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Beyond the Great Divide Between Israel and American Jewry

Rift between the Jews in America and the Jews in Israel has become so wide it could put both communities in real danger

Now that we have all cleansed our souls on Yom Kippur, it’s time to take a fresh and honest look at reality. If there is one sin that we Jews commit on a daily basis, it is allowing division between us. And one of the worst manifestations of this alienation is the growing divide between American Jewry and the State of Israel.

Under the Obama administration, the rift between American Jews and Israel has widened to a point where we have almost become two separate, even hostile Jewish communities. If we let the rift between us deepen any further, it will put both communities in real danger. Just as the detachment from Judaism did not help the Jews in Germany then, the detachment from the Jewish state will not help American Jewry now. With anti-Semitism spreading rapidly, Jews are under threat, and the remedy to this situation is unity.

In the face of relentless efforts by Jewish separatist entities that promote dissociation from the State of Israel under the guise of liberalism, the American Jewish community and Israel must build a bond between them. This bond—and not military aid or open condemnation of Israel—is the key to our survival in a world that is growing increasingly anti-Semitic, even as you read these words.

Jew-Hatred Galore
The 2014 Protective Edge military operation in Gaza sparked worldwide anti-Israel flare-ups and unleashed anti-Semitic sentiments that until then were thinly veiled by political correctness. In Europe, slurs long thought forgotten resurfaced accompanied by fabricated accusations of war crimes hurled against the Jewish state. Two years down the road, it is evident that the anti-Israel tirades were only an excuse to vent anti-Semitic feelings in Europe, and now even signs on shop windows stating, “We are not involved with politics,” do not help when you are Jewish.

But for all its malice, European anti-Semitism is far less perilous than its US counterpart. In February of 2015, Charles Asher Small, director of the Institute for the Study of Global Anti-Semitism and Policy, stated that the US administration’s reluctance to denounce anti-Semitism is “not only immoral, but I would call it ‘institutional anti-Semitism.’” To me, this stealth form of Jew-hatred is far more alarming.

When you hear Clinton’s top adviser, Huma Abedin, relating to AIPAC as “that crowd,” and read in the administration’s unofficial mouthpiece, a.k.a., The New York Times, an editorial that advises Obama to pressure Israel by having “the United Nations Security Council, in an official resolution, lay down guidelines for a peace agreement covering such issues as Israel’s security, the future of Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees and borders for both states,” you’re left with little doubt as to the current administration’s aspiration to see Israel gone. Should Clinton be elected, she will pursue the same line as her predecessor, and probably more vigorously.

The Illusion of Power
The predominant thinking around the establishment of the State of Israel after World War II was that had there been a Jewish state during the war, the tragedy of the Holocaust would have been prevented because Jews would have had a safe haven. For many years, this was also the predominant thinking among American Jews.

Yet, as American Jews have become more confident of their political clout in the US and their ability to control their fate, more and more have begun to see Israel as a burden rather than an asset. This trend fits the current administration’s ambitions perfectly, and its efforts to strengthen anti-Israel Jewish organizations within the Jewish community under the guise of liberalism and freedom of speech have been increasingly successful. Fifteen years ago, an organization such as J Street would not be taken seriously. Today it is the most popular Jewish organization among Jews under 35.

Accordingly, many Jewish millennials view the State of Israel as a nuisance. If they could somehow make it go away, they would not hesitate. They do not perceive Israel as a possible safe haven that should be preserved for a rainy day. Instead, they often view it, or at least its policies, as the cause of their troubles with American anti-Semites. In the eyes of many American Jews, Israel’s existence is causing non-Jewish Americans to hate them, too.
In the same way that German Jews shunned their faith prior to the rise of Nazism and even emphasized their disconnect from their heritage after Hitler came to power, many American Jews now eschew the Jewish state. With anti-Semitism on the rise, they are repeating the same mistake of priding themselves in their estrangement from Israel.

Pretexts Vary, but Anti-Semitism Is Always the Root Cause
Throughout history, Jew-hatred wore different attires at different times. Poisoning wells, baking matzos with the blood of Christian (and now Muslim) children, warmongering, usury, plotting to take over the world, and spreading disease (from Black Death to Ebola) are a fraction of the ludicrous accusations hurled at Jews over the centuries. The latest rave is genocide—seemingly perpetrated by the Israeli army against the Palestinians. It makes no difference that the Palestinian population is growing rapidly, or that Palestinians living under Israeli rule are far better off and enjoy a higher standard of living than their counterparts under Palestinian governance. Hatred needs no proof.

American Jews should remember that when anti-Semitism spreads deeper and broader in the American society, and it will, the fact that they do not support Israel will not help them. Just as in past, Jews will be held accountable for whatever problem is on the agenda. This is the nature of anti-Semitism.

Rebuilding a Bridge of Safety
The Torah defines us as obstinate people, and indeed we are. Yet, we became a nation precisely when we put our pride aside and united “as one man with one heart.” Throughout history, when we were together, we were strong. Now we must find the strength to build a bridge between the two key Jewish communities in the world.

You cannot overstate the importance of unity for our people. If we want to have a future, the American Jewish community and the State of Israel must reinforce the covenant between them; this is our only safety net.

Anti-Semitism in the US will spread. Currently brewing on every college campus, it will soon spill over and cover every corner of the country. Many Jewish American students already know that anti-Israel tirades are in fact anti-Semitism disguised as concern for Palestinians. Soon the whole community will know it. That will be the time to employ the safety net. But in order to use it then, we must build it now.

Clearly, there are many contentious issues between the two communities. Beyond differing political views, there are disputes about Jewish practices, legitimacy of certain denominations, distribution of funds and donations, and more. These are all weighty issues worthy of serious discussion. However, above and beyond all our disagreements, we must agree on this: No matter what, we stick together as one nation.

Just as siblings sometimes fiercely disagree, but always remember that they are family, the State of Israel and American Jewry must feel that same kind of underlying bond. If we do, we will weather the storm together. If we do not, the storm will drown us all.

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