Two events have highlighted the main concerns of the Jewish people both in the Diaspora and in Israel today: the first is the hostage situation at Colleyville, Texas, and the second is the recent report by Amnesty International (AI) declaring Israel an apartheid state. What do these two events have in common? Both stem from deep-rooted antisemitism while both feed on a misleading configuration of reality.
While I will not go into the details of either event, I would like to focus on its implications, and how they determine the nature of Judaism and Zionism. As related as the two apparently are, they seem to be drifting apart towards unexpected paradigms. Judaism without Zionism in the 21st century leads either to carnage or to oblivion. Zionism has been the next stage that Judaism needed to survive after the Emancipation, the Pogroms, and The Shoah. We cannot allow it to dwindle or be emptied from the inside. It must be carefully nurtured.
Colleyville has put on the table, for American Jews, the option of making their buildings safer places. This means not only security devices but also security staff. In Latin America, this is a reality since the attacks at the Israeli Embassy and AMIA in Buenos Aires almost thirty years ago. As inconvenient as it is, as unpleasant as it is to check the identity of guests, we have lived and prosper in spite of it. We feel quite safe, all things considered. As I have read in the American press, placing armed guards in the entrance of JCCs or synagogues threatens the sensibility of many, particularly what in America are called “Jews of color”.
I can only say, very respectfully, that from where I am looking at the problem, American Jews are missing the point. This is not a matter of Tikun Olam but a matter of survival. American Jews have gotten used to the freedoms and protection that the American system has successfully provided for them for generations; but things seem to be changing at a quick pace. The involvement of Jews in American issues, while is worthy of praise, muddles the perception some Americans have of their fellow Jewish citizens. Being sensible to “Jews of color”, whatever that means, sounds too obviously influenced by the “Black Lives Matter” movement. While this cause is just in itself, so is the cause of protecting Jewish lives, especially in their places of gathering. The fact that most American Jews are white skinned Ashkenazi puts American Jews in a hard spot, but this should not prevent them from caring for their own security first.
Zionism is a movement created to solve the Jewish issue in face of centuries of discrimination, persecution, and annihilation. It was not created as an off-shot of the concept of Tikun Olam. Zionism is about Jews living in a sovereign state, not about the peoples who for historical and other reasons got involved in the process. To put it clearly: Zionism is not about the issue of the Palestinian People. Therefore, and it is only logical, the purpose of the State of Israel is to provide a Jewish state based on democratic principles with full guarantees to its minorities. The Palestinian issue, the Occupation, and the status-quo in the West Bank and Gaza are not only Israel’s responsibility but also the outcome of decades of war, Intifadas, and failed peace talks.
Again: as Colleyville has taught us, it is a matter of survival, not a matter of Tikun Olam. There is always room for improvement in dealing with the facts on the ground. There is always an aspiration to truly become “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”, as stated in Exodus 19:6; but in the meantime we had the 10th (terrible) plague, the drowning of the Egyptians in the sea, and the defeat and erasure of Amalek in the end of Exodus 17. Be these events myth or truth, they stand symbolically as the price of our own freedom and self-determination.
The declaration of AI of Israel as an apartheid state is full of lies and inaccurate reports of events. Whoever in the name of Tikun Olam or being “a light unto the nations” concurs with the distortion of both History and facts presented in that document is being an accomplice and a self-hating Jew. Our sensitivity to “the other” is limited only by our right to survive and prosper, be it as Jews in other sovereign countries (the U.S.A or Uruguay, for this purpose it does not make a difference) or as Jews in our sovereign country, The State of Israel. As we are a minority in our country of residence, so others are a minority in Israel. Both situations are protected under a democratic system and we must be vigilant it remains so.
Therefore, we also must be vigilant regarding Israel and its democracy. Let us not confuse this with a blind, biased, prejudiced judgement regarding Israel and its tangled situation in its neighbourhood. Recent history has proven that the Palestinian issue is not the only issue concerning Israel and its neighbouring countries. Reality, in all its complexity, is much more promising than the obscure portray and poor rhetoric of the document put forward by AI regarding Israel; President Herzog’s recent trip to the Gulf States overflying Saudi Arabia is eloquent proof.
The forces behind Colleyville, TX and the document by AI are the same. Both place the Jewish people as uninvited guests within the concert of the nations of the world. We have been around for centuries and we plan to stay. Zionism is not about Occupation, racism, apartheid, or colonialism: it is about self-determination. All the other accusations are anti-Semitic because they only apply to what happens around Israel and the Jews. Do not let them confuse you: it is not about race, it is about the Jews.