Diaspora to Israel: We Need You To Change

Damning Reports on How Jewish State Impacts World Jewry

Is This Who We Are? Two blue-ribbon reports acknowledge that Israel’s actions impact world Jewry as never before. But it’s far from clear that anyone plans to do anything about it.
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Is This Who We Are? Two blue-ribbon reports acknowledge that Israel’s actions impact world Jewry as never before. But it’s far from clear that anyone plans to do anything about it.

By J.J. Goldberg

Published June 06, 2014, issue of June 13, 2014.
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The third theme, perhaps most alarming, was fear that Israel isn’t sufficiently alert to the damage its behavior does to its standing in the world — and, consequently, to Jews’ own standing and security in the countries where they live.

If this is what Israel’s strongest advocates are thinking, what can the mood be among ordinary folk who only know what they read in the papers?

Here’s a particularly striking passage: “One of the world Jewish community’s strongest messages in this report: If Israel wants to be ‘Jewish and democratic’ in a way that speaks to non-Israeli Jews, it needs to first modify its understanding of what being ‘Jewish’ means to many millions of Jews today — and find a way to be more inclusive of them.”

Here’s another: A “chief finding of our report is that a majority of Diaspora Jews expects Israel to uncompromisingly deploy Jewish and universal humanitarian values with respect to the rights of its minority citizens.”

One entire chapter (out of eight) discusses “The Impact [of] Israel’s Decisions on World Jewry.” It cites “clear evidence that periods of tension between Israel and its neighbors raise the frequency and severity of harassment attacks on Jews in locations around the world.”

Moreover: “When Israel is seen by other nations — as it is by some today — as a country that endangers the world, Jews around the world, whether they want to be associated with Israel or not, bear some of the consequences.”

It’s important to note that the principal author of the report, journalist and JPPI fellow Shmuel Rosner, is a moderate political conservative. It can’t have been easy for him to write these things. The findings must have been extremely strong for his draft to speak so unequivocally.

Unfortunately, the report’s impact is diluted by its executive summary. It focuses heavily on Jewish pluralism and the philosophical interplay of Judaism and democracy. These occupy three of the eight chapters. As a result, the sharpness of the policy challenge is largely lost. That seems to have influenced much of the press coverage. Government policymakers — to whom the seminar participants thought they were addressing their comments — probably never heard the heart of the argument.

It might have fallen on deaf ears anyway. The Diaspora affairs ministry is headed by Bennett and his Jewish Home party. Pluralism? They’re umbilically tied to the Orthodox chief rabbinate.

Democracy and minority rights? They’re among the main sponsors of the wave of anti-democratic legislation that has the Diaspora leaders so alarmed.

Israel’s image in the world? They’re the settler party. Fuggedabout it.

Contact J.J. Goldberg at goldberg@forward.com


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