We, the pro-Israel and Jewish communities, are afraid. Probably more afraid than we have been in a long time. We are not afraid of what you might think. No, we aren’t afraid of Iran, Syria, ISIS, or Hezbollah. We are afraid of something that is potentially far more damaging to us. We are afraid of ourselves. We are afraid to have conversations with Jews and pro-Israel supporters who may think differently than us politically. Over the last few years, we have created perhaps the most toxic environment our communities have ever seen. Both sides of the political spectrum have contributed to this environment. Why is this? Why are we afraid of the other side?
To my Conservative friends: Why are we afraid of a possible negotiated settlement to leave the West Bank? Are we afraid to withdraw from Judea and Samaria because we don’t have confidence in one of the strongest armies in the world to defend us? In an ideal world, keeping the biblical lands of Judea and Samaria would be great. However, how do we reconcile the fact that nearly 3 million Palestinians, who don’t want to be under Israeli control and who our own leaders have said they don’t want to control, live there too? Wouldn’t absorbing them lead to a demographic threat against Israel as a Jewish state? I recognize what the Gaza withdrawal has led to, but that was a unilateral withdrawal. We negotiated peace with Egypt and Jordan and today we have incredible security cooperation with them. Why are we afraid to speak with more liberal minded Jews about this? Why do we immediately vilify them for bringing up a legitimate issue? Are we afraid of what we might hear? Are we afraid that deep down we may agree with them on some level and this would be incompatible with our point of view? Why do some of us celebrate the deaths of Palestinians and only mourn the deaths of our own? Didn’t G-d command the angels to stop cheering upon the deaths of the Egyptians drowning in the Red Sea because they were his children, too? Why do some of us call liberal Jews Kapos and traitors because they bring up legitimate concerns about the future of Israel? Why do we only focus on the positives of Israel when there are major internal issues that afflict the country? Why are we afraid?
To my Liberal friends: Why are we afraid to admit that Palestinians have a role to play in ending the occupation? Why are we afraid to admit that there have been multiple offers from Israel to end the occupation, only to be met with rejection and violence? Are we afraid that if we admit this, the oppressor vs. the oppressed narrative would no longer work? Would that mean that the situation in the West Bank is more complicated than we make it out to be? Why are we afraid to admit that while individual boycotts of the West Bank are personal choices, partnering with and even supporting members of the international BDS movement–who have openly said the goal of the movement is to destroy Israel–does make us look like traitors? Why do some of us give a platform to convicted terrorists at our conferences but ignore protests of IDF soldiers and Israeli speakers on our campuses? Why do we condemn the murder of innocent Palestinians but stay silent when Israelis are stabbed in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem? If we believe in human rights, shouldn’t both Israelis and Palestinians have the right to live without the fear of being stabbed or shot? Why do we seem to only focus on Israel’s negatives when it is a country filled with positives as well? Are we afraid that if we defend Israel to our detractors, we lose legitimacy as human rights advocates? Why are we afraid?
If we continue to vilify each other (I have seen this first hand from both sides), then everyone who cares about Israel will lose and Israel as a whole will be worse off. It is possible to love Israel and disagree about its direction. It is possible for a liberal to have a conversation with a conservative (and vice versa) and not leave the conversation while foaming at the mouth. It is possible to speak positively about Israel and still acknowledge its flaws. It is possible to speak out against Israel’s flaws and still highlight its positive impact on the world. It is possible to be better than we are right now and it is possible to leave our political bubbles. Let’s overcome the generalizations of each other (I am guilty of this, too) and start having real conversations. We are better than this. It IS possible.
So, what are we afraid of?