Israeli Jews Are Losing Patience with the Diaspora
My wife kicks my leg under the dinner table whenever guests rail against anti-Netanyahu and Israel critics. The U.N. and college students are also favorite targets. "Save your contrarian opinions for your articles, not the dinner table," she reproaches me. I'm pretty black and blue, as you might imagine.
This abridged dinner talk reflects the mounting impatience Israel advocates have because of a siege mentality set in among Israelis and Anglo-olim (immigrants). It incubates from the politics of fear, and they are just not taking it any longer. I have noticed a palpable shift in attitude in the six years since we made aliyah. For instance, staunch Israel advocate Alan Dershowitz threatens to no longer attend Israel public forums, because audiences, particularly American attendees, boo and shout down critics of Israel.
Israelis give shrinking quarter to the likes of Natalie Portman, Peter Beinart, and Jeremy Ben-Ami. Michael Chabon is now totally out of the picture. One of Israel's most famous Anglo op-ed writers goes so far as to question the loyalty of Israel's military leaders and former elected officials who criticize the government.
Israelis scoff when they hear claims from abroad that we love Israel but do "not want to appear as endorsing Benjamin Netanyahu." Israel is becoming an apartheid state. Israel disproportionately punishes Arabs (implying that Israel is militarily strong and Arabs are Keystone Cops). In Israel, this is code for the country and Jewish people being creatio ex nihilo, led by craven schemers with perfidious policies. Israelis are flummoxed when they hear Diaspora critics speak vengefully about Israel's formidable response to terrorists dressed in t-shorts and flip-flops. Israelis believe that Diaspora Jews just don't get it, but Israelis are caring less.
Anglo-olim, especially Shabbat-observant vatikiim (antiques or seniors), trend right of center. They are angry and fed up with Jews back home. The largest Anglo-speaking synagogue in our community distributes Moshe Feiglin's weekly newsletter. The rabbi promotes Feiglin's political views from the pulpit. At the risk of overstepping, Feiglin wants to buy out or forcefully remove from all of Eretz Yisroel Arabs unwilling to swear allegiance to the Jewish State. Pundits predict that Feiglin will be a force to reckon with in the next Knesset election.
The widening divide between Israel and the Diaspora is taking on new momentum, as Israelis are reacting by writing off Diaspora Jews as family.
For Every Action, There's a Reaction: Kiss Mine Tuchus
Anglo-olim and many native Israelis are convinced that Likud in general and Netanyahu in particular keep Israel safe from existential threats; effectively spread Israel's hasbara; and corral Europe's innate hatred of Jews, Zionism, and Israel. The Israeli government is admired for its wildly successful strategy convincing the American administration and her people that Israel holds the high moral ground.
The U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem impresses Israelis, inspiring chizzuk – sustenance and affirmation. Diaspora Jews complain about it. Israelis enjoy a new sense of power and place not enjoyed since the awesome success of the Six-Day War.
Four unshakable principles of faith that Diaspora Jews will never appreciate and Israelis will not compromise on:
- Israel has a legal right to exist as much as any other country recognized in the family of nations. There is no daylight in definitions of terms "anti-Zionism," "anti-Israel," and "anti-Semitic."
- Palestinians are treated better and are economically well off more than in any Arab country, and they are happier living in Israel.
- Most Palestinians will choose to become Israeli citizens and assimilate if given the choice without a threat of harm or death from the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, and other roaming gangs of terrorists.
- Israelis see the secular, Reform, Conservative, domestic, and foreign ultra-Orthodox haredi Jews, and Obama-Clinton liberals, as a claque promoting the Palestinian perspective. Diaspora Jews are a dying breed because immigrating Muslims are turning their new countries anti-Semitic. Jewish youths forsake their heritage through surging rates of intermarriage and Jewish education illiteracy. They are now a non-starter collection of forlorn Jews with no tethers to other Jewish people or Israel despite some keeners.
Michael Steinhardt is the co-founder and major funder of Birthright Israel. His action outside the last AIPAC convention reflects this growing KMT attitude to anti-Israel activists. Steinhardt, without saying a word to protesters blocking his entrance outside a gala dinner in honor of the 18th anniversary of Birthright, flashed his middle finger at protesters and triumphantly marched into the hall. Steinhardt's flip of the finger sums up the mood in much of Israel.
Don't Talk about Me When I'm Gone
Make no mistake: Israelis engage in vigorous debate about Netanyahu's policies and political elbowing. He holds office by a razor-thin majority. The other half of the nation wants the government to aggressively improve domestic life and make peace with the Palestinians. Israelis, though, are largely convinced that land for peace, freeing prisoners for peace, and silk glove (see Urban Dictionary) actions in Gaza and the West Bank are failed projects.
Nevertheless, no patriot justifies his own people criticizing their country while abroad and to the foreign media. As the lyrics to the song say:
Please don't talk about me when I'm gone
Oh honey, though our friendship ceases from now on
And listen, if you can't say anything real nice
It's better not to talk at all is my advice
I am extremely proud of two American gap year students I taught in Mideast politics, who for their final project, made a video that in part is poignantly critical of Israel's failings and missteps but echoes the thoughts of Winston Churchill from1947:
[W]hen I am abroad I always make it a rule never to criticise or attack the Government of my own country. I make up for lost time when I come home[.] ... Abroad and speaking to foreigners I have even defended our present Socialist rulers, and always I have spoken with confidence of the future destiny of our country[.] ... At home we must do our duty, point out the dangers, and endeavour so to guide the nation as to avoid an overwhelming collapse. But I have no patience with Englishmen who use the hospitality of a friendly nation to decry their own. I think this is a very good principle, and one which deserves general attention.
I tell my students to argue any government policy you want, but never raise Israel's right to exist. I will empower the principle of free speech at home, but not with dinner guests, nor when abroad. I will not try to convince Holocaust-deniers and Israel-haters otherwise. The Steinhardt move, the vaunting finger, will become my common response to Israel-haters.