As my Jewish studies professor said of Sholem Aleichem’s philosophy, “Whatever they do to us, we can do to ourselves – but worse!”
I’m not naïve enough to believe that Israel is always right – or that we should never criticize the Jewish state. But the world is filled with people who jump at every opportunity to demonize the Jewish state – not to mention the Jewish people (See: United Nations). Trust me, the screaming lynch mob doesn’t need the addition of our voices.
We need to remember that we are the children of Israel. Your mom’s not always right, but you wouldn’t throw her under a bus, would you?
In reviewing Peter Beinart’s book, The Crisis of Zionism, Rabbi David Wolpe disagrees with Beinart’s assertion that the world takes Israel to task, not out of anti-Semitism, but from an anti-Western sentiment: “Were the British not Western when they used brutal methods to undermine the Irish Republican Army? Never mind the Middle East or Africa. And where was the repeated worldwide condemnation for the brutality of Latin American dictatorships, or the Russians when they obliterated Chechnya? Why did none of these regimes merit the constant, unrelenting pounding condemnation of the world? If you don’t see the specter of anti-Semitism, it is not because of its absence. It is because you are either not looking or you refuse to see it.”
Conversely, if you don’t see a compelling need to speak up on behalf of Israel in the face of so much hostility and vitriol, you are either self-loathing or exceedingly dim.
This past Yom Ha’atzma’ut I kept thinking about the early days of Zev’s life. He spent a month in neonatal intensive care, sharing a floor with newborns who needed periodic X-rays. Because these babies were too fragile to be wheeled down to radiology, mobile X-ray machines were brought up to the NICU. Before each X-ray, a technician would urge the adults in the room to leave to avoid radiation exposure.
This sounded insane to me. Not only did I stay in the room, but I stood between the X-ray machine and my newborn. Other parents left. I don’t judge them, but I can’t say that I understand them. Every decision I had made in my life – every sacrifice my ancestors had ever made – led to the birth of this beautiful baby boy. I was going to absorb whatever radiation I could to spare his precious soul.
Similarly, I may take a few hits from my mostly left-leaning friends, but if someone wants to throw ugly words at Israel, he or she has to go through me first. As Jews, Israel is not just our past, but our future. When we lose sight of that, we leave the future of our people exposed, vulnerable to an atmosphere more toxic and lethal than any X-ray machine could create.
I am hopeful, though, that those Jews screaming hateful words at Israel will eventually come around. It’s in our DNA to protect our own: The first time I stood in front of Zev’s crib during an X-ray, it took me a few seconds to realize it, but right behind me, between my back and the X-ray machine, stood my mother.