Liberalism Is Not Our Religion
Tue, 10/26/2010

I believe in equality for all. I support civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, universal health care, feeding the poor, social justice, separation of church and state, access to education, diversity, the arts, animal rights (I have not eaten meat or poultry in 33 years), and more. I marched against the war in Vietnam, protested the bombing in Cambodia, and advocated for affirmative action.

In terms of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I met with the Palestinian leadership, including Yasir Arafat, as part of my peace activism. I believed, up to a point, in Oslo, and maintain that while a failure, it was not a mistake. I am hopeful that the two sides will keep talking until there is a deal.

Still, I have not elevated liberalism to the status of religion. I do not blindly follow the liberal agenda and my convictions take a backseat to my commitment to the well-being of Israel and the Jewish people. Unfortunately, this is not the case for the majority of U.S. Jews, who have substituted liberalism for Judaism and whose actions are often governed by misguided priorities. In lieu of traditional Jewish belief or value systems, many American Jews have adopted what is essentially a theology of universalism and tikkun olam, or social justice. In doing so, much of American Jewry has essentially become de-Judaicized.

When the lives of my family, my friends, and my people are in jeopardy because we are Jewish, when there are very real threats to the continued existence of the State of Israel and by extension the Jewish people, when our enemies have declared that their intention is to annihilate us and are acquiring tools to this end with the world standing by, then my pro-humanist beliefs give way to my commitment to the sanctity and security of Israel and the Jewish people.

American Jewry’s loyalty to the liberal political dogma is disturbing when things are going well for the Jews. But when things are not going well, this behavior is self-destructive and helps our enemies.

The future of Israel is at stake. Not only is Israel threatened by the soon-to-be nuclear Iran and its satellites, but its right to exist is being questioned by a virulent, global delegitimization campaign that is being led and energized by the academic left and supported by the elements of the liberal wing. In not speaking out, many Jews are, in effect, endangering Israel and abdicating their responsibility as Jews.

Many American Jews have become distanced from Judaism’s larger core values and are uncomfortable making moral judgements concerning the distinction between good and evil, which is an inherent part of our heritage. In addition, many are uncomfortable with the notion of the exceptionalism of Israel, and even with the exceptionalism of the U.S.

Historically, the vulnerability of diaspora Jews led many to make a habit of ingratiating themselves to their non-Jewish hosts. For some Jews, this knee-jerk accommodation, while no longer a survival technique, seems to have become integrated into the genetic code — hence, the quintessential galut (diaspora) Jew. History has shown us over and over again that this approach is ultimately unsuccessful. Witness the tragic outcomes of previous golden ages of Jewry in Spain, France, and Germany. We must not allow these genes to express themselves; we must show strength and become proactive.

When our ancestors were permitted to exit the ghetto, they gravitated towards those expressing universalist ideas, which were most often part of the ideology of the left. It was from the universalists that they experienced the first indications of tolerance. It’s therefore not surprising that they proceeded to derive intellectual sustenance and a modicum of physical security from the left, hence our historic loyalty. But today it is the American right that has evolved to the point where it is much more philo-Semitic and more pro-Israel than the left. The hawks and the evangelicals among them are the most fervent supporters of the State of Israel. From the perspective of our own survival, we must gravitate to, and work with, those who wish us well and support our standing in the world.

Despite the pacifist attitude espoused by many children of Holocaust survivors, despite the anti-war rhetoric spouted by many of the Jewish baby boomers, and despite what for many of us is an innate opposition to war, ultimately it is only the strength of Israel that earns us the respect of our enemies. It is not our intellect, not our Nobel prizes, not our supposed financial acumen. As the Italian-Jewish intellectual Alain Elkann noted, the only antidote to Auschwitz is Israel — and its military might. As such, Israel is fighting not only for itself, but for all Jews. I would argue that by extension, it is fighting for the well-being of the Western world and its values.

Liberal Jews should be making the case for Israel as a bastion of liberal values. Israel is the only country in the Middle East with a free press. It is the only true democracy in the Middle East, with equal rights for women and, in practice, a refuge for gay Arab men from neighboring countries. In Israel there are no honor killings, no stonings, no capital punishment, no cutting off of the hands of thieves.

Throughout our history there have been Jews who have opted out, and this is an acceptable reality. What is not acceptable is that today, entire legions of Jews, in the name of liberalism, are in effect working against the survival of the Jewish people, whether out of ignorance, different priorities, or a lack of understanding of the global perspective.

Confronted with both old and new enemies seeking to destroy us, and vilified by anti-Zionism — anti-Semitism in new clothes — the majority of American Jewry needs to look in the mirror, re-examine its convictions and make a shift.

Abiding by one’s political philosophy, values and convictions is a noble way of living — but not when they are coming to chop your head off. At that point, and I believe we are there now, one’s moral and political compass needs to revert to survival mode.

Aryeh Rubin is the managing director of The Maot Group, an investment boutique in Miami, and president of the Targum Shlishi Foundation.

