The neverending crisis. Rabbi Gerald Skolnik of Queens writes in The Jewish Week the young American Jews are angry and furious at Israel, but they need to learn to love the real Israel, warts and all, or they’ll just turn off:
recent studies of the American Jewish community have clearly shown that large sectors of our population, especially the younger cohort, display serious alienation from Israel. They tend to see Israel’s problems and faults far more easily than its accomplishments. They simply are not connected to Israel the way Jews of previous generations most often were, and are lacking that primal connection that was generated by an intimate connection to the Shoah, or having lived through the Six Day War, or Yom Kippur War.
Dr. Sinclair has a simple but critically important thesis. He maintains that we have all contributed to this phenomenon of alienation by being reluctant to teach the “real Israel,” warts and all. In our efforts to transmit not only love of Israel, but more significantly, the ultimate existential importance of a sovereign Jewish state, we have, unwittingly (or perhaps wittingly?), fallen into the trap of being unwilling to address Israel’s faults. Listening to Dr. Sinclair, I was reminded of those voices which, during the days of protest against the Viet Nam war, asserted a posture of “my country, love it or leave it,” as if to say that one who protested America’s policy was less patriotic that one who didn’t. Many protesters against the Viet Nam war protested precisely because they loved America, and were concerned that it was making a terrible mistake.
I think that Dr. Sinclair is right. Whether as a parent, a camp counselor, or a rabbi, I have repeatedly found that the prerequisite for addressing someone’s anger is to validate that piece of the anger that is justified. If someone is upset for a good and legitimate reason, it is worst than counterproductive to pretend that the person is wrong to be annoyed. Once the source of the ill-feeling is validated, it becomes possible to move on.
We all know that Israel is hardly a perfect society. No country is. … There are times when it makes me crazy. But here’s the thing: I love Israel anyway, even when I’m furious at her policies. So many of our younger people can’t get past their frustration with this policy or that one, whether it’s of a religious nature, or treatment of Palestinians in the territories, about which Israelis themselves disagree passionately. We exacerbate that problem when we refuse, either privately or publicly, to admit to Israel’s imperfections, and we portray it as faultless.
His Vietnam analogy suggests that Skolnik thinks that Israel is the country the young people must feel loyal to; and of course he says that Israel has made Jews safer everywhere. This is further evidence of the degree to which dual loyalty is actually mandated by Israel’s supporters. As Jeffrey Goldberg said recently, Israel would fall without American Jewish support. The lobby has always been central, and central to the lobby is Jewish love and allegiance.
At the New Israel Fund, Carole Zabar discusses the same alienation, from a liberal Zionist perspective:
The truth is, we who are active in the American Jewish community know that the conversation has moved on from “Israel-right-or-wrong” to asking a deeper question: How can we help our Israeli cousins build an Israel that is right? No longer do most American Jews fear for Israel’s physical survival; we respect the IDF as the Middle East’s most powerful army.
No longer do most American Jews reject the term “occupation” for what has occurred on the West Bank since 1967, nor do we shy from expressing concern for the terrible impact of that occupation, and the ensuing settlement enterprise, on Israeli society and on the Palestinians. And no longer do we assume that Israeli democracy will somehow always exist, mirroring the Jewish and universal values of equality and justice, because unfortunately we have learned that there are Israeli leaders who claim that those values are wrong for Israel.
The “delegitimization” narrative, upon which the Israeli government and its unofficial allies have spent millions in hasbara shekels, plays much differently in the US. We who live with a Bill of Rights know it is not delegitimizing to honestly question government policy, military behavior, or abuses of human rights.
She stands up for Israel’s “right to exist as a Jewish homeland.”