When Israel Becomes A Source Of Embarrassment
03/08/2011 - 23:24
Gary Rosenblatt

Responding to a talk on the Israeli-Palestinian situation by the PLO representative to the U.S., Maen Rashid Areikat, in New York the other day, an Israeli professor at NYU commented publicly how ironic it was that the PLO ambassador sounded more reasonable than Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman.

Areikat smiled broadly and many in the audience, a group of several dozen Jewish leaders and graduate students, nodded approvingly.

Sign of the times?

It seems so. Areikat spoke at a luncheon and program sponsored by the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at NYU Wagner and the Taub Center for Israel Studies at NYU. His remarks were greeted warmly as he called on American Jews to help convince Israel to end the negotiating stalemate, and the occupation of the West Bank, and make peace with the Palestinians.

“Don’t use [the excuse of] security to prolong my suffering,” Areikat said, adding that resentment toward Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, though not at evident during the recent Egyptian revolution, will become more of a factor in the region soon.

There was little pushback from the audience to Areikat’s views, and Steven M. Cohen, the director of the Berman Center who served as host and moderator, praised the talk as “enlightening and inspiring.”

The mood at the event was one of many growing indications to me that the current Israeli government has become a source of embarrassment to many liberal American Jews.

Prime Minister Netanyahu better not wait until late May to come to the U.S. and present a new proposal for advancing the stalled peace talks. With the situation deteriorating on the hasbara front, something must be done a lot sooner than Netanyahu’s scheduled appearance at the annual AIPAC conference, which begins May 22, and it better be more substantive than past efforts.

Most American Jews want to feel proud of the Jewish State, not frustrated or ashamed. It doesn’t help when they read of continued settlement growth, the flotilla debacle, Foreign Minister Lieberman’s hard-line comments about Israeli Arabs and other issues, or that the Knesset conducted inquiries into the funding sources of NGOs, or that the Chief Rabbinate is increasingly rigid on matters of marriage, divorce and conversion.

Never mind the complex challenges Israel faces in a hostile neighborhood, where compromise is seen as weakness. Many Jews just don’t want to read and see stories that portray Israel as the source of Mideast problems, whether or not the analysis is accurate.

Federation fundraisers say that even big givers worry aloud about Israeli policies and the negative impact such policies are having on their children, a generation that does not remember Israeli feats like Entebbe, much less the Six-Day War.

My gut tells me that the status quo is not good for Israel, and more creative ways must be found to convince the world, starting with American Jews, that Jerusalem really wants a two-state solution before the option becomes moot.

Comments

The editor rightly shines a light on what anyone who is not in denial recognizes as fact. I view this incredibly complex situation through the lens of a PR professional and a Jew who loves Israel. I physically cringe every time I read comments about "apartheid Israel" and other language which I used to dismiss as standard anti-Semitic hate rhetoric. I know better now.

Jewish values prohibit behaving like thugs and bullies. Settlers are permitted to behave like thugs and worse, while government looks the other way. As long as Israeli Arabs and Palestinians are deliberately excluded from access to the "grid" that delivers water, electricity and sewage services to the settlers right across the street, and now that laws are on the books legitimizing Israel's longtime policies which deny Israeli Arabs any right to own or rent land (as well as gays and people with disabilities) if the local community "council" deems them inappropriate neighbors, I have trouble calling it a true democracy. Have you all forgotten about the race laws in Germany?

Regardless of whatever history the "other" may have of mistreating the Jewish people, we cannot go on forever using that as a rationale for accepting these discriminatory policies, implicitly condoned from the top down. Yes, I hold Israel to a high standard because a basic tenet of Judaism is gmilat chesed. Nowhere is it stipulated that this should be limited to Jews; it is meant to apply to how we treat all of humanity.

How can you attack the editor for noting how some Jews compartmentalize the same discriminatory practices that were used against their people as okay when used against Israeli Arabs and Palestinians? Sorry to be so simplistic but remember "two wrongs don't make a right?" That kind of thinking, and the bullying of Israeli leadership who cannot move past a constant "fight or flight" mentality will get us nowhere. Finally, as parents teach a misbehaving child that it is not the child but her actions that are bad, we are allowed to love Israel without accepting policies that are not in keeping with the basic values of Judaism.

It is really funny to see the amount of courageous Anonymous who submit their comments, insult and run away...

And it's equally funny to read that if you do not support unconditionally the current Israeli government policy (I am not saying Israel, intentionally it's two different things) you are on the verge of being excommunicated. Fortunately you don't get burned theses days.

