What to make of the week that was in Israel and the United States?
I feel as if I’m in recovery from a major assault on my nerves, emotions, and psyche as an American liberal Jew and Zionist. The build-up leading up to back-to-back elections in Israel and the United States utterly exhausted me.
I’m still left feeling betwixt and between despite the elections now beginning to recede in the rear-view mirror. I’m deeply worried about what is happening to the Israel I love, the middle-left in Israel, my liberal Zionism in America, and what Israel might become with the election of the most right-wing racist, exclusionary, misogynist, homophobic, and anti-pluralistic government ever to be seated in the Knesset.
Though I’m relieved that the American election has defied historic precedents for mid-term elections in which the party out of power did not make major gains in Congress, I worry still that Trumpism is alive and well in America amongst too many millions of people who have drunk the cool-aid of Trump and his anti-democratic election deniers and insurrectionists.
Here in the United States we have to thank young Americans, women, and African-Americans in particular for their massive turn-out to vote in this mid-term election. Decent America spoke more loudly than indecent America this week, and though millions of people voted for toxic unqualified candidates across the country, it ought to be clear that our continued vigilance supporting democracy is going to be necessary and that organizing for the 2024 elections needs to begin immediately, even before the final votes are tabulated in a number of key states and congressional districts.
Regarding Israel – though 54 Knesset seats are now in opposition to Netanyahu’s expected ruling coalition, the threats to Israel’s democracy and independent judiciary, to Palestinian-Israeli citizens, Jews-by-Choice, and religious pluralism in the state is serious and we can expect that the Religious Zionists led by Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, the ultra-Orthodox Haredi parties, and the settler enterprise will not rest until they have their way. Not only is Israel’s democratic character in their cross-hairs, but a rupture between liberal North American Jewry (especially younger Jews) and Israel will likely occur and therefore require a new kind of partnership between the middle-right, middle-left, and left in Israel with North American liberal Jewry.
The Biden administration and Congress ought to refuse to deal with Ben Gvir and Smotrich. In addition, no American Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Renewal, or modern Orthodox synagogue ought to welcome these two men into their communities. Already the leadership of the Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist movements have expressed their outrage and refusal to meet these extremist leaders whose anti-Arab racism and fascist leanings are far from representative of the best values in the Jewish world.
Edmund Burke’s powerful truth has been ringing in my ears throughout this past week: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.”