Israel’s recent decision to prevent Congresswoman Omar and Tlaib who share a history of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel bias from visiting the country has raised righteous indignation. Churning out press releases are the alphabet soup of Jewish organizations who rushed to speak out against the decision.
But did they pause and think ask the question is this the best strategy?
I believe that while these women’s ideas and rhetoric are reprehensible, banning them for Israel produced a PR headache for Israel. And really, why not let them in? We can handle their criticism.
Even if that is correct, still organizations need to ask, is denouncing Israel’s actions helping or adding fuel to the fire? These organizations say they have a responsibility to protest and speak out against an affront to members of Congress.
However, there may be deeper issues at play. It seems that some American Jews have a fantasy of what they think Israel should be. A democratic, righteous, humanitarian and progressive beacon of light in the Middle East. So when Israel doesn’t live up to the kind, considerate and peace-making image American Jews have, they lash out. Some Jewish organizations, in the quest to stay relevant rush to make statements and assure their members that they are noble and courageous for speaking out, and, of course, “please support our valiant efforts.”
But even if Israel didn’t make the best decision this time, criticism of a legitimate and reasonable action it took to defend itself might embolden those looking to undermine the country. Those with malicious intentions have already seized on the push-back and are using it to support their causes, Ilhan Omar, has called for suspending American aid to Israel. Her comrade Tlaib is labeling Israel the next South Africa. They feel emboldened by the righteous indignation of American Jewish organizations.
As every rabbi knows, there are all kinds of critics in shul. You have the kvetchers who always have something to complain about, like if you G-d forbid serve a savory noodle kugel instead of a sweet version. When they criticize the pace of your prayers and the recipe for the cholent, you tend to take their kvetches with a grain of salt.
And then you have the people who genuinely care. They will come up to you privately and quietly suggest that you cut down a little of your sermon, “if that’s at all a possibility.” These are the people who tend to influence your decisions.
The kvetchers make a lot of noise but the second group makes progress.
Too many American Jewish groups have become the resident kvetchers, not intent on helping create real change but who want their indignations to be known and echoed in the media—who will lap up anything fitting the anti-Israel narrative—so they preserve their face as advocates for human rights and maintain relevance to their constituents. If they really want to make change and have actual influence, it may be wise for them to hold back their public criticism, measure their words and share them in a private setting with people who can do something about it, rather than rile up the masses and boost the agenda of anti-Semites. That may not help them in their fundraising efforts, but it will be far more effective in promoting the welfare of Israel and the Jewish people.
Rabbi Eliezrie is A contributing writer To jlifemagazine. He can be reached at Chabad/Beth Meir HaCohen & firstname.lastname@example.org.