What Happened to Jewish Dignity?

The level of vitriol us Jews hurl against each other is disgusting. It’s on an unprecedented level – unless, of course, one looks back at the Roman period. It seems the Jewish Right has forgotten how to love the Jewish people, and the Jewish Left has forgotten how to love the Jewish land. Obviously there are exceptions, but the tragedy of the collapse of Jewish dignity and Jewish reliance on outsiders is something that is causing an enormous divide, and can cause serious problems to come. If Judaism and the Jewish state are to survive, this embarrassing Shonda must come to a swift end.

To have disagreements over politics or religion is natural among humanity. To shame someone for it and even incite hatred against them for such activities is not. Just look at the case of former prime minister Naftali Bennett, who is launching a lawsuit against Rabbi Ronen Shaulov for a false claim that his parents weren’t Jewish. Firstly, this claim is merely because Shaulov didn’t like that Bennett joined a government that included secular, centrist, and left-wing parties, as well as the conservative Arab party Ra’am. To go so far as to question one’s Judaism (despite the fact that Bennett is Orthodox and his parents are Jews) just because of different political beliefs is a shame. But even if Bennett’s parents weren’t Jewish, so what? Does that make them bad people? Have we forgotten the thousands of Righteous Among the Nations, non-Jews who put themselves and their families at risk to save Jews from Nazis? What about the thousands of IDF soldiers who were born to non-Jews and converted to Judaism in the Nativ program? Or the non-Jews in the IDF who didn’t convert and don’t identify as Jewish? Then there is Rabbi Chaim Druckman, who claimed that rape accusations–a very serious thing indeed–are mere “gossip” because they are against an ideological partner and rabbi called Tzvi Tau. Avi Maoz of the Noam Party, known for its homophobia, claimed that non-Orthodox streams of Judaism are akin to the Seleucid Empire that tried to destroy the Jewish people in what we now know as the Maccabean Revolt. Finally, there are those that want to “reform” elements of the Law of Return to prevent Non-Halakhic Jews from being able to become Israelis. Forget the fact that many of these people have served in the IDF and lived in Israel for years. What about those who are staunch Zionist activists in the diaspora? What of those who wish to complete an Orthodox conversion? Why are these people–who share our blood and often times our religious beliefs–treated like a bastard from Game of Thrones instead of welcomed into the fold and encouraged to complete an Orthodox conversion? Who is to defend them against antisemites that see them as Jewish if they’re left to the wolves in the diaspora and treated with disdain in Israel, if not shut out entirely from its borders? Who made these rabbis think they are akin to HaKadosh B”H that they can deem these people, or LGBT Jews, to be unworthy or lesser-than because of the circumstances of their birth, often times under oppressive and antisemitic regimes? Haven’t the Jewish people and Zera Yisrael got enough enemies? Why should we behave in such a manner towards our own? These people should remember that the Haredim can study safely in yeshiva without serving in the army precisely because more liberal Jews and non-Jews alike serve in the IDF. They should also remember their vows on Yom Kippur to become better and more loving people, which includes not shaming others in public. Indeed, this is a commandment–it is a sin, like killing someone, to shame one in public in a way that humiliates them. I hope that those studying in the yeshiva and coming to the new government remember this commandment in particular.

On the other hand, we have those who are Jews, but have forgotten to love the land. Indeed, they have forgotten that we belong to the land–not that it belongs to us. The same tired narrative that we must give land for peace has been proven again and again that it just isn’t true. Does the Jewish Left value our blood so little as to pretend that we’re dealing with rational people in Ramallah, Beirut, and Gaza? They do not see us as people, human beings with very real lives and very real children, but rather as “apes and pigs” that should be exterminated. Yair Golan, a supposedly-patriotic IDF general, referred to settlers as “subhuman,” so perhaps this is why he can identify more with Arab Supremacists than with what he calls the “occupation army.”

How anyone that serves to protect the Jewish people can call any of them subhuman is beyond me, especially for the “crime” of merely living in the land of their forefathers.

