Here is more news on the state of American Jewish leadership in the era of Jim Crow Israel. Nearly 600 Conservative rabbis and leaders, most of them North American, wrote a letter to Benjamin Netanyahu expressing “dismay, anger and sense of betrayal” over official discrimination against non-Orthodox Jews (regarding worship in Jerusalem and Jewish conversion).
But of course this choir never gathers to express dismay, anger and betrayal over the occupation or discrimination against Palestinians. It really is about, What’s good for the Jews? The letter is explicit about Israel being democratic, but only for Jews: “The time has come for Israel to embrace Jewish pluralism as a positive value to ensure the Jewishness of the Jewish State and its democratic values.”
Mr. Prime Minister, we are Zionists. We have, will and continue to support Israel as the realization of the Jewish dream “lihiyot Am chofshee b’artzeynu – to be a free people in our Land.” You must understand, however, that in the 21st century we find it unconscionable that Israel, the Jewish State, is the only democratic state in the world in which not all Jews are recognized or supported equally under the law or in the public square.
For decades we have put aside our self-interest of recognition for the values of Klal Yisrael and for assuring the building of Israel’s infrastructure and security. We live in a different context today than did our grandparents at the time of Israel’s founding and our parents in the aftermath of the Six Day War. The status quo is no longer tenable or tolerable.
Usually those words, “the status quo is untenable,” refer to Israel’s occupation and treatment of Palestinians. Not for these rabbis. They promise to continue to talk up Israel from their pulpits– but:
We will speak about Israel as an ideal as portrayed in our liturgy and as reality. We will encourage our community to purchase Israel Bonds, to visit, to make Aliyah…
Mr. Prime Minister, you can influence the content of our Yamim Noraim [High Holidays] messages. Will we speak of Israel’s reality in a language of betrayal or hope?
This letter is a reminder of how four-square the American Jewish establishment stands with Zionism, and has for 80 years, and the double standard on human rights for Jews and non-Jews that is today obvious to anyone who considers the American Jewish stance toward Israel. This type of Zionist unanimity makes it essential for young Jews to speak up and say, Not in our name. For the sake of Palestinians, and also for the sake of Jews.
Let me quote Rabbi Brant Rosen, writing on the hypocrisy in The Forward (in July): “The Real Wall Problem: When Will Diaspora Jews Fight for Palestinians?”
“The North American Jewish establishment is furious with Israel and has just let loose an astonishing fusillade of collective protests…Has the Jewish institutional community finally broken their abject silence over human rights ahuse? Are Jewish communal leaders finally finding the courage of their convictions on the issue of Israel/Palestine?”
“While Israel’s aggressive occupation now marks its 50th year and the cause of a just peace remains more remote than ever, our Jewish leaders are still more concerned about the rights of Jews than the rights of all who live in the land…We will willingly violate our own values for you. Just give liberal Jews rights and we’ll remain silent on your unchecked militarism and oppression of the Palestinian people. The silence is all the more egregious given the humanitarian crisis Israel is currently inflicting on the people of Gaza….
According to UNICEF, the 2014 war took ‘a heavy toll in children.’ More than 500 were killed, 3,374 were injured—nearly one third of whom suffered permanent disability, and more than 1,500 were orphaned. Hundreds of thousands were left in trauma.”
“I can’t help but ask: where is the moral outrage in liberal Jewish establishments over these cruel human ahuses? While I certainly believe in the cause of religious freedom, I find it stunning that so many liberal-minded members of the Jewish community are more concerned with Jewish rights in a Jewish state than the basic human rights of non-Jewish children who live under its control. Such are the sorrows of Jewish political nationalism—even the more ‘liberal’ among us seem only to be able to express their tolerance selectively.”
Thanks to Ofer Neiman and Allan Brownfeld.