To American Jews – about Israel’s Nation-State law

There is Irony Surrounding American Jewish Criticism of Israel’s Nation-State Law. If Israel was not the “Nation State of the Jewish People” and instead just a random country, American Jewish opinion wouldn’t receive the attention it is receiving. There would be no op-eds in the New York Times, interviews on mainstream media, no trending stories on Twitter about this topic. The very fact that Israel is the Nation-State of the Jewish people allows you to be shareholders in this enterprise, and that is why your opinion is taken seriously.

Israel-Diaspora relations are more than a one-way street of financial support– you are no longer just ‘the rich uncle.’ While American Jews continue to provide immense financial support to Israel, a portion of my taxes are also used to strengthen the connection between the State of Israel and Diaspora Jewry.

Would you really want Israel not to be the nation-state of the Jewish people? Would you like the State of Israel to treat you as a group with no special status? Would you like to give up your shares in this project? And if not, why are you opposed to legislation that strengthens your connection to Israel?

With the establishment of the State of Israel, there were six hundred thousand Jews in the Land of Israel, and today there are more than six million. In 1948, American Jews were less than five million; today, they are a little less than six million. It seems likely that Israel will  play a big part in the future of the Jewish people. Do you not want to be a part of this successful enterprise?

Some Israelis say “leave them alone. They will all assimilate; many Jewish organizations boycott Israel and young Jewish affinity for Judaism is almost exclusively expressed in criticism of Israel.” Some American Jews claim they will distance themselves from Israel But what happens if it will come from our side? I think that would be a tremendous tragedy for the State of Israel and the Diaspora.

Let’s not ignore our differences. Jews in Israel are a majority with effortless connection to Judaism. The IDF plays a dominant role in the Israeli-Jewish identity, and most Israelis relate to IDF memorials days more than Holocaust memorials day. This is not the case for many Jews in America.

Perhaps the strongest difference in the perception of Judaism between us is that we have a particularistic national identity, while you have a universal religious-cultural identity. Between these two circles of identity, peoplehood is the overlapping value. This point is important to preserve and nurture.

This Nation-State law is designed to do just that–strengthen the State of Israel’s commitment to Jews who are not citizens.

American Jewry supported the Zionist vision even before the State of Israel was established. This support was expressed not only in financial and political power, but also in un-quantifiable terms. For many of us in Israel, that is what matters the most. Because, at the end of the day, we are a family, and we have to remember that even when there are significant differences of opinion, we have to stand together and create a productive dialogue that is not solely based on criticizing Israel.

The State of Israel should bring American Jewry closer, and it will, because it is the Nation-State of the Jewish people, which is why there is so much we both have to say about this law.

About the Author
Attorney Ran Bar-Yoshafat is Deputy Director of the Kohelet Policy Forum. Fields of interest include constitutional law, international law and public diplomacy. Ran is Israel's former MMA champion, an author and international public speaker.
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