The fact of the matter is that Israel has tried “land for peace” since before the UN even existed. Each and every time, that resulted in an Arab-led war to annihilate the Jewish people. Whether it was the War for Independence in 1948, the Six-Day War in 1967, the Second Intifada, or any of the Gaza Wars after the unilateral 2005 withdrawal, the Palestinians have shown time and time again that they have no desire not just for peace with Israel, but to recognize Jews as human beings with an indigenous history in the land. This is not just about asking them to like Zionism–I would never expect them to. It’s about recognizing historic facts, well-documented in science (DNA testing), archaeology, and written record. If they cannot even do this, how can they be expected to acknowledge a written peace agreement’s value and dictates? The left-wing of diaspora Jewry sadly has also accepted this narrative that settlers are illegitimate, and that Judea & Samaria (the West Bank) means nothing to Jews. This is just not true, and I’m not talking about the Bible either. While that is a legitimate argument as well, archaeology and written historical records show that Judea & Samaria are the core of our ancient Jewish Civilization. This land–not Tel Aviv, which they love and is a great city–is our ethno-genesis. There can be no Zionism without Zion, and there can be no Jews without Judea. The common question among many Jews on the Left has become “how many of our children must die to maintain the occupation?” Instead, it should be “how many of our children must die for a failed and fabled peace process?” Judea & Samaria isn’t just ours by might, but also by right. It was the Labor Movement that recognized the importance of the land for our security as well as our heritage, and began the settlement movement. It was the Labor movement that began the kibbutz movement which included areas like Gush Etzion. Yes, there were compromises made with Partition Plans, because we were a weak people comprised of refugees and subject to British colonial rule. No longer are we in such a state. While most of the neighboring Arab countries and organizations may still be in the same position they were in back in 1948–weak, divided, greedy, and supremacist–the Jewish people are sovereign and a regional superpower. There is no need for such a compromise any longer. If the Jewish Left truly wants to return to its roots and win again, it must once more embrace the love of our land and recognize that we belong to it–it is an inseparable part of our identity.

In the diaspora, things are even more dire. Jews on the Right and the Left have become divided over partisan issues that often have nothing to do with Judaism or pro-Israel advocacy. Many right-wing Jews worship at the altar of Donald Trump, excusing his affiliation with antisemitic figures due to the “gifts” he gave Israel–ignoring the fact that it had more to do with his evangelical Christian base or a loathing of Muslims than American Jewry. Similarly, many left-wing Jews worship at the altar of Barack Obama and his peace processing, ignoring the excuses he makes for Jewish bloodshed at the hands of Muslim Supremacists due to this theoretical (and currently disproven) image of a “new era” between the West and political Islam. Sadly, many have forgotten that we are to worship nobody but HaKadosh B”H.

Diaspora Jews mostly support Israel, identify as Zionists, and face increasing antisemitism–from White Supremacists, radical Muslims, Neo-Marxists, and Black Separatists (Kanye West, Louis Farrakhan, Kyrie Irving, etc). And yet, many Jewish parents decrying campus antisemitism continue to clout chase by sending their kids to these very universities. They decry the BDS movement while funding administrations that peddle and mainstream such antisemitic sentiment. They continue to stand with social justice movements that shun, beg “allies” to understand them, and seek to be part of “safe spaces” that are anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish. What on Earth has become of us? Why are we prioritizing the rights of those who hate us over ourselves? Why are we choosing to alienate our brethren merely because they share differing political views, in favor of outsiders that have no desire to understand the Jewish people, our history, or our narrative? Why are we traveling to countries that fund terrorists to kill us?

When people call for Israel and the Jews to integrate into the Middle East, this is meant to make peace and embrace our heritage while being a Light Unto Nations. It is not to embrace the same political and tribal infighting that our neighbors so often engage in. Still, it isn’t too late to avoid the fate of our forebears during Roman times. We must restore our dignity as a nation. We need to love our fellow Jews, even as we disagree with them or live differently than they do. We need to love our land, as we belong to it and always have. This requires shedding the old logorrhea of “two states for two peoples” nearly 3 decades after Oslo. We need to realize that boycotts go two ways, instead of hiding our identity and funding those who would love to see us dead or vulnerable once again. We should stop funding businesses, artists, and yes, universities, that spread the supremacist ideology and cultural illiteracy of our killers. And we must remember that only one being is perfect and worth being worshipped–HaKadosh B”H–not Obama, Trump, Netanyahu, or Rabin. This is a call to arms for the Jewish nation, of which I am a part and love so much. This is a call for new leadership that cares more about the well-being of our people and less about ego and ideology. And if the current Israeli & diaspora leadership cannot manage to do this, it should get out of the way and make space for those who can.

About the Author
Dmitri Shufutinsky is a freelance reporter with the Jewish News Syndicate, and a Junior Research Fellow with ISGAP. He made aliyah to Kibbutz Erez through Garin Tzabar in 2019, and served as a Lone Soldier in the IDF. Dmitri is an ardent Zionist and a supporter of indigenous rights, autonomy, solidarity, and sovereignty. He currently lives in Hadera, and a graduate of Arcadia University's Masters program in International Peace & Conflict Resolution.
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