Like every other Jew on the planet, the longer the current conflict goes on in Israel and Gaza, the more I feel I should speak up. Usually, Jews with my perspective are shouted down. But that doesn’t mean our perspective isn’t valid.
You don’t have to be a supporter of the BDS movement to have a real problem with the political state of affairs in Israel. (And you don’t have to not be a supporter of that movement, for that matter.) Status quo Jews in America take great pains–and spend awesome amounts of money and influence (see: AIPAC)–to paint a picture of American Jewry as eternally marching in lockstep with Israel, supporting every action of the Israeli government and its military in unison, with little dissent.
Of course, that picture is bullshit. Anyone who’s actually ever met a Jew knows how ludicrous the idea is that the entire Jewish people would–or could–ever agree so totally about anything. Beyond the fact that in America (and in Israel, too) we’re fractured into competing and often combative denominations, some of which seek to deny the right of others to consider themselves Jewish denominations, we’re also fractured along political, age, and class lines.
For every jingoistic Zionist demonizing the Palestinian people, there’s an equally apathetic secular Jew who couldn’t care less about the conflict. For every old-school elderly Jew still fretting over the Holocaust, there’s a (or probably a few) young Jews who can’t understand at all why two sister peoples can’t coexist in proximity with each other–not to mention why we keep defining ourselves by who our enemies are and how may ways people have tried to kill us.
So for what it’s worth…
Some Jews think liberal Judaism’s abject fear of disagreeing with Israel in public just makes matters worse, and is cowardly. Some Jews believe both peoples have a right to exist, and to co-exist, on the Land. Some Jews think eye-for-an-eye military policy can only lead to greater bloodshed on both sides.
Some Jews think Netanyahu is a liar and has no greater honest interest in a peaceful, much less “two-state” solution than did his father. Some Jews understand neither man’s motivation was/is Judaism or religious tenets like love, compassion, or justice, but was/is instead completely secular nationalist zeal.
Some Jews think the Jewish National Fund’s policy that Arabs can’t buy land from the Fund to be extraordinarily racist. Some Jews think deciding to live beyond the Green Line is just as racist.
Some Jews wish their Muslim friends, neighbors, and coworkers in America understood that not all Jews are the same. We aren’t Israeli. We feel deeply disappointed and embarrassed by Israeli policy towards Palestinians, but we don’t have a hand in Israeli politics. Even if we did, our liberal religious principles would be ignored by the batshit-crazy secular nationalist/religious extremist coalition currently in power.
Some Jews can only look on in horror like the rest of the world, while status quo Jews ignore that any Jews actually feel that way. There’s a reason synagogue affiliation is dwindling in America. There’s a reason young Jews and new Jews don’t respond the same way to hoary old appeals to send money to a “homeland” with which many of us just don’t identify.
Not even J Street gets it fully. Some of us could watch Israel fall tomorrow and still wonder how it personally affects our lives halfway across the world. Of course, Israel does affect our lives and is and should be very personally important to us.
The problem is, Palestine should be, too. And until we as a people finally understand that we’re all together in this, the only people we’ll have to blame for whatever happens to Israel–people or nation-state–is us.
All Jews understand that. But only some Jews will admit it.