to turning out educated and enlightened Jews who are devoid of national identity.

The connection with American Jewry is important, but it has been quite some time that responsibility for problems over these ties has been placed on Israel’s shoulders alone. This is not a one-sided affair. Israel cannot be the only target for criticism (regarding the Western Wall, Iran, settlements, etc.) over the desire to maintain harmony.

The painful truth is that the rift is worsening because the thing they may perhaps want to change most of all, without succeeding, is us.