David-Seth Kirshner
Author of Streams of Shattered Consciousness

Liberal and Pro Israel is Redundant!

Rally in Tenafly, NJ for Israel, May 23, 2021 (Facebook D. Shlufman)

The past two weeks have been painful for Zionists and Jews across the globe. Once again, we are reminded how lightly antisemitism sleeps.

One year has changed things dramatically.

Last summer, I was proud to march for racial equality with my black brothers and sisters. I will continue to march with them until our country becomes a better place for all peoples.

I will continue to use my pulpit to speak out against any form of anti-Asian hate in our community.

I will not sit idly by when people are discriminated against for their sexual orientation or their gender.

Likewise, I will not stay still or quiet while Israel is being bombarded with rockets!

I ask my Asian neighbors, my black brothers and sisters, my gay, straight, bisexual and transgender family to march with me arm in arm against terrorism and hatred.

Israel and the Jewish community are facing a two-pronged war. One on the battlefield and one on the airwaves. Many keyboard commandos muster minimal amounts of courage to be brave from a safe distance and arm themselves with lies, libel and falsehoods to denigrate Israel and the Jews who support Her.

Social media was rustling with sentiments last week that one could be liberal or pro-Israel but not both. BLM claimed you could support Black Lives or Jewish lives, but not both. Some insinuated that we can aim to stop anti-Asian hate or anti-Jewish hate, but not both.

Those sentiments are naïve, silly and two scoops of wrong!

I cry for infants in Gaza that do not have milk to drink. And I am mad at Hamas for investing money in a labyrinth of terror tunnels, financing rockets and rocket launchers, purchasing guns and grenades all while allowing their children to go hungry.

I am heartbroken for young Palestinian children that are used as human shields and played as pawns in a war of terror against Israel. Yet, I feel immense pride that Israel chooses to shield their children, and invest in shelters, and ensures an iron dome to keep their citizens safe.

I can feel empathy for innocent Palestinian teenagers who were born into a third generation of a conflict they did not start and had nothing to do with. But I have not lost sight of the parents and grandparents of these very teenagers who bequeathed them this fortune. After all, it was these teenagers’ parents and grandparents who embraced terrorism and who rejected peace offers in 1948, 1967, 1973, 1985, 2000, 2007 and even today. The older generations of Palestinians left these teens a miserable inheritance.

I am troubled that an Associated Press and Al Jazeera office that was in the heart of the Gaza Strip was flattened. I am more incensed though, that Hamas chose to locate its operations in that building, cowardly hiding behind that global cover. The AP and Al Jazeera should be livid with Hamas for endangering the lives of their journalists and appreciative Israel warned the correspondents of the target with plenty of time for them to find safety. I’m surprised but not shocked condemnation comes to Israel for leveling the building but not at Hamas who plays fast and loose with other people’s lives.

My love for Israel is strong. I love Israel when Benjamin Netanyahu is the Prime Minister. I love Israel when Ehud Olmert was the Prime Minister. I love Israel when Ehud Barak was the Prime Minister. I love Israel when Ariel Sharon was the Prime Minister. I love Israel when Shimon Peres was Prime Minister. I love Israel when Yitzchak Rabin was Prime Minister. My Zionism is far greater than any one person who holds the democratically elected office, or any particular policies any of these people espouses. My Zionism is not fickle. It is unwavering.

In response to those who claim we must be for one side or the other, I would say that approach is neither woke nor accurate.

Israel is a state that hosts a supreme court with men and women, Jews and Muslims. The Miss Israel pageant recently crowned Titi Aynaw, a black, Ethiopian Jew, and Rana Raslan, an Arab, has most recently won the crown and is representing the country in the Miss Universe Pageant of 2021.

In the IDF, Arab Druze men and women are soldiers and officers and serve in the police force with distinction. The largest hospital in Israel is served by a chief of surgery who is a Muslim Arab.

That isn’t apartheid. That is pluralism.

And for those who deign to call these examples whitewashing, I would quickly counter that ignoring the crimes of Hamas in defense of the Palestinians is a whitewash with a wider and thicker brush!

Israel offers universal health care as a mandate for every citizen. The military of Israel permitted openly gay men and women to serve way before the phrase ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ was ever conceived. The Knesset of Israel is populated with men and women, Arabs and Jews, straight and gay, Orthodox, and secular, which is a microcosm of the voices of the land. Israel is the first to respond when national disasters strike, regardless of location, voting history or hostility. Whether in Nepal, Haiti, Turkey the Philippines, by earthquake, tsunami or volcano, Israel is there to offer medical triage and support, unconditionally.

These are the very same agenda items that fit neatly into the caucus of the liberal-left wing in America. These values are shared, not different. I will not be ashamed for protecting and defending our families and children and will not put them in harm’s way because some claim it is the only way to be a bonafide liberal or Israel supporter. That is inane.

The values of Israel put us in lockstep with those who have mobilized last summer for a better world, and we should stand should shoulder with them today. Their injustice is our fight. Targeting us is a target against them too!

The fight for Israel’s legitimacy has transcended the cities of Sderot and reached Tel Aviv. But that is only the war of rockets. There is a second conflict that has crossed the borders to London on Snapchat, Chicago on Facebook and to New York on Instagram. For this battle, we are all deputized as soldiers on the front lines. We have to fight lies, falsehood and untruths with facts every time we see them on social media. When print news or cable television slants a story, we must write them and tell them they are wrong and unbalanced and share the evidence and truth. When a very few elected officials protect the Palestinians but find Jewish lives expendable, call their offices, write letters, and lobby them by saying loudly and clearly, Jewish lives matter and Israeli lives matter!

Israel and the Jewish people face many threats, some existential in nature. For people who clack away on their keyboards with binary choices for us to choose as a litmus test and a form of allegiance is as dangerous as a nuclear Iran or re-arming Hezbollah.

We must fight this confrontation with facts, passion and unwavering commitment that allows the space for us to be proudly and fiercely liberal, pro-Israel and pro-peace, with no apologies or explanations.

About the Author
David-Seth Kirshner is the senior rabbi of Temple Emanu-El, a Conservative synagogue in Closter, New Jersey. He is the past President of the NY Board of Rabbis and the NJ Board of Rabbis and is a Senior Rabbinic Fellow at the Hartman Institute and serves on the Executive Committee of the JFNA. Rabbi Kirshner was appointed to the New Jersey/Israel Commission by Governors Christie and Murphy. Rabbi Kirshner is a National Council member of AIPAC and an adjunct faculty member at the Academy for Jewish Religion, (AJR). He is the author of Streams of Shattered Consciousness, featured in The NY Times Book Review (Feb '24) and has over 11,000 copies in circulation in its first three months since publication. He has spoken on his book and topics connected to Judaism and Zionism across the world.
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