Through this (and every) election, I hear a lot of American Jews wringing their hands, worrying if this candidate or that candidate will be “good for Israel.” Increasingly, I cannot stop thinking that the worst candidate for Israel is Israel itself.
Let me be clear: I believe that the state of Israel is legitimate, that is has a right to exist, and that it should exist. If I have learned anything from history it is that Jews will eventually be persecuted and forced to leave whatever country in which they live. This is the sad truth, and I accept it. We need a Jewish homeland. This current country was established by international law, wars were fought and won, and that’s it: the basic story is over and done. No “right of return” and all that, although maybe I can see some type of compensation for people’s losses, but I’m not sure how that would work. The point is, there is Israel, and it is legitimate.
That said, I will not give Israel more liberty to discriminate and act towards others with malice than I will my own country. It is absolutely true that there are some Palestinians who do not want, and will never accept, peace. However, that is also absolutely true of some Israelis. These people will never accept that the entire land is not theirs, and that they are not superior to the people how also live there. I am full of rage at the right-wing nut jobs and vile settlers who pillage and destroy Palestinian lands and shops; they are also terrorists, undermining any chance at stability, which is exactly what these hatemangers want. And just as Israelis accuse the Palestinians of coddling their extremists, so does the Israeli government. Two sides, equally wrong.
Further, the rise of extreme zealotry amongst Jews has been coddled by the Israeli government. Women are regularly assaulted as they attempt to pray at the Western Wall, while soldiers stand by and watch. Girls are spat on by grown men for wearing clothes that they deem “not modest” because their sleeves only cover their elbows, not their wrists. Bus lines refuse to take ads that depict women in them, radio stations refuse to let female voices be heard on the air. Honestly, what is the difference between this and the hardline Islamic practices that non-Israeli Jews spend so much time condemning?
So Israel, if you think I will support you with a blank check, you are wrong. You are creating a state that is destroying itself with hate and intolerance. Fortunately, I see hope in the work of your wonderful committed progressive activists (who the government has investigated, another act of fascism that needs to be widely condemned) who work for equality for all and human rights as a baseline. I’m glad that I can do something to support their work through the New Israel Fund.
I want Israel to exist. I want it to be a good place for all people, just like I would like the US to actually achieve the equality and human rights and we claim we have. This is something, though, that Israelis also have to want. Right now, I don’t think the “leadership” of Israel is very good for Israel.