Lately I’ve had a number of friends from the US reach out to me asking what I thought about “The Speech.” Although I’ve had some fleeting opinions about it, I haven’t really had to define my views clearly until now, and it caused me to do a lot of thinking because I realized how differently I feel about the speech depending on if I’m looking at it as an American or as an Israeli (I’m both, if that wasn’t clear).
Let me tell you how I feel as an Israeli. I am not a fan of Benjamin Netanyahu. I used to be, but after six years of living in Israel and hearing the man speak so much bulls**t in Hebrew, while watching him do less than nothing to improve the bulls**t that exists throughout the country, I no longer support Bibi Netanyahu. He’s had six years to improve the situation of the country, but instead has made things worse all around (sound familiar, anyone?) and I believe we need a change of leadership.
I’m also not a fan of “The Speech.” I agree with his mission and what he’s going to say about Iran, but I disagree with how he’s chosen to execute it. There is absolutely no need to further antagonize the leader of our closest ally (no matter what you think of President Obama, he’s still got the keys to the White House) while putting American Jews in the most uncomfortable of places, all for a campaign video. There’s nothing Bibi will achieve on the floor of congress that he can’t achieve in the back offices and meeting rooms.
This is my right to talk publicly this way against my sitting prime minister. I am an Israeli citizen, I pay Israeli taxes, and if I have kids one day then they will risk their lives and serve in the Israeli army.
In other words, I have a vote in what the Israeli government and its prime minister choose to do.
American Jews do not.
I know there are many who do believe they have a vote, or at least the right to influence one. Maybe they donated a lot of money to Israel. Maybe they spend half their day defending Israel online. Maybe they feel that strong US support gives them certain rights and privileges when it comes to Israel (it doesn’t). Whatever the reason, many American Jews feel entitled to participate in Israeli political discourse as if they have a say.
You do not. You are not Israeli. You are a Jew. All your much-needed support for the state of Israel is greatly appreciated. Greatly. But you’re not Israeli. You’re a Jew.
Here’s the difference, in practical terms, between “pro-Israel” Jews speaking out against Israel, and the actual Israelis who will bear the brunt of these actions:
When you push Israel to give back land for peace, this may seem like the right thing to do, but you will not suffer the rocket attacks that have so far resulted from these kinds of “peace deals”.
When you come out against Israel’s brutal battling in the Gaza strip, this may satisfy your desire to speak out against perceived injustices, but you will never have to wonder if Hamas is tunneling under your house in order to one day jump out and slit your throat.
When you claim that Israel should try and make a deal with Iran and avoid war at all costs, this may seem like the most obvious and moral path for conflict resolution, but you will not be living here if that strategy leads to a nuclear Iran. You will not live under the threat of nuclear obliteration, every day, for the rest of existence, however long or short that ends up being.
To summarize, you will not suffer one ounce of consequence from all your outspoken anti-Israel activity. Your kids will not be the ones dying when we’re at war due to decisions you helped to influence. But yet you have the absolute gall, (of someone like Bibi Netanyahu, ironically) to not only opine, but actually work pro-actively against the state of Israel, and still call yourself a pro-Israel Jew.
You are not pro-Israel. And if you ask me, you’re not even a Jew.
I’m not a religious expert by any stretch of the imagination, but when it comes to Judaism I’m fairly certain that love and support for the land of Israel ranks as one of the central cornerstones of its ideology. So when you come out so actively and dangerously against the only Jewish state there is, you are first, and foremost, disowning a major pillar of your own Judaism. Fact. You are a bad Jew. A horrible one, actually, and if/when the day comes that your current home has run out of welcomes and you have nowhere else left to go, you will discover the ramifications of your arrogant, egoistic behavior.
Why? Because every time a Jew speaks out against Israel you are aiding Iran, ISIS, Hamas, and every other terrorist and anti-Israel organization that wants to see Israel destroyed. You are giving anti-Semitic organizations propaganda that would make Goebbels proud. It doesn’t matter that you may be right. It doesn’t matter that you genuinely have what you think are Israel’s best interests at heart. You are a Jew. No one cares what you actually have to say on the subject of Israel due to this very fact. They care that you’re a Jew speaking out against Israel and nothing else. You can drop the mic. You don’t need it. Your deed is done and it is the dirtiest of them all.
So how does an American Jew who loves Israel – but hates Bibi – react to the current uproar over Bibi’s congressional speech?
Very simply. You shut the f**k up.
I sympathize greatly with the position American Jews are in now as they are being forced to choose between their own president, who while they might not like him is still their president, and the Israeli prime minister who, well, he’s the prime minister. Of Israel. The only Jewish state. A country living under heavy daily threat from every angle, while receiving an onslaught of anti-Israel (*cough* anti-Semitic) rhetoric and action from all over the world.
And you want to pile it on.
I understand you don’t like Bibi (neither do I). I understand you feeling a need to defend American respect for protocol (so do I). I know you don’t like it when a foreign leader acts so brashly against your sitting executive government (in this sense I’m conflicted since I do feel the same, but kind of like seeing Obama eat it every time Bibi one-ups him). It is your dying right as an American citizen to say and do whatever you want, whether against Bibi or against Israel.
But if you’re a Jew – and no matter what any rabbi says to you, if in your heart you feel you’re a Jew, and your actions reflect this, then I believe you are one – well, I’m sorry folks, you do not get to say whatever you want. You do not get to criticize Israel whenever you want, and you certainly do not get to criticize the Israeli prime minister so blatantly, so publicly, and so divisively, as the nauseatingly anti-Israel organization J Street has done over and over again (which, Iran is of course watching and loving.) No, you do not get to do these things and still call yourself a Jew.
Because although you think you’re putting some kind of imaginary pressure on Bibi, Israel or Israelis to “do the right thing” (you’re not), you’re at the same time causing very real and lasting damage to the physical security of Israel. Even if you believe with all your heart that your actions are pure and worthy, whatever good you thought you were doing has categorically been equaled, if not surpassed, by the terrible consequences from the other side.
I must emphasize that I’m not talking about Israeli Jews. We know how bad the current state of affairs is in Israel, both domestically and internationally, and few people hate Bibi more than the passionate opposition facing him every day in this country. Israel has the most vocal, vociferous (and sometimes vicious) political electorate in the world. You would fall on your face if you understood half the things people say to each other here about politics, Judaism and Israel. No one comes out unscathed. Everyone is criticized from God on down. We pay taxes and send our kids to die defending this country, so we have that unequivocal right.
You do not.
Bibi is going to Congress to try and convince Americans against a bad deal with Iran. I’m writing this to try and convince American and Diaspora Jews everywhere that publicly going against Israel is bad for Israel, bad for Israelis and bad for Jews everywhere, including you.
I’m not saying you need to support Bibi. And I’m certainly not saying you need to go against your own leaders. What I’m saying is that if you want to be a good Jew, and you want to support the state of Israel even though you disagree with its prime minister, then you’re left with only two options:
1. Make Aliyah and vote Bibi out of office.
2. Shut the f**k up.
Based on my own experience I’d recommend #1.
However, until I made the leap, I always respected #2.