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As a politically conservative Jew, who was president of our local jewish day school, whose sister is the head of the Bay Area Patriots, whose family largely consists of Buckley conservatives, with alumni of Duke, Rutgers, George Washington, UVM, Wash U, Syracuse, Union, and Northwestern, I have been on the margins of organized Jewry for my entire life. When you start an article with "I believe in equality for all. I support civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, universal health care, feeding the poor, social justice, separation of church and state, access to education, diversity, the arts, animal rights (I have not eaten meat or poultry in 33 years), and more. I marched against the war in Vietnam, protested the bombing in Cambodia, and advocated for affirmative action", you are by any definition, a liberal. You may not see it as your religion, but it is your disposition, all of these things aren't necessarily good things. Animal RIGHTS? Animals don't have rights. We have kashrut, which is better than most, but animals aren't humans. Anyone who has grown up on a farm with the possible exception of Neal Barnard would agree (neal was a roommate for a semester). Diversity? What does that mean? Dis-unity? or cultural political correctness? Does your diversity include Jihadists, Nazi's, and evangelical Christians? Didn't think so. Diversity is a code for "those who I think should be tolerated". Gay rights? Contrary to Torah, and Contrary to natural Law, and, you should know, contrary to the great secular God Darwin (whom I happen to worship a bit). Marched against vietnam? You have the blood on your hands of every crab stripped vietnamese carcass at the bottom of the South China Sea. You aren't that noble. Access to education? What education? Who doesn't have access? Affirmative action? How about merit. Affirmative action is now derided by many black and hispanic conservative activists and is nothing more than a reparations movement and reverse discrimination. You are the problem with American judaism, and I assure you, your ilk, which I have encountered in meetings and writings are strangely intolerant of contrary ideas.
I read this column and think to myself, "ah, a breath of fresh air!!!!" Thank you Aryeh Rubin....:-)
Four denominations call themselves Jews: Conservative, Reform, Orthodox, and Liberal Democrat. To the latter (the version led by the National "Jewish" "Democratic" Council and Union for "Reform Judaism") left-wing politics IS a religion. As an example, Rabbi Eric Yoffie of the URJ has a very unique Torah that includes a religious obligation for Jews to support gun control and presumably candidates who support gun control. At least this is what I would conclude from his speech in support of the Million Mom March in 2000. Yoffie's special Torah also condemns the "worship" of guns as idolatry. Had Yoffie been in charge of the Maccabees, we (and our Christian friends) would all be worshiping honest-to-Zeus idols because the Jews would have had no swords and Antiochus would have made us all convert to the Greek religion. Jesus also would have been a Greek polytheist so the Christian religion would not exist either. Had Yoffie been in charge of Israel in 1948, of course, the Arabs would have overrun the Jews on the first day because they would have had no guns with which to defend themselves. Other anti-Second Amendment types who call themselves Jews include Dianne Feinstein, Nita Lowey, Jerrold Nadler, and Frank Lautenberg. I am not sure how the Liberal Democrat branch of Judaism works but I think they pray to the Holy Trinity (Franklin Roosevelt the Father, Barack Obama the Son, and Lyndon Johnson the Holy Ghost). Roosevelt is their Deity for some reason even though he shipped Jewish refugees back to Nazi Germany. Obama, incidentally, consorted openly with the prominent racist and anti-Semite Al Sharpton and appeared at MoveOn.org as well, while his church published blood libels of both Israel and the United States. If the above sounds cynical, it is to be remembered that the National "Jewish" "Democratic" Council used its Jewish identity to whitewash the most vicious imaginable anti-Semitic (and other) hate speech from MoveOn.org's now-disgraced Action Forum. The hate speech, all of which was vetted and approved by MoveOn's moderators, included statements about Jews with divided loyalties and even one to the effect that Jews did "something" to deserve the Holocaust. The ADL,which joined in the whitewash, apparently seemed to hold the protection of a progressive "Democratic" organization above its mission statement. ADL's Foxman also legitimized and enabled the prominent racist and anti-Semite Al Sharpton (Google on "Freddy's Fashion Mart" for an example) by issuing a joint statement with him. If I sound disgusted with leftists who advance their sick agenda under color of Judaism, well, I am disgusted. NJDC also published an anti-Christian hate video, "Bubbie versus the GOP," which portrayed Christians, Christian ministers, and Jesus in a "This is the Enemy" context. As an example, Christian politicians were depicted as sewing a cross into the American flag's blue field--a clear imitation of anti-Semitic propaganda in which Stars of David appear in the flag's blue field. The video also depicted George Bush and his cabinet meeting as a shadowy cabal in which a cross figured prominently, and it denigrated Jewish members of the Bush Administration. NJDC later brought in classy comedienne Sarah Silverstein to produce the Great Shlep which concluded, "If you vote for McCain, to me you're a ****stain." This is the "Jewish" Left, and it is absolutely sickening. Four words to Abraham Foxman, Ira Forman (or whoever is now in charge of NJDC), and Eric Yoffie; "NOT IN MY NAME." And a postscript to Mr. Yoffie; I'm the one who broke the Million Mom March's back by exposing its apparent use of tax exempt money for electioneering purposes.
this...is great stuff! What a great line - Roosevelt, Obama, and Johnson as the (un)holy trinity. Pray, thought, where does that put Jimmy Carter? Beelzebub?
I must raise an objection with Mr. Rubin's use of the word Liberalism. John Locke, the philosopher who came up with the term would be outraged to hear that it is used to define left of center Jews. Mr Rubin as well as the majority of American Jews are Liberals in the right use of the word since they all believe on individual liberties and equal rights. Left of center Jews have not replaced Judaism with their liberal political views nor have they abandoned Israel because they choose to criticize her. Israelies on the left are ardent critics of the Israeli government and that doesnt make them any less Jewish. I think right of center Republican Jews have convinced themselves that they are the only ones that are good for Israel and the possibility of having an open debate about any issue has evaporated in our community. This is very detrimental to every one and it has created an ideological divide that prevents us from going forward or anywhere. The support for Israel should come from all sides of the aisle as well as from all ethnic and religious groups in America. By negatively labeling those who have a different approach to the issues facing Israel, Mr Rubin might finish alienating them. To be left only in the company of fundamentalists can be equally scary; one might end up fighting about who has a better and closer communication with God.
