With Israel Feuds Raging, Can't Jews All Get Along?

Editor's Notebook

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By Jane Eisner

Published July 16, 2014.
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Yesterday, Jews and Muslims in Israel, New York and other communities decided to take advantage of a calendric symmetry to assert their connection to one another, if only by breaking bread after a daylong fast.

For Jews, it was the 17th of Tammuz, when the walls around the ancient city of Jerusalem were breached, marking the beginning of the end of the Second Temple. It was also the 18th day of Ramadan, the holy month when Muslims refrain from eating from sun-up to sundown.

If a ceasefire can’t hold between Israel and Hamas, at least some Jews and Muslims could create one of their own.

Personally, I didn’t observe the fast, but I think this kind of nonviolent religious protest and attempt at reconciliation is a lovely idea.

But never mind Jew-to-Muslim. With all that’s happened over the past weeks, it looks like we need a fast day for reconciling Jew-to-Jew.

I’ve been in journalism a long time. I’ve written about Israel and overseen coverage and commentary about the Middle East for both the general and Jewish media for many years. I am accustomed to the vitriol that passes for comment, the mean personal attacks, the license that some Jews feel free to exercise in harshly judging other Jews.

I won’t say the level of discourse has reached a new low because it’s impossible to compare anything to today’s digital landscape, where every tweet is amplified and rules of engagement no longer exist. But it is bad out there. Very bad. As rockets fly and civilians die, we have lost the ability and the desire to speak civilly with and to one another.

This happens only when the topic is Israel. You can take controversial stands on intermarriage and conversion and child sexual abuse — and I have — and for the most part, commenters will stick to the subject at hand. But Israel is a version of our own third rail, except rather than being the subject too controversial to broach, it has become the subject too controversial to discuss with anyone other than your ideological fellow travelers. Oh, and those who disagree with you should be excommunicated from the Jewish people.

This is troubling me anew because of the reaction we’ve received to our coverage of Operation Protective Edge, the Israeli assault on Gaza prompted by Hamas’s assault on Israel. J.J. Goldberg’s writing, in particular, has drawn enormous readership and serious criticism.

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  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
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