Thursday, October 11, 2018

Calling non-Orthodox American Jews Ignorant and Non-Jewish: Lies Against our Love of Israel

I don't know why I continue to experience shock, surprise and anger when I read the kinds of lies that Isi Liebler published this week about American Jews and Israel.  Something inside of me still is naive and holds on to the idea that our legitimacy on any level will ever be tolerated by his ilk. Shame on me.

In his article, THE DEVASTATING IMPACT OF AMERICAN NON-JEWISH JEWSPublished in The Jerusalem Post, Israel HaYom and The Forward, he lies and slanders our love of Israel in multiple ways.  His purpose? To make it seem that only Orthodox Jews love Israel, support Israel, and should be supported in return by Israel. 

Mr. Liebler's move is to say that American Judaism doesn't matter when it criticizes the policies or laws of a particular Israeli government.  For those on the inside of that government, that is understandable. After all, we don't pay taxes, vote, live or die in Israel in large  numbers.  Our voice doesn't count as much as Israeli voices, and our voice shouldn't count as much as Israeli voices.  Aliya cures that if you don't like it.  

However, to say that our view of 
American politics renders us as anti-Israel, to say that non-halakhik Jews are "non-Jewish," and to say that we are ignorant of our traditions is false, slanderous and hateful.  To dismiss the non-Orthodox as non-Jewish, ignorant and irrelevant is an unforgivable statement.

His article picture is taken from an unrelated event, an anti-Trump rally.  Evidently opposing Trump means "distancing oneself from Israel." The political idiocy of that is self-evident to American Jewry as a whole.

Contrary to his opening salvo, there is not only "disputing" that American Jews and their leaders are not distanced from Israel, there is overwhelming proof that our engagement is higher than ever. Engaged criticism of the Netanyahu betrayal of the Western Wall agreement, as well as many of our applause and amusement at the political maneuvering in August to create the agreement's main goals through procedural moves proves our closeness on the issue.  You can't argue that we are actively criticizing a leadership decision and then say we are distant from the process.  If I punch you in the nose, I am pretty closely involved with you.

To say that "most" of us are trying to "discard an outdated nationalist identity" is patently absurd.  Every single Reform and Conservative religious school and day school curriculum, every single prayer book and camp curriculum in our movements, teaches and supports the idea, fact and desirability of Israel as the homeland of our people.  We all teach Dreyfus, Hertzl, the declaration of Independence and the story of Israel's continued ethos under fire from within and without.  To see a liberal concern with human rights as hateful towards Israel is to misunderstand the classical articulation of Zionism which created Israel as the greatest creation in modern nationalism that the world has ever seen.  It is to turn our ideals into self-reflective, self-justifying xenophobic myopia rather than noble truths that can withstand the pain of anti-Semitism as expressed in Israel hatred today.

2/3's of American Jews are Democrats.  True.  Being a liberal does not make you anti-Israel.  Though I am reasonably sure that Mr. Liebler would have the same dismissive anti-democratic view of the Labor Party, HaTenuah, Yesh Atid and definitely Meretz, those parties comprise 40 seats in the Knesset.  They are (or have been) pro-peace, pro-two states, anti-settlement expansion, and all expressed many of the same concerns regarding the nation state law that some American Jewish leaders have expressed.  When Mr. Liebler calls us 'non-Jews,' is he including 1/3 of his own Knesset?  Are they all "distanced" from Israel for these views?

He quotes a number that 42% of Reform Jews opposed the move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, as the greatest proof and example of the distance of American Jews from Israel.  First, 42% is a minority. Second, if you were to ask them why, you would hear that it is because they think that it is not best for the future and security of Israel.  That is their love and their concern.  I disagree with them.  I agree with the majority of Israelis and with President Trump on this (See my blog on that topic).  How can something that a minority of liberal Jews believe, and who believe it because of their concern for Israel, be a proof of their distance?!

When he says that American rabbis are "often urging their constituents to vote in order to defeat the purported “enemy of democracy,” the “anti-Semantically inclined” Trump" he is fanning flames of rhetoric with no basis in facts.  Name a single rabbi who called Trump an anti-Semite from the pulpit this year.  Name a single rabbi who said Trump was an "enemy of democracy."  it simply does not exist.  On the other hand, the active engagement of the left in the face of our November elections he is calling "Anti-Trump Hysteria."  Really?! Someone needs to go back to civics 101 and learn about how our democracy works.

Here's a treat which I don't even need to debate.  He writes: "The sad reality is that today, the bulk of youngsters from the non-Orthodox sector are what should be described as non-Jewish Jews because their sole link to their people is through Jewish descent – frequently, from only one parent. They have little or no conception of Jewish values or interest in their Jewish heritage."  So let's get this straight.  The million children in Reform and Conservative Religious Schools, Day Schools or summer camps are non-Jewish, ignorant, have little or no conception of Judaism... and therefore are what?  He says they are negligible, that they shouldn't count, that their identity and knowledge are lacking and false. Jews actively engaged in social Justice as Jews don't count.  So let's see... even if his false claims of Jewish ignorance were correct, would that be a reason to dismiss them? Remember the Soviet Refuseniks?  Anyone?  Is it because our youth have freedom of speech and action that he doesn't look at them with love of Israel? Would he love them more if they were in a Stalinist prison?

So what is his conclusion?  Obviously, self-servingly, divisively and predictably, it is "give me all the money, all the power and all the legitimacy because only Orthodoxy is the truth and the way.  Or as he puts it, "We must now focus on the significant number of American Jews who are Orthodox and traditional and the considerable number of others who recognize Israel as a crucial factor in their Jewish identity and concentrate on encouraging and strengthening them."

It would be too easy to call this kind of thinking pure idiocy.  Unfortunately, it is echoed in the highest levels of the Israeli government, and universally accepted as true in Orthodoxy and in much of Israeli society today.

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