Since 2000, when Arafat spurned the most expansive offer for a peace settlement that any Israeli government could ever possibly offer and instead responded with a terror war that cost over 1,000 innocent Israeli civilian lives (in American terms the equivalent of 50,000 deaths) the burden is on Professor Weisbard and those like-minded to show why there is any shred of evidence that the Palestinians (currently racked by a civil war between Fatah and Hamas) are prepared to compromise. This is even more so the case after Israel's unilateral departure from Gaza (and forcible deportation of 8,000 Israelis) that was responded to by the Palestinians with thousands of rocket attacks that were ultimately silenced by the Cast Lead war in 2008. (Let's not forget the war in Lebanon in response to Hezbollah aggression in 2006.) Even when Olmert (the Kadimah prime minister) tried to make an offer in 2008 as far reaching as that made previously by Ehud Barak, the Palestinians did not even bother to respond. So Professor Weisbard, you may be right that Israel's record is not a perfect one, but so what? Such measurements of relative perfection are only relevant to academics, not to those who are responsible for the lives and security of six million Jews. How about sticking to the real world, Professor Weisbard, and avoid ad hominem attacks on an Israeli government elected by a significant majority of Israelis (in an albeit imperfect parliamentary system), and instead realistically discuss these serious issues as if your immediate family's lives were at stake? I don't think that is asking too much. Do you?
We American Jews have the luxury of choice. We are free in this society. The numbers show that many have chosen to intermarry which in itself is a message, especially when Judaism is not an important part of their lives. My message is HOORAY FOR ARYEH RUBIN. He addresses the problems we have in our American Jewish society. Intellectualism and Liberalism are marks of American Jewish association. Yesterday we had a message from the enemy. Thank g-d it wasn't 'delivered'. How can Jews disregard their own and Israel's health and survival? The evanagelicals do not hide their motives. They seek strength of Israel. Ultimately our motives collide. Who else stands for Israel? How far will American Jewry go in their attempt to 'blend in'? We are Jews after all. Our history is repetitive in it's anti semitism. That will never stop! America's stand for Israel contributed to America's strength. As Jews, we will be proud and free as Israel is proud and free. Don't ever forget 'where you came from'. History has shown us that ultimately we will be reminded. Tybie and Jack Abrams
A very well stated case that points the finger directly at many of the shortcomings of all those Jewish and non-Jewish alike who in 2010 take, (or have already taken), a leap of faith by blindly surrendering their moral foundation to a compeling liberalism that sound great, feels better and puts them in the company of the so called; "forces of good." I don't believe in either ors even in times of serious trouble. I recognize the existential threat posed to Israel by the Iranian nuclear program and through its matastisizing proxies. I am a liberal with an impervious core and do not believe in any BDS campaign against Israel first because Israel is not South Africa and second because we Jews, particularly those who emigrated to Israel or were born there have a Holocaust Coop and will never give in to any deligitimization campaign no mater how large or how successful. This translates to mean that such an action on the part of Palestinians and their growing chorus of international sympathizers will in fact push any meaingful peace agreement decades or even generations away. I happen to see the threat of lack of peace and increasing anger at the occupation and Israel as an equal emergency because the weapons capability of organzations like Hezbollah and Hamas and other terrorist groups is expanding daily. There are many in Gaza and Lebanon who are not yet believers in their religious extremism and must be separated from the cult of death that they pursue by a variety of international carrots and sticks. We are in a war against extremism that is international in character and the weapons include many unnecessary public relatons victories that the US, Europe and Israel have handed to the forces of no-good. So, I would end by saying that it is essential to identify those looking to chop off your head in 2010 as Jews and non-Jews alike, living with eyes, minds and hearts open as we walk forward carrying the burden of a world that requires us to be constantly in touch with and proactive regarding its dangers.
I would like to commend the commentators on the extremely high quality of their writing and the respectful manner in which they engaged in discussion on this highly charged topic. Many times, you read internet chatter on subjects not nearly as emotionally charged as this one and the writers devolve into name-calling, insults, slurs and an attempt to de-legitimize opposing viewpoints. What you see above, with a few exceptions, is reason, logic, respect for opposing viewpoints, and calm discourse. If you live in an echo-chamber, all you get to hear is your own voice. Choose to engage people, and you might . . . might . . . learn something. Although I agree with Aryeh Rubin's point of view, I respect the writers on both sides for staying above the fray and treating the subject with the respect it deserves. Thank you all for enriching my day.
One tries. Thank you. Shabbat shalom.
