Anyone who has ever worked with children or youth knows that parent who refuses to believe that their child has done anything wrong.
“Your kid is acting out in class”
“It’s not his fault, it’s your teaching methods”
“Your kid is bullying others”
“No, I talked to him (or her), and they say that they are the ones being bullied”
After many efforts, you stop trying to talk to the parents, because you realize that you are talking to a brick wall. You feel bad, because you see this kid bursting with potential who needs some tough love, and his biggest support network is unwilling give any, because they can’t possibly entertain the fact that maybe there is a problem, that maybe something does need to be worked on.
Well congratulations to the American Jewish Community, because you are that parent and Israel is your child.
I constantly see the “pro-Israel” arguments that don’t actually discuss the issues at hand and not not necessarily based in fact. I constantly ask myself: “if this was your government and your country, would you feel the same?”
A common claim thrown around my facebook by American Jews is that “Arabs have more rights in Israel than they do in other countries in the Middle East” and so they should be thankful. So, by this account (for which I have never seen any concrete data, by the way), I should stand by idly while the American government takes away my reproductive rights, because women in the West have more rights than they do in the Middle East or Many African countries? Would it not make sense to discuss the rights of citizens in Israel as they stand, without mentioning other countries who are unrelated to us? You may still reach the conclusion that the Arab population is treated equally under the law (or maybe not), and in the process, you will actually discuss the issue at hand.
Like in all countries, everyday, a political act occurs, a bill becomes law, or a citizen faces injustice. Most of these daily happenings go unnoticed by the American Jewish community, who instead defend Israel without being fully informed.
For example, Israel’s cabinet just approved a bill that declares Israel as a “Jewish Nation-State”. Israel is already a Jewish state, but passing this bill puts the “Jewish” aspect above the “democratic” one. As of this week, Arabic is no longer an official language. So remember last week when a Druze police officer died of the wounds he received while stopping the terrorists who opened fire on a synagogue? Yesterday, we told his family that their rights and their language is less important to us. We are even telling hundreds of thousands Jewish Israelis who emigrated from Arab countries that their mother tongue is irrelevant. We are taking the pillar of democracy and saying “this is important, but it’s not a priority.” Would you, an American Jew, support a bill going through congress which outwardly aims elevate one aspect of the constitution over another? Israelis, both for and against this bill, are discussing it heavily on social media, and yet, I have not seen one American Jew on my Facebook (of which there are many) discuss this issue. While American Jews cannot be expected to follow everything happening in Israel, it should be expected from those who care enough to actively declare support for Israel that they understand what they are defending.
Furthermore, during the war this summer and after, I saw the American Jewish community cry Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israel way too often. Yes, some acts are anti-Semitic, but by claiming that any and every act which questions Israel is anti-Semitic is both inaccurate and belittling. Each time we inappropriately claim anti-Semitism, we weaken our voice, and it carries less power when we speak out against clearly anti-Semitic acts, such as the defacing of a Jewish grave or the graffiti of a swastika on a synagogue. Likewise, when we claim that every statement critical of Israeli policy is media bias, we fail to comprehend which cases actually are, leaving ourselves no way to properly analyze and improve this major problem. When we cry wolf, we are hurting ourselves and we are hurting the place we so badly care to support.
So the community is quick to defend, but slow to learn, to debate, to question.
Yes, there are Jewish movements in America, such as J Street and Jewish Voice for Peace, which are ready and willing to discuss the issues with a critical eye. However, they are not the dominant American voice. My dad used to be the president of his synagogue, and I am yet to hear him independently critique any Israeli policy, and this disappoints me (sorry dad). I am yet to see my high school Rabbi, whom I so greatly admire, say anything concrete about the recent flare in violence and the government’s role in it. If these community leaders won’t take a stand, who will? I visit America, and the moment I mention anything critical about my government to my friends, family and acquaintances, they give an awkward smile and walk away. Of course, I understand, because walking away is so much easier.
Except that, it isn’t. Ignoring the problem is not easier, even when it feels that way. We all know those parents who refuse to admit that their child may be struggling. While there is no question in our minds that they are defending their child out of love, we also know deep down that the problem won’t simply go away. A kid who acts out will continue to act out. A kid who bullies will continue to bully. Time will pass, that kid will grow up, and his parents will start to wonder what happened to that insane potential he once had. Will they look back and recognize their own denial as part of the cause?
So many American Jewish friends of mine discuss on Facebook the many ways in which we can and must prove that Israel is in the right. Would it not make more sense to discuss justice itself instead of constantly prove its existence? One can be a Zionist and critical thinker. While Israelis must face these issues on a daily basis, their American counterparts are still trying to convince the world that they don’t exist.
Loving a child does not mean accepting every choice he makes. Supporting Israel does mean blindly backing every policy. So I ask you to question. Agree with me or disagree with me on my own political opinions, but form one based on actual issues, because they exist and affect our lives in Israel every day. We are young country, finding our way, and we so desperately need your tough love.