As a little reminder, democracy is at the core foundation of Israel. Those in power have another view on the matter, especially gate keepers like Lieberman who is illiterate on that matter. Remember where he comes from, Moldavia, not a paragon of democracy.

Following the conventional wisdom of the current right activist, if I do not agree I am against Israel, this is explained by the fact I am jewish self hater and so on. Cut the crap. This kind of argument is generally held by authoritarians, as an easy way to dismiss any kind of contradictory views.

I am Jewish, proud of it and support Israel. This does not mean I have to say amen to everything, especially to the religious right who are slight out of their mind. And this I really mean it.

That said, when Jewish elites from the US start to feel embarrassed and it becomes a real burden, testosterone addicts should start to worry and put more brain in their thiniking, because it is not only fund raising that could be dried up, but also political support in the long run.

As an American jew and son of a sabra who is proud of his heritage, I agree very much that Israel has become an embrassment, ideed, more than an embarassment, I am embarrased when I see Israel perpetuate a policy that is not only immoral with respect to the legitimate rights and aspirations of the Palestinians, but, as a col-eyed realist who wants Israel to exist in peace and honor, unsustainable and foolish. AS an American who is quite cognizant that it is American money and consistent support that substantially enables Israeli policy and military strength, I am embarrassed and very saddened by Israeili settlements and ongoing expropriation of Arab lands and the indfinate continuation and perpetuation of an occupation that robs a people of hope for a reasonably secure and propserous life.

As Jews, especially Jews who know better than most peoples the effects of unjustice, segragation, oppression and discrimination, we must be better. I am not a "self-hating jew." Indeed, I celebrate my heritage. My jewish heritage informs my humanity and my deep and sincere abhorrance of so much that is done in the name of "security" and the narrow focus of those fundamentalists who assert a biblical birthright in lands wrongfully seized and still held by force and the consequent right to indefinitely occupy and brutalize a people and deny them the basic rights that all should share.

That's a very sweeping statement. You are attempting to speak for an entire populace of American Jews and non Jews. Wow. You use the word 'all' very freely.
Your opinion is valuable as YOUR opinion; but please don't speak for me.

170 million people died in holocausts in the 20th century only a small percentage of these people were Jews. It's time for the Israelis to recognize that they are a drop in the bucket of the problems of the bigger world. Racism, apartheid policies, stealing the water the Palestinians have are only creating more problems for the Jews of Israel...they are not just a public relations disaster for themselves in the bigger world, they are an insidious moral decay and destruction eating away at anything decent that was left of the Israeli ideal. It's sickening to watch. We all used to admire Israel. Now, neither American Jews, nor non Jews feel much but shame and horror.

I think perhaps Israel will destroy itself if it continues down the road it's on. It's sad to see it turn itself into a pariah state - the entire world is embarrassed by its racism and violence. There is no excuse for it. If someone dares to bring it up, insults are thrown in their face or various reasons are found why they shouldn't have an opinion.

We ALL judge by our own circumstances.

Hopefully, we also allow the circumstances of others to have impact on our hearts and minds, as well.

A thief judges by his own circumstances ...

I am a 51 year old American Jew.

I have dear friends who are survivors of the holocaust. Many of them Reform Jews.

Hitler considered them Jewish. He sought to exterminate them, as he did other Jews. He had them imprisoned, as he did other Jews. He had them tortured, as he did other Jews. He had their loved ones murdered, as he did other Jews.

Do those in Israel who deny Reform Jews are truly Jewish dare to say that the number of Jews murdered in the holocaust is not six million?

For me, Israel is not the embarrassment; no, that spotlight shines on a small group who has declared itself superior to all other Jews in the world and who seeks to exercise political and religious control at the expense anyone who does not practice their religion in the same ways this group does. Extremism in any form is destructive and self serving. As this group garners more power, the dominoes continue to fall, and the road that might actually lead to some hope of peace in the Middle East remains far off in the distance...barely visible.

There is no compromise and no negotiation for them. Jews who practice their faith differently are shunned by them for not being the kind of Jew considered truly Jewish - by THEIR standards.

Some of them claim Israel won't survive without them in power, seeking to create fear in the hearts of those who go to great effort to support Israel.

The bottom line for me is those who have been persecuted should know better than to claim superiority over anyone else. Period.

Well-stated, poignant and correct.

Comment Guidelines

The Jewish Week feels comments create a valuable conversation and wants to feature your thoughts on our website. To make everyone feel welcome, we won't publish comments that are profane, irrelevant, promotional or make personal attacks.

Add comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.