I am, as unusal, impressed by Aryeh Rubin's thinking, and as usual, agree with his views and with his priorities. My religion is Judaism; my people are the Jewish people. Still, three points bear mentioning. There is a paradox in contemporary Jewish life. We learned from the Shoah that powerlessness invites victimization, to quote Yitz Greenberg. Only an empowered Jewish people can survive and yet the most powerful Jewish people and the immensely powerful Jewish state have not ended -- in fact they have barely diminised -- our sense of vulnerability and have not provided for security. In fact, Israel's stregnth is its weakness and its weakness is its stregnth. Permit me to explain. Given the overwhelming imbalance of power between Israel and the Palestinian, we appear as Goliath against David. We are powerful, the occupier, and the Palestinians are weak, the underdog. So the exercise of power is regarded as dispropriationate. Our weakness is our stregnth. We act with restraint and will not exercise our full power because of our Jewish values, religous and historic, and therefore, there is always a tension in Israel's actions and in Israeli society. Regarding the existential threat of Iran: I have learned to take threats seriously and promises lightly. But let us face it. Israel is not behaving as if it is taking Iran's threat as an existential threat. Otherwise, it would be distracted by domestic politics and find a way to gain politically from its the mutuality of its stragetic interests with Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Notice that Israel is not opposing the current 60 billion dollar arms deal t Saudi Arabia but quietly endorsing it. Even AIPAC, which stands to benefit institutionally from the confrontation between Israel and the US, its membership increases, its support grows -- has remained remarkably silent. If Iran was an existential threat and Israel concentrated on that existential threat, then we could not have seen its bizarre welcome to Vice President Biden, we would not be hung up on a two month settlement freeze and we wouldn't be seeing the loyalty oath issue center stage. I also think that the right wing stalwarts have to face up to the fact that the war in Iraq empowered Iran and allowed it to develop its nuclear program and to advance its disruptive agenda. Saddam Hussein was evil but his presence on Iran's border restrained Iran. The war in Iraq was fought incomptently and weakned the United States, thus empowering Iran. Permit me also one side comment on history. It was a labor led government that signed a peace agreement with Jordan so let us be historically accurate and score one for the Likkud and one for Labor and let us remember that Jimmy Carter -- who despised Menchem Begin -- played a pivital role in getting both sides to come to agreement. We are each entitled to our opinion but facts are facts.
As correct as your argument is, Mr Rubin, you are preaching to the deaf. Liberal Jews would vote for Pol Pot if he was the candidate. And defend their reasoning to their dying day, too.
Professor Weisbard comments are interesting, well written and have absolutely nothing to do with reality. 1. The Arabs want to destroy Israel. It is that simple. They want Israel gone. Dead. Annihilated. Exterminated. Professor Weisbard seems unable to recognize that the world can be that blatantly, brutally and starkly simple. 2. The extent to which the Arabs will attempt to realize their desire to destroy Israel is largely governed by the likelihood they can succeed. 3. In the current environment, it would be suicidal and treasonous for any Arab to make peace with Israel. Right now, every force in play is moving in favor of the Arabs being able to destroy Israel or at a very minimum eliminate Israel as a Jewish State. Military. Significant anti-Israel forces have entrenched themselves in Gaza and Lebanon. As General Giora Eiland has recently pointed out, the prime military threat to Israel is now in the form of missiles and rockets. As we have seen in Gaza, these weapons are easy to smuggle, easy to hide and easy to manufacture locally. If Israel were to lose control over Judea and Samaria, then the Arabs could easily have all of Israel under significant threat. Two great threats are posed by missiles and rockets, even relatively limited ones. One is that these missiles and rockets will stymie Israel’s efforts to mobilize in the event of a war and compromise Israel’s ability to use her air force. Accordingly, the consequence of the use of these missiles and rockets is that Israel’s conventional weapons advantage could be so reduced that the Arab countries surrounding Israel would have a meaningful chance of military success. The second threat is that Iran smuggles dirty bomb materials into the areas surrounding Israel and Israel suffers a massive, multi-point dirty bomb attack. What Professor Weisbard is missing is that if an American can visualize these scenarios, the Arabs, who think Israel’s destruction is the will of Allah, certainly visualize these scenarios and wholeheartedly work towards their fulfillment. Political. The delegitimization of Israel is rapidly accelerating all over the world. In Europe the two state solution is passé, replaced by the idea of a one state solution, and Europe and the rest of the world are rushing headlong to the no state solution. Boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns are widespread. Anti-Israel bias and demonization is virtually everywhere outside the US, and is already a major problem on campuses around the US. United States. The Arabs have a great friend in Barack Obama. When the Obama administration supports a nuclear free middle east, he is either setting up the scenario to strip Israel of her ultimate survival weapon, or giving Iran the moral and political justification for having her own nuclear weapons. When the Obama administration wavers on supporting Israel in the UN, he is giving a green light to Arab aggression against Israel. The Arabs assault, Israel responds, and without US support, the UN condemns. When the US Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council gives a very disturbing speech and the State Department website sanitizes what Ambassador Donahoe actually said, the Arabs know the US administration is now on their side. President Obama’s motivations for these positions are not the issue. The issue is the consequence of the positions his administration is taking. In its simplest expression, Aryeh Rubin is telling us we have to think in us against them terms. Professor Weisbard and others commenting in exception to Rubin’s article are not (hopefully only not yet) willing to respond to reality and think this way.
I seem to have overlooked one item, which does not require extended discussion. To claim that President Obama, whatever the virtues and faults of his policies to date (I agree with some and disagree with others), is "openly antisemitic" is to disqualify oneself from participation in a serious discussion. AJW.
