Why the Israeli attitude toward American Jews isn't very Jewish

Israelis seem to be telling US Jews: 'You can come here whenever you want. You can have a home here whenever you want. But please, keep your mouth shut until you do' - and I think there's something wrong with that picture.

Will Blesch

OpEds American Jews rally for Israel
American Jews rally for Israel

Hitler visits a lunatic asylum, where the patients all dutifully perform the Nazi salute. Suddenly, Hitler sees one man whose arm is not raised. “Why don’t you greet me the same way as everyone else?” he hisses. The man answers: “My Führer, I’m an orderly, not a madman!”

I got a good chuckle out of reading that joke. Hope you did too.

But, I included it not so much for a laugh as to make a point, and that point is this:

American Jews have a right to criticize Israel and to offer up their own interpretations of the direction the country should take. They don't have to salute every choice Israel makes. They have a right to voice their views.

Now hold on just a minute.

I can already hear the howls of outrage. Before I get to the reasons I make the assertion I do, let me just say that I understand the aggravation citizens of Israel feel when others opine on what they may feel is "internal business."

It's annoying when people who have no stake in something try to tell those who do ... how to live their lives, how to behave, and what direction their country should take.

I understand all of that.

However, there's personal irritation over others mouthing off who have no stake in your nation ...

And then there's simply what amounts to a fascist ideology of shutting down all debate that doesn't align with one's own personal belief system.

By the by, let me just clarify and say that I'm NOT accusing those who get upset with American Jews for giving unwanted advice of being Nazis ...

Let's just get that out of the way right now.

Both the Left and the Right in today's political climate simply have a habit of trying to close down speech they don't like.

Those on the right in Israel may agree with the ideals of free speech, but they'll point at American Jews and say:

"Sure, you have a right to say what you want about Israel ... but please shut up about it."

In other words, they contradict their own ideals. There's a myopia at work.

Let me ask a rhetorical question ...

Does the door swing both ways?

Surely Israelis criticize America, yet that doesn't make them Anti-American.

When looking at the world, do members of the Likud, the Bayit Yehudi ... any Israeli party ... take your pick ...

Do they criticize the governments of Israel's enemies? Don't Israeli Jews suggest the ways in which Hamas, Fatah, Hezbollah, the governments of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon (the list could go on quite a ways) should change?

Don't Israeli Jews have an opinion, which they are not afraid to express concerning how China and Russia run their countries?

Oh sure, it's not official government policy to suggest (except to Iran) how those nations conduct their own internal affairs ... but don't Israeli "intellectuals," professors, etc. make statements on foreign affairs that become public?

Aren't there former generals and business leaders who speak in public forums and who let slip their personal beliefs on the manner in which other nations behave?

Aren't there editorials in leading newspapers both on and offline?

Of course there are.

Why then, are American Jews uniquely criticized in some Israeli circles for opening their mouths vis-à-vis Israel?

Could it be that some on the right in Israel see American Jews as an existential threat?

"Oh, American Jews are vastly Left Wing, progressive liberals."

"Oh, they are mostly Reform Jews. Oh, they kind of agree with Blue and White (Labor, Meretz, whatever.)"

"Oh. They're misguided at best. And, at worst, they're enemies."

Let me ask you another question.

Isn't that mentality shameful?

"Classical anti-Semitism denies the equal right of Jews as citizens within society. Anti-Zionism denies the equal rights of the Jewish people its lawful sovereignty within the community of nations." - Abba Eben

Many Jews around the world may not be Israeli citizens at present. But, can it not be argued that the very purpose of Zionism is to ensure a place in the Jews' historical homeland for ALL Jews?

Why do we even have a Law of Return otherwise? And, isn't an attempt at shutting American Jews up also an attempt at denying a certain segment of World Jewry equal rights?

"Oh! You can come here whenever you want. You can have a home here whenever you want. But please, keep your mouth shut until you do ..."

There's something wrong with that picture.There is something wrong with everyone and their neighbor insisting that everyone march along in lock-step.

Moreover, it's an attitude that won't change anything. If the right in Israel doesn't like the way American Jews talk about Israel perhaps they ought to focus on taking an honest, objective view on some of the criticism leveled against the nation.

Additionally, they could try approaching their critics in love and with an outstretched hand.

What did Rav Kook say?

“The truly righteous do not complain about evil, but rather add justice; they do not complain about heresy, but rather add faith; they do not complain about ignorance, but rather add wisdom.”



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