Josh Cooper

Please Stop Calling Me Radical

On Friday, as I have for the last few weeks, I put on my green Meretz shirt and campaigned for the cause. Someone stopped me in the mall on my way home and said, “Tagid, lo higzamta?” (translation: Haven’t you gone overboard?).

My friend and I often campaign together and we’ve heard similar reactions from others, including:

“How much are they paying you?”

“I see you’re not just ‘proud’ of being leftist.” (This was a pun that was meant to imply my friend and I are a gay couple. I think the heckler thought this was an insult, but he didn’t stay around long enough to clarify. For the record, we took it as a compliment.)

“Oh, it’s because you’re American.”

“Oh, it’s because you’re Ashkenazi.”

“It hurts me to see the next generation straying so far from the path.”

“Religious people supporting Meretz?! I wish I was so brave!”

“Kol hakavod for not being scared!”

“I support you, but I’m not so radical.”

The attention is flattering, but frankly, confusing. So let me clear some things up. I do not think that we are crazy or that our beliefs are so wild. I don’t support Meretz because it is the “far” left but because it stands for the basic values that I have always held dear.

I do not think it is crazy to believe in the two-state solution. Partly because the only parties that oppose it are projected to garner less than 20 seats combined. And partly because I believe leveraging moderate Arab states like Jordan and Egypt and third party allies like the US and the EU can kickstart a gradual process that will bring stability to the West Bank. And partly because I think it is rather rational to realize that we are not doing ourselves any favors by digging ourselves deeper into our current mess with the Palestinians. And that peace is worth a lot.

I do not think it is crazy to use the word “occupation.” Because how else do you describe a situation where there is Israeli military rule over a region that we have not annexed and 1.5 million people to whom we do not give the same rights which we afford ourselves?

I do not think it is crazy to oppose legislation which seems tailor-made to exclude our Arab citizens. I hope you can understand that I believe it is a state’s obligation is to protect its minorities instead of shunning them.

And while we are on the subject, I do not think it is crazy to believe that releasing religious institutions from the stranglehold of an Orthodox rabbinate will give people more freedom to explore their Jewish identities instead of feeling pushed away. I do not think it is crazy to believe that my father, who is a Conservative rabbi, should be allowed to officiate at my wedding. And forgive me for not seeing it as so “out there” to believe that if our government recognizes heterosexual marriages, it is discrimination to deny that recognition to the LGBT community. I think that all this will bolster the Jewish character of the state instead of repress it.

I do not think it is crazy to feel that a government should intervene to help those in economic duress instead of leaving them homeless and hungry in the name of the free market. Partly because Leviticus 19 tells us to.

I do not think it is crazy to believe that these ideals can bring us the bright future our Prophets foretold. And I do not think it is crazy to realize that Meretz is the only party that is staunchly committed to all of them.

Look, I get it. Not all of these statements are popular. You may disagree. But I beg of you to recognize that what we at Meretz are saying comes from a place of love for our country and reasoned opinions about its future.

And if you do hold these values, I invite you to consider us on Tuesday.

About the Author
Josh grew up in New Jersey and spent time in: Camp Ramah, Solomon Schechter Day School, USY, an Israeli Hesder Yeshiva, the University of Pennsylvania, and Ein Prat. He studied math and computer science in university and now works as a software developer in Tel Aviv.
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