Several of those attacking my prior post, and in some cases, me as well, demonstrate the very points I was attempting to make, perhaps even more emphatically than does Mr. Rubin. While historically Jews have typically had more to fear from the political right than the left, it is quite true that today there are forces on the left (generally well to the left of what is conventionally termed liberalism), both in the U.S. and internationally, that are hostile to much of Israel's post-1967 behavior, and in some cases to Israel's existence as a Jewish State and homeland. Despite wild speculations indulged (utterly without evidence or basis in reality) in some of these posts, I have been a strong proponent of Israel and of the classical Zionist promise, as I understand it (rather differently from today's ZOA leadership) since before my first visit to Israel in 1970, and have had no hesitation in speaking publicly in opposition to those denying the right of the Jewish people to national self-determination in our historic homeland. Nor have I hesitated to criticize those who selectively perceive human rights failures only in the case of Israel (as opposed to extremist governments of both left and right around the world); who employ hyperbolic anti-Israel and anti-Jewish rhetoric (particularly that reeking of Nazi and Holocaust imagery) to behaviors that, while sometimes deserving of criticism, differ vastly in nature, extent, and justification from the horrors to which they are being compared; or those who perceive Israel's adversaries as blameless victims, devoid of moral or political responsibility for the series of failures by both leaders and followers that have contributed to their present tragedy. Sufficient careful historical work has now been done to document that neither Israelis nor Palestinians and other Arabs have been exclusively angels or exclusively devils in the long and complex series of events leading to our present circumstances. The Palestinian people have suffered greatly as a result of terrible leadership of their own and a series of betrayals by a variety of other Arab leaders. The Palestinian people are not without their own agency and responsibility for their current circumstances. But it is a vast oversimplification--and an incorrect one--to claim that Israelis are entirely without fault, or that Palestinian and other Arab leaders have sometimes been prepared to make sacrifices of their own in the interest of peace. To claim otherwise is to shut one's eyes to the historical record, and to lose one's claim to participation in a serious and honest dialogue. It would be foolish to suggest that Israel should lay down its arms and trust to the good will of those who have been its enemies over the past generations, reaching back to the onset of the Zionist project, and certainly to the riots of the 1920s and 1930s, well before the founding of the State. No serious person with the least regard for Israel or for the future of the Jewish people would make such a suggestion, and I certainly do not. There are real and genuine issues of the security of the Israeli State and Israeli people, and these are to be addressed with the utmost seriousness. There is room for reasonable disagreement among those who would balance different aspects in the quest for peace and the demands of military security in different ways. I would insist, however, that there is a more than plausible case to be made that Israel's peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, however chilly relations may be with those countries and their people, have accrued to the benefit of Israel's security, and that parallel arrangements with Syria, the Palestinians (recognizing their serious factional differences), and, one might hope, with Lebanon, would ultimately do the same--in addition to opening the prospect of improved neighborly relations with the inhabiting the lands neighboring those we Jews believe were assigned to our ancestors, and to us, in the ancient and in the modern Land of Israel. It is possible to conduct a measured and thoughtful dialogue based upon facts, well-constructed arguments, a degree of empathy for the suffering and perspectives of those with whom we disagree, and a decent regard for the opinions of humankind. Little progress of any sort may be expected from wild accusations and speculations as to the motivations and commitments of others, unmoored from any respect for truth or reality. Alan Jay Weisbard Madison, WI.
Liberal Jews leave the most important part out of their "tikkum olam" The rest of the sentence: "Tikkun olam ... b'malkut Shadai" Healing the world UNDER THE SOVEREIGNTY OF G-D!! Not under the sovereignty of Liberal doxy...
I am the daughter of Hungarian Holocaust survivors who were taken to Auschwitz in full view of the US government. The movie, "Against the Tide" documents this. We are free because of Israel. Israel is fighting for all of us and for the free world. We should be proud to support a country which has given the world so much, a country that is a democracy surrounded by dictators and tyranny, a country which has accepted and rescued refugees from all over the world, a country that has 1 1/2 million Muslim citizens although Jews were expelled from the rest of the land in the Middle East, a country with a human rights record better than the US, and a country with equal rights for women, gay rights and minority civil rights. When Jews stick together there is nothing we cannot accomplish. I recommend an online course, jerusalemonlineuniversity.com, Israel Inside/Out You will then be proud to stand up for our people and our homeland.
For information about why liberal, pro-Israel, pro-peace Jews are necessary, and why we think the way we do, check out J Street's website: http://www.jstreet.org/about/about-us
Dear Sir, When Israel considers passing a law that would exclude me and millions of others from being a Jew, it is not my “liberalism” that is the problem. My family is Jewish on both sides for untold generations including Rabbis as well as laity. I was beaten and spit on as a Jew growing up in America, always aware that I had the right to the Jewish homeland. That right is under grievous attack. You have a lot of gall to lecture American Jews for their criticism when you are looking to disenfranchise us. You want our money and rubberstamp support, but you are willing to entertain denying us our basic Judaism. When the anti-Semites come in the night, they will not parse such technical niceties. I know. I have experienced the hate, here, in America. You need to recognize the hypocrisy of certain very vocal groups in the leadership of Israel if you wish to understand the current freedom many feel to criticize. When you give people a legitimate reason to criticize and express their opinion on one subject do not blame them for expressing their concerns on many others. The rise in criticism of Israel is date coincident with the rise of the movement to disenfranchise a huge population of American Jews. You cannot both question our Judaism and demand unswerving devotion to a homeland we may well be denied. Sincerely, Daniel Dashman A Proud American Jew

