What Are They Smoking in Jerusalem?

An Israel that occupies, settles and discriminates is not an Israel that the United States or young Diaspora Jews can continue to back indefinitely.

Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit
Participants in Jerusalem Day parade, a show of strength for the religious right.
Participants in Jerusalem Day parade, a show of strength for the religious right. Credit: Tali Mayer
Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit

Over the last five days I’ve visited five cities in the United States: Los Angeles, Columbus, Cincinnati, Baltimore and Miami. I didn’t meet any senior officials in the Obama administration nor was I a guest of any critic of Israel. On the contrary, I spoke to thousands of people who love Israel with all their souls. I listened to hundreds of people whose devotion to Israel is greater than that of many Israelis. But when I looked at my country through the eyes of my countrymen, without whom the country has no future, I wondered what its government was thinking. Where does it think it is leading the Jewish state and the Jewish people?

What are they smoking there in Jerusalem? What world do they live in? Don’t they have eyes to see the looming iceberg? Don’t they have ears to hear the roar of the disaster they are about to wreak on all of us?

The alliance between the United States and Israel is based on common values: democracy, liberty, human rights, the rule of law and entrepreneurship. These values are what sustains the alliance, not common interests. Americans like to believe that Israel is a Middle Eastern forward position for their worldview.

However, our common values don’t accord with the removal of Arabs from buses in Judea and Samaria, with the undermining and neutralization of the Supreme Court, or with the constant and perplexing settlement drive.

An Israel that occupies, settles and discriminates is not an Israel that the United States can continue to back indefinitely. An Israel that insists on behaving like an bull in a china shop will sooner or later lose the support of America’s younger generation. This won’t happen next week or next month, not even next year. But it will happen. If the head-trippers in Israel continue on their path, the collapse will inevitably come.

At the base of the alliance between Israel and the Jewish Diaspora stands a mutual responsibility. We guarantee their existence and they guarantee ours. We are the insurance policy for their future and they are the safety net for ours.

However, the Jewish Diaspora is currently in dire straits. Increasing numbers of their sons and daughters find it difficult to identify with Jewish nationalism, Jewish religion or the Jewish establishment. Following meaningful, moving experiences during their Birthright trips, many feel some attraction towards Israel. They learned that Tel Aviv is exciting, Israelis are cool and Israeli high-tech is amazing. However, when they observe that the government in Jerusalem continues to settle the hilltops and the Knesset in Jerusalem advocates an outdated worldview, they are at a loss.

The head-on collision between their universal values and the tribal values espoused by the political establishment in Israel causes them to run for their lives. Instead of embracing younger Jewish people, we repel them. Instead of winning hearts, we are losing souls. In our deeds and misdeeds we are alienating the younger generation of Jews. With their own hands, the pseudo-Zionists of the right are undermining Zionism. With their own hands, the pseudo-patriots of the settlements are depleting the ranks of the Jewish people. Those stoners in Jerusalem who are jeopardizing our alliance with the United States are at the same time endangering our brothers and sisters and our communities in the Diaspora.

It’s time to stop this out-of-control party. The light drugs have long since been traded in for hard ones. The mild hallucination has become a bad trip. A Jerusalem ruled by the religious settler movement is a Jerusalem operating in a parallel universe that does not exist. The Jerusalem of the zealots is shrouded in aromatic smoke that cuts it off from reality, distances it from the Jewish people and is liable to lead it into a terrible conflagration. The time has come to shake it out of its fantasy, rehabilitate it and return this country to its senses.

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