Friday, May 11, 2012

A New Zionism

This post is by Daniel

In June 2010, Peter Beinart published an influential article in the NY Review of Books called "The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment." His central claim was that the old method of Israel advocacy—"No matter where I stand, I stand with Israel"—has failed to inspire a young generation of American Jews. Liberal Jewish college students, he argued, are unwilling to check their democratic values at Israel's door. Thus, they've grown increasingly distanced from a picture of Israel that can do no wrong, contrasted with media headlines and world opinion that indicate otherwise. Beinart argued that in order to engage young American Jews, the establishment must craft a new Zionism, one that isn't afraid to tackle Israel's very real problems head on. The suggestion sparked a fierce debate in the Jewish world about what exactly it means to be pro-Israel.

This debate raises many challenging questions: When Israel is threatened, to what extent does this threat implicitly extend to world Jewry? When Israel makes foreign or domestic policy, to what extent is it incumbent upon world Jewry to give their unwavering support? When world Jewry critique Israeli policy, to what extent is Israel obliged to listen? And when Jews are critical of Israel, what are the implications for non-Jews' perception of Israel?

This year in Israel, I've frequently found myself walking the line between loving and critiquing. On the one hand, I am moved to tears that for the first time in Jewish history since antiquity, our people—and I among them—have had the opportunity to live in the Jewish state. Being in Israel this year has often felt like having front row seats to some great Jewish event. I have the newspaper from the day Gilad Shalit was released. I made pilgrimage to the Kotel on Pesach. I stood at attention as the whole country fell silent for an entire minute on Yom HaShoah, the low whir of the memorial siren the only sound in the city, like some sad, ancient shofar. This is the Israel I've loved. This is the Israel that has deepened and textured my Jewish identity in ways I never dreamed possible.

And on the other hand, I am moved to tears by the missed opportunities, the poor decisions, the injustices I've seen this young country commit. An eight-year-old girl in Beit Shemesh was spit on and called a whore for being dressed "immodestly." There are streets in Hevron that are segregated between Jews and Arabs. The bilingual Jewish-Arab school that my fiancée works at was graffitied with the words "Death to Arabs." This is like no Israel I could have ever imagined.

I agree with the deputy editor of the Jerusalem Post, Caroline Glick, that "the fate of the Jewish people in Israel and throughout the world is indivisible." It is for exactly this reason that Israel gives me so much pride. It is also exactly for this reason that I feel compelled, even required to critique Israel when I sense it is going astray. In this way, Israel and world Jewry are like family: some times we have to give each other a little tough love.

Moment Magazine recently published a symposium of more than 20 leading Jewish thinkers, scholars, and influentials on what it means to be pro-Israel today. The article closed with the following wisdom from Amos Oz: "Just as there is more than one way to be Jewish, there is more than one way to love Israel." No one way is right. No one way is wrong. But they are all important.

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