Re: Daniel Dashman

Mr. Dashman,

I feel I am in a unique place to respond to your criticism. My father's side of the family can trace back generations of Jews in the Balkans, and further back into Spain. We had everyone from brilliant rabbis to horse smugglers over the Andalusian mountains to other parts of Spain. On my mother's side of the family, we can trace our family back to the First Families of Virginia, the Revolutionary War, combatants on both sides of the Civil War, and in every subsequent war except for Vietnam. As such, I was not born Jewish, even with such an illustrious American heritage.

Growing up, I never faced discrimination for my Jewish heritage, if anything it was a novelty to share with the people I went to church with. It gave me a greater connection to the Bible that we so passionately read. As I grew older, however, I took a different path and pursued Judaism and the Jewish God, not the Christian one. After a long and harrowing experience of converting not once but twice, suffering more at the hands of Jews in their callous carelessness than from any non-Jew, I finally finished my second conversion here in Israel. I keep a very very close watch on the laws that are going through the Knesset. One of my friends works for the National Unity party and keeps me well informed on anything regarding conversions; indeed, he was one of the witnesses I brought to my beit din.

While my life story is interesting, I only told you this to make you aware of the fact I have a very vested interest in knowing about what I am about to explain to you. American Jews are not being disenfranchised. Nor are Jews from most of the world. Converts occasionally get a raw deal (like myself) and have to fight twice, three times as hard to be allowed the same joys you were born into, but recent legislation is actually helping to improve that situation. Furthermore, while it is true that the outdated Rabbanut has too much of a hold on many aspects of religious life here, rabbis and conscientious men of learning like the esteemed Dr. Woolf (who replied a few comments before you) are working to fight the stranglehold that the current Rabbanut has in Israeli society.

If you are looking for a way to make Israel a place that you can be proud of, we don't need your rubberstamp support. We do, however, need your involvement. It's very easy to criticize and say "Nothing can be done by me, they're a bunch of fools," but when the rubber meets the road, what matters is what you did. Have you written letters decrying the situation as not ethically Jewish? Have you visited Israel and gone to learn about what is really going on in the Knesset, or are you relying on inflammatory information gotten third or fourth hand in the US?

Israel is not perfect. I know better, and anyone who has a familiarity with the Tanakh or history knows better as well. However, we have a sacred purpose of bettering ourselves. You can criticize or you can lead. You have a choice to be Korach or Moses.

But don't mistake one for the other.

