Virtual Talmud

There are serious flaws in the argument Rabbi Stern is making on whether liberal Jews are anti-Semites if they argue that Israel should cease to be a Jewish State and become a binational state. Buber and Einstein were mostly writing before there was a Jewish State. Einstein himself later was invited to become Israel’s first president, and indeed supported the Jewish State. Today we live in a world in which not a peep of protest is made about the fact that Saudi Arabia bars Jews from living in that country and Syria and even Jordan refuse citizenship to Jews. We live in a world in which little is done to protest Muslim-on-Muslim genocide in Darfur, yet Arab boycotts of companies doing business with Israel is on the rise, as is the number of European countries boycotting Israeli products.

I am in favor of open debate. Israel itself, as the only democracy in the Middle East, has very open debate. Its newspapers include criticism of government policies and practices.

There is an unfortunate tendency of some in the organized Jewish community to equate well-meaning criticism with anti-Zionism. Columnist Thomas Friedman for many years was castigated as too critical of Israel, though he is a staunch supporter of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State. It is easy to want to circle the wagons when Israel is constantly under siege. However, there have always been other, more liberal arms of the Jewish community, like New Israel Fund and Rabbis for Human Rights, which have found a way to balance criticism with loyalty to the Jewish State.

There is also a growing and unfortunate tendency among many on the left to blame Israeli policies for the recurring cycle of violence, rather than focusing on the intransigence of Arab world, in general, and the Palestinian leadership in particular. The truth is more nuanced: that Israel’s leadership through the years made mistakes in the face of Arab intransigence and terrorism designed to destroy Israel.

Is someone who intentionally or unintentionally supports the agenda of anti-Semites an anti-Semite? Should we hold people responsible for the positions they take and the intended or unintended consequences of such positions?

When Jewish intellectuals confuse their right to criticize specific policies of current or past Israeli governments with questioning the legitimacy of having a Jewish State, that is when they cross the line of legitimate debate and cross over into anti-Semitism, and thereby serve the purposes of the enemies of the Jewish people.

Israel today serves as the political personification of the Jew on the current world stage. If anyone doubts that anti-Zionism is only the most recent mutation of anti-Semitism, just review the rise in Arab-immigrant violence against Jews throughout Europe and the appropriation of the Nazis’ anti-Semitic language and images in Arab anti-Israel propaganda. Arguments for a bi-national state today–an Israel in which Palestinians and Jews share power, rather than having separate states–are just another weapon in the arsenal of those who want to destroy the Jewish State, and ultimately Jewish corporate identity. Jews who support such a position are aiding those who are the self-defined enemies of the Jewish People, and thus, even when active members of the Jewish community themselves, sadly serve the cause of anti-Semitism.

— Posted by Rabbi Susan Grossman

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