Monday, June 22, 2015
Like most Jews in the Diaspora, I was brought up to support Israel unconditionally. I was excited to bring my quarters to Hebrew School every week to insert in the slots in the JNF folder, so that when it was filled a tree would be planted in my name in the Holy Land. Dad's sister made aliyah in 1949 and she and my uncle raised their family on different kibbutzim.
Over the last 10 years I have had an increasingly hard time reconciling the vision of Israel I was brought up with to the current political reality, and it has made it impossible to maintain that unconditional support. This put me in the awful position of being berated in synagogue on Shabbat when I went to say kaddish for my father and get away from politics, by a man who thought I (and indeed, all Jews in the Diaspora) have no right to such misgivings.
Last night, when I saw the racist joke tweeted by Israeli talk show host and socialite Judy Mozes, I wondered if the Israeli government is trying purposefully to destroy their relationship with Jews in the Diaspora.
You see, Mozes' husband, Silvan Shalom, was appointed last month by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to lead negotiations with the Palestinians and to oversee strategic dialogue with the United States. What better way to oversee strategic dialogue with the United States than to have your wife make a RACIST JOKE ABOUT OUR PRESIDENT DAYS AFTER RACIALLY-BASED SHOOTING OF NINE INNOCENT PEOPLE?!!
Then we've got Michael Oren publicly disparaging POTUS on every conceivable front -while pushing his new book. That's after Netanyahu accepted the GOP invitation to address Congress prior to the Israeli elections, in a massive breach of protocol, and had the chutzpah to claim it "wasn't political", but meanwhile was broadcasting it from his website and collecting signatures at the same time.
Here's my question for Israelis and their government: we just lost nine wonderful Americans to racist violence. Let's call it what it was - we lost them to white supremacist terrorism. To people who hate Jews as well as blacks.
And guess what, Israel and Netanyahu? The people you are aligning yourself in the United States? They aren't speaking out against racism. In fact, they are avoiding it at all costs. Rick Perry called it an "accident," then "pivoted" to blame it on drugs instead of racism. Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee said "I'm not a South Carolinian" . Lindsay Graham said "The confederate flag works here."
For strategic and pragmatic purposes, Netanyahu's government chose to ally itself with the right-wing evangelical base of the Republican party. During the Bush era, one of the Israeli embassy outreach officers to the Evangelical community came and spoke at our synagogue, and I asked him: "Why is Israel aligning itself with Evangelicals when they believe there should be an Israel so that the Rapture can happen and then if we don't accept Jesus as our personal Saviour we take the down escalator to Hell?"
He shrugged and said, "We don't believe in the Rapture, and we need the support now."
Well, I hope that support works for you, Bibi & Co, because in currying support with the right, you are losing the support of Jews like me who remember what it was like for us. Who remember that it was not so long ago that it was our families that were discriminated against and reviled. And that's why we believe in social justice and fight against racism and discrimination - not perpetrating it and allying ourselves with those who do.
During the Gaza bombing campaign, someone forwarded me the most disgusting racist anti-Palestinian screed I'd read in a very long time. If you'd substituted Jew for Palestinian, it could have been written by Goebbels. I forwarded it to my Rabbi, hoping that he might say something about it in his sermon - warning people about the sin of Loshen hara, reminding them about Joshua and the Spies, etc. But instead, he made an excuse - that when people are under stress they make bad choices.
Trust me, I understand that. I've made a lot of bad choices under stress, and continue to do so, and most likely will continue to do so. BUT....I was really disappointed by that response, because as Seth Godin pointed out so well recently:
I'm sick of being told to keep my criticism of Israel "in house" by people who ask "where are the moderate Muslims? Why aren't they speaking out?" only to see continued behavior that I find reprehensible from the highest levels of the Israeli government.
"People like us, we don't do things like that."
Judy Mozes made her racist tweet against our president on the anniversary of the death of Jewish civil rights activists Mickey Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, who along with James Chaney were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi during Freedom Summer. She should be ashamed of herself. And Israel should be ashamed of her.