Opinion |

Israel Uses Diaspora Jews as Human Shields

Israel is happy to exploit the world’s Jews, but doesn’t care that its actions put them at risk

yossi klein
Yossi Klein
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We brought Benjamin Netanyahu on ourselves, but why are the world’s Jews to blame?
We brought Benjamin Netanyahu on ourselves, but why are the world’s Jews to blame?Credit: Eran Wolkowski
yossi klein
Yossi Klein

Israel is a danger to the world’s Jews. It calls itself their protector, but doesn’t care about the consequences for them of its actions. Jews abroad pay the price of hostility to Israel, yet the state insists on wrapping them around it like a suicide vest. You want to hurt me? Okay, but be aware that they’ll blow up first.

The effects on overseas Jews aren’t part of Israel’s military calculations. It will do what it does even if it hurts them. But that won’t keep it from claiming to represent them, to speak in their name and to use them as hostages. They are the human shield. Your loyalty to your Judaism, it says, comes before your loyalty to your homeland.

The Judaism in whose name the state speaks is not that of most Diaspora Jews. Israel limits or excludes their Judaism. Israel’s Judaism is that of a minority that took over the country, and in the United States it is more attentive to evangelical Christians than it is to Reform or Conservative Jews. The state fights them, yet uses them.

Israeli governments always used Diaspora Jews. Israeliness hid behind Judaism. The dangers to which Israel exposed Diaspora Jews never deterred it. In 1956 it used Egyptian Jews to sabotage their state. It sent Jonathan Pollard to spy against his own country. It imposes itself on the world’s Jews, forcing them to debate their loyalties while insisting on equating criticism of Israel with an assault on Judaism and all Jews — that is, anti-Semitism. We have plenty of that kind of anti-Semitism right here. By this formula, half of Israel is anti-Semitic because it can’t stand the government. But the efficacy of accusing the world of anti-Semitism is waning. Overuse has worn out the shame mechanism and moved up its expiry date. Gone are the days we could justify a strike on Gaza with what was done to us in Auschwitz.

Israel won’t admit this, but from its perspective there’s an upside to anti-Semitism: It “proves” foreign countries’ failure to protect their Jews. Their negligence underscores our excellence. The head of state, who is also the head of the world’s Jews, is proud of the security he gives his Jews. Three years ago, after terror attacks against French Jews, he called on the community to come to Israel because their country can’t protect them. (Some 5,000 Jews have died in terror attacks in Israel.)

Israel rejects condemnation of its actions in Gaza. It forsakes the Jews and discounts the non-Jews, but would do anything for a little affection from them! It’s hungry for every crumb of recognition. Our privatized state will expropriate and nationalize and embrace and leech onto any accomplishment, from a judo medal to a startup’s exit.

We saw this last week. Two of the Netherlands’ most sensitive national issues were assaulted: Israel’s Eurovision win and the killings in Gaza, both of them dear to our hearts. The Dutch parody of “Toy,” which included criticism of Israel’s actions at the Gaza border, was denounced immediately as “anti-Semitic,” and Israel’s embassy lodged a protest. The embassy knew full well the song wasn’t anti-Semitic, but the desire to conflate anti-Israel with anti-Semitic won out.

Anyone who criticizes singer Neta Barzilai also criticizes the prime minister, his wife, his party and the government, and seeks to bring him down. Why? Because we say so, and we draw our authority to define anti-Semitism from the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust.

We brought Benjamin Netanyahu on ourselves, but why are the world’s Jews to blame? Why do they have to pay the price of the king of the Jews’ flight from his criminal investigations? If I lived abroad I’d be following his recent actions with dread and suspicion. The underground bunker and the armored car for Sara bode ill for Jews in Israel and overseas.

When we hear that he’s called real estate agents in Tuscany or opened a bank account in the Caribbean, it will be time to get the big suitcase down from the attic. The brave defender of the Jews is willing to sacrifice each and every one of us in exchange for dropping even a single charge in the submarine affair.

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