I was inspired to write this post by a comment on my blog post “The Shekel Stops Here.” The writer asked why I, living outside Israel, was intent on giving Netanyahu the boot. Leaving aside that I am an Israeli citizen and that most Israelis also want to give Netanyahu the boot, it is only an opinion. I would like to give Putin, Xi, Kim, Erdogan, and many others the boot, also. If only wishes would come true.
But it did raise a larger issue – the relationship of Israel to Diaspora Jewry. Diaspora Jewry in power, influence, demographics, and money is primarily American So let us explore a few salient features of this relationship.
Let us start with Netanyahu. The Israeli PM came to America in 2015 at the invitation of Republican House leadership without the prior knowledge of President Obama. He proceeded to attack Obama in the US Congress. It is analogous to the situation of a millionaire subsidizing the home of a poorer relation and then the relation criticizes the millionaire at his son’s wedding. Israel gets over $3 billion annually in military aid, more than twice any other country, most of which are much larger and poorer than Israel, e.g. Egypt and Pakistan. There are 150 countries poorer than Israel who need aid far more desperately than Israel, see my blog post Israel is Not Alone.
Next, let us consider the oft-repeated statement that Israel is America’s greatest ally. First, where were Israeli soldiers in America’s wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq 1, Afghanistan, and Iraq 2? The UK, Australia, Canada, France, Spain, and even Turkey sent troops fighting alongside American troops in some of these wars. Where was Israel? It is a rhetorical question? You know the answer as well as I do. But allies are needed in times of war, not in times of peace.
Still, back to the Diaspora. Israel has become friendly with some unsavory, even antisemitic regimes, e.g. UAE, Bahrain, and Hungary. Netanyahu was openly supportive of Trump, whom any objective observer must consider an ignorant, immoral, authoritarian wannabe and a man who lauded Hezbollah terrorists as “very smart.” Most Israelis followed Netanyahu’s lead — “A Pew Research Center poll in early 2020 found that 71% of Israelis approved of Trump” LA Times what-netanyahu-and-israelis-learned-from-the-trump-playbook The fact that Trump encouraged right-wing extremism and hate crimes against minorities such as Mexicans, Muslims, and Asians did not cause too many Israelis to think that the increased racist language, actions, and violence would impact America’s Jews or maybe they didn’t care. One might think that Trump’s praise of white supremacists (yes, those who carried “Jews will not replace us” signs in a torchlight procession in Charlottesville In 2017) might get to some Israelis. Apparently not. To Trump’s Israel supporters, I would add that last week he crossed the divide between authoritarian and fascist in his Hitlerian references to his opponents as “vermin” and in saying that illegal immigrants were “poisoning our blood.” But Israeli Trump supporters, like American Trump supporters, will blithely dismiss his words, just as many German Jews dismissed Hitler’s words.
In the Orthodox Jewish community where I live, many people send sons and daughters for a year or two to study in Yeshivas or seminaries before heading to American colleges. A few, pretty much only males, volunteer instead for the Israeli army. However, both these types of Israeli-bound students are a small minority of young American Jews. Before October 7th, most young American Jews were disenchanted with the brutal occupation of the West Bank and the far more repressive conditions in Gaza. Both colonialist-style settlers and the black-hat yeshiva community who dodge fighting for their country turn off these young American Jews. None of them believes the crap espoused by yeshiva and Israeli religious leaders that their study and prayers are important for Israel’s survival. Do these religious leaders think that Jews in Holocaust Europe did not implore God to save them? And if God happened to sleep through the Holocaust, perhaps he just napped on the morning of October 7th? Of course, with Netanyahu’s coalition, Israel has moved much further from European Enlightenment ideals which inspired many of the founders of Israeli democracy.
As a result, Israel and world Jewry are moving further apart. The current mass slaughter in Gaza is causing a major increase in anti-Semitism worldwide while also dismantling some of World Jewry’s support for Israel. Perhaps the future is for Israel to be a militarized, theocratic state and most Diaspora Jews to be emotionally disconnected from Israel.