One More Note on Israel
If no American Jew can conceive of a situation in which they would walk away from Israel, then there is no leverage at all to persuade Israel to act responsibly to save Zionism’s soul, or to behave as a constructive ally of the United States.
But I can’t conceive of a situation in which I would walk away from Israel, because for me, as for many, if not most, American Jews, Israel is both a nation-state and a segment of the Jewish people. I can conceive of many situations in which I could and would cease to support the policies of Israel’s government (there are already those which I do); I can conceive of situations in which I would feel I had no choice but to actively oppose the actions or policies of Israel’s government; I can even conceive of situations in which I would feel that Israel’s government had lost its legitimacy. But I can no more conceive of walking away from Israel itself—all of it, its people included—than I can conceive of walking away from my own family.
Families fight. Family members disagree—sometimes over dinner, or music, or clothes, or curfews, but sometimes over things more fundamental, over major life decisions, over potentially destructive habits. Family members can become estranged—but they remain family, whether they like it or not. The pain of estrangement is partially the pain of that former closeness and the continuing bond, whether one wants it or not.
So I can’t walk away from Israel, though I can reject the policies of its government or even cease to support that government. If it someday came to it, I could be forced to think of that government, by virtue of its policies or actions, illegitimate — and on that day, I would in all likelihood have to regard the Zionist dream of a Jewish and democratic state as dead; the first adjective would have to be sacrificed for the sake of the second. But this would be anything but my walking away from Israel and Israelis. It’s possible to oppose the Israeli government for their sake—for the sake of their well-being, and for the sake of their goodness, in much the way you would for a cousin or a brother or a sister.
Walking away, for American Jews, isn’t the answer, and acting like it is will only push people further into their trenches, or keep the nervous hedging. In fact, it’s just as far away from the answer as being so blinded by love that we can’t conceive of any need to criticize or intervene.
With that, I suppose, Shabbat shalom.