It seems to me that most of the comments here miss Mr. Rubin's point. The Liberal agenda is dogmatically, and I emphasize that word, opposed to the national aspirations of the Jewish People as represented by the State of Israel. Despite pious utterances about Israel's security, the Liberal mindset buys in, effortlessly, to the victimization narrative of the Palstinians and the Historical Revisionism of its advocates, who deny the historicity of the Jewish People and, by extension, its claim to the Land of Israel. At best, if that word may be used, Jewish Liberals remain quiet in the face of Liberal anti-Israel dogmatism, lest their own bonafides be question. This passivity, especially among those under 40, is reinforced by the automativc use of horrific epithets for those who opposes Israel's enemies (racist, fascist, Islamophobe, Colonialist etc.). By definition, their silence aids, abets and consents to the increasinglt shrill and potentially deadly delegitimization of Israel that is presently led by self-identified Progressives and Liberals. Qui tacet consentire.
Here, here Mr Rubin! I don't agree with all your statements but it is important not take the liberal line all the time, and evaluate each situation separately. I find that many Jewish friends of mine blindly follow the left without thinking critically about the issue at hand.
I agree with you regarding the need for a strong Israel. However, your first paragraph shows why modern American conservatism as exhibited by the tea party and mainstream Republican party is also not our religion. When today's candidates state that they are against the separation of church and state in the US you can be sure that Judaism is not the religion they would like to establish. But at the end of the day I agree, Israel is the antidote to Aushwitz.
I respond to this op-ed at Mr. Rubin's invitation. I suspect there are a great many things that Aryeh Rubin and I would agree about, from many aspects of domestic American policy to commitments to Jewish learning, the Jewish people, and the thriving of the State of Israel. This op-ed, however, is not one of them. A sad feature of much current discourse, Jewish and otherwise, is the temptation, all too rarely resisted, not to argue with the merits of the opponents' facts and arguments, but to question their motivations, intellect, and good faith. I fear that Mr. Rubin has fallen into that trap here. I can't speak for all liberals, and I am not sure I would choose that label as the best descriptor of my own approach. I do not toe any ideological line and try to approach different issues with careful attention to their specific qualities and context. But I would suggest that numbers of the people Mr. Rubin appears to be targeting here are no less committed to Israel's security and future than he is, but differ in significant measure on the best path to achieving that goal. We need not be credulous on the heart's desires of many Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims, or the complexity of motivation and perceived national interests of countries critical of Israel's behavior in one or another respect. Nonetheless, we can believe that the best prospects for Israel's long term secure survival, prosperity, and flourishing are not found in the policies of its current dysfunctional and faction-ridden government. And while recognizing Israel's great achievements in a very rough neighborhood, and the difficulty of the challenges facing her government and people (both domestically and internationally), we cannot avert our eyes from the continuing failure of Israel to achieve the goals and vision set out in Israel's own founding document, goals which appear to be receding further into the distance under the influence of several of the parties on which the current government depends for its majority. Israel is, by a considerable measure, and with the economic, political and military support of its one great ally, the United States, the strongest power in the contemporary Middle East. In many respects, Israel is closer to the possibility of recognition and a potentially stable peace with its immediate neighbors than at most points in its history. While prospective threats from a nuclearizing Iran are real and need to be addressed, no one is currently, or for the foreseeable future, in a position to "cut off Israel's head" (although domestic differences may cripple its ability to act with unity of purpose). Mr. Rubin's alarmism is, in effect if perhaps not in purpose, a diversion from the real choices facing the Israeli government and people, and the American government as well. Needless to say, many loyal Israelis would (and do) go much further in their critique of the current state of Israeli democracy and foreign policy than I am prepared to go in this venue and on this occasion. But it is past time for American Jews, many of us deeply connected to life in Israel, to move past rhetorical overreach to engage the real and difficult choices critical to Israel's choices, and to the Jewish future. That future depends on more than Israel's military might; it depends as well on the healthy functioning of Israel's institutions and democracy, the strength of its economy and culture, the devotion of its people and Jews around the world, and the commitment of its allies and their people to a worthy vision of Israel's present and future. The policies of Israel's current government do not provide that vision, and many of Israel's potential supporters, lacking the intimate personal web of connections that bind those of us who have worked for Israel's benefit over past decades, are falling away as a result. Mr. Rubin's approach, at least as reflected in this op-ed, will not draw them back. Mr. Rubin states that "Liberalism Is Not Our Religion." That is true. But neither are the policies of the current Israeli government (including the religious parties which disgrace my understanding of our Jewish heritage), or the notion that military might, decoupled from righteous purpose and wise restraint, is our supreme commandment. Alan Jay Weisbard Professor Emeritus of Law, Medical Ethics, and Jewish Studies University of Wisconsin Madison, Wisconsin
Actually, you are disagreeing with the fundamental premise, not of liberalism as a religion, but of Israel's strategic position being that of gravely threatened by hostility--the argument could be made that the prismatic difference is itself, yes, a result of the prism through which Jewish liberalism views the world; one in which open-ended potentialities may be resolved' as if "heart's desires" and "national interests" really, can do no more than result in ultimately discursive behavior, as if what were at stake was the outcome of an academic conference, that is positions "critical of Israeli behavior in one or another respect." This is not serious. Hamas does not issue position papers--it sends gunmen to shoot pregnant women in the stomach as they travel on the West Bank. Iran is not critical of Israel--it sponsors Holocaust denial conferences, asserts its intention to expunge the world of the Jewish bacillus, and appears to be working on the nuclear instruments of this destruction. Precisely the liberal left as represented by our President and the liberal progressives co-opted for his administration have shown themselves to be, at best, begrudging allies of Israel; time and time and time again ignoring Palestinian violations of commitments; enabling Palestinian boycotts of negotiations; veering back and forth between flustered diplomatic ad-hocisms and Saudi-inspired formula for a redivided Jerusalem and an Israel converted to a bi-national polity through mass refugee repatriation; and exposing Israel to one-sided denunciations in UN forums. On Iran the President and his circle have dithered, regrouped, and re-dithered. Significantly, they are prepared to negotiate with Iran without a precondition that Iran cease its Hitlerian anti-semitic ideological outreach, not least, admittedly, because they have no policy plan B in case sanctions fail to halt Iranian nuclear weapons development other than hoping that Iran will make concessions if various plans (pleas) are thrown against the wall a sufficient number of times. No less than our own President's reflexive commitments, Israel's