David FriedmanThe writer serves as the President of American Friends of Bet El. He is a practicing trial lawyer in New York and maintains a residence in Jerusalem.
Leviticus 19:18 implores us to “love thy neighbor as thyself,” a practice so embedded in the Jewish religion that the giant of the Tannaic Period, Rabbi Akiva, declared it a fundamental principle of the Torah. We love all Jews, even those temporarily (hopefully) disabled by liberal dogma and its destructive obsession with demonizing Israel. But that doesn’t mean we have to like them.
We love all Jews because we see in them the Divine potential, however remote, for their return to good deeds, to spritual awareness, and to the faithful observance of Jewish traditions. Our history is replete with great figures who began on the wrong path. No less a leader than Theodore Herzl – the original visionary of Modern Israel – began his academic career as a member of the anti-Semitic German fraternity, Burschenschaft, before repudiating his colleagues and becoming all-consumed with the creation.of a Jewish state. How tragic would it have been for Herzl’s path to have
We are at war with evil, not with Arabs.
been halted only because of its ignominious start.
One can only hope the same is true for the liberal Jewish echelon of today. People like Jeremy Ben-ami of “J Street” who cut his teeth on the virulently anti-Israel (notwithstanding its name) New Israel Fund, and who today leads an organization – a proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing – that purports to be pro-Israel but advocates just the opposite.
Mr. Ben-ami is no expert on nuclear containment. Yet, before the ink was even dry on the dreadful JCPOA, and well before anyone had a chance to read its 150 pages, let alone study its terms, Mr. Ben-ami made sure that J Street was the first publicly to voice its support. Why? So that before any serious pro-Israel or anti-terror organization raised its opposition to the deal with Iran, the liberal media could point to the fact that a so-called “pro-Israel” group already was in favor.
As the prophet Isaiah said (49:17), “your destroyers will come from within.” Mr. Ben-ami isn’t looking to build anything – his organization stands for nothing other than undercutting traditional pro-Israel positions. But what makes his conduct so pernicious is his attempt to speak on behalf of a purported Jewish organization -- and with a Hebrew surname to boot (ironically, the original name “Ben-ami” is that of the child born of the incestuous union of the Biblical figure Lot with his youngest daughter following the destruction of Sodom -- “Ben-ami” became the father of the nation of Ammon, one of Biblical Israel’s greatest enemies). Unfortunately, hearkening back to the days of the Kapos during the Nazi regime and well before that, there is a history of a minority of Jews betraying their own.
I don’t think all liberal Jews are “self-hating,” as some of my colleagues like to describe them. But I do think that, like most liberals, they suffer a cognitive disconnect in identifying good and evil. To people like Mr. Ben-ami, Palestinian terrorists are not evil – they are just a warm meal, a good job and a little self-respect away from being solid citizens. Of course, we know this to be entirely false: many of the Western World’s deadliest Muslim enemies come from affluent and well-educated backgrounds.
The Jewish religion recognizes a few things about evil: 1) it exists, 2) it threatens us, and 3) it can only be destroyed, not contained, mollified or appeased. Indeed, we are commanded in the Torah to permanently destroy the memory of the Amalekites, the Arab terrorists of yesteryear. When Saul, the first King of Israel, elected not to execute the Amalekite King Agag, his kingship was taken away.
Unfortunately, this is not the liberal way. Jewish liberals claim that traditional Jewish and Zionist principles are in conflict with the rights of other peoples to live freely in Israel. But this is an entirely false conflict – the Torah implores us to “love the stranger” (Deut.10:19) and there is no Zionist principle requiring the subjugation of anyone else. We are at war with evil, not with Arabs – the two are not synonomous. But evil most certainly exists within the Arab and Muslim world and, unless and until eradicated, J Street’s dream of peace is just that.
So I don’t like Mr. Ben-ami and other Jews who espouse self-defeating and irrational views and who misleadingly attempt to present those views as belonging to American Jewry. But, with much love in my heart, I will await their repentence and look forward to their playing a productive role in the growth and advancement of real Jewish values. Maybe that’s a bit too much wishful thinking, but stranger things have happened in Jewish history.