I hate writing these words. I was raised to love Israel, and I will teach my children to love it. But we don’t get to choose what is true. And if you love Israel not only because it is a Jewish state but also because it is a liberal democratic Jewish state, a state that strives to embody the best in the Jewish ethical tradition, there is only one decent response to these truths: fury. If you’re not angry, you’re either not paying attention or you don’t care.
That’s the problem with organizations like AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Morally, they have neutered themselves. They claim to admire Israel not only for its Jewishness but also for its democratic values, and yet they will not defend those values, even when the Israelis most committed to them scream that they are under siege. To a lesser degree, it is also the problem with my old friend Jonathan Chait of The New Republic, a gifted writer and thinker who does occasionally condemn Israel’s actions, but with so much rationalization and minimization that he usually ends up more critical of the people criticizing Israeli abuses than of the abuses themselves. Yes, it’s unfortunate that Israel’s current government has fascist characteristics (don’t take my word for it; that’s the assessment of renowned Hebrew University fascism scholar Ze’ev Sternhell). Yes, it’s regrettable that two former Israeli prime ministers have recently warned that if Israel doesn’t stop settlement growth, it risks becoming an “apartheid state.” Now can we get back to bashing J Street?