American Jews Should Get Under the Tent

Being Pro-Israel Means Fighting for a More Just Jewish State

Real Support: Backing Israel should mean supporting the protests that aim to make the Jewish state a better place for all.
getty images
Real Support: Backing Israel should mean supporting the protests that aim to make the Jewish state a better place for all.

By Aliza Becker

Published June 22, 2012, issue of June 29, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

In early June, more than 10,000 Israelis took to the streets on a Saturday night chanting “Bring back hope and justice,” in a resurgence of 2011’s protests against income inequality, shrinking social programs and the crisis of politicians driven more by self-preservation than by the needs of the country’s citizens. “We don’t want a government of cutbacks,” they chanted. “We don’t want a government of racists.”

The initial impetus for last year’s protests which was the impossible cost of housing, soon evolved into an all-encompassing demand for social justice. In the course of several? weeks, hundreds of thousands of Israelis — Jew and Arab, urban and periphery, Mizrahi and Ashkenazi, secular and religious — crowded onto the tree-lined boulevards of Tel Aviv and into the centers of towns in the Negev and Galilee.

In the wake of Tahrir Square, young Israelis constructed more than 120 tent camps, dotting the landscape all summer. Widespread consumer boycotts forced major supermarket chains to cut prices. Even once winter arrived, volunteer watchdogs posted often contentious Knesset proceedings on the Web. And there was a slew of real successes as a result of the movement: expanding government sponsored childcare to children aged 3-5, higher capital gains taxes and improved labor conditions.

The response to these dramatic developments from American Jewry has been, for the most part, silence.

For many American Jews, Israel is a high-tech melting pot where our Zionist dreams are realized. It is hard to imagine it as a place with the highest socioeconomic gap in the Western world and state-sanctioned schisms among the population. This reality is far too unsettling.

For those accustomed to showing their love of Israel by worrying about its national security or fixating on the need to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, the new focus seems off-script. What about the existential Iranian threat? Why worry about social inequality as long as the Occupation continues? The tent protesters seem just plain frivolous.

Besides, yet others argue, it is not our role to take sides or publicize the fact that something is amiss in the only democracy in the Middle East. This will only bring shame on Israel should the rest of the world get wind of it.

What follows are four reasons that the Israeli tent protests should rate our (and by “our,” I mean those of us who call ourselves pro-Israel) enthusiastic support.

Israel is the real home of real people with real problems. Polls taken last summer found broad public support for the protests, including 98% of Kadima supporters and 85% of Likudniks polled. A recent survey found continued support from 75% of respondents across party lines.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.