Opinion |

This Year for Rosh Hashanah, I'm Divorcing Netanyahu's Israel. Settlements Included

Look back to last Rosh Hashanah, and tell me that this is the same world, the same Israel, the same America. Tell me that in the age of the Trump and Bibi show, the sewers have not opened full

Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston
A Palestinian man runs during a demonstration as Israeli soldiers try to catch him, in the West Bank city of Hebron on September 15, 2017.
A Palestinian man runs during a demonstration as Israeli soldiers try to catch him, in the West Bank city of Hebron on September 15, 2017.Credit: THOMAS COEX/AFP
Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston

Maybe you know someone like me.

I love this place. I love the continually astounding souls of ordinary people in Israel, of every background and shade, whose human decency has survived terrible challenge. I love the look and the scent of this place, the rudeness, the pain even, of its physical beauty. I have no regrets about moving here, living here, falling in love here, raising my family here, serving the country, speaking an ancient language – my language, the one I hated in Hebrew school, the one which has been here for thousands of years – understanding and speaking it with hardship and also savored wonder.

But something has changed.

Look back to last Rosh Hashanah, and tell me that this is the same world, the same Israel, the same America. Tell me that in the age of the Trump and Bibi show, the sewers have not opened full.

Most years, I come up with a whole slew of resolutions. This year I have just one. This year, for Rosh Hashanah, I'm divorcing Netanyahu's Israel.

Yes, the sewers were always there. But this was not just any year. For starters, this was Israel's Year of the Blacklist.

This was a year in which we learned that official Israel, in the form of its Chief Rabbinate, compiled a blacklist of scores of rabbis – some of them Orthodox – in 22 countries overseas, scholars and spiritual leaders whose opinions on the question of who is Jewish a Rabbinate official decided should be disregarded. This was a year in which we learned that a Chief Rabbinate blacklist of Israelis rendered "unmarriageable" – some of them "Un-Jewed" – has grown explosively to nearly 900 individuals since 2015 alone.

This was a year in which we learned that Netanyahu's Interior Ministry had with neither explanation nor cause revoked the citizenship of hundreds of Bedouin citizens of Israel – some of whom had served in the army and regularly paid taxes – leaving them stateless.

And the blacklists just kept on coming. This was a year in which the government decided that too-strongly leftist opinions or a demonstrated commitment to human rights – or simply rumors from some right-winger abroad – should be enough to deny you entry into Israel. Jewish or not. Law abiding or not.

This was a year in which an ardent lover of Israel and former CEO of the San Francisco Jewish Federation was detained for multiple interrogations on her entry to Israel's Ben-Gurion Airport, because of her current work as a vice-president of the New Israel Fund – about which Netanyahu's government lies with impunity and slanders as if it were the Nazi Party, or Iran.

But none of this should have come as a surprise. This was the year when, without a second thought and with one cowardly stroke, Netanyahu divorced the entire non-Orthodox Jewish world. Without so much as a whimper, he caved in to ultra-Orthodox political pressure by reneging on key agreements on egalitarian prayer and conversions in Israel.

A lot has broken this year, and it's not going to be fixed anytime soon, if ever. Of all people, the chair of the pro-Israel stalwart Jewish Agency, Michael Siegal, said after Netanyahu's unprecedented kick in the teeth of world Jewry, “The government of Israel has taken certain actions that threaten the Jewish people, and we want our communities back home to understand that support for Israel does not necessarily mean support for the government of Israel.”

This is the Israel Benjamin Netanyahu has spent two decades bringing to fruition. This is the Israel he has ruined. This was the year Netanyahu proved that, not only is this not a state of all its citizens, it is also not a welcoming homeland nor a defensive shield for the world's Jews.

To drive the point home, the prime minister also served notice that if Trump-base social media warriors launch anti-Semitic attacks against liberal Jews in the United States – as in last week's trending twitter hashtag #GasTheSynagogue – he'll let it pass without comment.

So this is my resolution this year. To paraphrase the prime minister's dear friend Donald Trump, I am divorcing the Israel of pro-active nastiness. The Israel which sees as traitors, Kapos, Nazis, those who love this place but who believe it's being governed literally to death.

The government which this year realized that it could annex the West Bank, all of its settlers and all of its Palestinians, not by law but by lying. Ariel? It's Israel, period. Hebron? Also. Eli? Shilo? Yizhar? Itamar? Israel. As Israeli as it gets.

For an encore, Netanyahu just went a step further. Last week, he lent his tacit support to a new plan – the ultra-right National Union faction's vision of annexing the territories as a means of pushing Palestinians to leave the West Bank.

I'm done. I'm divorcing the official Israel which defines democracy as "we get to do whatever the hell we want."

Fair enough. After all these years of irreconcilable differences and mental cruelty, I've finally got the government's message. So I'm not asking for a divorce. I'm going to go out and get one.

No one from the government ever asked me or anyone I know if it was fair to take government assistance away from Holocaust survivors and Israeli Bedouin and needy development towns within Israel, and spend that money on new and bigger houses in new and bigger illegal-for-now settlements.

No one from the government ever asked me if I thought any of it was fair. That same government that takes water away from Palestinians and routes it to illegal-for-now settlements. That same government which demands with righteous outrage that the EU mark the subsidized products of illegal-for-now or once-illegal-but-now-magically-legal settlements as "Made in Israel."

This year, for Rosh Hashanah, in divorcing Netanyahu's Israel, I'm also divorcing the settlements.

From this Rosh Hashanah on, I'm checking labels much more closely. From this Rosh Hashanah on, I'm going to be much more careful about what we bring into our kosher home.

Just as, without asking any of us, the government unilaterally gives settlements, their institutions and their businesses every unfair advantage, this year I will make every effort to support businesses only within the Green Line, and Palestinian businesses on both sides of the Line. A form of affirmative action.

It's only fair.

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