Israel is about to turn 66 years old, and here are two rather pessimistic birthday pieces by two men who once believed in it fully. JJ Goldberg at the Forward says “Every year it gets harder to join the parade.” He does some cheering (which I’ve left out) but grants a lot of power to the Palestinian narrative.
[L]oving and celebrating the Jewish state has gotten just a bit harder than last year….
At times it’s seemed as if the whole thing is a makeshift experiment, that the miracle was an illusion, that the world — and perhaps the Jews themselves — weren’t ready for the revival of Jewish nationhood.
There is, too, the dark truth that many of us are just coming to understand, and others of us dismiss outright: that the rebirth of the Jewish nation brought with it the undoing of another people, resulting in decades of hurt, bloodshed and hatred. For years most of us didn’t see it, or wouldn’t. In part we were blinded by the other side’s violent hostility. Partly, too, we rejected it because we feared acknowledging a darkness at the heart of Zionism would impugn its very legitimacy.
Lately it’s impossible to ignore. The Palestinian narrative has entered the culture. It’s permeated public discourse, flooded the media, blanketed the college campuses. Many of us don’t know how to reconcile it with what we’ve understood to be the Israeli miracle. Was it no miracle after all?…
In fact, some scholars say, those who grew up after 1967 have only known Israel as a military power, an occupier, a focus of controversy and, to the extent they think about it, a source of discomfort. The common emotional response is what the sociologists call “distancing.”
Michael Lerner of Tikkun, at Huffpo on Israel’s 66th birthday, sounds an often despairing note, calling Israel one of the most arrogant nations on the earth and noting the ways that its needs are transforming Diaspora communities:
And yet, every year I mourn for Judaism that has become increasingly identified with a blind loyalty to the State of Israel and its policies, and the willingness of Jewish religious leaders to call it “the Jewish state” and see it as a religious duty to support its current government policies toward Palestinians. Those policies are in complete opposition to the Torah’s most frequently repeated injunction, namely one version or another of the following command: “When you come into your land, do not oppress the stranger (the other, ha’ger), remember that you were strangers (the Other) in the land of Egypt.”
Israel today presents the Jews as one of the more arrogant nations on the planet. Having entered into an agreement to release prisoners as part of the deal that allowed the Palestinian Authority to engage in negotiations even while Israel continued to expand Israeli settlers on the West Bank, Israel then refused to fulfill its agreement and then suspended the negotiations altogether when the Palestinians sought membership in various U.N. committees. Over and over again, Israel has double standards for Israelis and Palestinians, violating the Torah injunction “One law shall be for you and the stranger that dwells in your midst.” Israeli Human Rights organizations like B’tselem continue to document Israeli human rights violations and violations of international law. And I’ve witnessed first hand the oppressiveness of the Occupation on the daily lives of ordinary Palestinians. It’s enough to make a Jewish soul cry in despair.
What’s worst is that the central motif of Judaism has been perverted by what has become the defacto idolatry for Israel worship. Go into any synagogue or Jewish community center and say that you don’t believe in God, don’t think highly of Torah, and certainly don’t follow Jewish law, and you are likely to be greeted and welcomed in with a smile and a shrug. But say you don’t support Israel and immediately you will be shunned and told you are likely a self-hating Jew. Israel has become defacto the God of the Jews.
In order to defend Israeli policies, Jews around the world insist on the need for the Jewish people to have power and dominate others, because that’s “the real world” in which we live. This is the logic of Roman imperialism, Christian colonialism, Hitler and Stalin and all those who have opposed Jews through history.
Judaism came into being to proclaim a different logic: that the world was not run by power but by a Force of Love, compassion and generosity, the Force that makes possible the transformation from “that which is” to “that which ought to be.” The slaves who elected to not follow Moses into he desert were the realists, the Jews were those who saw that reality could and should be transformed to a just reality. Abandoning this is the destruction of Judaism.