Opinion |

Israelis Who Hate American Jews

They're not saying 'Oh, please, come to Israel so we can all live together as soul-mates.' They're saying, 'We hate you. We don't want your kind here.' They want you to walk away, to abandon the playing field to them

Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands in front of the open ark as he visits the Greek Monastirioton synagogue, June 15, 2017.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Greek Monastirioton synagogue, June 15, 2017.Credit: ALEXANDROS AVRAMIDIS/REUTERS
Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston

Let's imagine that you're a North American Jew. Let's say that for as long as you can remember, Benjamin Netanyahu's Israel has done things to drive you nuts. Break your heart. Act contrary to your most basic principles.

And all of it in your name, in the name of the Jewish people as a whole.

And you, who were always annoyingly polite for the Israeli palate, took it.

Even though it was done in your name, you were told, "With all due respect, you don't live here. You have no right to criticize."

No right to speak out – against any issue. Even last week, when Benjamin Netanyahu drove two quick stakes into the hearts of American Jews. Without a second thought, he agreed to Orthodox political blackmail on non-egalitarian prayer at the Kotel, Jerusalem's ancient Western Wall, and on Orthodox control of conversions to Judaism.

American Jews, for the first time, shocked Israelis by speaking up. When they did, Israelis, led by Netanyahu's interior minister, unleashed torrents of abuse, saying that these people, who aren't really Jews – they're talking about you, now – are bent on annihilation.

"We won't allow all sorts of groups," said Interior Minister Arye Deri, "to come and destroy everything which we have built here in the state of Israel."

The next morning, Rabbi Dov Halbertal, a former senior official of the chief rabbi's office, went on a television talk show to tell American Reform Jews, "We need to throw you out of the state of Israel – not physically, but ideologically."

And ex-Knesset Member Aryeh Eldad, former commander of the army's medical corps, suggested that liberal American Jews would soon get rid of themselves anyway, through low birth rates and intermarriage.

"This is a Jewish community in its death throes," he said. "It's all but dead."

These Israelis are not saying, "Oh, please, come to Israel so we can all live together as soul-mates." They're saying, "We hate you. We don't want your kind here."

The Israeli right wants you to throw up your hands in disgust and just walk away. They want you to abandon the playing field to them.

But why in the world would you want to do what they want? Is there anything else they want that you want?

More freedom to give Palestinians less freedom? I doubt you see that as a positive goal.

More powers to strip democracy of its powers? Thanks to Trump, you're now seeing what that's like, close up.

More leeway to mistreat and neglect Holocaust survivors, non-Jews, the elderly, asylum seekers, the disabled, the poverty stricken? You don't have to live here to know what's wrong.

Why do these Israelis hate you? For all kinds of reasons. Soft. Spoiled. Left-leaning. Distant. Assimilated. Obama-lovers. And you smile too much.

Oh, and one other thing. You take all the crap we Israelis dish out and you say nothing. You're doormats. Shmattehs. Maybe you'll let out a yell about the Kotel, but not about anything else that happens here.

Prove them wrong. They want you disgusted and uninvolved. Put your anger to good use. Show up. Show up here. Raise your voice. Stand up for what you know to be right.

Yell louder where you live. Support the NGOs that promote what you believe in. The Israel that speaks to your values.

Come here more, not less. Put your body where your conscience is.

And about that ironclad right-wing principle of "You don't live here, so you have no right to talk?" The joke is, there are plenty of occupation-lovers like Sheldon Adelson who don't live in Israel. He doesn't have skin in the game. Yet, for all the Israelis who hate American Jews for getting involved, it's just fine for Sheldon to meddle and interfere.

Just like they think it's terrific that Netanyahu intercedes in American electoral politics, attacking Democrats, addressing Congress, licking Trump's upholstery.

In any case, if you speak up, these Israelis may call you names. They may even hate you for it.

But they don't get to decide what you should think. And they don't get to decide how Jewish you are.

They don't get to decide that you hate Israel, just because you care about it enough to try to change it.

The fact is that if you really hated Israel, Netanyahu's is exactly the government you'd want. Destructive. Defensive. Hateful.

The fact is that if you truly hated Israel, you wouldn't want to change a thing.

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