regional bulwarks against its erasure are time-bound, contingent, and fragile as demonstrated by the movement of Iran, Lebanon, and Turkey into an actively (and militarily) threatening axis, beginning with the downfall of the Shah. This is not alarmism. This is sad reality. Israel is the one country that is condemned for the death of nine Islamist toughs who defied a proper sea boarding consequent to an internationally legal maritime blockade and then proceeded to beat, stab, shoot, and kidnap Israeli military personnel. Another crime against humanity it would seem, and a charge facilitated on its bureaucratic way through the United Nations by the current administration's temporizing ambivalence towards the Jewish state. The morality, the vision, the ethical status of Israel does not compare unfavorably with the floating brothel that is the international stage of its opponents. And while there is undoubtedly a "progressive" wing in Israel, overall, public support for President Obama's policies are historically sub-para. By simply dis-missing the point of Mr. Rubin's article, this response tends to confirm it. Anti-Jewish, anti-semitic, and Hitlerian forces are converging, not to question, not to prod, not to challenge Israel's higher motives and purest ideals, but to exterminate the Jewish state. Right now the worthiest "vision" of Israel's politicians is to credibly weigh the challenges and opportunities that face Israel in the actual world of murderous enmity and wavering "friends" to maximize Israel's room for maneuver. Period. The "real choices" intended by this author are no doubt some abstract moral calculus about freedom and democracy and oppression that are already included in the current government's reactions to administration pressures to placate the Arabs through unilateral concessions. The liberal pieties whose subtext and euphonious euphemisms advance the argument of Israeli moral failure, militarism, and religious obscurantism simply put on display the short-sided and parochial utopianism inherent in American Jewish liberal critiques of Israel. Those of us who are critical of American Jewish liberalism's "tikun olam" opposition to the rejection of Palestinian and its allied demands (a rejection that actually occupies the very center of gravity of the Israeli political spectrum, not the outlier regions), are not convinced by its central discourse; the calls to moral rearmament above simple military preparedness; the need for "vision", the unending "yoffi nefishism", and the contextless and indiscriminate rejection of the religious parties (Shas, for example, while highly problematic provides cover for Bibi's attempts to meet the diplomatic demands the President has pulled out of his magic moral hat). Support predicated on the premise of a no-where world that does not exist, on vision and ideals and supreme commandments denuded of Jewish tachlis and untouched apparently by the bitter irony of Jewish history will not be missed, I don't think. It would be nice, however, if you guys can at least refrain from signing on to the next "boycott and disinvest" campaign when those moral visionaries of the Muslim Brotherhood swing it by the ivy-shaded groves of your peaceful multi-cultural kingdoms. Time to wake up. Paul Freedman 809 W Broad St Apt 22 Falls Church, VA 22046 (703) 533-2991 besth2003@yahoo.com
May I remind the "professor" that the only peace agreements ever signed by Israel were signed by a Likud government, not the suicidal labor/Kadima governments which have nothing to show for but intifadas, terrorism, death and destruction? The very premise that Alan Jay has and which underlines his read of the situation Israel is in is derived from the liberal belief of universal goodness and search for peace. Arabs and Palestinians alike have shown over the last 60+ years that they have absolutely no desire for peace or for negotiations. Please name one single peaceful gesture from the Palestinians over the last 50 years. Just one. Don't waste your time. There is none. So beyond our very Jewish value of Tikun Olam, the much more meaningful value of the survival of Israel and Diaspora Jews is what should be the guiding principle of all Jews, including US Jews. By blindly supporting the Democrats in the US including the openly antisemitic BHO, US Jews jeopardize the very survival of ALL Jews.
While I agree with you that support of Israel is critical, I do not agree with uncritical support nor do I believe in putting my lot with the evangelical christians such as John Hagee's Christians United for Israel. The premise that underlies this group and evangellicals is support for Israel b/c it is the site of the Second Coming. And, much like the requirement during the Inquisition, when the coming is here---Jews will have the choice of "making Jesus" our "Lord and Savior" or...being killed. So while Hagee pumps in $ to Israel--it is not b/c he loves Jews. It is not b/c he believes in Jewish culture. the jewsih spirit or Jewish law. It is because Israel is a decimal point--a holdig place for the final coming and for the final statement in the christian prophecy. So putting ones lot with these folks is not only offensive it is quite frankly suicidal. Of equal import is that most of the right supporters of Israel actually espouse values that contravene Jewish tradition. For instance, I doubt sincerely that Newt gingrich or Mitch McConnell would believe in freeing the poor from poverty or in providing mechanisms for social justice, such as the enfranchisment of the less fortunate. Their world view does not fit with a jewish world view. So supporting the right is basically wrong. ANd it is neither morally nor politically advantageous--but disastrous. My hope is we Jews would see more than the survival of israel as key; ratherview the survival of Jewish values and principles which are part of the dream that is Israel (not when it oppresses in the name of self-defense). While I do not suscribe to a we-they dichotomy--I will say that If siddling up the Hagees, Gingrichs, Roberts and other hateful folks on the right is incredibly short-sighted, dangerous and just down right absurd.
He does not see the forest for the trees. This comment typifies the liberal response : Don't you know, its the fault of all those hateful racist biased xenophonic right-wingers ? How sad for all of us.
I disagree with Kris and similar views. Indeed, Evangelicals (as many other Christians) believe in the "Second Coming" and may want to precipitate it. So, because of that, they cannot be allies of the Jews? You suspect they don't "love" the Jews. What do you want of our them, to convert to Judaism? And, like "real" Jews, any two of them would have five diametrically opposite political opinions? I, too, don't love some people (I even, terribile dictu, don't like some Jews.) Are you afraid of what happens after the "Second Coming"? I am perfectly happy with my Christian acquaintances waiting for their Second, Twenty Second, and the Two Hundred Twenty Second Comings (and Goings too) and wish them to wait happily. I don't share their belief. So what? They are NOT the Jews and we are not them. They are POLITICAL allies. And, in politics, there may be strange bedfellows. While they are supporting Israel, aliyah etc., they are allies. Reciprocally, we may be their allies in some questions that don't violate our principles. If they change their position in the future, I may reconsider that. Political alliances may change. Presently they are our allies and I accept that.
Kris, I'm a 86years old Holocaust survivor. I don't intend to enter into any dispute neither with you nor with Prof. Weisbard whose arguments are outright outrageous. Just let me tell you that I prefer anytime the company and the support of Rev. Hagee, of Newt Gingrich and Mitch McConnell to that of Jeremy Ben-Ami and his liberal J-Street-clique. Israel needs the friendship of Christians now and as far as the Second Coming of Jesus is concerned, let's wait. If and when he arrives, we can ask him if he was here already two thousand years ago and I'm sure, he would be very proud of his nation and homeland Israel, which survived against all odds, against enemies from left and right, inside and outside.

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