One day in the future, when it all comes horribly down, will Israelis finally realize that there were warning signs all along?
More to the point of the ultimate survival of Israel, could it be that
when the real alarm sounds, when the genuine danger impends, Israelis
won't hear a thing?
The answers may lie in how Israelis react to the canary in the coal
mine, their forward recon unit in the world, the American Jewish
In fact, as the new year dawns, there are mounting signs that 2013 may
be the year in which U.S. Jews – in the main, liberal in outlook,
committed to tolerance, pluralism, and a vigorous, sincere pursuit of
peace – effectively secede from this state of Israel.
They remain committed to supporting the existence of an Israel which
balances Israeli and Jewish culture with respect for minority rights,
democratic values. They will stay active in promoting the welfare of
But many American Jews are already distancing themselves in word and
deed from a government it sees as arrogant and short-sighted, enslaved
to a runaway train of settlement, dismissive of the rights of
Palestinians and other non-Jews, cold to the concerns of a sinking
middle class and the drowning disadvantaged, contemptuous of the
concerns of the larger Jewish world.
The catalysts: settlement expansion - especially as it strikes at
Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects and mocks Washington – and
backhanded insensitivity to the rights and ritual of non-Orthodox Jews.
In recent weeks, some of Israel's most influential defenders in the
States have warned of hardline Israeli policies and parties which could
lead "to the destruction (the self-destruction) of Israel" (Jeffrey Goldberg), and "national suicide" (Thomas Friedman).
Israeli leaders lent them not so much as a deaf ear. Nothing.
Even when the issue touches directly on the religious concerns of
American Jewry, the government's response is as dismissive and
condescending as it is dishonest.
Last week, waking, years in arrears, to discover that U.S. Jews are
appalled by continuing arrests for violating Orthodox-ordered
prohibitions on women praying aloud and wearing prayer shawls by the
Western Wall, the prime minister appointed Natan Sharansky to look into
Within hours, however, the Prime Minister's Office rushed out a message aimed at Israelis, indicating that the appointment was largely a charade.
“There are no changes in prayer arrangements at the Western Wall and no
committee has been established," Netanyahu's office was quoted as
There are Israelis who will do anything not to be reminded that
American support, anchored by U.S. Jewry, is the strategic asset which
makes all other strategic assets possible. The 2012 election, after all,
saw prominent members of the ruling Likud-Beiteinu, notably Knesset
Deputy Speaker Danny Danon, actively campaigning for the defeat of President Obama.
But that was then.
Now, as Israel's election campaign nears its home stretch, the heavily
favored Likud-Beiteinu party, which encompasses the principal authors of
nearly all of the anti-democratic legislation of the last four years,
offers fresh voices and perilous new avenues for alienating American
Jews from Israel.
There is, for example, Moshe Feiglin, who will enter the Knesset
following the January 22 election. Something of his political philosophy
can be gleaned from a 2004 article on radical settlers, in which Feiglin spoke to Goldberg, then writing in the New Yorker:
“Why should non-Jews have a say in the policy of a Jewish state?”
Feiglin said to me. “For two thousand years, Jews dreamed of a Jewish
state, not a democratic state. Democracy should serve the values of the
state, not destroy them.” In any case, Feiglin said, “You can’t teach a
monkey to speak and you can’t teach an Arab to be democratic. You’re
dealing with a culture of thieves and robbers. Muhammad, their prophet,
was a robber and a killer and a liar. The Arab destroys everything he
Then there is political novice Yair Shamir, catapulted from nowhere to
the very upper level of Likud-Beiteinu, thanks in part to his late
father's prime ministerial heritage of having warred with then-president
George H.W. Bush over the issue of settlement construction.
Last week, an opinion piece by Yair Shamir was headlined, "In Israel-US relations, settlements are entirely beside the point."
Wrong. As his father once inadvertently proved.
But candidate Shamir went further. Taking up where Danon left off,
Shamir attacked Obama's nomination of John Kerry as secretary of state -
over settlements. In essence, Shamir made acquiescence to settlement
construction a condition of Israel-U.S. ties: "Many are liable to feel
that his nomination will deter Israel from implementing its decision to
build thousands of apartments in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and will
be viewed as an obstacle to Israel-U.S. relations."
American Jews want to know what is being done in their name. In the
name of Judaism. And if they think that it is self-destructive,
oppressive, blockheaded and wrong, it stands to reason they would want
it to stop.
American Jews are tiring of being told that opposing Israel's policies
puts Israelis in danger. Blackmail is not persuasion. If the hard right
is so certain that it can get along without American Jewish support, it
may all too soon get the chance to find out.
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