Recently, I read an Op-Ed in Haaretz written by acclaimed American Jewish historians Hasia Diner and Marjorie Field titled, "We're American Jewish historians. This is why we've left Zionism behind."
I can certainly understand, empathize as well as encourage criticism of any governmental entity as part of the political process. I also recognize that a natural distinction exists between politics, government, ideology, country and Judaism. Yet, it seems, as of late, it has become vogue for a segment of the American Jewish population, especially younger Jews to question the necessity of the State of Israel as well as of Zionism. Many do this from the comfort and safety of their posh homes and from a naive American perspective that gives them little understanding of the dangerous anti-Semitism and rhetoric that continues to rear its ugly head throughout the rest of the world, especially in Europe.
Like Diner and Field, they brand the "Law of Return", a law that allows those Jews throughout the globe that desperately need to escape the throes of persecution to live in the safety of a Jewish nation, as racism. What do you think the French Jews who are now escaping persecution and arriving as new Olim into Israel would do if Israel didn't exist? Where would they go?
To say I'm incensed would be an understatement and every Jew should be as well.
The truth is that on many levels, I should be drawn towards their thought process. I was born into a relatively secular American Jewish family. I was raised a reform Jew who at one time believed that "Tikkun Olam", repairing the world was the primary purpose of our religion. I spent a good portion of my life working for democrats, viewed foreign policy from the perspective of a leftist and believed and still believe today in "equality for all".
Even in 1996, when I worked for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) I was flabbergasted that the Organization seemed to be moving to the right and abandoning the ideals that were passed down to me by my parents and grandparents and ingrained into my very being. Yet at some point in my political career, my entire perspective on foreign policy and specifically Israel changed and I finally began to understand the damage that many of these ideas were perpetrating, not only to the State of Israel but also to the Jewish people as a whole.
In the Op-Ed, the authors attempt to propagate a slew of fallacious arguments and irresponsible rhetoric. The notion that Israel stopped being the victims and instead became the aggressor is pure propaganda that is deeply rooted in anti-Semitic thought and self hate.
The fact is that over the course of time the enemies of Israel and the Jews maliciously and brilliantly used the art of public relations, manipulation of conventional, mass and social media to create the illusion that Israel transitioned from " David" and ultimately became "Goliath", running around and actively oppressing and conquering the Palestinian Arabs. The world loves an underdog and through that warped public opinion Israel became public enemy number one around the globe - and to many American Jews who bought that story "hook, line and sinker".
The authors also seem to believe that because having a neutral religious state worked for Jews in America, that the same concept should be adopted in Israel, our ancestral Jewish homeland. Frankly, I'd say that for American Jews this concept has been wrought with challenges and it would be hard to argue with the claim that America, my country, while founded on the separation of church and state is still in many ways a Christian nation.
Because of this, the secularization of Judaism has caused tremendous challenges for the Jewish community. Many American Jews just like me struggle with identity. On the one hand, we are proud of our cultural "Jewishness", yet we still grapple with an ingrained inferiority complex that in many ways has forced us to assimilate, disguising our differences in order to avoid being "too Jewish" and standing out. For many of us, this has created a schizophrenic thought process and a delusional and mythical reality that helps to justify a detachment from Israel and Zionism.
Regardless of what some would choose to believe, Israel and Judaism go hand in hand. Frankly, the real enemy to Israel and to our Judaism is not only external but sadly, it also comes from our own people, especially a segment of American Jews that have turned away from Israel and traditional Zionism.
Jews all over the world are at a crossroads and opinions and ideas from Jewish people that border on delusional like the ones written in the Op-Ed only serve to justify and perpetuate external anti-Semitic rhetoric.
Jerusalem has been the heart of the Jewish people for thousands of years and despite the voices of a few Jewish extremists like Diner and Field, it will remain that way for thousands more as the capital of the only Jewish state on earth..