Sherwin Pomerantz

American Jews:  Be Careful

I am watching with increasing concern the abandonment of the Zionist dream by so many American Jews as a result of last week’s election in Israel, as if that community can ever feel safe absent the existence of Israel.

Kol ode balevav p’nimah – As long as the Jewish spirit is yearning deep in the heart

Frankly, I never thought that I would live to see the day when the likes of Peter Beinart and  Jeremy Ben-Ami, among others, would urge American Jews to demonstrably act against Israel and/or to actively lobby the US government to “reset” its traditional support for its only democratic and reliable ally in the Middle East.  This is the same US government who, under the current administration, has been guilty of a failed foreign policy which has turned America into a non-trusted partner about whom the Arab world’s leaders makes jokes.

These dyed-in-the-wool liberal critics of Israel’s policies are actively working to rally American Jewish opinion against Israel by stepping up their condemnations of the prime minister and calling on the United States to ratchet up the pressure on Israel.

For example, at the annual J Street conference in Washington, in a speech on Saturday night to 3,000 attendees, Jeremy Ben-Ami, the group’s executive director, accused Netanyahu of harming the US-Israel relationship through “partisan gamesmanship” and called on the Obama administration to put forth the parameters for a resolution to the conflict at the U.N. Security Council.  In addition he urged his members to lobby schools across America to change their maps of Israel to clearly identify the “green line” and to support BDS activities aimed at economically sanctioning Israel.

Earlier last week, in an op-ed in Ha’aretz, another harsh Netanyahu critic, Peter Beinart, called for the Obama administration to “punish” Israel on several fronts — including by backing Palestinian “bids” at the United Nations and denying visas to and freezing the assets of Israeli settler leaders.  He specifically name Naftali Bennett as one of those who should be so treated.  Beinart also urged American Jews to ensure that Netanyahu and members of his Cabinet are met with protesters at Jewish events and urged American Jews to support the BDS movement.

Nefesh Yehudi homiyah – With eyes turned toward the East, looking toward Zion

But these self-described Zionists who, in Beinart’s words, suggest “tough love” for Israel, are living in a dream world that can come crashing down on them at any moment.  They have forgotten the lessons of history that apply to people living as a minority in a society (yes, Jews are, indeed, a minority in the US).  And that applies to everywhere Jews live except, of course, Israel.  There simply is no long term guarantee of safety when living as a minority.

As we have seen often this past year in Europe, anti-Israel sentiment easily ramps up to anti-Jewish behavior with our enemies making no distinction between the two.  It is simply obscene for outspoken members of the American Jewish community to use their public platforms to encourage activities which are hurtful to the State of Israel.  Eventually, the enemies of the Jewish people in America, and there are many to be sure, will use the fact that Jews are advocating punishing tactics against Israel as justification for all kinds of anti-Israel and, by association, anti-Jewish activities.  After all, if the Jews are saying boycott Israeli products why should the rest of us (i.e. the non-Jews) be more Jewish than the Jews?

Ulfa’atey mizrach Kadima, ayin l’tzion tzofiyah – Then our hope – the two thousand year old hope – will not be lost

Sadly, in the rush to criticize Israel after the elections, and to support the venomously narcissistic behavior of the current occupant of the White House, these self-proclaimed liberals have forgotten that 83% of Israel’s eligible voters did not vote for the Likud and Netanyahu.  Are our brethren in the U.S. so committed to punishing us that the 5/6 of the population who did not vote the Likud should be penalized financially?

More importantly, if these objectors have their way, and successful and financial ruin descends upon Israel, do they have a fund to save this 83%?  If I, as a business person here with a significant number of American clients, lose my business, will my welfare checks come from the likes of Beinart and Ben-Ami?  Well, we know the answer to that question.

Ode lo avdah tikvatenu, Hatikvah bat shnot alpayim – To be a free people in our land

Sadly, those in the American Jewish community who are counselling “tough love” do not understand international diplomacy or how the mind of the current US president functions.  As Bret Stephens said today in the Wall Street Journal:

“Here is my advice to the Israeli government, along with every other country being treated disdainfully by this crass administration: Repay contempt with contempt. Mr. Obama plays to classic bully type. He is abusive and surly only toward those he feels are either too weak, or too polite, to hit back.  The Saudis figured that out in 2013, after Mr. Obama failed to honor his promises on Syria; they turned down a seat on the Security Council, spoke openly about acquiring nuclear weapons from Pakistan and tanked the price of oil, mainly as a weapon against Iran. Now Mr. Obama is nothing if not solicitous of the Saudi highnesses.”

That’s what is means to be a free people in our land.

L’hiyot am chofshi b’artzenu  – Eretz Tzion v’Yerushalayim – The land of Zion and of Jerusalem

My American Jewish friends: be careful.  Most of you in today’s liberal establishment there never lived at a time when there was no Israel.  Most of you do not remember when people did not walk around in America wearing visible signs of their Jewishness.  Most of you do not remember the vicious anti-Semitism of personalities like Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh while conveniently forgetting the later day anti-Semites like Mel Gibson and Oliver Stone.

And lest you think these are isolated individuals, according to a recent study by the Anti-Defamation League, “only” nine percent of Americans hold anti-Semitic attitudes. This sounds good, but it translates to 21,000,000 people. It means that there are far more anti-Semites than Jews in America. This may be one reason why the Federal Bureau of Investigation regularly reports that anti-Jewish hate crimes exceed hate crimes against any other religious group. On some university campuses, Jewish students (who often make up the vanguard of those liberal elements recommending boycotting Israel) have recently been spit at and called “dirty Jews” and worse. The problem is greater for those students who are known to support Israel on campuses where anti-Israel activism runs high.

My mother, of blessed memory, when I was growing up in the half-Jewish, half-Irish Catholic neighborhood of High Bridge in the Bronx, told me often “Don’t get them angry.”  I can still hear the words cascading out of her mouth.  She knew well the risks attendant to living as a minority in any society and how best to avoid trouble.

My zaidie (grandfather) who punctured his left eardrum in order not to serve in the notoriously anti-Semitic Russian army of the czar, and who came to America in the early 20th century to raise his children there and experience the American dream of the time, would be aghast at the rantings of people like Beinart and Ben-Amir who use their significant communication abilities to trash Israel and the Jewish people.  But my guess is that these same people who are so eager to point accusing fingers at others, when anti-Semitism raises its ugly head in America, as it most surely will; they will be the first ones on line to buy tickets to Israel.  And this country which they so gleefully trash will be here to welcome them home as they gratefully deplane and kiss the ground on which we walk.

About the Author
Sherwin Pomerantz is a native New Yorker, who lived and worked in Chicago for 20 years before coming to Israel in 1984. An industrial engineer with advanced degrees in mechanical engineering and business, he is President of Atid EDI Ltd., a 32 year old Jerusalem-based economic development consulting firm which, among other things, represents the regional trade and investment interests of a number of US states, regional entities and Invest Hong Kong. A past national president of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel, he is also Former Chairperson of the Board of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies and a Board Member of the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce. His articles have appeared in various publications in Israel and the US.