I woke up this morning and read a rather disquieting essay from Ari Shavit titled, Is Israel Losing Its Soul? I almost want to respond bitterly, “Is the Diaspora?”
“It is impossible to answer this crucial question without examining and understanding the shared traumas that Israelis experienced over the last two decades: In 1993 they opened their ears to peace with PLO leader Yasser Arafat (the Oslo Accords); in 2000 they tried to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (the Camp David peace summit); and in 2005 they withdrew unilaterally from the Gaza Strip (the Disengagement). These efforts did not lead to quiet, calm and security, but to violence, terror and instability. […] At the same time, some Israelis have developed xenophobic tendencies that do not stem from inherent racism, but from a deep fear that the center-left in Israel and the international community cannot assuage.”
It’s easy for us American Jews to be judgmental of Israelis who voted to retain Netanyahu, but we have certain luxuries they don’t: the comforts of strong national security, of relative economic stability, of more stable race relations, of being a world superpower, of being part of a religious nation with a strong affection for civil liberties, and of a two-hundred plus year history in figuring it all out.
So what the hell is our excuse?
I’m an American Jew who voted Hatikvah Slate in the WZO. If given the chance, I probably would’ve voted Meretz in the elections. But It’s not lost on me that it’s probably easier to back Meretz or Zionist Union when you live in Tel Aviv. Or Denver, for that matter. If a terrorist sent a rocket into my son’s playground, I’d want to flatten Gaza and drive every Arab into the sea.
Because of where we live and what we’ve achieved here, we American Jews have the luxury of hope – a hope that carries little safety risk. If Israel falls, we’ll still have Brooklyn. Did you hear about that terrorist attack? Tsk, tsk, see you at shul, chat during oneg, let me get my Visa – the Federation is emailing.
72.3% of Israelis voted on Tuesday, compared to the American turnout of 58% in 2012. More than a third of Israeli voters gave Netanyahu a vote of no confidence. The election results – in which the opposition hopefully remains in the opposition – are grudgingly admirable.
American Jews shouldn’t be lecturing Israelis, we should be taking notes. The Israeli electorate has emerged as far, far more courageous than some of our most prominent liberal American Jews – leaders who, for the most part, repeat whatever hasbara is coming out of J’lem.
It takes courage to vote for change in a sea of uncertainty and violence.
It takes chutzpah to have hope that peace is possible.
It takes strength to demand equal protection for those who hate you.
It takes fire to shake your fist at the status quo.
It takes leadership to participate in elections when your friends have long given up on the process.
The coming months and years could be very hard for all of us. “More of the same” sounds a like a good outcome right now – I actually expect it will get a lot worse. I’m going to take a cue from Labor MK Stav Shaffir, who recently wrote on her Facebook that gritting your teeth, committing to the fight, and taking responsibility for your part is how change will come.
It’s getting uncomfortable here in Jewish America. So let me offer up a resounding yasher koach to the loudest of the opposition in the homeland – the Israelis who keep us honest, who show us what Zionism is, who remind us that gam zeh ya’avor — this too, shall pass. And when it does, we will have something better to show for our time in the minority.
Onward and upward.